How to break grid-lock on important leadership decisions

How to break grid-lock on important leadership decisions

How do you break a grid-lock when there are important decisions to be made?

For instance, when a leader is trying to convince their team or congregation to move in a new direction and there is disagreement. If the values that support the new direction are not in alignment, this will create conflict. I’ve seen this occur when a pastor comes away from a conference with a new idea that he/she is excited about but has not laid the necessary groundwork to create a culture that allows the initiative to be embraced.

I’ve worked with several congregations in particular that have vision for small group ministry but haven’t cultivated the soil before implementing it. This normally results in frustration. At best, a few groups might get launched but will sputter and, eventually, fizzle out. If the leaders would have been more thoughtful, aware, and strategic in the way they had approached their small group ministries they might have had a chance. In so many cases, though, what they lose is time and trust. As a result, the people that are most affected will not be as excited about the next idea that comes around.

How do you develop your problem-solving skills?

First, identify skill categories into sub-skills or individual competencies. This allows leaders to focus in on their development. Here are the individual competency categories of Problem Solving & Decision Making:

  • Critical thinking
  • Data gathering and processing
  • Tool selection methods
  • Alternative weighing ability
  • Lateral conceptualization
  • Perception and judgment
  • Risk assessment skills

Fortunately, a tool exists to assess these areas called the Problem Solving & Decision Making Profile. To administer the assessment, participants plot their scores onto a histogram chart for each category. This quickly shows where efforts to improve should be concentrated in the future. Detailed interpretation notes are included for each category, including improvement actions for low scorers.


Author: Jon Warner

Publisher: Team Publications

© All Rights Reserved


This tool is reliable and valid, so it establishes a baseline you can trust.

Back to the small group scenario above:

If leaders who are pioneering new ministry areas understand their strengths and liabilities in problem solving and decision making, they can find ways to accommodate for what they lack and capitalize on what they possess.

One of the churches from the scenario above actually did the hard work of reflecting and assessing how they could have addressed the realities of launching a new vision for small groups prematurely–unfortunately, it was after the fact. Fortunately, through prayerful conversations and multiple gatherings, they successfully limited the damage, bringing many of the leaders through the transition.

How much better would it have been to do preventative work versus damage control?  Having a clear sense of what is involved in problem solving and decision making before introducing a new ministry saves time, money, and energy.

If you are looking at ways to increase your problem solving and decision-making skills, take a look at the profile and see if you can avoid some of the pitfalls you’ve encountered in the past.



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FREE Independent Coaching Resource (Self-Study)

FREE Independent Coaching Resource (Self-Study)

Are you bringing people onto your team that don’t share your perspective?

If your team consists of a bunch of people who share your same perspective, you will lack the richness of a diversity of people working together to create innovative ideas. That diversity might include people who think differently than you, come from different socio-economic backgrounds, and have differing levels of education.

Cultivating diversity on a team starts with adopting a coach approach.

The best leaders listen intently to their team members, focus on the whole person, and take their context seriously. These leaders ask questions to clarify and understand. Each person is unique, but unless a leader is fully engaged they miss the nuances that each person brings.

One leader I know is working hard at the foundational coaching skills: listening for self-discovery and asking powerful questions. He is a hard-charging leader. Adopting a coach approach forces him to slow down and exercise patience–which is hard for this leader. But with practice and time, he is getting better and better.

What is a coach approach?

I’m excited to share a new resource with you! You might share this with members of your team or colleagues interested in developing their coaching effectiveness. In November 2021, I launched a platform called with my colleague Bob Logan.

On the site we created five GrowthTracks. The first is designed to orient people to coaching through an Independent Self-Study. I envision this being a helpful way to orient a person who is brand new to coaching. For instance, if you want to introduce members of your team to what a coach does, this would be a helpful place to start. If you already have experience being coached or have read books on coaching, this information will be familiar to you.

We structured the material around three important questions to orient people to what a Christian Coach does:

  1.     Are you a Barnabas?
  2.     What is the goal of coaching?
  3.     What is the process of coaching?

Then, you can do a deep dive into the coaching process.

The coaching process we designed was based on original research we conducted with world-class Christian coaches (CLICK HERE for a fuller explanation). We conducted over 20 behavioral interviews with coaches on four different continents and asked them what they do on a consistent basis with leaders they coach.

