3 Challenges that Threaten Your Deadline


Project Management - Part 4

Deadlines are absolutely crucial to any project. Without them, we have no accountability for achieving our goals. Though important, these deadlines can often seem out of reach. How do we as leaders make sure we accomplish what we need to before the cut-off?

As we continue our Project Management series, we hope you are learning lots about managing your teams and objectives. Today let's tackle our last two points.

7. Get Feedback & 8. Adjust Your Plan Accordingly

Healthy team members are usually good at giving constructive feedback and that usually means the leader has to adjust the plan. Every leader needs to be flexible because things often don't go according to the original plan.

When it comes to flexibility, I think our culture code, "We mess with the methods," stands out the most. To me, this statement gives us permission to try new things in new ways and if one isn't working we can try another way.

I think it's important to remember that what you tolerate becomes your standard so culture will drift where there is no accountability. We guard our culture by creating that healthy accountability amongst our teams. We can do this by scheduling regular intervals to check on the project. Whether that is every day or once a week, we need to make a point to review the progress of the project and make any adjustments if necessary.

You need to trust your team. Even though you have a vision and a plan in place, your team are the experts because they are in the trenches every day making it a reality. If they have suggestions, keep an open mind and listen to what they're saying.

The 3 Ongoing Challenges That Threaten Meeting a Project's Deadline

1. Under-communication

Communication is king and I don't believe it is possible to over-communicate with your team. Schedule weekly meetings or "huddles" so that everyone has the most recent updates and any issues can be addressed. Meet even if not everyone is available and then update those who couldn't attend.

2. Unforeseen Obstacles

As a leader, it is important to prepare for any obstacles in advance as much as possible so that you can handle them before they become big problems. As Solomon said in Proverbs, "The wise see trouble coming and avoid it."

3. Under-resourced Teams

It's your responsibility as a project manager to provide your team with the appropriate resources and information so that they can complete the project on time.

What If Part of the Project Fails?

There is always a human element to every project so you should expect mistakes and setbacks. How you respond to mistakes is so important because it sets the tone for how your team will respond moving forward.

If you overreact, you will create a culture of fear and your team will be afraid to make mistakes and will stop taking risks. If you under-react, you will create a lackadaisical culture and again, what you tolerate will become your standard.


Breaking the project into small bite-sized pieces and regularly reviewing and revising allows for more celebrations. Celebrate the victories with your team as well as make corrections as needed. What you celebrate gets repeated so it's a way to keep your team motivated as well as a way to establish the culture you want to be repeated.

Accountability is Vital

Accountability is not just correcting what is wrong but is also rewarding what is right. I see accountability in three things:

a) When winning is rewarded.

b) When losing is penalized.

c) When mediocrity is challenged.

If these three things never occur, you don't have accountability and without it there is dysfunction.

In my opinion, accountability is most important in the church, because without it, we can get off course and away from our mission. And we know that our mission has eternal consequences; people's eternities are literally at stake because the church is the hope of the world and Jesus gave us 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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Leading Generation Z


Marching Off the Map - Part 3

Leading this up and coming generation can be a very daunting task. Parenting especially is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. For the sake of our children, it is crucial that we learn the best approach. On this episode, we are comparing some tactics for best reaching our kids and youth.

Connect, don't control.

These days, we as parents have become very good at protecting our kids but have lacked when it comes to preparing them. We govern their actions, schedules, and relationships to the point where we are no longer doing them any good. Studies show that parents who over-program their children's lives tend to breed children who rebel as teens. To counter this, we need to work on connecting with our kids, building deep relationships that are able to bear the truth when needed.

Achievement, not simply participation.

One of my pet peeves is participation awards. Not just because I am competitive, but because I feel that in an attempt to make people happy, we end up making it worse. According to the American Psychologist Association, healthy and robust self-esteem actually comes from achievement, not merely affirmation. So, in our attempts to protect our children's self-esteem, we are actually creating a new "at risk" child; middle class, affluent kids who are depressed because they never really achieved anything. Let's not assume that simply telling our children that they are special and awesome will build their self-esteem, but instead give them opportunities to work at becoming amazing!

