Sometimes You Just Have To STOP

This past week I was reminded of an important lesson…

Here it is:  “It’s OK to STOP sometimes!”

That’s it.

While driving home from a meeting, I was listening to my favorite radio station is Los Angeles that played classic rock music (yes, I graduated from High School in the early 80’s).

They had shared earlier that the station had been sold after 10 years of playing great hits, and the new owners were developing a new format and a new target audience.

Now, I listen to this station while in my car, while in my office, and sometimes in the gym. I just like local radio and I like to be reminded of some great music from the past that I might have forgotten about.

Back to driving… I’m driving down the freeway, and at 1:00pm sharp, the DJ came on the air and simply said, “Goodbye”. Then the station went quiet.

I was a little shocked because it had finally happened, and I was a little sad.  I drove in silence for about 60 seconds, then the new station came on the air, and I could tell immediately that it was reaching for a new audience.

Don’t worry, I’ve found another station to listen to that isn’t exactly the same, but it’s close.

As I’ve thought about that experience, I’m reminded that “sometimes, you just have to STOP.”

We spend a lot of time, energy and money doing things that we just shouldn’t be doing anymore!

I’ve been running for the past year. Lot’s of miles, lot’s of exciting conversations, training events, relationships and opportunities, I even got a trainer from Optimized Fitness training to help me with this. It’s been a great year, but it’s also been a full year.

If a radio station can simply decide to STOP, either by choice or because of someone else’s decision, maybe I need to look at some things in my life that I need to stop doing.

So, I’m taking a small inventory this week:

*What am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing?

*What have I said YES to, that I should have said NO to? Is it to late to change that decision?

*How do I create healthy margins in my schedule and in my life?

*What mistakes to I keep making over and over again that drives the chaos in my life and work?

*As I think about a New Year coming, what can I do today that will help me in the year to come?

Remember, I’m in this for the long haul. I want to be effective, I want to be able to contribute, I want to continue pursuing the call and the passion God has put in my life for years and years to come.

Sometimes when you don’t STOP things, you can’t START things that you should be doing.

What about you?

What do you need to STOP today?

Here are some other TIPS on managing your personal life. CLICK HERE

Posted in Personal Leadership

Building An Effective Team

I googled “how to build an effective team” today. I got about 62 million results, and after looking at the top 5, I quit my search. Everyone has ideas on how to build an effective team, and many of them will work, so if you have a lot of time, I encourage you to google and then read like crazy!

In this post, I decided to simply share a couple of things that I’ve found that have made all the difference in teams I’ve been a part of and in teams that I’ve led.

Here are my 3 ideas on how to build an effective team:

#1) Determine if you NEED a team

Sometimes we’re not ready to lead a team. We think that a team will solve all of our problems, however if we’re not ready to build a team, to invest in that team and to maintain that team, it’s often better to NOT have a team. You can work by yourself, you can work at your pace, and you’ve got nobody to manage! Sounds good, right?

However, you’re missing out on the benefits of having a team: collaboration, team momentum, energy, and I could go on and on. There are many benefits, but I want to warn you… if you’re the leader, having a team will require you to put a chunk of your attention there.

Be sure you’re ready for that because it’s not fair to bring people in to join you if you’re not willing and able to actually lead them and the team.

#2) Bring in the RIGHT people

I’ve heard people say over and over again, “I need help!”. Sometimes, in saying that we don’t really care what kind of help it is, we’re just looking for help.

I want to tell you: It’s better to NOT have someone, than to have the WRONG someone.

If you’ve decided to build a team, figure out what kind of people you need and do the work of finding the right people. Go after people, check their references, ask lots of questions, don’t get in a hurry… do your due diligence!

When you’ve found the RIGHT person, a team brings incredible value. If you have a team of the WRONG people, it will destroy your energy, your passion and your vision.

#3) INVEST in that team

It’s not enough to build a team. As a leader, you need to invest into that team, and this means to invest time. Build relationships with them, get to know them, share your stories, do fun things together, cast vision, challenge each other, celebrate each other, help each other, serve each other.

The more you invest in your team, the more effective they’ll become. It’s the best investment you can make and your organization will reap the benefits.

Years ago, I served with a team that was functioning really well. There was clarity around our vision and our focus, there was energy and we really enjoyed working and being with each other. It was a really fun season of life and work. I often think back to this season of life and I have really good memories of not only what we accomplished, but HOW we accomplished it.   The team was effective. I didn’t say perfect, I said effective.

You can lead an effective team, and you can be a part of an effective team.


