Create an Inner Circle to Help Develop Your Leadership

It has been said that the people close to us determine our level of success. Moses learned this lesson in the wilderness and so implemented a plan to put competent, godly leaders next to him. David had his mighty men. Paul had Barnabas, John Mark, Timothy, Titus, and Phoebe.

When ministers decide to be leaders, they cross a very important line. They no longer judge themselves solely by what they can do themselves; the truest measure of the impact of a leader is found in what those around them accomplish. In God’s economy, our personal development happens most as we are developing those He has called around us.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Developing the Leaders Around You, by John Maxwell

Why do some people achieve great personal success, yet never succeed in building a business or making an impact in their organization? John C. Maxwell knows the answer. “The greatest leadership principle that I have ever learned in over twenty-five years of leadership,” says Maxwell, “is that those closest to the leader will determine the success level of that leader.”

It’s not enough for a leader to have vision, energy, drive, and conviction. If you want to see your dream come to fruition, you must learn how to develop the leaders around you. Whether you’re the leader of a non-profit organization, small business, or Fortune 500 company, Developing the Leaders Around You can help you to take others to the limits of their potential and your organization to a whole new level.


There are no Lone Ranger leaders. If you’re alone, you’re not leading anybody. Think of any highly effective leader, and you will find someone surrounded by a strong inner circle. Hire the best staff you can find, develop them as much as you can, and hand off everything you possibly can to them. When you have the right staff potential skyrockets. You see, every leader’s potential is determined by the people closest to him. If those people are strong, then the leader can make a huge impact. If they are weak, he can’t.

Most leaders have followers around them. They believe the key to leadership is gaining more followers. Few leaders surround themselves with other leaders, but the ones who do bring great value to their organizations. And in the process, their burden is lightened and their vision is carried out and enlarged.

An inner circle of leaders becomes a sounding board to me. As a leader, I sometimes hear counsel that I don’t want to hear but need to hear. That’s the advantage of having leaders around you – having people who know how to make decisions. Followers tell you what you want to hear. Leaders tell you what you need to hear.

I have always encouraged those closest to me to give advice on the front end. In other words, an opinion before a decision has potential value. An opinion after the decision has been made is worthless.

Leaders around you possess a leadership mindset. Fellow leaders do more than work with the leader, they think like the leader. It gives them the power to lighten the load. This becomes invaluable in areas such as decision-making, brainstorming, and providing security and direction to others.

John Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You


The following list of characteristics has been adapted from study material in John Maxwell’s Leadership Bible. The author developed the acrostic below for use when developing an inner circle.

On a chart table, spell the word “Inner Circle” down the left hand side of the page. After reading the following qualities, write down the name or names of individuals you know who exhibit those characteristics.

Influential – Everything begins with influence. If you want to extend your reach, you must attract and lead other leaders.

Networking – Who people know is just as important as what they know.

Nurturing – People who care about each other take care of each other. Your inner circle should prop you up.

Empowering – The members of your inner circle should enable you to achieve more than you could alone.

Resourceful – Inner-circle members should always add value.

Character-driven – The character of an inner-circle member matters more than any other quality.

Intuitive – While every person is naturally intuitive in his area of gifting, that doesn’t mean everyone uses his or her intuition.

Responsible – Those closest to you should never leave you hanging. If you ask them to carry the ball, they must follow through.

Competent – You can’t get anything done if your people can’t do their jobs. You don’t need world-class performers exclusively, but all of your inner-circle people must perform with excellence.

Loyal – Loyalty alone does not make people candidates for your inner circle, but lack of loyalty definitely disqualifies them. Don’t keep anyone close to you whom you cannot trust.

Energetic – Energy covers a multitude of mistakes, for it helps a person to keep coming back, failure after failure.

After you evaluate this list, ask yourself:

  • “How can I sharpen these characteristics?”
  • “With whom has God given me influence for this season?”
  • “Who on this list can teach me and inform my leadership?”

Now identify 2-3 members of your inner circle and commit to spend at least three hours over the next three months developing them with intentional conversations, observation, and measurable goal setting.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 44-1, published July 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Understand Simplicity as a Foundation of Rest and Peaceful Living

We live in a society that demands instant gratification. We are always connected with devices that bring the world to our fingertips. We know more, more quickly, than at any time in human history.

