Blog Archives

People Versus Numbers


It's not just about the numbers

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in numbers.  If we are not careful, we can get so caught up in the attendance count that we forget about the people. Is it truly about the loving care of a flock, or is it simply about “Church Growth?”  Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for church growth. But is that growth a result of truly meeting needs, or simply because you have the best worship team in town? (Which we do!)

If you are in a larger church it is unrealistic that the lead pastor will truly know each person in your congregation. However, it is the lead  pastor’s responsibility that every effort is being made on the part of other pastoral staff and/or lay leadership to know and meet the needs of the individuals in your church.

I recently came across this article that draws a clear picture of what only focusing on head count can look like…


An item by Sally Cunnech in Leadership magazine illustrates the importance of giving attention to needs, not just to numbers. She wrote, “During World War II, economist E.F. Schumacher, then a young statistician, worked on a farm. Each day he would count the 32 head of cattle, then turn his attention elsewhere. One day an old farmer told him that if all he did was count the cattle, they wouldn’t flourish. Sure enough, one day he counted 31; one was dead in the bushes. Now Schumacher understood the farmer: you must watch the quality of each animal. ‘Look him in the eye; study the sheen of his coat. You may not know how many cattle you have, but you might save the life of one that is sick.'”

Great advice whether it’s for the Sunday school teacher or the pastor. A full class or a crowded church isn’t necessarily a healthy class or a spiritual church. To find out people’s spiritual condition, you must “look them in the eye.” Then you can minister to their needs.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
-Anthony J. D’Angelo


Handshake – Howard Schultz and the Choice of Adding Value to Others

Howard Schultz employee

Howard Schultz makes adding value a priority

Adding Value to others is crucial in every area of your life, business, family, friends and even the stranger you meet today. Adding value to others is always reflected back to you.  This next excerpt from my new book Handshake is on Howard Schultz and the priority he gave to valuing everyone in the Starbucks organization.

Between 1987 and 1992, Starbucks, under Schultz, opened 150 new stores.  By September of 2009 Schultz was operating stores in more than 50 countries, through more than 16,000 stores around the world.

Schultz always said that the main goal was, “to serve a great cup of coffee.”  But attached to this goal was a principle:  Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”  This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail.  Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage.  Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.  These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover.

… Starbucks has achieved what many thought impossible under the umbrella that if you add value to people, value will be added to you.  In a society that is self-driven, adding value to people may seem like a waste of time. Those who think that way have no clue to the power that comes from this practice.  When you determine to be “others” minded, you have made a decision that will alter your life.

Listed are some of the benefits you will learn in this chapter regarding adding value to those around you:

a)    You deposit success into others

b)    You build your network

c)    You build loyalty

d)    You build longevity

e)    You create a winning atmosphere

f)    You increase your level of influence

g)    You will receive a great return on your investment

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.
— Flora Edwards

Becoming a Person That Others Want To Follow Part 2

new life umbrella

Leaders nurture those who follow

It has been said that if you are leading but no one is following you are simply taking a walk.  This is a simple but profound statement that every leader must ask themselves, “Is anyone really following me?”   In our previous post we discussed the importance of a leader gaining greater influence and becoming more effective in their leadership.

If you remember we said that leadership is sort of like an “Umbrella.”  The umbrella is in the hand of the leader.  Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organization.  The success of each department can never, will never, rise any higher than the level at which the leader holds the umbrella.  Leadership sets the standard.  The higher the standard the more effective the leadership.

So how can we “Enlarge our Umbrella?”  How can we gain greater influence and build the kind of characteristics that others would want to follow.  There are some key elements that will help you become the leader that others would want to follow:

1)  Concern – the ability to show you care
Great leaders have the ability to show concern for people’s deepest needs and interests.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be mushy, not everyone is, but you must sense their interest and concerns, show that you care and leave them with the feeling that what they are going through matters to you.  One of the greatest statements I have heard regarding this subject is, “Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are in making them feel good about you.”

