The Give and Take of Criticism


Giving constructive criticism is tricky.  We can hesitate to criticize because we are intimidated to do so or wrestle with feeling “judge not lest you be judged”.  Or we can slide over into the other ditch and become bold and too matter of fact with criticism, becoming blunt pushing too many buttons with results that are less than positive. Both responses are unhealthy. How do you give constructive criticism without being a jerk? How do you constructively criticize someone’s work or behaviour without it coming across as a personal attack?

Confronting with Excellence

I have always disliked confrontation and every time I am nervous and have to force myself to do it. I thought that after a while I’d get used to it, but I still battle those feelings, even after 20 years of being a Senior Pastor. To be honest, I think that fear is healthy. I think anyone who likes criticism is unhealthy. We should hate it. But, with that being said, I have learned to hate the results of NOT confronting situations or people when it needs to happen MORE than actually having to do it. It’s unhealthy to like confrontation, but it is even more unhealthy to avoid it altogether because you fear it so much.

Set Clear Expectations

I think the most important thing you can do as a leader is create a healthy culture of accountability. So that constructive criticism is normal, expected, and healthy. This means I must have 3 things in place.

  1. Failure is penalized;
  2. Success is rewarded; and
  3. Mediocrity is challenged.

Without these three things in place, a culture will be dysfunctional. It all starts with having clear expectations. That means clear goals with clear timelines. The clearer you are with your expectations and desire results the more leverage you have as a leader to hold your team accountable. In fact, if your expectations are crystal clear, then your team should hold themselves accountable. I like to say, that if I am leading right with clear expectations, then when I need to correct an employee, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. They should already be aware that they fell short and need correcting but how you correct them makes all the difference.

I have extensively studied how to confront and hold my staff and key leaders accountable. It really is an art and it must be done with excellence, both for the health of the relationship with your leaders as well as for the health of the organization. To me, the foundation of healthy confrontation is safety. When the other party feels frightened or nervous or otherwise unsafe, you can’t talk about anything. But, if you can create safety, you can talk with almost anyone, about almost anything.

I have learned that people feel unsafe when they believe one of two things:

  1. You don’t respect them; and
  2. You don’t care about their goals.

So the question is, what can I do to ensure the other person does not feel disrespected even though you are about to talk about a problem. And, what can I do to let them know that my intentions are pure—that my goal is to solve a problem that will make things better for both of us. I have to start with what is important to both of us—not just what’s important to me.

This can be complicated further because in the workplace today we have multiple generations. Each generation comes with their own baggage and expectations, so the key is to understand those expectations and natural tendencies and then establish a crystal clear culture within your organization based on your expectations as the leader.  

You can create your own sub-culture within your organization that is different from the culture in society. This is a healthy thing, I believe. And the clearer you are with what that culture is and what your standards are, the easier it will be to keep each generation working together and in the same way regardless of their natural differences. When establishing a culture, you must remember that what you tolerate will become your standard. So make sure you establish clear boundaries and then enforce those boundaries with healthy accountability. Reward what you want repeated and correct what you want changed.

[bctt tweet="What you tolerate will become your standard." username="kellystickel"]

Wait 24hrs

Nicole Lindsay, writes for   Recently she wrote an article entitled:  Taking Constructive Criticism like a Champ”.  In it she recommends that when you’re on the receiving end of criticism, it’s best to “stop your first reaction”. The same can be true for the one about to deliver criticism. 

I try to wait to confront for at least 24 hours after the problem presented itself to rid myself of as many of the explosive emotions as I can. This way, I can be frank and stick to the facts rather than drift and say things I’ll regret later because I’m too worked up. 

Establish a Plan

During that 24 hours, I establish a plan. Sometimes the one giving the criticism delivers the criticism inappropriately.  Maybe the timing was awkward, or the wording was abrupt or the person giving the criticism didn’t have all their facts straight.  

I prepare for the meeting and write out as much of what I want to cover in the meeting as I can, in the order I want to deliver it. I have made my biggest mistakes in confrontation when I tried to wing it in a meeting without properly preparing with this process. 

We need to remember that excellence in confrontation is a learned skill. I don't think this comes naturally for anyone. I’d highly recommend our listeners read the book “Crucial Accountability” as a starter on how to confront with excellence. The best way to prepare yourself for a confrontation is to, by yourself, have a meeting before the meeting to clearly write out a plan for the meeting. The clearer you are in defining the problem and the corresponding solution, the better the meeting will go.

Don't Play Games

You may be familiar with the practice of sandwiching constructive criticism between compliments in areas where the individual is working well. Games like the sandwich method are often way more destructive than helpful. The key is to get right to the point. The vast majority of the time, when I need to confront someone, they already know something is wrong or that this is going to be a serious talk, so just get to the point. Start the conversation with "I want to talk about this problem". It’s also important to clearly define the problem to yourself BEFORE the meeting so that you can communicate it as clear as possible to the person you are confronting. Conflict is the space between what I expected and what I experienced.  So, I must define that space. The best way to define it is to start by clearly defining what I expected.