And yet we seem to be satisfied less, just as quickly. Leaders are in a quest for more, but the obtaining more seems to result in just wanting more. It is a vicious cycle not easily broken.

Church pastors and staff are not immune to this; in fact, in some ways they may even be more susceptible. Congregational leaders and promising opportunities pull pastors in multiple directions at once, resulting in almost constant feelings of being overwhelmed by ministry, and by life.

The true, deepest need for leaders today is not to be more intelligent, or more gifted, or even more successful, but to be more connected, more fully to God.

The classical disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration) of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths of communion with a Holy and Living God.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Living the Quaker Way, by Philip Gulley.

Philip Gulley invites us into a bracing encounter with the rich truths of Quakerism—a centuries-old spiritual tradition that provides not only a foundation of faith but also vision for making the world more just, loving, and peaceable by our presence.

In Living the Quaker Way, Gulley shows how Quaker values provide real solutions to many of our most pressing contemporary challenges. We not only come to a deeper appreciation of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality, we see how embracing these virtues will radically transform us and our world.


We live in a world that often measures success by the accumulation of things. As the character Tyler Durden (played by Edward Norton) says in the movie Fight Club, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Even leaders in the Church are trapped in a maze of competition making spur of the moment decisions of programs or purchasing only to “fit in” or keep up with our friends. Did you REALLY need that new iPhone or were you trying to stay ahead of the youth minister?

The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward decision toward focusing on the higher things of God that results in an outward lifestyle of impressing an audience of One.

While our journey toward a simpler life might well take different roads, it begins with the same step— the discernment between wants and needs.

Just as we cannot compel someone else to live simply, we cannot define simplicity for another, for our needs vary, as does our capacity for change. The life of simplicity is one of growing awareness, and each of us grows at different rates, in diverse ways. Not many decades had passed before early Quakers began judging one another’s commitment to simplicity, gauging another’s devotion to God by his or her clothing, home, and speech. They then enacted strict rules governing simplicity. It ended disastrously, creating a climate of judgment and self-righteousness that caused grave injury to our spiritual well-being.

Simplicity is not a universal fit. What is extravagance to one is necessity for another. My interpretation of wants and needs will not be yours, nor will yours be mine. The life of simplicity does not mean owning a bare minimum of goods. It is a commitment to live a liberated life, freed from constant distraction, devoted to our spiritual and emotional growth and the betterment of others. This can, and will, take many forms, depending upon our priorities, insights, needs, and life stages.

There are, the saying goes, two ways to be rich: one is to make more, the other is to want less. Most of us, when given that choice, have opted to make more. The idea of doing without, of denying ourselves the things we want, seems almost unfair. Advertisers tell us we “deserve” to drive a new car or “need” a larger television. It is easy to convince ourselves we merit these things, especially since we have worked so hard. But it is a vicious cycle, for we have worked much in order to buy the things we believe we need, often without stopping to consider whether they are essential.

Philip Gulley, Living the Quaker Way


The pursuit of simplicity involves every facet of your life – spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, and vocational. The successful journey of a successful life will lead us from one area to the next.

Beginning with a focus on outward simplicity could be the best place to start. Richard Foster, author of one of the most compelling and readable expressions of Christian spirituality, suggests these 10 controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Simplicity should be leading us on a journey in which each month, each experience, and each encounter is a learning opportunity for us. A deeper level of understanding about simplicity should reorient our lives so that possessions can be “genuinely enjoyed without destroying us” (Foster).

Gather your staff and personally force-rank the 10 principles above. Once each of you have ordered them from most challenging to least challenging, compare your lists. Now pray together and become accountable when you share similar challenges and pray for others who might be weak in area in which you are strong. Allow others to pray for you in your weakness.

Leo Tolstoy said, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The change demands an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. Following the spiritual disciplines prepares your inner being for the change that only God can bring.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 34-2, published February 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

In a Whirlwind of Velocity and Complexity, Find the Essence

What can your church learn from the mission-focused leadership of the United States Armed Forces?

A clear, executable mission is the key to success for every branch of the military. An outstanding attention to teamwork and training make the United States Armed Forces the most formidable fighting force on the planet. Leadership is just as important to each service branch as it is to your church.