Expose, don't impose.

Elmore says, "Imposing rules and behaviours on this generation carries negative baggage." But we've always found rules and imposed behaviours a favourite default in parenting. It can often be safer, cleaner, and easier for all of us, not just parents. When our children feel forced to do something, they don't take ownership of it and we are simply modifying their current behaviour without affecting their heart.

Make things enticing for your kids so they actually want to participate. In doing so, they will learn more effectively because they will own it. This works in every avenue of life; parenting, managing, leading, etc.

Jesus used this technique. He never imposed truth on people but instead exposed them to it by asking questions and leading them down a path of self-discovery so they could own the answers themselves.

Describe, don't prescribe.

We as parents have the tendency to map everything out for our kids. We are somewhat removing the need for kids to use their own imaginations and creativity. Elmore says, "Instead of prescribing what they should do next, try 'describing.' Describe an outcome or goal, and let them figure out how to reach it with their own ingenuity."

Be real, not "cool."

I think we are a generation of parents who are trying too hard to be cool. We so desperately want to be our kids' friends that, in doing so, we lose ourselves a bit and ultimately we lose them too.

Today's parents have strayed from the authoritarian approach of their parents in an effort to be different. We think that if we can be just like our kids, we will be liked by our kids. So, we try to dress like them, act like them, listen to the same music, watch the same movies and the list goes on. But in reality, grown adults can barely pull this off without being laughable.

Our kids aren't looking to us to be cool, but want us to be authentic. I'd encourage parents to relax and learn to laugh at yourself. Be self-aware, genuinely listen, speak in a tone that is believable, and don't focus on being cool; focus on being real.

People are searching for something or someone real. That's what I love about the Bible. It doesn't "sugarcoat" life, but depicts the raw and real aspects of it. I think it is time for the church to be real, unafraid to discuss some ugliness of this life. Authenticity is why our slogan, "No Perfect People," has had so much traction. The church needs to get where people are really living and reach them there because they need real hope. The church really is the hope of the world, and for every generation, 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.

Episode Resources

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5 Strategies for Effective Collaboration


Have you ever spent time in seemingly unending meetings? Meetings where the collaboration among departments or team members felt limited to the opinion of the heavy hitters and usually prove little long-term value, but plenty of short-term frustration? When you end up frustrated because the “collaboration” is poorly facilitated, what can you do? These 5 Strategies for Effective Collaboration are a good place to start. 

1. Train Your Team for the Future

Not all those that begin as a part of a church plant team will remain for the entire process. However, those that do stick with you are the ones you should invest in the most. Train them in the culture, vision, mission, and best practices of your movement. Today's volunteers could very well be tomorrow's staff so treat them as such. Don't train them for today's problems but for those of the future.

[bctt tweet="Don’t train your staff for today’s problems, train them for those of the future." #leadership username="kellystickel"]

2. Create A Culture of Change

As the church grows, the systems that once worked become less and less effective. When this occurs, a change must be made. This could be removing people from their position or moving them into another position. If you create a culture of change, your leaders will embrace it and look forward to mixing things up. Don't train someone for just one role; train them to be a leader that could take on any role or department. We want leaders, not specialists. I have found that shifting leaders around can often have huge benefits for the organization as a whole. Fresh ideas are expressed and renewed energy breathes new life into that department.

[bctt tweet="Train leaders, not specialists." #leadership username="kellystickel"]

3. Establish a Clear Why

Sometimes organizations or churches try to coordinate an event for the common good of their community.  The players come together initially but further into the project, they back out or become distracted by their obligations at their home base. Sometimes, it ends with the event becoming a one-person show. Where did it go wrong?

In my opinion, it’s all about the “why” of the event. The stronger and clearer the why, the stronger the buy-in from those participating. There has to be a clear-cut benefit for the whole, not just for one or two participants. The why is often connected to the benefits and the benefits are most keenly understood by those who originally birthed the idea for the event. In the end, they are usually the ones committed to seeing it through. But if they have the ability to clearly communicate the benefits of the event to everyone involved, everyone is more likely to remain until completion.