[bctt tweet="Conflict is the space between what I expected and what I experienced." username="kellystickel"]

Clearly Define the Problem

What happens when you can identify the problem but can't identify an immediate solution? The best way to find a solution is to clearly define the problem by again, defining what I expected and then comparing that to what we are experiencing. If I am unclear as to what the solution is to change the results, then I will confront the problem, not the person, and ask the person in charge for a meeting to brainstorm possible solutions. I have done this multiple times, with a number of staff and departments. The problem in results is not always the leaders fault. Many times it is a systems problem rather than a leadership problem. When that’s the case, then I help the leader identify the problem and aid them in solving it. Then, next time, they will identify it quicker and solve it themselves without coming to me.

At the close of the confrontation, I aim to develop win-win plans. These are plans that are going to benefit both of us. They often begin by remembering who does what by when and then who will follow-up.

Sometimes an employee may misjudge a friendly relationship with their leader by thinking that that relationship won’t be tested. When that’s the case, and the friendly leader delivers constructive criticism, the employee feels the friendly relationship has been jeopardized. Some leaders suggest not being friends with your employees so that this never happens, but I don’t believe that is wise at all. I think that it is very possible to be friends with your direct reports and maintain accountability at the same time. If we are working together on clear objectives and have clear goals—as I have discussed earlier—then accountability can be safe and the relationships can stay close in the midst of accountability. I think a great example of this is a parental relationship with young adult children. There can be a close relationship along with accountability. I think this is healthy.

This is why I also want to deal with ongoing relationship maintenance, so that means making sure that who I confronted is not feeling disrespected and knows that I am desiring to maintain a strong relationship with them. This means pushing past the awkwardness and pursuing relationship despite the feelings involved.


On the Receiving End

Receiving criticism is an art as well. Especially when it is in relation to an areas or skill set that you have spent years developing. We must always be asking ourselves what we could be doing better and where we could change. But, with that being said, if you feel that the expectations of you are beyond your ability or gift set to deliver then you must be very open with your boss about that fact for the betterment of the organization. Also, sometimes what is expected of us may cause us to compromise our moral stance or personal integrity. When this is the case, it must be made clear to your overseer as well. Other than those two circumstances, I think we must be open to criticism and be willing to grow and improve where we can.

Learn to Sharpen Your Personal Awareness

Outside of having a leader or overseer that confronts our weaknesses,  we can learn to sharpen our perspective and awareness of our weaknesses in performance.

Again, I might sound like a broken record here, but the clearer the expectations are the easier this is. If your boss doesn’t give you clear objectives or goals with timelines assigned to them, then you should do this for yourself. And when you do, push yourself. Don’t set easy to attain goals, and at the same time don’t set impossible goals. Set difficult goals that are attainable but will stretch you a little beyond your current comfort zone. And when you reach these goals, in the timeframe allotted, reward yourself. Keep the same 3 rules of accountability with yourself, as you would with a staff member.


Excellence is a Priority

All of us are flawed, have shortcomings or weaknesses.  Some of them we choose to work on, other ones we try to conceal. But in order to continually keep everyone moving in a direction of correction that maximizes their transparency and candour we must keep excellence as a high priority.

I believe that vision leaks and that we all have a natural tendency to drift from excellence. Excellence is hard work and requires constant push, correction, and healthy accountability. I think that this is important in business because it effects the bottom line. But, I think it is even more important in the church because our bottom line impacts people’s eternities. So, with that in mind, pastors we must maintain a health culture of accountability and learn the art of how to confront with excellence because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


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Leadership Weaknesses


We understand blind spots in the context of driving; areas around us where we can’t see what’s going on around us.  The larger those blind spots are, the more dangerous they become. The same is true in leadership. John Maxwell defines a blind spot as “an area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically.”  

In leadership, blindspots are usually a result of "not looking" and therefore a failure to investigate ones own weaknesses and blindspots. Either being blind to areas that need adjusting or ignoring them.  

As a leader, you have to recognize that first of all, you can’t be good at everything and you will have blindspots. For me, I’d rather know what my blindspot is than have my team in the backrooms whispering about my blindspot and tip towing around me, just to keep me happy. So, I solicit my team to point those out and help me with them. It’s painful and I can get defensive, at first, but it’s good. And it’s good to admit it to your team. Then ask them to hold you accountable in that area and find someone on the team that can help you grow in that area.

Not all weaknesses are blindspots, some weaknesses may be a result from personality types.