During this Independence Day week, in honor of the commitment and sacrifice of the men, women and families of the U.S. military, SUMS Remix honors a key actions of mission success found in the US Marine Corps.

In a whirlwind of velocity and complexity, find the essence.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Corps Business, by David Freeman
Fast. Motivated. Hard-hitting.

That’s what every business wants to be. And that’s why the U.S. Marines excel in every mission America throws at them, no matter how tough the odds. Far from being the hidebound, autocratic entity that most people imagine, the Marine Corps has created a stunningly nimble, almost freewheeling adaptive organization.

In Corps Business, journalist David H. Freeman identifies the Marine’s simple but devastatingly effective principles for managing people and resources — and ultimately winning. Freedman discusses such techniques as “the rule of three,” “managing by end state,” and the “70% solution,” to show how they can be applied to business solutions.


The U.S. Marines purpose is stated this way: We make Marines. We win our nation’s battles. We develop quality citizens. And we continue to stand strong as America’s expeditionary force in readiness. Throughout its 241-year history, the Marines have been the nation’s ready response force, called to be “most ready when the nation is the least ready.” From humanitarian relief efforts to combat operations; from air, land, and sea to every clime and place, the Marine Corps is ready to answer the nation’s call.

Marines have long recognized the link between battlefield success and leadership, with cherished core values of honor, courage, and commitment defining the Corps ethos. The same values and leadership imperative they represent can become a unique approach to leadership training.

While not carrying the same life and death significance that a Marine officer faces, today’s church staff team finds itself in a whirlwind of velocity and complexity, striving to balance complex demands of the organization it leads, the people it serves, and the family it loves. The church that cannot react quickly and effectively to threats and opportunities popping up all around it will find itself out of the game.

The church staff can learn a lesson from the Marines, where everything about them – their culture, organizational structure, management style, logistics, and decision-making process – is geared toward high-speed, high-complexity environments.

One of the Marines’ greatest tools is simplicity: taking complex, confusing, or ambiguous situations and concepts and boiling them down to their “essence.”

An essence may lose some of the subtleties, and it may even entirely ignore points that from the point of view of some observers would be important. But the key to an essence is that it portrays a situation or order in a way that is easily grasped and actionable.

Sometimes finding the essence of an order involves entertaining ideas that weren’t explicit in the original order.

Each of the following key questions can help to find the essence:

What are our strengths and weaknesses and what are those of the opponent?

What assumptions can we make?

What must we not do?

How will the mission affect morale?

What are our fallback plans?

What are we overlooking?

David H. Freedman, Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines


Using the key questions above, conduct an “essence” exercise, looking at a ministry action or initiative that your church is contemplating, one that you have not done before.

List each of the key questions above on a separate chart tablet, and post all the pages on a wall visible to your entire team.

Discuss each key question in turn, writing answers from your team on the respective chart tablet page. As you work through the list of questions, be sure to list answers to previous questions that may be developed.

When you have exhausted your teams answers to all the key questions, go back to each sheet and by consensus circle the top three answers for each question. For each of the top three answers, come up with a word or short phrase that distills the essence of the answer.

Develop a plan of action in carrying out the ministry initiative, with the essence statements forming the structural framework.

Following the completion of the initiative, conduct a debrief in which your team will see how closely the actions followed the essence. Where deviations are noted, discuss the result and lessons learned.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 41-2, published May 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Celebrate Freedom

I have always loved history. Not many accounting majors have a minor in US History; the same goes for a Masters in Administration and Communication with a minor in Baptist History. But of all the history periods, I think the American Revolution is my favorite.

This time of the year – approaching July 4th – is a time to read the Declaration of Independence, sections of the Federalist Papers, and Common Sense.


For me, Independence Day now carries a different meaning.

My son is in the Air Force. He’s been deployed twice in the last three years.

While my father and father-in-law served in WWII and the years afterwards, and several cousins were in Viet Nam, somehow it’s all very personal now.

America celebrates 241 years as a nation this July 4th, even though the independence we celebrate was not settled for another seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the many years since we have gone through a devastating civil war, numerous regional wars, two World Wars, a Cold War, and are continuing a global war on terror that has no end in sight.

It seems that to have peace you must have war.

I pray for my son every day, for safety as he performs his duty. I know that he has been trained and prepared to do his best, and give his all, for his family and his country. While it is a sacrifice he is prepared to make daily, I hope he never has to.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women have made that sacrifice since 1776, and continue to do so to this day.