4. Know Your Team Strengths

There are so many tools out there to help leaders find the right people for their team. I’d recommend personality tests like 16 Personalities (which is a Meyers-Briggs test), the Strengths Finder test or DISC tests to discover people’s natural tendencies. Without such tools, leaders are left with only their instincts to determine where best to place team member. But don't be afraid to experiment. If someone is not fit for a position, don’t be afraid to move them to a different one until you find their perfect spot—both for them and for the team as a whole.

5. Invest in Your Leaders

The collaboration of talents, experience and vision is vital to the mission of most organizations. We must follow the example of Jesus. He modelled it best for us. He both invested in His leaders, training the 12 intensely for three years, while at the same time remained true to the gospel by ministering to those who had need. I think we can do the same. We can best train our future leaders by involving them as participants in today’s ministry. We have to keep raising leaders and we have to stay true to the mandate of the gospel because the church is the hope of the world and we’re 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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Building Trust


Leadership is not a lone ranger endeavour, although it may seem like it sometimes. All churches need a team of leaders, regardless of whether they are paid staff or volunteers. What does a successful team that trusts each other look like?

At our All-Staff meeting in November, one of my teachings was entitled “6 Characteristics of a Healthy Team Member.” These traits may not shout “building trust” but they are at the heart of every trust issue. Today, we will be going over those six characteristics and how they affect our teams.

1. Heart Motivation

When speaking about this, I was referring to the motives a team member goes to work with. Are they a team player and motivated by making the team and each of its members better? Or is their motivation to make themselves look good? To take it a step further, you could ask whether they are motivated to make the church (or organization) better or just their team better. If they are motivated only to make themselves or their team better, they will be a very divisive and territorial teammate. This is very destructive to any organization. A healthy team member has a healthy heart motivation to make the organization as a whole and each member in it better.

2. Positive Demeanour

When there are conflicting ideas and options throughout the team, maintaining a positive demeanour can be a constant challenge. However, it is a sign of professionalism that maintains healthy air in the workplace. This is a big one. No one wants to work with someone who is always negative and pointing out the faults in everything. But at the same time, you don’t want to work with someone who avoids pointing problems out altogether.

The key to having a positive demeanour is to always be solution motivated rather than problem motivated. We must believe that there is a solution to every problem and that every problem can be solved. The healthy team member will not ignore the issues but instead will go to work with the team to find the solutions.

3. Courage to Ask the Tough Questions

This one builds beautifully off of having a positive demeanour because a teammate could always be positive but that may be because they lack the courage to ask the tough questions. If a team member sees problems but doesn’t challenge the status quo, they are useless to the team. They have to speak up.

When speaking up, it must be done so in a way that challenges the process without challenging the authority of the leader. The tough questions must be asked in private. This could mean one on one with your leader, or it could mean speaking up in a closed-door problem-solving meeting with your team. It is important to resist the urge to voice your concerns in public. Don’t discuss your problems about your leader or their decisions with your fellow teammates. Refrain from talking with anyone about an issue who doesn’t have the authority to make any changes. This would be deemed gossip, and that is deadly to a team. I believe that being a public raving fan and an honest private critic is how you best handle the tough questions. Being publicly critical will definitely slow a team down because it results in tensions and disharmony among the team.

If no one speaks up about obvious problems, the entire team is at risk of falling off the cliff. I have seen this occur far too many times. When an insecure leader stops listening to his team, or when they react strongly to a team member bringing up a tough issue, the team will begin to never confront their leader again. This is a problem. The entire organization will eventually become obsolete. Everyone on the outside of the organization will see the issues and will end up not trusting the leader or the team. This results in people not attending the church anymore or no longer patronizing the business.