A great book on finding the right people? Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Ideal Team Player”.

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development Tagged with: , , , ,

Make Better Decisions

Everyday we’re all forced to make decisions. Some of these decisions are easy to make, and some are more difficult.  A couple of years ago I wrote a post on “How To Make Good Decisions” HERE.

I was recently ready an article on, and Scott Halford shares an article entitled, “Five Tips for Making Better Decisions”.  Read the full article HERE.

In his article, the first thing he talks about is this:  STOP SEEKING PERFECTION. His point is that many of us don’t make decisions on time, or sometimes don’t make decisions at all because we’re afraid they might be the wrong decision, or we’re not sure that it’s 100% right!

As I’ve worked with leaders for years, this is something I’ve heard many times. Instead of making an “OK” decision, we don’t make a decision, which is always worse! We think that if it’s not 100% right then it’s better to not do it. That it’s why people often tend to quit their diets because they don’t see any results fast, but staying healthy is a matter of lifestyle, so it’s important to follow the best healthy diet plans.

I simply want to encourage you:  It’s never going to be 100%. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s not going to be the perfect time. As a leader, you have to do you best to make the best decision possible, given the information you have, the options you have and the support you have.

Then, the job of the leader is to see the decision through, and often this means  you’re working it out, you’re cleaning it up, you’re adjusting along the way.

Don’t be paralyzed!

I was reading the classic story this week from Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on the water. The disciples were afraid, and Jesus comforts them, and Peter makes a quick decision… he blurts out, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water!”.  And Jesus responds, “come”.

Peter then got out of the boat and walked to Jesus.

He made a really quick decision. Looking back on it, there were lot’s of ways this could play out, but all Peter cared about was the fact that Jesus invited him to join him on the water, so he went.

You might remember the story: Peter saw the waves, was afraid, and Jesus rescues him and walks him back to the boat.  But don’t forget this part of the story: Peter made the decision to climb out of the boat and walk to Jesus!

What would you have done had you been in that boat?

Would you have followed Peter? Would you have been paralyzed by fear? Would have been willing to do something others might think is completely crazy?

Here are some reminders when making decisions:

*You’re never going to be 100% ready or 100% right. Do your best.

*You don’t have to make decisions on your own. Get some help.

*If you make a mistake, and you will, then Make it right.


Don’t be afraid. Do what you’ve been created and positioned to do… LEAD!


The Leader as a DECISION MAKER

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

Leading Change

My friend Ellis shared this quote at a recent Leadership Summit:

“Change is like surfing: You either catch the wave or the wave catches you”.

We’re not sure where that quote originated from, but the idea has been in front of us all for all of time.

Change happens. How we respond to change makes all the difference.

My wife Gina was sharing with me “The Transtheoretical Model”, which she studied in grad school. Basically, it’s the stages of change that we all go through. It can be simply described this way:

Stage 1: PRE-CONTEMPLATION:  No intention on changing behavior

Stage 2: CONTEMPLATION: Aware a problem exists, but no commitment to action

Stage 3: PREPARATION: Intent on taking action

Stage 4: ACTION: Action around changing behavior

Stage 5: MAINTENANCE: Sustained change: New behavior replaces old

Stage 6: RELAPSE: You fall back into old patterns of behavior

It’s then an upword spiral, learning from each cycle, each change, and each relapse.

Here’s a simple version that defines this cycle, without the relapse stage:

OK, so now you understand a little of the cycle of change. I encourage you to dig a little deeper.

How do you, as a leader, handle change?  Do you embrace it? Do you welcome it? Do you run from it?

Forbes Magazine published an article on “Fear of Change and 6 Ways to Overcome It” by August Turak. I’ll summarize here:

Turak shares these 6 ways to overcome fear:

Step 1: Be Compassionate: Realize that there are risks involved with change and everyone will be affected.

Step 2: Build a Bottom-Up Consensus: Bring people along in the process, and help them embrace it.

Step 3: Have a Plan for Getting Initial Buy-In: Do the work of planning and evaluation. This helps people embrace it.

Step 4: Minimize your Risks: Take some small steps to test the change before diving in. Evaluate along the way.

Step 5: Measure Results with Hard Data: Show how the change benefitted the organization or had little impact. Prove the effort.

Step 6: Feedback: Allow people to weigh in on their perspective to the change.

Every leader needs to determine how they will deal with change. Change will come. The difference is that as a leader, how you respond or react to change will affect more people then just yourself. You are responsible for others, or a department, for the organization.