In addition to the descriptions of each of the elements of the coaching process, we identified 5 of the most powerful questions coaches use. This will serve you well as you begin to integrate a coach approach to leaders you are supervising and developing.

Finally, at the bottom of the page are three resources that will assist you as you take the next step in your coach development.

I hope these resources serve you well! My goal is to help you succeed at whatever God has called you to do in and for His kingdom.

Back to your team and fostering a healthy culture: I challenge you to expand your circle and incorporate people who provide a different voice, a new perspective, or innovative ideas. See if you can bring out the best with your team members by adopting a coach approach.



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Signs of an Unhealthy Team and How to Turn It Around

Signs of an Unhealthy Team and How to Turn It Around

Liverpool Football Club (soccer in the U.S). won the Football Association Cup (FA Cup) – their second trophy this season. In European football this is called winning the double.  They have a legitimate chance of winning three (treble) and a long shot at a quadruple.

How do they do it? They work hard on the fundamentals.

In the local church or missions context, the same can be said of high-performing ministry teams: they work hard on the fundamentals. But what about those teams that struggle? What are the signs? The unhealthy behaviors?

I worked with a team that was in distress many, many years ago. They had been suffering for a long time when I arrived on the scene. There were conversations going on behind people’s backs, work that was assumed was getting done but really wasn’t, and resources that were mismanaged. It was–to be blunt–a hot mess! One of the first things I did was meet with individual team members to conduct a full team assessment. I wanted to get a clear picture of:

  • What was working
  • What was not working
  • What needed to change

Over the course of the following weeks and months the picture became clearer, and it was evident what issues needed to be addressed. Now, years later, the team has gone through a significant change and refocused their vision for the future. They are in a much better place. To get there, however, they needed to do some deep work in order to move from where they were to where they wanted to be.

Some teams never make it. Others might limp along.

So how do you know the signs of unhealth within a team?

Here are some telltale signs that warrant attention:

  • Lack of vision and direction
  • Conflict of values
  • Ambiguity of roles
  • Unclear ground rules
  • Inability to monitor plans
  • Closed to new ideas
  • Unable to keep clear boundaries

Well before any attempt has been made to build a team’s skills, it is critical to understand the stages through which a typical team will travel over time. A considerable amount of research has been done on the stages of team growth, and experts agree that teams go through four distinct phases: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

This assessment (which takes around 30 minutes to complete) looks at an individual’s ability to effectively build the team using the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model, with seven separate categories in all:

  • Vision and direction (Forming)
  • Value alignment (Forming)
  • Role clarity (Storming)
  • Setting ground rules (Norming)
  • Monitoring systems (Norming)
  • Continuous learning (Performing)
  • Boundary management (Performing)

A total of 84 questions helps individual team members to determine their overall competence in each of these seven areas.

How healthy is your team? Take the assessment and see if it helps you gain clarity. I would even encourage you to send the assessment to each of your team members to take individually, and then discuss your thoughts afterward.

Author: Jon Warner Publisher: Team Publications © All Rights Reserved



Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

Developing Healthy Team Members

Developing Healthy Team Members

I love following the Liverpool Football Club (American soccer) as they progress through the season. As I’m writing this, they are in the running to win four major competitions. One of the main reasons for this achievement is the coach, Jurgen Klopp. He surrounds himself with excellent people who are experts in the essentials of team recruitment, development, and strategy to compete at the highest levels in world football.

Developing healthy, world class ministry teams and team members carry some of the same qualities as a world class football team.

What makes a healthy team? 

A few blogs ago I wrote on this topic. To summarize, this is what it takes to build a healthy team culture:

  1. Clear expectations
  2. Regular communication
  3. Compelling rewards
  4. Real consequences
  5. High Trust

What makes healthy team members?

Continuing with the Liverpool FC analogy, I want to address the characteristics of a healthy team member. Below is a summary of each characteristic and how it applies to a sporting franchise, followed by a key question for your reflection. Hang on tight–here are five traits of a healthy team member.

  1. Passion for the vision: the objective for Liverpool is clear–win every game and every competition they play.
    • How does each member describe the vision of your team?
  2. Shared values: Jurgen Klopp is a Christian and requires a certain quality of player on his team. Though all the members of his team may not be Christian, many of the attributes he looks for in players parallel those of a Christian (e.g. respect, honesty, integrity, humility, industrious, etc.).
    • What values do you look for in your team members?
  3. Ability: Liverpool players have world-class skills and technique to compete at the highest levels.
    • What skills do your team members need? 
    • What skills do your team members possess?  
    • What areas must be developed? 
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Liverpool demand that players be self-aware both on and off the field or they simply do not remain in the club for long.
    • Where do your team members need to grow in their EQ?
  5. Disciple of Christ: As a disciple of Christ I am not suggesting perfection. What I want to communicate is progress in the direction a person is moving in their spiritual walk.
    • Are your team members moving towards Christ or away from Him? 

