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 5 Levels of Leadership


John Maxwell's 5 Levels of Leadership is foundational to so many aspects of leadership. If a leader can understand these levels, they will be set up for tremendous success within their organization.

This past weekend, we had a MyVictory staff training weekend. Our staff learned a lot, and one of the things I majorly focused on was the 5 Levels of Leadership, as laid out in the book by John Maxwell. Much has been written, revised, and expanded on over the past twenty plus years on the 5 Levels of Leadership, and in my opinion, this is one of the most important things John Maxwell has ever written. He has so many great things to say about leadership, but to me the 5 Levels are foundational to it all. If a leader can understand this principle, it will set them up for tremendous success with their people and within their organization. These are what we will be covering in todays post.

Level 1: Positional

The lowest level of leadership is positional leadership. It’s called such because it is based on the authority granted by a position or title. It is the lowest level of leadership because typically, people only follow a positional leader because they have to. All of us begin at this level when we take over a new position, especially when the position is on a team that we do not have any previous relationships with.

If a leader does not progress quickly through this level, they will have difficulty working with volunteers because they are not dependant on a pay check and can walk away at anytime. The leader will also have difficulty leading young people because young people are typically not impressed with titles and are more reliant upon relationship and respect.

It is important to know that the 5 Levels of Leadership are not steps. Each level is added to the previous. Positional leadership gives a leader the opportunity to grow. Maxwell says that this level does not have the ability and effort to achieve anything. Anyone can achieve this level, but it means someone sees potential in you for leadership.

Level 2: Permission

Some people are unable to move past level 1. One of the most common reasons a leader does not progress is because, quite frankly, they don’t like people or simply do not know how to work with people. I have witnessed it multiple times; someone gets promoted because they are getting great results as a team member so it is assumed that they will do a great job leading the team. But leadership is much more than just getting results as an individual. Leadership is about bringing out the best in the team, and not everyone can do that. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without liking them. That is the basis of permission leadership.

[bctt tweet="You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without liking them." username="kellystickel"]

If a positional leader does not put in the effort to build relationship with the team, they will not progress past being a positional leader and into being a permission leader. They may get a few results in the beginning because they produce it on their own, but unless they work well with others and get the team working together to produce results, that success will be short-lived.

Level 3: Production

Some ministries have confused Jesus’  leadership passion with His passion for people. Unfortunately, such ministries stay on the Position and Permission Levels. 

Once a leader gets a new position, they must immediately go to work building relationship with their team so that the team gives them permission to lead. But, in order to gain the trust of the team, a leader must move beyond just being liked, they have to get results as well.

Getting a few wins under your belt is one of the greatest motivators for a team and one of the best ways a leader can earn the trust of their followers. Getting results gives credibility to the leader. I love what Peter Drucker said, “There are two types of people in the business community; those who produce results and those who give reasons why they didn’t.”

The credibility of a Level 3 leader can be summed up in one word; example. Level 3 leaders take their people where they want them to go, they don’t send them there. They communicate the vision through action, which helps people understand it in ways they may not have before. When followers see positive results and goals being met, they get a clearer picture of what it means to fulfill the vision.

Level 4: People Development

Level 4 pushes the agenda of leadership beyond “developing followers” to the challenge of “developing leaders”. This is the key to the success of any ministry or business.

This level is definitely my favourite. Most of what an organization possesses goes down in value; equipment becomes out of date, supplies get used up. But, there is an asset that has the greatest potential for actually increasing in value. And that asset is people.

People do not grow automatically or accidentally. Growth only occurs intentionally. As John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” So, it makes sense then that the more leaders we have, the greater the horsepower. And, the better leaders we have, the greater our potential.

You can never over-invest in people. Every time you increase the ability of a person on your team, you increase your ability to fulfill the vision. Investing in others is what takes the lid off of your potential. You can achieve above an beyond what you thought was possible when you build into your most appreciable asset; your people.

[bctt tweet="Investing in others is what takes the lid off of your potential. #leadership" username="kellystickel"]

A powerful trait of leaders at Level 4 is what Maxwell refers to as “The Law of Intuition” from his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In the words of Solomon, a wise leader sees trouble coming and avoids it. That is intuition. If you can see upcoming problems or opportunities and direct your team accordingly, you will build huge trust with your team and produce great results for your organization.