So when you celebrate freedom this July 4th, never forget the price others have paid.




When Plans Change, Integrate Improvisational Skills in Your Reactions

How do you respond when your plans change?

As a leader in your church, you are responsible for the planning and execution of a large number of events or activities on a regular, recurring basis. On some occasions, you may be planning a very large, once-a-year type of event. Hundreds of hours of planning and work by dozens of volunteers lead up to the big day – but things don’t go as planned.

What happens next?

Even though all leaders intellectually know that things often don’t go as planned, they are typically not ready that possibility becomes a reality.

When plans change, integrate improvisational skills in your reactions.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Yes, And, by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton

The rules for leadership and teamwork have changed, and the skills that got professionals ahead a generation ago don’t work anymore. Famed improvisational comedy troupe, The Second City, provides a new toolkit individuals and organizations can use to thrive in a world increasingly shaped by speed, social communication, and decentralization.

Based on eight principles of comedic improvisation, Yes, And helps to develop these skills and foster them in high-potential leaders and their teams, including:

  • Mastering the ability to co-create in an ensemble
  • Fostering a “yes, and” approach to work
  • Embracing failure to accelerate high performance
  • Leading by listening and by learning to follow
  • Innovating by making something out of nothing 


If you are facing another sudden change in plans, maybe it’s time to learn from comedians – especially those who excel at improvisational comedy. The skills and techniques of improvisational comedy can be readily applied to leaders in any organization – even the church. The comedian who performs onstage without a script has to be innovative at a moment’s notice and to think on his feet to solve urgent problems. Doesn’t that sound like a situation most church leaders go through on a regular basis?

An improvisational comedy show might seem like a strange place to learn church leadership skills, but there may be more than meets the eye in a fast-paced, creative, and funny show. Seasoned comedians use an essential set of tools to prepare themselves to deliver seemingly off-the-cuff remarks; in reality, those remarks are anything but off-the-cuff.

The individual who is armed with an improvisational tool kit has an instantaneous advantage in dealing with all manner of difficult situations that naturally arise in the course of one’s career.

Improvisation, at its most basic level, lets you respond more quickly in real time. While there’s nothing wrong with the quantitative, strategic and analytical skills traditionally taught at B-schools, those alone do not guarantee success in business and organizational life, where things tend to be messier and more fluid, and where success often rests on the ability to form winning coalitions that will back a good idea.

The seven elements of improvisation introduce a whole new skill set for invention and innovation for today’s leaders.

Yes, And – these two words for the bedrock of all improvisation. Organizational cultures that embrace Yes, And are more inventive, quicker to solve problems, and more likely to have engaged team members than organizations where ideas are judged, criticized, and rejected too quickly. Incorporating Yes, And into every aspect of your organization becomes the ground zero to creativity and innovation.

Ensemble – the ensemble is the preeminent focus of improvisation, and it is also a vital ingredient in almost any organization’s growth and competitiveness. Good ensembles yield great performance by creating an environment where the group’s goals trump the individual’s.

Co-Creation – dialogues push stories further than monologues. The sum of co-creation is greater than its parts. And in our increasingly connected world, co-creation is fast becoming a fact of life.

Authenticity – rather than pretend that problems and failures don’t exist, strong leaders and organizations acknowledge what’s not working. By allowing team members to air grievances or highlight problems, leaders are better able to learn and grow.

Failure – the biggest threat to creativity is the fear of failure. By deflating the negative power of failure, you erode fear and allow creativity to flourish. There are ways to look at failure as a given, and a vital part of the creative process.

Follow the follower – leadership is more about understanding status than about maintaining status. It’s about recognizing the great power that comes in giving up the role of top dog on occasion.

Listening – the care and feeding of our listening muscle is an absolute priority for anyone who wished to create, communicate, lead, or manage effectively.

Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, Yes, And


Learning from the fast-paced and always changing environment of improvisational comedy can help your team learn how to become creative and collaborative “on-the-fly” – exactly the situations you face on a regular basis at your church.

Prior to your next leadership team meeting, print and distribute this SUMS Remix. Ask you team prepared to discuss a recent event in the life of your church where plans had to change at the last minute. Instruct your team to be familiar with the seven elements of improvisation listed above.