I love this quote from Maya Angelou:  “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

No matter what, change comes. How you lead people through that process will often make a bigger impact than the change itself.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

What’s Your MESSAGE?

I was recently asked by a non-profit leader for my “best advice” to someone who is trying to raise funds for their organization.

I thought about it for a minute, then replied simply that the most important thing to think about is YOUR MESSAGE.

Here are some foundational questions:

*What are you wanting to do? What is the purpose behind the project/activity?

*What are the results that you’re hoping to realize from the project/activity?

*Why are YOU wanting to do this project/activity?


Doug Brendel writes about YOUR MESSAGE:

THE MESSAGE is more important than the mechanics of communicating it.

THE MESSAGE must compete with thousands of other matters intruding on the donor’s attention.

THE MESSAGE therefore must be repeated constantly, in terms that the donors understand, and in ways that make it count for them.

(The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing: Berkey, Brendel & Sheline ©1998)


This is what I’ve learned, and what I continue to learn:

When we talk about FUNDRAISING, it’s not about having connections to people with resources.

The most important thing to do first, is to define your message so that people are able to understand:

*WHAT you’re wanting to do and WHY you’re wanting to do it.

Sometimes we make it much more complicated than it needs to be.


Our job isn’t to coerce people into getting involved and giving to the project/activity.

Our job is to share the plan, the purpose and the outcome, and INVITE people to consider getting involved. This is their decision, not ours.


For those of us that believe that GOD really does own it all, our job is to share what He has called us to do, and invite others to seek God’s direction for their involvement. It’s not about us!

We can’t talk about FUNDRAISING without laying this foundation.

There is work involved in fundraising, and there’s real work involved as you refine your message and figure out the best way to capture and present it, but fundraising isn’t a mechanical activity. We’re trying to connect with people’s hearts, and our job is to do the best that we can do, and then trust God to move them and lead them in the way that HE would have them go and be involved.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development

Russ’ Replenishment Cycle

Today was my 53rd birthday. We had a wonderful BBQ yesterday with some family and friends to celebrate, then today I was able to do some things that I wanted to do.

This past year, I did a LifePlan. It was a two-day process meeting one-on-one with a LifePlan facilitator, and the process was incredible. We began by spending time gaining perspective, and from that process, I was able to develop a plan for the next stage of my life, and I actually walked out with the tools and tasks I needed to address in order to accomplish this plan. I’m excited about the next year, and the next 10 years to come, always striving to be a “better me”, more like the person I was created to be.

One of the tools I used in my LifePlan was called the “Replenishment Cycle”. The question asked of me was, “what refuels you?” I was forced to think, to dig deep, to find things in my routines and in my life that bring energy, that bring rest, that bring refreshment. It was really good for me to work through a process of defining the activities that “fill me up”, and then I was able to set some goals for how to integrate these activities more intentionally into my life.

Back to my birthday today…

I spent some time focused on “replenishing my soul”.

This is what my day looked like, but remember, it was my birthday, so I took some additional time off of work to celebrate the day!

• I slept for over 8 hours last night, I have the best mattress sizes at home, it is hard not to sleep as much. A much-needed night of FULL sleep. This alludes me often, but last night, it was wonderful!

• I began the day at the gym. It was great to get my heart rate up on the treadmill, listen to a podcast, and spend some time with some weights.

• Following the gym, my wife and I had some breakfast, then we went down to the harbor to paddle board. We love to be on the water, and it was a beautiful day. Not only was it time together, but it was some light exercise and time outdoors!

• I then went to work for the afternoon, and I was energized and ready to take on a couple of key projects today.

• I got home from work, and the sun was still out, so my wife and I got on the motorcycle and went for a ride along the coast, enjoying a beautiful sunset, a great fish salad, and a really nice ride.

This isn’t my normal day, but it was my birthday. I was reminded of some things that restore me.

Looking at my LifePlan, I identified 5 key activities that I want to put into my life as often as I can:

  1. Daily Exercise
  2. Time in the Word of God
  3. Time Alone (not just being alone, but time thinking, dreaming, praying)
  4. Helmet Time. I’ve ridden a motorcycle since I was 12 years old. Some of my best thinking comes when I’m on my bike, helmet on, and I’m just cruising down the road. I need more of this!
  5. Adventure. Sometimes life just gets mundane. I need to create adventure regularly in my life.

These might not be yours, and these may change for me in the years to come, but today, I feel rejuvenated and refreshed. I’m not ready to go to bed yet, because it was a really good day. I’m ready for tomorrow, and ready to continue to learn to put these things into my life as often as possible.