I think there are three ways to develop this skill:

  1. Become a historian. Study the past trends in your field and see how others have done. Learn from their mistakes and from their victories. When you identify past trends, you will more effectively be able to forecast future trends.
  2. Become an analyst. This means you must study the current trends. You cannot manage what you do not measure. If you do not measure anything or count everything, you won’t be able to quickly see potential problems or opportunities.
  3. Become a prophet. What does that mean? For me, that means asking the Holy Spirit to help me see things I might not naturally see. In other words, I ask God for help regularly and rely on Him to help me plan for the future.

In Maxwell’s book The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader's Day, he goes into more detail about how intuition works in a natural leader versus a leader who is not a natural. He references Moses and his father-in-law Jethro as a a comparison. Everyone is intuitive in their area of natural giftedness. For example, if your gift is mercy, we see everything through a mercy bias; we sense when someone needs mercy. The same is true of a leader who has a serving gift; helping people comes naturally.

Jethro was a natural leader, however, Moses was not. Jethro saw Moses drained everyday by listening to millions of disgruntled, displaced people. Jethro knew intuitively what to do; he said to Moses “This thing you do is not good!”.

Jethro had no experience with leading 3 million people. But, as a natural leader, he not only saw the problem but he intuitively knew exactly what Moses needed to do. He was intuitive in the area of action. Intuitive leaders are readers of situations that need a solution. Natural leaders size up a situation quickly, they see trends in leadership that will cause future problems, and they know how leader’s giftedness can be best utilized. Jethro’s advice empowered Moses’ leadership. Moses became a greater leader, and Jethro’s visit was critical for Moses’s growth.

Level 5: Pinnacle

Pinnacle leadership happens when people follow you because of who you are and what you represent. This is legacy leadership. Few people ever reach this level of leadership. It happens after producing a lifetime of results that transcend your local organization.

Pinnacle leaders are people like Billy Graham, John Maxwell, or my mentor, Dr. George Hill. These are people who have lived a lifetime of mastering the previous four levels and having incredible success in whatever they have touched. But, most importantly, they have an vast amount of successful leaders they have poured into that have also produced amazing results as well. It is not just about individual success, it’s about leaving a legacy of successes.

[bctt tweet="It is not just about individual success, it’s about leaving a legacy of successes." username="kellystickel"]

Moving Levels

It can be difficult to move from Level 2 Permission to Level 3 Production. I think a Level 2 leader needs to start their team off with small challenges in order that they might experience a win. They then look for obtainable challenges that they can win together as a team. The greater the number of wins there are both individually and corporately, the more you can increase the difficulty of the challenges and the more momentum you can gain. Following that, I would recommend creating a growth and performance environment. This happens by planning to meet with your team at least weekly to give feedback on performance. You cannot just be their friend. Accountability is vital in order to have continued success. Accountability is achieved when winning is rewarded, losing is penalized, and mediocrity is challenged. However, do not penalize risk-taking. Praise people’s efforts, help them learn from their failures, and reward successes.

When moving from Level 3 Production to Level 4 People-Development, you need to make people development a priority and be intentional about it. One of the things we have implemented here in Lethbridge are weekly staff meetings in which we teach leadership principles to our team. We do not have a meeting without bringing some sort of teaching that will grow our people. We also resource them with books and podcasts and we invest in taking them to conferences that will grow their skills. People development is a vital priority for us and we have seen incredible fruit because of that focus.

It is important to understand that you may be on a different level with different individuals at the same time. Also, when making a career move, we start over again at the Positional Level. There are great words of truth in Maxwell’s 5 Levels, but there is also resistance to any teaching that challenges us.

A lot of leaders assume they are further along than they think, and this is when mistakes are made. When I first arrived in Lethbridge six and a half years ago, I knew I wasn’t the leader, I was just the pastor. So, I intentionally sought out the biggest influencers in the church and regularly met wit them so that I could lead them and through them. It took me about three and a half years to become the leader with permission and another year after that to move to Level 3. The levels are basically levels of trust and, just like trust, it takes time to earn each one and no time at all to lose them. So, it is important to value trust. The more you have, the easier it is to lead. Go to work on growing yourself and progressing up the levels. It is so worth it!