2)  Help – the ability to reach out
To put this simply…Great leaders are Great helpers!  They are out to see others profit; to do better.  They are willing to help when and where needed to make the other person successful.  Zig Ziglar says, “Help enough people achieve success and you will never lack success for yourself.”

3)  Action = the ability to make things happen
Something always seems to be happening around a person with charisma.  The charismatic person has an aversion to being boring.  They have an ability to create action…the kind of action that people want to be around.  They are movers, shakers, history makers and that kind of energy is contagious.  If you want to be a great leader that others want to follow, then be a person of action.

4)  Results – the ability to produce
People want to be on the winning team and great leaders that produce will never lack for people to want to join their squad.  Be a person who executes and who gets results.  Develop a winning tradition in your life and career.  If you develop this kind of characteristic in your life, people will do almost anything to partner with you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
– British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery

The Heart of a Leader

Heart to lead

Do You Have the Heart of a Leader?

When you think of leadership what comes to mind? I think I could ask a hundred people and get a thousand different answers.  This week I have chosen to look at the heart of a leader, as true leaders lead from a place of love and not force. To that end I have gleaned from two great leaders (who are also Celera coaches).

The 2 Core Responsibilities of a leader

By Mike Foster:

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an hour with some incredible leaders involved with Backstage Leadership.

I shared with them what I considered to be my 2 most important leadership responsibilities. (Btw, thanks peter for sharing them with me)

1. BUILD TRUST: I do this with striving to live transparently and with character in both my personal and professional life. Bottom line is if people don’t trust you, they won’t let you lead them. Especially if you are leading to a place of challenge, risk, and the unknown. Our inspirational speeches, clever mission statements, and our stunning business card titles are nice, but they don’t trump trust.

2. BEAR PAIN: Let me shoot straight. If your heart isn’t burdened for others and you’re not helping to carry that weight, then you are not a leader. If your world isn’t uncomfortable and you aren’t navigating pain on a daily basis, then you’re probably not a leader. I love what Craig Groeschel said to me many moons ago…

“The size of your platform is directly proportional to the amount of pain you can endure.”

– Along those same lines Dan Reiland writes in his article…

“Simply Relational, Part 1”

Are you demanding by nature?

Most leaders are type A, driven, and “push” people, at least to some degree. Pushing people is much different than being a pushy person. A “push” can feel like a loving nudge in the right direction or like someone just shoved you over a cliff. A better word than pushing is leading. The picture of a leader is one who is out front inviting others to come forward. The picture of pushing is more of someone behind you making you go where you don’t want to go. The truth is, leaders do both. And whether or not the outcome is favorable is based largely upon if you are demanding by nature or by function.

A leader who is demanding by nature is never satisfied and often makes demands to satisfy his or her personal agenda. This can stem from not knowing what you want (where you are going) or personal insecurities and needs. A leader who is demanding by function (responsibility) does so for the good of the people and the organization. No one likes to follow someone who is demanding by nature. More bricks less straw! This person is at best a bully, and at worst, a tyrant. Everyone will follow a leader who is tough but cares. (Demanding by function.) The greatest coaches, teachers and leaders all have high standards and refuse to lower them. The leader who is demanding by nature will eventually forfeit leadership.

Until Next Time,

Charis Sonksen


“Blessed is the leader who seeks the best for those he serves.” – Unkown

When Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people

Don't give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard.

Regardless of your profession, you will always deal with difficult people. People that rub you the wrong way, get under your skin and stand on your last nerve. People that bring more joy into your life when they exit the room, then when they enter. The question is not whether you will have these people in your life; the question is how you will handle it?

In dealing with these types of people the objective is not about who is winning or losing or who is right or wrong. The objective is about understanding. Stephen Covey once wrote, “Seek first to understand, before trying to be understood.” These words possess the solution to dealing with difficult people. Because even when a person is wrong, they still felt there was a reason for them to get upset.

Here are a few tips that may help you when dealing with difficult people:

1) Don’t join the fight
Difficult people can often yell, be sarcastic, be critical, and say harsh words to you or about you. Do not join in their game. Don’t give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard. You have to do what’s right even when they do what’s wrong.