At your next leadership team meeting, set aside one hour and a half to use the seven elements of improvisation to develop alternative courses of action to a recent change of plans. Assign team members to each of the seven elements. Give each of the resulting seven teams fifteen minutes to develop an alternative plan using their assigned improvisational skill. Each team will have three minutes to report back to the group, using that skill to deliver their alternative plan.

After listening to all teams make their recommendations, as a group decide on which action you would choose if these methods had been available. Discuss why the group chose this method, and how it might be useful in future situations where plans change at the last minute.

As a closing exercise, go around the room and ask each leader which of the seven improvisational skills intrigue them the most, and that they are likely to use in their own leadership settings in the future.

At future team meetings, take a few minutes to ask if anyone has had a chance to use one of the seven skills recently. Have that member share briefly about the situation and how they used improvisational skills to react to change.

When your plans change and you are looking for help in dealing with the need for a sudden shift in direction, consider integrating improvisational skills in your reactions.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 24-1, published September 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

How to Establish a Systems Thinking Mindset on Your Team

How do you cultivate long-term commitment on your team?

Many teams today are not really teams at all – organizationally, structurally, and motivationally they are not set up to work as individual parts of a larger, unified whole. Often they reflect outdated organizational charts that have little to do with current reality. There are times when a leader realizes their team is actually a collection of individuals who are looking out for themselves. Left in this state, a team can actually become a divisive and damaging cancer to the organization.

Is it little wonder, then, that leaders seek help in cultivating commitment within their teams? The problem isn’t necessarily with the team members or leaders themselves, but what the team is being asked to do: work together without any larger sense of organizational direction or purpose.

If your team needs a boost in commitment, consider establishing a systems thinking mindset on your team.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Leadership Equation, by Eric Douglas

What distinguishes the most successful organizations?

What do the leaders and managers in these top organizations actually do?

In this fascinating book, entrepreneur and business consultant, Eric Douglas, paints a clear picture of what happens inside high-performing organizations. He reveals a simple but profound equation: Trust + Spark = Leadership Culture. Leaders and managers are most successful when they focus on building trust and sparking innovation.

In The Leadership Equation, Douglas expands the equation into the 10 most important practices for building trust and spark. As Douglas clearly shows, when trust and spark combine, leaders improve the performance of their team, their department, and the entire organization – and, ultimately, reach their own full potential.


Entrepreneur and organizational consultant, Eric Douglas, wants leaders to realize the importance of engaging in systems thinking, and in turn, leading their teams to do the same.

“Systems thinking” is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.

Today, systems thinking is needed more than ever in the increasingly complex world we live and minister in. It is all too easy for organizations to break down despite individual brilliance, because they are unable to pull their diverse functions and talents into a productive whole. 

To achieve a leadership culture, the power of systems thinking needs to spread throughout the organization. Systems thinking teaches us to appreciate how a decision made in isolation can negatively affect others.

We teach our clients to see their organizations holistically, asking them to look at it from five systems perspectives – strategy, governance, performance, process, and people.

Strategy – From this perspective, you focus on the long-term trends affecting your organization. You respond positively by thinking about the long-term use of your resources and how to focus to achieve your most important priorities. You respond negatively by focusing too much on factors beyond your control.

Governance – From this perspective, you focus on the system of decision-making that controls the direction of your organization. You respond positively by thinking about governance and being very specific about delegations of authority. You respond negatively by blaming people for making misguided decisions when the system isn’t clear.

Performance – From this perspective, you focus on systems for measuring performance, first at the organizational level, then to departments, teams, and finally to individuals. You respond positively by deciding which metrics and targets to track at each level and what communication systems to use. You respond negatively by paying too much attention to individual cases of poor performance.

Process – From this perspective, you focus internally on the process of producing value, measuring effectiveness and efficiency. You respond positively by thinking about how to improve the individual components of the process. You respond negatively by singling out specific individuals for not managing a process consistently or efficiently.

People – From this perspective, you focus on your system of hiring and rewarding people. You focus on how to get the right people on board and how to develop them in their roles. Your respond negatively by selecting and promoting people based on arbitrary factors.

– Eric Douglas, The Leadership Equation


Your leaders want to be on a winning team, and teams are most successful when they are innovating and executing around consistent systems. The art of developing systems thinking is found in the organization of your actions and attitudes and the realization that each perspective needs to be measured against every other.