4. Honesty Without Limitations

It is better to be honest with one another than it is to be afraid of offending others and keeping the issues you see to yourself. As Canadians, we tend to be less blunt than our neighbours to the south, or any other nationality for that matter. While I appreciate the attempt to preserve peace, I think it is dangerous to not speak the truth when there is something brewing in your heart. As a leader, I would rather be offended and stabbed in the front, than stabbed in the back. In other words, I’d rather be told upfront that something I am doing or that our team is doing is not right than have talk circling behind my back. I think it is best to always be upfront with one another, being honest with what we see and feel, and speak up with those thoughts in a respectful, tactful way.

5. Warmth and Humour

Not every person is naturally funny or warm, but I think we should all strive towards being warm and fun with our teammates. In my opinion, if no one ever laughs in the office, there is a problem. The healthiest teams and families for that matter, are the ones who laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. If everything is serious all of the time, it won’t be a productive team. There will be a bunch of individuals working alone, instead of working together as a team. We work together best when we enjoy the ones we work with.

6. Willingness to Reflect Reality

This one ties in with all of the others. It requires honesty and asking the tough questions, but it also requires a positive demeanour, warmth, and humour.  The truth is, within this list, each one of us leans towards one side or the other. Either we are great at asking the tough questions and possess brutal honesty, or we are positive, warm, and humorous. We all need to identify which of these six traits come naturally to us and which ones we need to work on. The best teammates are the ones who have a healthy balance of all six.

When it comes to reflecting reality, we must constantly evaluate where things are at. In the church world, we tend to ignore some of the problems because to us, problems are somehow linked to a lack of faith. That just simply isn’t true though. We have to be willing to honestly evaluate reality because until you know where you are, you will never be able to get to where you envision yourself being. It’s just like looking at the map in a big mall. The first thing you search for is the little red circle that says “You Are Here”. Once you locate that, you are able to chart your course to where you want to go.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” This resonates with me a lot as a pastor. I find it easy to be so focused on my faith that I lose sight of my current reality. However, like I said previously, I can’t reach my desired destination if I am ignorant of my current reality.

For me, it is always most difficult to confront the brutally honest facts. I tend to avoid digging deep enough into the reality of things because I often know I will discover something I’d rather not. So, I have had to set up a bunch of systems and habits in my life that regularly force me to ask the difficult questions and confront the brutal realities.

As pastors, I think we need to realize that an abundance of problems isn’t always a spiritual problem. Most times, they are people problems or system problems, so I can’t just pray myself out of them. I must be willing to ask tough questions myself and have the willingness to reflect reality before I can expect my team or church to do the same. When I identify the source of the problem, I have to have the courage to act. I believe that starts with identifying the “you are here” reality of your ministry and then working with your team to chart a course from where you are to where you want to go.

This is incredibly vital. If our teams aren’t healthy, our church won’t be healthy, and if our church isn’t healthy then our ministry to the community will not be healthy. When our ministry to the community is no longer healthy, we will cease to be the hope of the world and on our God-given 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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The 7 Keys of Culture


Culture is established either by design or default and everything has a culture; homes, businesses and even the church. You can have a great vision and mission, but without culture, everything falls apart. Let’s take a look at what it takes to create an amazing culture.

Everything has a culture whether you know it or not. Every home has a culture, which explains why you may walk into a home and feel peace and love, or tension and anger. No one has to say or do anything, you just feel it. That is culture. Businesses also have distinct cultures. This is why Starbucks attracts different clientele than Tim Hortons. Both serve coffee, but each one has a different feel and therefore attracts different people.

Every church has a culture as well, and it happens by design or default. You can either intentionally design the culture you want, or you can be a slave to the culture that happens by accident. It is your choice. But, I would rather design the culture I want than allow the culture to design the church it wants.

Culture is about behaviours and attitudes and the general feeling you get somewhere. Bad culture happens when what is advertised or said just isn’t happening. It doesn’t matter what is being said, what matters is what is being done.