2) Let them talk their feelings out

They may need to vent a little and you may need to listen. You may not agree or you may feel they’re in the wrong, but their emotions won’t be satisfied until they’re expressed.

3) Seek to understand
Why is it that they act the way they act? What is it inside of them that creates this problem? Are they insecure? Do they need recognition? Are they hurt from a past relationship? People act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs about themselves. Understand this and it will help you along in the process.

4) Ask them for advice
People love to hear themselves talk and they love it even more if their opinion is being valued. If there is a problem, ask them what they feel the solution is and what steps need to be taken to resolve the problem. Even if their solution makes no logical sense, it will allow them to be involved in the resolving process.

5) Apologize when necessary
You need to take a hard look inside of yourself and discover if there is anything that is creating a problem or causing difficulty for the person. A good leader always looks in the mirror before they look out the window. What part of the problem might you be contributing?  Is there anything that you could own and take responsibility for?

People are your greatest asset and it’s your job as their leader to keep your people moving forward with optimistic energy. People are going to be difficult, personalities are going to clash, because that is a part of life. But, if you will work hard at working with people, then people will work hard for you!

Until next week,

Chris Sonksen

“Instead of giving people a piece of your mind, give them a piece of your positive attitude.”

– Ben Franklin

Becoming a “Master Communicator” With Your Team


Make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Studies show that one of the top reasons for divorce among couples in America is poor communication.  This problem with communication is that it not only creates problems in marriages, but it creates problems in the workforce as well.  Learning to communicate with your team sounds easy in theory but is much more difficult for leaders to accomplish than most would think.

It is important for you, regardless of the kind of team you lead or the size of team you lead, that you lead that team from a point of strong, clear and healthy communication.  Here are some ways you can become a “Master Communicator” to the team you lead:

1)  Don’t try to sound “managerial”
You may have some preconceived notion of how a manager should talk, but confident leaders don’t adopt jargon to impress staff and team.   Our message can often get lost in our attempts to sound managerial or knowledgeable.  Be yourself, don’t be a carbon copy of someone else’s idea of what a strong leader sounds like.

2)  Talk with – rather than at – people
People in positions of power often make the mistake of talking “at” others in a direct, abrasive manner.  Telling your team members what you know and displaying your experiences, while forgetting to listen to the opinions of others could cost you leadership credibility.  Stay clear of the “I know this and you don’t” tone.  It is an out of date dictatorship style that will never persuade your team member to loyalty or longevity.

3)  Speak without judging
There are times when the hammer needs to drop and you need to drop it, but the majority of the time you must learn to be more persuasive than abrasive.  You can accomplish this by learning to speak to someone without judging them.  This critical approach will move your team closer to you rather than, pushing them farther away from you.

4)  Don’t disguise direct order as suggestions
Don’t say “This is only a suggestion,” when you mean, “Do it this way or else.”  You will only confuse the team member.  They’ll quickly conclude that they receive more credit when they use your ideas than when they rely on their own.  I am not suggesting for you to be a dictator but when you feel that you need to be direct…be direct.

5)  Limit e-mail
Although technology can make us more efficient, it can also make your team feel less connected to you.  Corresponding primarily through email has a tendency to alienate the needed face to face moments that build the relationships among your team.  I am not saying not to use e-mail, it is a great tool, just evaluate yourself and make sure that you are having enough face time with your team members.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths
rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”
John D. Rockefeller

Team Building for a Thriving Church


Seek the best players for the team

Seek the best players for your team

Once you have established the dream or vision for your church, the team to match the dream must be assembled or re-assembled. You should strive to get everyone on your team moving together (Clarity, Movement, Alignment, Focus). A key thought to remember is, “What you pay attention to grows”, so “If you don’t staff to your purpose…your purpose (church) won’t grow”. The first step in this process is to evaluate your team.