At your next team meeting, list the five systems perspectives above on a whiteboard or flip-chart. Choose a recent leadership team decision and take that decision through each of the five systems perspectives, asking for each, “what worked?”, “what did not work?”, and “what would we do next time?’

At the conclusion of this exercise, sift through the why behind those response to begin to develop a set of guidelines that will help your team see the positive benefits of systems thinking while avoiding the negative consequences.

While all too often teams are “teams” in name only, individual commitment to a larger whole is an integral part of the success of any organization.

By engaging in systems thinking, leaders can help their teams maintain commitment and accomplish their Great Commission call.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 12-3, published April 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

How to Use the Power of Story to Influence Others

Are you having a hard time inspiring your team to be more productive?

Individuals may represent much of the accomplishment of ministries at your church, but the real work of ministry is often done through teams. Whether a staff team comprised of full and part-time employees or a volunteer team comprised of various degrees of dedicated members, teams are the backbone of church ministry. And yet, most leaders at one time or another are frustrated by the lack of progress of the team toward accomplishing their assigned task.

To inspire and encourage the teams you lead to get the job done, tell stories.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Orange Revolution, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The Orange Revolution is a groundbreaking guide to building high-performance teams. Research by the authors shows that breakthrough success is guided by a particular breed of high-performing team that generates its own momentum—an engaged group of colleagues in the trenches, working passionately together to pursue a shared vision. Their research also shows that only 20 percent of teams are working anywhere near this optimal capacity. How can your team become one of them?

The authors have determined a key set of characteristics displayed by members of breakthrough teams, and have identified a set of rules great teams live by, which generate a culture of positive teamwork and lead to extraordinary results.

The Orange Revolution provides a simple and powerful step-by-step guide to taking your team to the breakthrough level, igniting the passion and vision to bring about an Orange Revolution.


Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have created a framework for developing breakthrough teams called “The Orange Revolution.” The Orange Revolution is depicted as a journey to breakthrough result, a journey that places the relationships among team members as a critical component. As these relationships evolve over time, it’s only natural that momentum slows down and the productiveness of the team begins to wane

The people on your teams are overwhelmed with information, and in your attempt to help motivate them to move forward, you may be inadvertently contributing to the slowdown. Already confused and overloaded, they assume that your added request will only make thing worse.

Enter the story.

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information – more powerful and enduring than any other art form. In the land of complex reality, story is king. Story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. Stories can help people who are stuck become unstuck.

There are no guarantees that using story to motivate your team will come out the way you want. But story, on the average, works much better than telling your team “this is the way it’s going to be.”

Story is like a computer app you load into someone’s mind so they can play it using their own input. The best stories play over and over and create the outcomes that fit your goals and ensure that your team keeps moving forward.

Great leaders use story to express their passion and illustrate, illuminate, and inspire their team to greatness itself.

When you want to influence others, there is no tool more powerful than story.

Teams that are focused on wow results have a charming habit of telling stories that exemplify what they are trying to achieve.

Great teams create a narrative. As teams succeed, they tell their stories again and again. They are partly their history, but they also explain to others who they are and what they do.

Breakthrough teams tell stories frequently and with passion. It is a secret ingredient of their success. The power of their stories is in the specificity and vividness, which are the very elements that make them memorable. They get repeated – typically with the same enthusiasm in which they are told.

Stories are vital in helping individuals understand how world-class results are achieved and in making the possibility of doing so believable. Such tales have a way of perpetuating success. The listener retells the story, and more important, internalizes its message and becomes part of the story.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, The Orange Revolution


As you use stories with your teams, you will be using a mixture of credibility, evidence and data, and emotional appeal. You cannot persuade through logic alone, or even logic supported by your credibility. You must persuade your team through the use of emotional appeals.

Look back to a recent story you told your team. Categorize the story into the three areas mentioned above: credibility, logic, and emotional appeal. How does the ratio of emotional appeal stack up to the rest of the story? If it is not at least twice as great as the next component, you need to rethink your content.

The next time you want to encourage your team to be more productive, weave a personal story from your own background into your conversation. The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership – people who inspire uncommon effort. By inviting your team on a personal journey, they will want to join you in your success.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 2-3, published November 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.