When People Focused Becomes a Weakness

Some personality types are naturally more concerned with relationships than results. This weakness usually plays itself out by leaders not delivering desired results in a timely manner. This weakness requires learning to guide the right people to deliver results on time and on budget.  So how can a people leader gain traction to be more results focused?

Well, I’d say recognize your natural strengths and weaknesses and do what you can to develop your strengths and hire your weaknesses. So, If you are a relational driven person and tend to not deliver results in a timely manner, hire someone or recruit a good volunteer who is results driven. Have them set the schedule and hold the both of you accountable for the deadlines.

Another key is to learn time management and project management skills and tricks. There are a lot of books and resources out there that can really help you develop habits in this area that will work just for you and your personality. I know, I work on this continually. In fact, this weekend, I studied an article on how to research better and more efficiently for messages using tips and tricks in Evernote. It’s going to help me a ton and free me up to do what only I can do.

When Results Focused Becomes a Weakness

Other personality types are naturally results focused to the point of burning their people out.  They get things done, but their effort is often less collaborative and less team building.  These often are the autocratic leaders.  

Owning this tendency and weakness is key. You have to recognize who you are and where your strengths lie. So, for me, this is my natural tendency. I am very results driven and have had a track record of burning people out around me. So, one trick I’ve learned is to admit it, not only to myself, but to my direct reports — those closest to me. Then I ask them to hold me accountable in this area and to help me set the pace for our team. I give them permission to tell me when I am pushing too hard and when the team is tired. We talk about this often.

I operate at a really fast pace in so many directions at once so I also tell those around me to not feel pressured to keep up with my pace. I am not expecting my team to work like I do, because I realize not everyone is built the same way as I am or has the same set of skills or focus. That’s ok. I need them on my team BECAUSE they are different than me and have a different skill set and focus. When I admit it to myself and my team, it opens up the dialogue for us to talk openly about my weakness without repercussion and helps us set a team pace, instead of my pace.

The Assumption Pit

Leaders may assume others are like them.  In business communication we call this “assumed similarity”.  It’s a trap to think that because a leader thinks like you in one subject area that they think like you in all subject areas.  Leaders with the same vision may easily differ in what motivates them, or in how they make decisions. Leaders who share the same values may even deal differently when resolving conflict.

But it’s vital that a leader surround himself with people who are different than him and think differently. If you hired everyone on your team who were just like you, your organization is going to have glaring weaknesses that will be crippling.

So, if you are hiring currently — staff your weaknesses — then you would immediately avoid the assumed similarity problem. If you are not sure if you have hired correctly I would suggest to a leader that they give each of their team members personality tests like a Meyers Briggs test or a DISC test. Then review the results as a team and you will begin to identify immediately your team members strengths and weaknesses, their natural tendencies and thinking patterns. This helps tremendously to understanding and appreciating your team.

The People Pleaser

Have you ever worked with a leader who just wanted to be liked?  Just wanted to fit in, be loved and please everyone.  They are great to be around, fun to hang out with but their weakness is usually in holding people accountable, making the hard calls and being decisive. If this is you, or you know someone like this, it's important to help this people pleaser type to see the bigger picture that produces results. 

Again, I think it is good to study decisive people. Ask them how they do it and what kind of results they get by making the hard calls or by holding their team to account. When you study the results, you will quickly discover that these leaders are usually well respected and liked by their team and in fact their team seems to thrive in an accountable environment. I know I did just that. I studied some of the best church leaders in the business and I soon discovered that what made the best the best was that they were excellent at making the hard calls and at being decisive and in holding people accountable. That’s what separated them from other leaders.

When I looked at my results or at the results of other struggling leaders around me who were shrinking or plateauing in their ministries, it all came down to the fact that they just couldn’t make the tough call and it paralyzed their ministry. I remember talking to my mentor about this very thing and I commented at how easy he made making the tough calls look and he replied “Easy? The hard calls are never easy. They are painful every single time and I agonize over them just like everyone else, but they are necessary for the betterment of the organization.” When I heard that, I was relieved. Because, I wasn’t weak because I struggled with the tough calls. I was normal! And it empowered me to be bolder in making those calls when I had to.

The Isolationist

Let’s pick on the leader who isolates themselves from their team.  Not only do they shut out their best people’s input, but their disconnect may cause them to over-promise and under-deliver. 

I've never understood leaders who would isolate themselves from the people. I think that is one of the first things I noticed and still one of the things I respect most about my mentor and spiritual father, Dr. George Hill. Although he is the founder and president of a worldwide ministry, he always wants to be around the people. At conferences, he doesn’t hide in a green room, coming out just before he is to step on stage to deliver his message. No, he is mixing and mingling with everyone in the foyer or sanctuary before the service and after the service. I have always found him to be very approachable. That’s one major thing that makes him a great leader in my opinion. Leaders who need to be separated from their people won’t be leading long because they won’t be able to keep the pulse of their organization, or hear the heart of the ones they lead and then will make visionary decisions based on their feelings instead of the feelings of the people they lead. It is vital a leader stays connected with their people.