Following are some questions to ask…

               1. Is this the team that can carry out the dream?

               2. Are there players on the team that need to be adjusted?

               3. Do each of my team members have

– Character

– Competency

– Chemistry

 4. Is my team assembled according to my purpose and process?


Here is an analogy to consider, each staff/leader you have sits in 1 of 3 positions:

1. They are on the right bus

2. They are on the right bus but in the wrong seat

3. They need to find a different bus


What happens when a leader allows a member of the team to stay in the wrong seat or on the wrong bus?

 a. Stronger members begin to pick up the slack for the weaker members

b. Stronger members begin to resent weaker members

c. Stronger members become less effective

d. Stronger members begin to question the leader’s ability


When you determine that you need to hire new team members, the next step is to determine the kind of players you are looking for. Never be afraid to go after the best. Strong leaders want to be at a place where they can stretch their leadership muscles. Don’t allow your insecurity, uncertainty or ego get in the way of adding high level players to your team.


Some things to consider about potential team members are…

 1. They are results driven

a. They know how to get things done

b. They flat out produce

2. They are highly influential.

a. They attract people

b. People like them

c. People want to serve under them

3. They add value to you, the team and the church

4. They attract other leaders

a. They don’t just attract followers…they attract leaders

5. They build teams

a. They can build a blue print of how their team will look

b. They can get people on board and moving in the same direction

6. They know how to equip and resource

7. They provide inspiring ideas

8. They can problem solve

a. The higher the level of player you have the less problems they should be solving (push problems down to the lowest level possible)

9. They possess uncommon positive attitudes

10. They are committed to the vision

a. Highly committed to the purpose and process

11. They have loyalty


Finally, here are some suggestions for interviewing and hiring a new staff member

 1. Ask a lot of questions and host multiple interviews with the various people on your team (if you “Hire hard you will manage easy”).

 2. Ask questions about their current or former places of employment (pay attention if they speak poorly of their former boss or work place. If they do—take caution! If they speak poorly of them it is a matter of time before they speak poorly of you).

 3. Ask them to prepare a layout of what they will do the first 6 months to a year if they were to get the job.

 4. Ask them for ideas of how their ministry (if hired) would fulfill the process (in their opinion).

 5. Make sure you have a clear job description, expectations and purpose and process.


Until next time,

 Chris Sonksen


 “The team on top of the mountain didn’t fall there”

Author Unknown


What every staff member wants from their leader Part – 2

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Any great leader realizes that their personal success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of their staff.  You always rise to the level of those you surround yourself with.  A leader also knows that the level that a staff rises to falls on their shoulders.  It is the responsibility of any good leader to bring out the absolute best in every team member.

Last time we took a look at the first five things that every staff member wants from their leader.  Let’s review them quickly:
1)Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
2)Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
3)Your staff wants clear expectations.
4)Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
5)Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.

Those are the first five things that your staff wants from you.  Now let’s take a closer look at the remaining five:

6)  Your staff wants opportunity for increasing their responsibility.
If your staff member doesn’t want to grow in their level of responsibility then you might need to re-evaluate them.  Good staff members want to grow in their responsibility because they want to grow personally.  Give them opportunities to increase their duties and their level of authority and watch how the great ones will rise to the top.

7)  Your staff wants to be able to vent disappointment, disagreement and frustration without condemnation.
You must learn to have an open door policy.  You want your staff to feel at ease speaking with you as the leader without feeling like they will be judged or condemned for their feelings.  Work hard on your communication skills with your staff.  If you do this, you will help to build bridges in your organization.

8)  Your staff wants the resources needed to accomplish their work with excellence.
This is a giant issue, especially when it comes to non-profit organization.  In our attempt to save money we minimize our staff by providing inadequate resources to accomplish the work.  Make sure that you set your staff up for success.  If they fail it won’t be because you didn’t provide them what they needed to succeed.

9)  Your staff wants loyalty from you.
Be loyal to them.  Build a place of trust in their life.  They need to feel that they can share anything with you in private and it stays with you.  They need to know that you have their back and that you are on their side.

10)  Your staff wants leadership.
You must be the leader, not based on title but based on the influence in their lives, the vision you provide and the winning atmosphere you create.  You are the leader…so lead.  Learn everything you can about leadership, read every book, attend great seminars, but at any cost learn to lead.  The future of your organization and your staff’s success is counting on it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines
instinct with boldness and effort – it is ready to climb.”
Pat Riley

What every staff member wants from their leader – Part 1

If there is high morale among staff then high productivity is more likely.