In a church, culture is more important than vision, mission, or strategy. This can be tough to swallow. For years, I tried to introduce what I thought was an incredible vision only to have it fall flat. It felt like I had hit a brick wall. But, the truth was, I had hit a brick wall, and that wall was culture. For example, I could have the vision “to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” — as all of our Victory Churches do — but if the culture of my church is insider focused, it does not matter how good the vision sounds, it will not work.  My culture will trump the vision every time and I won’t actually be able to fulfill what I intend to do. This problem describes the majority of my ministry, and I was frustrated. That is why I am so passionate about culture and teaching pastors the importance of it.

[bctt tweet="Culture is more important than vision, mission, or strategy. #culture #church" username="kellystickel"]

I pride myself in being a master strategist. I love strategy and I love talking about vision and mission. It is fun because it inspires people, it gets people excited. In contrast, culture isn’t all that enjoyable to speak about. It’s often hard to define or clarify. It doesn’t inspire people because it often requires a change in behaviour and its results aren’t always immediate. Yet, culture always wins. If I don’t make culture the most important thing I design, then I will not be able to implement effective strategies or be able to reach exciting visions. In my opinion, the first thing a pastor needs to do, before they talk vision or strategies, is examine and define their culture. Does the culture they currently have make it possible for the vision to work? If it doesn’t, then the culture must be changed before the vision is laid out. Otherwise, the pastor and his team will become frustrated, the pastor will lose credibility as a leader because the culture is fighting the vision, and therefore the vision will not work as projected.

With all that being said, let’s dive into the 7 Keys of Culture. The keys are an acronym for the word “Culture”, which makes them easy to remember.

1. Control

When evaluating your culture, there are some key questions to be asked on the basis of control.

  • Would you say there is too much control from the top, too little, or just the right amount?
  • Do people know what is expected of them, or are they confused sometimes?
  • Are the lines of authority and responsibility clear on our team? How can we tell?

People function most effectively on a team if they are given control or authority along with responsibility. It is extremely frustrating to be given responsibility for something without the authority to actually make decisions in that area. So, when evaluating your culture, you have to firstly evaluate issues of control and communication. People thrive on teams that have a free flow of information and ready access to resources. It is important that the “top” doesn’t keep all of the information to themselves, or it will lead to frustration. Is there a risk to not having all of the control at the top? Absolutely. But, I think the risk is greater if there is too much control from the top down than if people are given the authority to make decisions for their area of responsibility.

2. Understanding

This one builds off of the first one, especially when it comes to communication. So, the questions a team must ask in order to evaluate their culture in the area of understanding are questions like:

  • Do most lines of communication on our team flow from the leader, or is there good cross-pollination?
  • Do people on our team feel understood, valued, and directed to give their best each day?
  • Is the vision for our team both God-sized and specific?

This point is all about clarity. Every person on the team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, as well as a clear idea of their role in facilitating that vision. They also need to have a clear understanding of the gifts and contributions of their teammates, and the way the team best functions together.

A healthy team culture is reliant on everyone clearly knowing what the vision of the team is and each ones role in making that vision happen. The more they understand these things, the healthier the culture will be. A lack of clarity or understanding in these areas can cause the culture to become toxic and it will hold the vision back. 

3. Leadership

This one is not necessarily about the leader as a person or the leadership team and their particular abilities as much as it is about the “culture of leadership” within the organization as a whole.

  • Does the organization have a culture of leadership development? John Maxwell calls this having a healthy growth environment in which everyone is challenged to grow as a leader.
  • How well are we doing at identifying and developing rising leaders?

I think it is important to note that there is a difference between developing and training leaders. Developing people into leaders requires a focus on heart and character as well as on skills whereas training is more about equipping someone to perform a particular task. Another important question to ask is what kind of resources (time, money, personnel, etc.) are we devoting to leadership development? A healthy culture will include a healthy growth environment where people are not just being trained for the tasks at hand, but are being developed into leaders.

4. Trust

Trust is obviously important to a healthy culture; up, down, and across the Org Chart. When people trust each other, they make a strong connection between the vision, their own roles, and the input of others both in strategic planning and in the steps of implementation. Trust may be freely given, but it is usually earned as people watch each other respond in good times and in bad. Trust most effectively grows in an environment that is HOT; honest, open, and transparent.