The Coaster

What about the leader who is coasting to the finish line?  They have grown complacent, stopped learning and are totally invested in maintaining the status quo of their business, organization or church’s glory days.  They have probably lost their “first love” but carry on as if changing is out of the question. 

If I was coaching such a leader, I would probably ask a series of questions. I would ask if they felt like their assignment was up in the organization or in the location they are in in the organization. It’s not natural for a leader to coast. Leaders hold the vision — which is always progressive and forward moving. Once the leader doesn’t have the vision he is not the leader any more. So, maybe their assignment is up. If it is, who would be the obvious replacement. Most times, leaders don’t have one.

Then I would say that that is their next assignment. Find someone to mentor and train to be your replacement. And when they are 60-80% ready, cut them loose and hand it off to them and look for your next assignment. A leader is often energized by a new challenge — so seek where the new challenge is — and if it is in your current organization, stay. If it is outside your organization, then prepare to leave responsibly.

The Exploder

Have you ever had a leader turn on you, going into a rage in front of the whole team? Or maybe you weren't the only victim. Leaders who are lacking in emotional intelligence are toxic not only to their team but to themselves as well.  This weakness in a leader often goes unchecked because people fear them. It's often easy to recognize in others, but it's harder to identify in yourself.

I recently listened to a podcast by Pastor Craig Groeschel entitled “Fire Your Inner Boss.” In it, he described the difference between a boss and a leader. He said that a…

  1. A boss instills fear while a leader inspires confidence.
  2. A boss assigns blame while a leader takes responsibility.
  3. A boss demands loyalty while a leader extends trust.
  4. A boss controls people while a leader empowers people.
  5. A boss is often guarded whereas a leader is transparent.

He said, we can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. Isn’t that powerful. I think my favourite quote in the podcast was “Position may give you power to control, but trust will give you permission to lead.” I think as leaders we need to look at this list and ask ourselves which one are we to our people? Are we being the boss? Or are we leading? And if you dare, ask your team which one you are — a boss or a leader?

[bctt tweet="We can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. @craiggroeschel" via="no"]

The Poor Communicator

One of the major blindspots in leadership on multiple levels centres around communication. When “communication” is a weakness it is often because what leaders think is enough communication is not what their team, board or stakeholders think is enough. 

I think communication is always a skill we as leaders should be working on and improving in. Our success and our organization’s success depends on it. I have yet to meet a perfect communicator, so we are all in process and my advise is that communication be a top priority to study and learn. Remember, successful communication is not what I think I said, but instead what the receiver understood I said.

[bctt tweet="Successful communication is not what I think I said, but what the receiver understood I said." username="kellystickel"]

So, if there is a breakdown in the reception of the message, then it is my fault regardless of how well I thought I communicated it. I am not communicating to people in a way that I understand, but I must communicate to them in a way that they understand — whoever 'they' is. That is an ever learning process, for all of us.

The Poor Planner

Strategic thinking is a vital skill set in organizations today because everything is moving so fast. Change is constant.  Opportunities are plentiful. But leaders who are limited to managerial thinking rather than strategic thinking fall into an area of weakness. This weakness can jeopardize everything they’ve worked for. Some may even be blindsided by this weakness.   

I happen to think that there are natural strategists and there are those who strategic thinking does not come natural, too. I think you need to discover which you are. If you are a leader and you are not naturally strategic in your thinking, then I would say one of your first hires should be someone who is naturally strategic. Listen to them, and pull on this gift. The ultimate decision will be yours, but the idea was theirs. You don’t always have to be the idea man to be the leader, you just need to be the one who knows which idea to follow and which one to avoid. That is usually trial and error. When it works, give your strategist the credit. When it fails, you take the blame, because you made the call to go with it. That’s what a leader does.

The Cultural Drifter

In leadership today the term “culture” is of constant discussion.   Andy Stanley says the longer a leader is in an organization the more they don’t see the culture they are in.  We constantly fight here to prevent drifting in our culture.  We constantly evaluate everything we’re doing.  And we constantly incorporate better ways of doing what we do.  Leaders who don’t understand the significance of culture may be blinded to their weakness in this area.  

This weakness in creating culture is detrimental to leadership today, especially in the church. Everything; every organization, every family, everything has a culture. Culture either happens by design or by default. But, culture is powerful. It is more powerful than vision or strategies.