A helpful tool to develop EQ is the Emotional Intelligence Skill Builder Booklet.

How do you find healthy individuals? 

Like attracts like. Klopp has this ability. He attracts a certain player that fits the DNA of the club. It is fantastic to see the players they bring from other clubs and which ones turn out to be world-class stars at Liverpool. The team culture Klopp has established assimilates players who share the same values of the manager and club.

How do you invest in and equip members of your team?

Personal development: Encourage regular sabbath and rest. Spiritual practices and work-life-ministry balance are all critical gauges to pay attention to as you create healthy team members.

Skill development: There exists a number of skill-based tools and resources that I go to when I work with leaders, depending on the need. The one I use when a leader needs an in-depth assessment is called the Harrison (CLICK HERE to read more from a previous blog). The tool is based on Enjoyment Performance Theory and suggests that:

… when we enjoy a task – we tend to do it more often. When we do something over and over, we have a tendency to get better at it through both learning and repetition. When a person gets better at something, the feedback he or she receives – both from others and internally – is normally positive. And positive feedback increases the enjoyment of the behavior. The cycle keeps repeating itself – increasing the strength of enjoyment and tendency for the behavior – and often results in behavior habits that we don’t realize are behavior choices.*

If you are interested in learning more about the Harrison Assessment – CLICK HERE.

There are also a host of other tools that exist to help develop leaders that I’ve used over the years including:

Let’s return to the example of Liverpool FC. As the club continues to roll through the later stages of the league and tournaments, the team is being called on to perform under intense pressure with every game.

Today, people in your team are facing pressures from all directions. As an attentive team leader your job is to anticipate the best way you can support and encourage your members, paying close attention to those areas that will have the largest impact in their lives and ministries.


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Seeking Joy – Using a Coach Approach!

Seeking Joy – Using a Coach Approach!

Years ago a leader I was coaching asked me to help him find ways to discover “joy” in his life.

This really threw me. I wasn’t clear what he was asking, so I asked some questions to clarify what he really wanted. What do you do when you’re coaching someone and you enter into a conversation that has the potential to become a counseling appointment?

The two disciplines, coaching and counseling, bleed into each other and it is important to keep clear boundaries. People approach coaching with various ideas that may or may not line up with what coaching actually is.

Here’s a quick overview of the distinctions between the two disciplines, taken from an article authored by Linda Miller, a coach and marriage family counselor.

Making Distinctions between Coaching and Counseling



(traditional model)

Action Understanding and issues
Present to future focus Past to present focus
Create and design Repair and resolve
Expertise lies within person being coached Expertise lies within counselor
Promote discovery Give answers and advice
Future possibilities Past events
What and how Why
Proactive Curative
Achievement Healing
Joy Happiness

Used with permission – Linda Miller, MCC for publication in REV Magazine © April 2003 


I have found this chart to be very helpful in my own coaching experience.

During this season of adjusting to a new normal in our post-COVID world, it is important to be clear what you’re about. And when clients move into counseling territory on the right side of the chart above and you are not qualified, be aware and refer your client to a qualified counselor.

Back to the opening illustration. You see that “joy” fits in the coaching column. After clarifying with my client that he wasn’t asking questions better suited for a counselor, I was able to coach him in the precise way he needed. Below are some questions to help you when you come across a leader in search of “joy”:

  1. What is the most memorable season of your life that was joyful?
  2. What made it joyful?
  3. What can you take from that experience that you can apply in your life today?
  4. If you were able to arrive at a joyful place, how would you celebrate that?
  5. Who would you include?
  6. What do you sense the Lord saying to you about “joy”?
  7. How can you thank the Lord?

For many leaders, discovering joy is a real challenge today. If you find someone not feeling quite themselves or at a low point, it might be time to have an honest conversation about how things are going. Serving them as a friend could mean having a simple conversation where they feel heard, connecting them to a coach, or, in some cases, encouraging them to seek out counseling.


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