If there is high morale among staff, then high productivity is more likely.

If you want to know the temperature of your organization you need not look any farther then your staff.  They set the climate for all those involved.  They are the pacesetters, the producers and the directors of your organization.  Success or failure rests on their shoulders.

If there is a spirit of harmony and high morale among the staff then there is likely to be a high volume of productivity.  If there is tension among the staff, division in the ranks or a lack of trust from staff member to leader then productivity and morale will inevitably be low.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. once said “I have long been profoundly convinced that in the very nature of things, employers and employees are partners, not enemies; that in the long run the success of each is dependent upon the success of the other.”  Knowing that your success as a leader is dependent on the success of your staff, here are some thoughts to help you understand what your staff wants from you.

1)  Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
The hired hand mentality is based on the premise of exchanging time for a paycheck, but if that is your mentality that is all you will get.  If you want a staff member who is loyal, committed and ready to win, you will need to treat them with value and respect.

2)  Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
Good communication is done with the heart as much as with the ears and mouth.  Communicate in such a way that expresses compassion and concern.  Refuse to be a dictator, who barks out commands expecting people to jump.  This intimidation produces shallow faithfulness to the leader and the organization.

3)  Your staff wants clear expectations.
Nothing is more frustrating for a staff member then unclear expectations.  They need to know what you expect from them or they will never know if they are hitting the mark.  Write out clear expectations and go over them together.  Review these expectations frequently, evaluating their progress along the way.

4)  Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
What gets rewarded – gets done.  It doesn’t always have to be money (though most of your staff wouldn’t complain) it might be something else.  It could be recognition publicly, affirmation privately or a few days off with pay.  Don’t be so “in the box” get creative and find out ways to reward your staff for any size job well done.

5)  Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.
Whenever you make deposits into your staff members lives you will always reap a great reward.  It may cost time and money but it will be worth it.  Your staff will be better equipped to serve by your side and you will have displayed to them their value.  Invest in your staff, send them to seminars, buy them books, copy articles, do anything you can to resource the people of your staff.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“People don’t want to be managed.  They want to be led.
Whoever heard of a world manager?”
– From an article published by : United Technologies Corporation

Closing the gap on recognition

Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner

Find creative ways to value your team in a sincere manner

Last week I shared with you the importance of effective recognition among your team and organization.  We looked at how recognition ultimately brings out motivation.  If you want to improve performance then the leader must improve their forms of inspiration.

This week we continue on the theme of recognition.  I am learning more as a leader that the gap of perception between leaders and team members is astounding when it comes to the importance of recognition in the work place.  While most leaders agree that recognition is important, few realize how passionately the team members feel about the subject.

Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, discovered that what managers perceived as most important to employees was sharply different from what the employees actually reported as being important. Management and employees were asked to rank 10 items from 1-10  (1 being “most” important and 10 being “least” important).  The results below clearly show that to help employees or team members reach their full potential, managers need to increase their awareness of what motivates employees.

Managers Employees
Good Wages 1 5
Job Security 2 4
Promotion/Growth opportunities 3 7
Good working conditions 4 9
Interesting work 5 6
Personal loyalty to workers 6 8
Tactful disciplining 7 10
Full appreciation for work done 8 1
Sympathetic to personal problems 9 2
Feeling “In” on things 10 3

Note the numbers 1,2,3, in red.  What the managers and employees considered important are completely opposite.  The result is simple the managers do not really understand the needs of the people they lead.

Here’s my challenge to you…

a)Know what makes your people feel valued
b)Find creative ways to value them in a sincere manner
c)Let your forms of recognition include: informal, formal & personal
d)Be consistent

I am confident that if you will begin the exercise of recognition you will be on the path to higher performance and productivity.  START TODAY!  Decide right now what you can do and watch the difference it will make!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“We wildly underestimate the POWER of the tiniest personal touch.”
Tom Peters