[bctt tweet="Culture either happens by design or by default." username="kellystickel"]

The right vision in a wrong culture is doomed to fail. Culture will win every time. I think every leader must learn how to recognize and design culture in order to see their visions come to pass. For pastors, I’d recommend starting with Sam Chand’s book “Cracking Your Churches Culture Code” to better understand how to understand and design the culture of your church. It is vital, because you won’t get very far as a leader without truly understanding culture.

And pastors, we all need you to be successful and go far because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

Five Temptations of a CEO


Your success as a leader can come down to practicing a few vital behaviors.

"All chief executive who fail – and most of them do at one time or another –  make the same basic mistakes; they succumb to one (or more!) of the five temptations" ~ Patrick Lencioni in the Five Temptations of a CEO.

Temptation One - Protecting Your Career

I grew up in the church, and realized quite quickly that pastoring gave you a “status” and a following. Being a pastor kind of put you and your family into a glass bowl and I saw how my pastors were treated, both good and bad. When I became a pastor, I thought I was prepared for the “status” that comes with the job, but I don’t know if anyone can fully be prepared for what that means, both the positive sides of that and the negative ones.

One of the things I had to learn was how to discern between followers and just fans. The biggest difference I see between followers and fans are that fans “say they support you” and followers “show their support in their actions.” It took me a while as a leader to discern between followers and fans, and to be honest I still get it wrong sometimes, because it is in my nature as a pastor to think the best of everyone. I have learned, and I hope this doesn’t sound cynical, because it is not, but I have learned to not be too moved by compliments and praise and to pay more attention to the actions of those around me.

Patrick Lencioni, in the book The Five Temptations of a CEO, says that great CEOs should be overwhelmed with the need to achieve something. That it is achievement, not ego that drives them.

Temptation Two - Wanting to be Popular with Your Direct Reports Instead of Holding Them Accountable

Lencioni says the best approach in this area is to go for respect rather than affection. He says CEOs must view their employees as “key employees” who must deliver.

It can be difficult to keep just the right distance between yourself with your direct reports as both their boss and their Pastor. To be honest, this is the temptation I struggle with the most. This is my weakness. I love people and I want people to love me. Holding people truly accountable for their results is an area that I continually struggle with. I remember when I first began coaching sports, I was an assistant coach first, and the head coach had to pull me aside to reprimand me for hanging out with the players too much as their friends and said that they wouldn’t respect me as a coach if I got too close. I think I was 18 or 19 at the time. So, this has always been a struggle for me. How do I keep the right distance? I don’t know if I have truly figured that out yet, to be honest. I’m still working on that one.

Temptation Three - Ensuring Your Decisions are Correct

It's the temptation to choose “certainty” over clarity, to "fear being wrong so much that they wait until they are absolutely certain about something before they make a decision." 

When information isn’t certain; Lencioni says go for clarity in what you do know.  I don’t wrestle too much with fear in my decision making process. I think I struggle more with the fear of inaction or stalled progress, so I will make a decision just to keep things moving. I live by a creed that it’s easier to steer a moving car than a parked one. Basically; I make a decision and if it’s the wrong one, then I change it as I’m going.

When it comes to a team, I have found a major benefit in including others around me in the decision making process. When we decide together, we will all be bought in to make it work. This is huge when it comes to leadership. The downside to that, is that it sometimes stalls out the process and lends itself to the previous temptation of trying to make everyone happy. When you include others, it is very rare that everyone will agree. So, it comes to a point when you will have to make a decision that will go directly against someone else’s advise — that’s when I will stall out or take too long to make the decision.

I do my best to make sure everybody knows as much information as I can possible share with them without compromising the organization or other members in the organization. High communication is vital to an organizations health.  But, sometimes it is just not possible to share everything. So, when those times happen I do my best to make sure that those who need to know, know. And for the rest, I will share what I can to give them a heads up that something is coming so to avoid surprises that might side swipe them.

Another stall point for people is when it comes to making decisions with limited information. I have found that if you are waiting to make the decision until you have ALL of the information, it is probably too late and you missed the window of opportunity. 

I remember when Joy-Lynn and I were first married and we made the decision to move to Canmore to help with a brand new church plant. I had to find a job in Canmore as the church was far too small to support a salary. The only job I could find was a part time job that only paid $8 an hour. I was supposed to move my new wife into a town where rent was some of the most expensive in Canada on a part time, low paying job. But, we both felt that we needed to make the call, so we did it. And, in my first shift on the the job, a day after we moved into town, I was offered the assistant manager’s position because the previous one had just quit. I never did work a part time shift and I was given an immediate raise.  If I had waited, I probably would have missed the opportunity for the manager's position.