What replenishes your soul? What routines have you forgot about or ignored? What are some simple things you can do to rediscover these life-giving activities?

Posted in Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

Do I Want to BE the Best or Do I Want THE Best?

The answer to that question reveals if we’re selfish leaders or selfless leaders. It answers if the organization is about ourselves or if it’s about the vision. Wanting the best for the organization will be the result of doing what’s best for the team, and the team needs to be ENCOURAGED. One of the hats leaders need to wear is the hat of CHEERLEADER.

One of the unsung heroes of the Bible was a man named Barnabas. He really lived out the meaning of his name, “son of encouragement”. Every time you see him pop up in the Bible, he’s coming alongside somebody encouraging them, believing in them. When the leaders didn’t trust the newly converted Paul, it was Barnabas who stood up for him (Acts 9:26-27). When John Mark had screwed up on a missions trip, it was Barnabas who didn’t give up on him (Acts 15:36-39). Both men accomplished great things for God and Barnabas played a big role in that.

Do you want the best, not just for your organization, but also for the people God’s placed in your life to lead? If so, here’s a practical acronym to remember for cheering your team on to be their B.E.S.T. It’s taken from John Maxwell’s book “Developing The Leaders Around You”. Here it is…

B elieve in them. Don’t assume they know. With your words and actions, remind them that you believe in them.

E ncourage them. Communicate specifically what you appreciate about them and how their contributions help the team.

S hare with them. We need to be accessible to our people. As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”.

T rust them. Take some calculated risks and let them try some things that will expand their development and communicate your belief in their abilities.

Let’s be the best leaders we can be for our team. Pull out your pom-poms and cheer them on to be their best!

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Climb Every Mountain

Don’t worry, I’m not going to break into the wonderful song from the Sound of Music, but I am going to talk about “the mountain”.

We’ve been talking about the role every leader plays in being a CHEERLEADER. This is an important role in every team and in every organization. You, as the leader, have the opportunity to set a tone of affirmation, of encouragement and of support. When you spend time cheering your team members forward, they will accomplish the tasks you place before them, and they’ll often do more than you or they ever dreamed was possible!

I want to share 2 “cheerleading” experiences I’ve had in my life. I’ve had many, but these 2 stand out, and this is where the mountain comes in.

I was 11-years old, and my father and I, along with others from our scouting group, decided to climb Mt. Whitney. This mountain stands 14,505 feet high and is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. For an 11-year old, this was a major undertaking. I started off strong, but the higher we went on the mountain, I ran out of steam. I remember many times wanting to quit, but then my dad turned into a cheerleader. He began coaching me, challenging me, encouraging me, talking to me. He would say, “take 20 steps and then take a break”. I have no idea how I made it up all of the switchbacks, but we made it, step by step, and we celebrated at the top of the mountain. I ran most of the way down, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized that my dad had “coached” me up that mountain. He didn’t shame me, he didn’t carry me, he just walked with me and challenged me to not give up.

30 years later, I chose to climb another mountain. I was living in Ecuador at the time, and Cotopaxi was a 19,347 foot volcano that I saw almost every day, and I determined to climb it, so I asked my friend and guide, Rich Borman, to help me get to the Summit. The night we climbed, the weather was horrible. I had complained about the oxygen level 14,000 feet, I don’t think there was any oxygen at 18,000 feet. This was a tough climb, especially in bad weather. At one point, Rick asked me if I wanted to turn back, and I simply responded, “if I turn back now, I’ll never do this again.”

Rick took that as a challenge, and for the next 7 hours, he “coached” me to the top, along with another friend, Leonard. We took short steps, we took breaks, and we made it to the summit. The weather was so bad that I didn’t get to enjoy the victory because we needed to get off the mountain. Rick was my cheerleader that night, and because of his patience and perseverance, I was able to accomplish something that I never could have done on my own.

Think about the power of cheerleaders in your life. Who has been walking with you, encouraging you, helping you reach new heights?

Thing about your role as a cheerleader: Who are you encouraging and walking with?

We all need people to help us get where we’re going!

Hebrews 10:24 says this: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

I like how The Message puts it, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out…”

As leaders, we need to have cheerleaders in our lives and we need to be cheerleaders for others.

Thanks Dad and Rick for being my cheerleader, not just on the mountain, but in my life!