Trust is an interesting one as a leader. You would think that the only way a leader earns trust is when they do something right, but I have seen trust effectively earned by the way a leader handles failure, sometimes even more so than by one who had great success. That is part of transparency in earning trust.

At this level, teams need to ask:

  • In what ways is trust being built or eroded on our team?
  • How is failure treated on our team? How does that response affect the level of trust?
  • How does the team handle gossip? Are there clear guidelines?

When you get a handle on the answers to these questions, you will be able to evaluate the level of trust and health of your culture in this area.

5. Unafraid

This one is really about the risk level of the organization. A healthy organization is one in which the team is not afraid to take risks and this happens when they are unafraid to make mistakes. An organization that is afraid to take risks is one that will stop moving forward. Great leaders don’t squash risk taking by jumping on every mistake. Great leaders also welcome dissenting opinions, as long as they are offered in good will and with an eye toward solution and the organization moving forward as a whole. The team must ask:

  • How open is our team to taking risks?
  • What are some examples of courage on our team in the past year or so?
  • How does one person’s courage to take risks affect the team?
  • What happens when a person is courageous without being wise?

If we have an unhealthy culture, then people on our teams will be afraid to make mistakes. People who go to work afraid to make mistakes are often tentative and not at their best and usually make more mistakes. We don’t want people to work from the basis of fear, but we want them to work from a place of courage and a clear conviction of the nobility of their cause and a commitment to the people fighting next to them.

[bctt tweet="An organization that is afraid to take risks is one that will stop moving forward. #unafraid" username="kellystickel"]

6. Responsive

This one is subtle but so important. Responsive teams don’t just focus on the big goals and sweeping strategies, but they develop the habit of taking care of little things, because little things often become big things if left unchecked. Little things include promptly returning phone calls or responding to emails as well as communicating decisions to everyone that needs to know, when he or she needs to know it. I have found that as the organization grows, the amount of energy that needs to be invested in being responsive, to people inside and outside of the team, needs to grow as well. Questions we need to ask are:

  • How often do “little things” like returning phone calls and emails fall through the cracks on our team?
  • Does our team’s current organizational system foster responsiveness or hinder it?
  • Are we clear as to who should respond to what by when?

I know this one seems a bit trivial in the big picture, but I assure you it really isn’t trivial at all. Our ability to respond to people in a timely manner communicates that we care about them and our mission. Not responding in a proper time frame or manner will kill trust and create an unhealthy culture.

7. Execution

Execution has a lot to do with accountability. Excellence demands accountability. And, accountability happens when winning is rewarded, losing is penalized, and mediocrity is challenged. If one or more of those things doesn’t happen, it is a dysfunctional system. People don’t do what we expect, they do what we inspect. So, plans and visions become worthless if they don’t have targeted goals, deadlines, access to resources, and a budget.

[bctt tweet="Excellence demands accountability. #leadership " username="kellystickel"]

I believe a healthy culture happens when there is a clear plan of execution. Execution requires a clear goal, a clear strategy, a scoreboard that clearly shows where we are in the process, and accountability. Without these things, we can spin our wheels and be busy, but we will never be productive or get things done. So, questions a team must ask in this regard are:

  • How clearly defined are the goals and responsibilities for each person in our organization?
  • How are people held accountable on our team?
  • How do team members give feedback to each other about their performance and communication?

Clearly answering these questions will help you evaluate this part of your culture.

Culture trumps vision. And we have a great vision! But, in order to for us to be able to achieve that vision, we have to design the culture that will be conducive to that vision. This may require us asking ourselves some tough questions to identify what needs to change in order to move our vision forward. The first tough question to ask yourself is, “Are we getting the results we expect from our vision?” If we are not, and we are frustrated, then we most likely have a culture problem to fix in one or more of these seven areas. We must go to work on fixing that issue and designing a healthy culture because souls are depending on us to fulfill our great vision; to be the hope of the world, and 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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