[bctt tweet="You can't move forward in the face of uncertainty if you aren't willing to make mistakes." username="kellystickel"]

One of my most recent decisions that hasn’t come to fruition but I made without having all the information, was when I decided to announce to our congregation in December that we would hold Easter Sunday service in the Enmax. The Enmax is our local hockey arena and holds thousands and would have allowed us to do one service, in one location in Lethbridge. At the time, the Enmax was favourable to the idea but we hadn’t signed a contract yet. So, I announced it. Then, the local hockey team, the Hurricanes, went on a great playoff run and we were unable to get the venue for Easter. 

Did that cause any diverse consequences, or did I lose any ground with your team or congregation over it? Yes, I probably did. Leadership equity is difficult to earn and easy to lose. I spent some equity there and I know that my next big idea will probably not be fully trusted because I didn’t deliver on the last one. So, I will need to get some wins under my belt in order to earn that equity back.

Temptation Four - Desire for Harmony

The choice is “harmony vs productive conflict”. It is really is a fine balance. I don’t mind conflict and I appreciate differing opinions, but often that conflict leads to frustration or personal attacks among the team and that just can’t be tolerated. I think a key that I have learned in this area, is an idea my friend and mentor Leon Fontaine taught me. He calls it “pulling threads”. This refers to the phenomena of having a loose thread on a sweater. Sometimes you pull it and it’s just a lose thread, other times you pull it and it unravels the whole sweater. He used this analogy to talk about investigating areas in the organization where you, as the leader, are sensing tension or that something is just not right. So, when that happens, go pull the thread. Ask questions, investigate, inspect. I’ve practiced this for years and it has saved me a number of times and has allowed us to resolve little conflicts before they became big ones.

Temptation Five - Vulnerability

The 5th Temptation concerns “vulnerability”.  Leaders have to encourage their followers to challenge their ideas.  That means trusting them with your ego and even your reputation. 

There have been times when people have challenged one of my ideas and it turns out they were right. It happens a lot, actually. Especially in our creative meetings. It happens so fluently with our team that I think we talk through ideas until we all come to a consensus and it feels like it was all of our own original ideas because we were all part of the process. The best way to make decisions is to check your ego at the door, so much so, that you don’t own an idea and take it as a personal assault if that idea isn’t taken. It is so key in every organization. 

The Five Temptations of a CEO
  1.  Protecting your career
  2.  Wanting to be popular
  3.  Waiting until your decisions are correct
  4.  Desire for Harmony
  5. Not being vulnerable

Of the five temptations, which do I find most destructive to leadership and to startup organizations and churches? Well, in start-ups I’d say number 1. If you are more worried about your own reputation and position you will not build the team around you that is necessary to get your church or organization off the ground. You must build into others and elevate others or your organization will stay very small or fail.

[bctt tweet="One is too small a number to achieve greatness. ~@JohnCMaxwell" username="kellystickel"]

It is so important to guard against the enticement of these 5 Temptations in Church leadership today because like John Maxwell says, “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.” And all of these temptations have to do with building and working with a team. In order for us to impact the world we need to build dynamic teams. That’s why Jesus designed the church, to be a team that brings Him to the world. If we do this right the church effectively becomes the hope of the world effectively on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


In today’s podcast, Gene and Kelly are discussing candour. Candour is a fascinating subject. Several sources defined candour as “transparency”.  And transparency was defined as “capable of being seen through”.

Candour is sometimes defined as “frank, open, and sincere communication.” The free flow of information is said to give an organization the ability to solve problems, innovate, meet challenges and achieve goals.

Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank TV fame, says that she can predict that an organization is headed to failure when the leader blames others for their failing situation and when that leader tries to get her to feel sorry for them. Both of these signs are a symptom of a culture that prohibits candour. Is your organization in danger because of a lack of candour?

3 Benefits of Candour:

  1. Candour gets more people in the conversation and you get   __________ rich.
  2. Candour generates __________ .
  3. Candour cuts  __________ .


“When there is an absence of trust, it stems from the leader’s unwillingness to be vulnerable with the group. Leaders who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust.”

~Patrick Lencioni~

How to Build Trust:

  1. You __________  them as a human being — Mutual  __________ .
  2. You care about their __________  — Mutual  __________ .

Progress is always proceeded by  __________ .

Change is always proceeded by __________ .

Challenging the status quo is often where leadership  __________ .


If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email

Coaching Though Failure

In John Maxwell’s book “Failing Forward”, he writes: “the difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”

You’ve had failures. I’ve had failures. All of us have had failures. How do you learn to look beyond the failure? How should you respond to failure today?

How to use reflective thinking:

  1. Look at the  _______________.
  2. Look for _______________.

    1. Excuses are _______________ _______________.
    2. Excuses _______________  _______________ .
    3. Excuses’ champion a _______________ mentality and outcome.
    4. Excuses is a language of  _______________.                                                                               
    5. Excuses breed a culture of  _______________.
    6. Excuses will put _______________ out of reach.
    7. Excuses often reveal someone pursuing their own interests above the interest of their _______________!
    8. Excuses will _______________  you the rest of your life and _______________ you from your destiny.