For more on the ROLE OF A LEADER

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

Be A Stretcher Bearer

I remember the talk clearly. Michael Slater was speaking in our university chapel, and he used Mark 2 as his scripture. You can read the story, but it’s the story of some friends that carried their friend to Jesus to be healed, but they couldn’t get into the house, so they cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend before Jesus. Jesus healed the man and everyone was amazed.

I had heard the story before, and the story speaks to Jesus’ power to heal, speaks to his challenging the leaders of the day, and speaks to his compassion.

As Michael Slater spoke that day, he asked a simple question, one that I still remember:

“If you were laying on a stretcher, wounded physically or emotionally, do you have 4 friends that would carry you to get help?”

I remember thinking about 4 people who I could call to carry my stretcher, or 4 people who would naturally come to my aid.

He then asked: “Now, who’s stretcher will you carry? Name the people.”

I did that too. It wasn’t just about what others would do for me, but about who I could serve and help.

The talk had a profound impact on my life as I have continually identified the people who would carry me if I needed them, and the people I would carry if they needed help.

Over the years, I’ve been carried by these friends, and I’ve had the opportunity to carry them.

The message here is ENCOURAGEMENT.  The message here is HOPE.  The message here is FRIENDSHIP.

One of my roles as a leader is to communicate to those that I lead or work with that they have value and that our relationship goes far beyond our “work roles”. I’m constantly trying to find ways to communicate that to the people I work with, and find ways to model that.

Here are 4 ways that you can encourage those you get the privilege of leading:


I know you “know them”. I encourage you to “KNOW THEM”. Listen to their story, know their spouse and children’s names, understand their passion and purpose. Take the time to listen.

People like to be HEARD.


Take notice of what’s going on, and go out of your way to communicate your care, your support and your friendship. An example might be you support a cause that is important to them or you show up to celebrate with them something significant.

People like to be VALUED.


Look for creative ways to communicate with them how you feel about them. Send them a note, get them a gift card, spring for a latte. Little things make a big impact.

People like to be AFFIRMED.


When there’s a crisis, be the first to respond. This means you’re aware of when crisis comes, but be ready. Provide a meal, stay late to help with a project, help them find a solution, do whatever you can do to help. Basically, help to “carry them” when they need it. Be one of their “stretcher bearers”.

People like to be SERVED.

We all need to learn to encourage others as we carry their stretchers in times of need and as we’re carried ourselves.

Are you a Stretcher Bearer?

To get Michael Slaters book, CLICK HERE

For more on being a CHEERLEADER

Posted in Leadership Community, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Be A Cheerleader

“Two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate…”

Being a cheerleader is basically expressing appreciation for the efforts of someone involved in a difficult situation. So, let’s talk about how to express appreciation.

Step #1…Getting started with a good habit:

A good way to start in the cheerleading business is to try to express your appreciation to one person every day. Start early. Don’t put it off. Tell a different person, every day, why you appreciate them. It should be more than a ‘thank you’. Make it a challenge to think of what to say and how to say it. You have to be honest, but it can focus on the littlest thing. “I so appreciate how you helped me the other day”, or, “I appreciate how you look when you come to the table”.

You will discover that it is really fun to see people try to figure out how to respond because, suddenly, they have experienced a rush of positive feelings, ‘warm fuzzies’ I call them, and none of us have much experience responding to warm fuzzies.

Step #2…Bounce it off others:

After a solid month of ‘getting started’ and being successful sharing appreciation with a person a day, start sharing your appreciation about another person each day. Tell person ‘A’ what you appreciate about person ‘B’ in a positive way. For example, during a conversation, as the conversation mentions a person’s name, let that be a trigger for you to say, “You know what I really appreciate about them?” and then say something you like about that person. It may even be something you have said to them personally.

You will change the conversation and you may encourage others to add something. If the group is like most groups, the conversation will eventually get reported to the person mentioned and your appreciation will be reinforced with more ‘warm fuzzies’.

Step #3…Use the word ‘again’:

If you see change in a person, maybe even in the area of your stated appreciation, then say to them, “I just want to say, once again, how much I appreciate…” and share your thoughts. Repeating your stated appreciation is an amazing reinforcement of positive behavior and can actually result in an increased effort to respond appropriately.

You can actually help someone else develop positive habits with positive reinforcement such as repeating your appreciation for them. But, be sure to be honest, not manipulative.

Expressing appreciation is indeed positive reinforcement, and positive reinforcement is a powerful, yet under used, force in helping people be who they want to be.

There is power in being appreciated! So, get started! Two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate?

For more on being a CHEERLEADER in your leadership, CLICK HERE

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