3. Look at what can I  _______________ ?

Successful people learn from the past and _______________ _______________ of it. Unsuccessful people yearn for the past and  _______________   _______________ with it.

J. Wallace Hamilton, writer for Leadership Magazine wrote:  “The increase of suicides, alcoholics, and even some forms of nervous breakdowns is evidence that many people are training for success when they should be training for failure. Failure is far more common than success; poverty is more prevalent than wealth: and disappointment more normal than arrival.”


  8. QUIT  





Coaching for a Change

Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”.

In today’s podcast Pastor Gene and Kelly tackle the difference between being original and being authentic as well as how to lead through change and to avoid the status quo.

  1. You don’t need to be ________________ but you must be________________.“The opposite of courage is not fear. It is conformity. The most exhausting and frustrating thing in life is to live it trying to be someone else.” ~John MaxwellHow to be authentic: a.________________  see the people you are trying to please. b.________________  go to the people you want to be like. c.________________ look at the person you want to be. d.________________  reject the pull of the people you once pleased. 
  2. Go find out what everybody else is doing and________________ ________________. Progress is always proceeded by ________________. Change is always proceeded by________________. Challenging the status quo is often where leadership ________________. 
  3. Change is never ________________.There are 3 things that fuel change: a. The fuel of ________________. b. The fuel of ________________.                       c. The fuel of________________
  4. Leaders are constantly challenged to: a. Fight personal ________________. b. Desire________________ more than winning or losing. c. Help ________________ change.

The person who wants to help others change must ask and answer 3 questions: i. Is it worth it? If not why waste the effort? ii. Will they do it? If not, why waste your effort? iii. Can they do it? If not, why waste either of your efforts?




How to Coach Through a Crisis

In today’s podcast, Pastor Kelly answers 3 questions about coaching others through a crisis. Crisis come in all shapes and sizes. Some are a crisis in relationships, some in finances, others focus on team conflict and leadership conflicts. Sometimes a crisis pushes us out of our comfort zone. It's part of our churches culture to "never waste a crisis". So, how do you coach someone in a crisis to stir up and anchor themselves in a place of strength and self-identity beyond the crisis?

    1. A crisis _________________ what is inside you.Choices _________________ us - a crisis _________________ us.During a crisis… a. Trust _________________.b._________________ in yourself. c. Watch your _________________.
    2. It is our _________________ not our _________________ that determine our quality of life.“Good leaders make things happen during good times. Great leaders make things happen during bad times.” (John Maxwell)

Choices I make during a crisis:

    1. Be _________________.
    2. Make decisions based on my _________________.Decisions that must be made before the crisis: a. _________________. b. _________________. c. _________________.


Becoming a Coaching Leader


Christian Simpson, a professional coach,  says "coaching is transformational".  How do you adapt your communication skills when you're coaching a young leader who is reluctant to believe in their full potential?

Listen as Gene and Kelly discuss how coaching is transformational.

    1. Coaching is more than _____________________.
    2. Coaching is more than _____________________.
    3. Coaching is more than _____________________.
    4. Coaching is more than _____________________.
    5. Coaching is more than _____________________.
    6. Coaching is more than _____________________ someone.


Tips For Identifying and Recruiting the Right Mentor

Finding the right mentor is difficult, if not impossible. Too many of us have been hurt in our past by "mentors" who have had selfish motives and have misused or even abused us. The resulting hurt causes us to withdraw, even from the very people who could help us the most. Although I am a huge advocate of growing yourself, nothing can replace a good personal coach or mentor.

We all have blind spots, areas in our lives that we need to improve on and that we are simply naive to. Reading books, or going to seminars and conferences will not uncover most of these blind spots. Only a trusted mentor will be able to lovingly correct us. So, how can we find the right mentor? And when we do find them, how do we approach them to help us?

Here are ten tips for identifying and recruiting the right mentor:

  1. Determine the specific dream or area of your life for which you want a mentor. Be specific. Set goals. Remember a dream without clearly defined goals is a fantasy. What do you really want? What desires do you have personally, professionally, in your marriage, with your children, or in your ministry? If the answers aren’t immediate, you need to clearly define your goals. I would suggest doing a little exercise that really helped me clearly define what I really want. The exercise is simple: begin the day by writing down your top 10-15 goals. Then tomorrow, without looking at yesterday’s list, write your top 10-15 goals again. And do it again the following day, and the next, and the next, for at least 30 days. Each day, write your top 10 without looking at the previous entries. This practice will help you refine what is really important to you and what is just an emotional whim.
  2. Create a list of potential mentors for each area you’ve decided on. Right any name that comes to mind. This is a dream list. Even if you think there is no possible way for you to connect with this person, write their name down anyway. Who is doing what you dream of doing right now? Who has gone further than you in the chosen area?
  3. Starting with the mentors at the top of your list, write down the status of your current relationship with each one.
  4. Write down everything you know about that person through either personal experience with them or through second or third-hand knowledge.
  5. Research everything you can about your potential mentors. Read everything they write. Follow their blogs. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Listen to every presentation they make. In other words, the more you follow them, the more you will get to know them and their hearts. Once you follow them in every way, you will feel like you are getting to know them. When you get to this point, you can better determine if this person's heart, values, and dreams align with yours and whether or not you want to continue to follow them and if they are truly a desired mentor.
  6. If they’re mere acquaintances or strangers to you, do you know anyone they know?
  7. Prepare to contact a potential mentor on the phone, or in writing with a brief proposal or request. It is always wise to be over prepared when first contacting a potential mentor. Make sure you make it clear to them what it is you wish to learn from them. Also, what will mentorship look like? How often will you meet? How long will you meet? Where will you meet? What else are you willing to do in order to learn from them?
  8. Make the contact. Whenever you meet with a mentor come prepared with a list of questions. Ask the questions and then listen! Do not do all of the talking. Avoid the temptation to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. I cannot stress this enough. The purpose of having a mentor is to glean from them and their experience. So ask questions and then listen and be flexible enough to allow the conversation to flow from there.
  9. Follow up.
  10. Go to the next person on the list. If you get ignored or a negative response, try not to take that as a personal rejection. It might just be the wrong timing for them. Simply, be polite and thank them for considering it and move on to the next potential mentor.

Good luck in your quest! I hope you all find a great mentor and coach. For great books on the topic go to my blog post How to Mentor Someone.

Question: What is the number one reason you have not pursued finding a mentor? Leave a comment in the "Leave a Reply" box below.

Our Dream is to Help You Build Yours

"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Paul the Apostle, is clearly stating in Ephesians 4:12 that the purpose of the '5-fold ministry' offices are to equip the people in the work of ministry, not to do the ministry itself. This was a radical departure from the way I was leading as a pastor. I was the minister. That was my title and that was my job. At least that's how I used to think.

I remember, early on in my tenure as a pastor being exhausted by the work load and frustrated by the limited results. I began to search for answers. That's when this verse became revelatory to me. The word equip seemed to jumped off the page. But what did it mean to equip?

That's when I heard a teaching from Leon Fontaine. He said equipping...

  • is more than leading - leading somebody can make them a follower and not a doer.
  • is more than motivating - motivating can inspire the inept.
  • is more than caring - caring for people can result in caring for unskilled people.
  • is more than teaching - teaching can provide competent info but that doesn’t mean the student will function in that info.
  • is more than maturing.
  • is more than modeling.
  • is more than busyness - busyness doesn’t necessarily mean productive
. He defined slothfulness as 'being busy without productiveness' and laziness as 'doing just enough to get by.'
  • is more than delegating.
  • is more than positioning someone.
  • is more than enabling.

So what does it mean to equip? Equipping, as Leon defined it, was simply skill development.

In other words, according to the Apostle Paul, my responsibility as a pastor is to develop people in their ministry skills. That was a radical change of perspective for me. It meant that I needed to do more than just develop people in their spiritual skills - how to read the bible, pray, etc. - I was to develop their ministry skills as well. The longer I searched this out the more I came to realize that the word “ministry” was not referring to only those activities within the church. It was referring to any activity that advanced the kingdom of God. As I looked at our church, I realized that most of my people's ministries occurred outside of our four walls, beyond my personal reach, in areas of business, politics, education, arts and entertainment, music, athletics and media.

What if I, as a pastor, flipped the organizational chart upside down in my church? What if I became a ministry coach and the people became the ministers? What if I designed a leadership development culture, intentionally training people in the biblical model for community leadership? John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. If I developed people's skills as leaders in their workplace, what increase of influence would we experience in our community? Would we be able to more effectively fulfill our WHY - reaching every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think so!

Our motto became "Our Dream is to Help You Build Yours." This simple change in thinking led to the creation of an equipping culture which produced noticeable, tangible results. Almost immediately the church began to grow, the finances grew, and we began to see weekly salvations. I too, saw an almost immediate change. I had a new purpose, a new energy and a new focus and I became less burdened with the labor of ministry. I learned to not work harder, but to work smarter, following the Exodus 18 principle of raising up leaders of 10's, 50's, 100's and 1000's to distribute the ministry load.

What would happen if every church's dream was to help build the dreams of their people? What if we as pastors viewed our roles as ministry coaches? What would change?