According to John Maxwell, leadership is influence. If we grow in our leadership, we are growing in our influence. If we grow in our influence, we are more likely to fulfill the great commission in our own cities. The truth is the 5 levels of leadership are a practical blueprint to make disciples. It is exactly how Jesus turned 12 men into some of the most influential leaders in history. And, it is how the church has progressed from the first century to where we are today. So, we can’t neglect these principles and we need to learn these skills to increase our effectiveness in being the hope of the world, 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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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  __________.


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How to Trust God in the Midst of the Storm

This article was originally posted on September 24, 2012. This is a re-post because today I am going to be on the television talk show "Insight with Paul Arthur" on the Miracle Channel at 11am MST discussing this same topic. You can tune in and watch live online at September 23, 2007, five years ago this week, was the worst day of my life. It was a Sunday, and we had just finished church. I was unloading our church sound system into our home's garage (the privilege of being a church planter), while Joy-Lynn and the kids went into the house to begin the preparations for lunch. About 5 minutes later, Joy-Lynn came into the garage and I could tell by the look on her face that something was terribly wrong.

"It's your mom," she said quietly. "She's been taken to the hospice and the doctors said it will only be a couple of hours. We need to go now."

My mom had been fighting her second bout of breast cancer. By the time the doctors had caught it this time, it had spread to her spine and into many of her organs. We knew the diagnosis wasn't good, but we were people of faith and we were going to fight for healing regardless of what the doctors told us. And fight we did. We even held a church service, just for mom, about a month before to give her an opportunity to worship with her friends and family and to corporately pray for her healing. The service was amazing! And she seemed to dramatically improve in the weeks that followed. We were so encouraged and hopeful.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen.

Joy-Lynn and I loaded our 3 boys into the van and rushed into Calgary to the hospice where mom had just been moved to. We weren't sure what to expect or even what was really going on, and my heart was pounding.

"God," I prayed, "don't let this happen. PLEASE heal her!"

When we arrived at the hospice about an hour later, we were met at the door by my youngest brother, Craig. He was crying and he gave me a hug. I consoled him, but he didn't speak, other than to say, "she's upstairs." As I proceeded up the stairs, I saw my dad. His face was solemn, but he wasn't crying. He looked deep into my eyes, tried to force a smile and then gave me a big hug. In the midst of our embrace, he whispered in my ear, "she's gone."

I collapsed right there on the floor and began to sob. It felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. This can't be, I thought. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. We were ten minutes too late.

The week of the funeral was a blur. In the midst of preparing a funeral and comforting my family, I was still trying sort things out in my head. I was angry. Really angry. I was angry at God. How could he have allowed this to happen? My mom was a great woman of faith. She firmly believed God could heal and that he would heal. My dad believed. My brothers believed. I believed.  I had laid hands on many people with illnesses, including two with terminal cancer, who had been instantly healed. Why did God heal them but not my mom?

I think the thing that made me the most angry, was that God felt a million miles away that week. I was a pastor and had served Him for all of these years and the moment I needed Him the most, it felt like He abandoned me. I contemplated resigning. How could I preach the Word of God if it didn't work? How could I serve and trust God if He wouldn't show up when I needed Him to?

It was in one of these angry, feeling sorry for myself moments, that Joy-Lynn entered the room with a Bible and plopped it on the bed in front of me. It was open to Mark 11. She pointed to verse 22 and said, "read." It said, "Have faith in God."

This was a turning point for me. You see, it didn't read "Have faith in your faith." Or, "Have faith in your prayers." Or, "Have faith in yourself." It said, "Have faith in God...period." I knew then and there that I needed to trust God regardless of my feelings, regardless of my pain, and regardless of the circumstances surrounding me. Trust was a choice, and I need to choose to trust Him no matter what. I knew it was the right thing to do. And so, right there I said, "I'm sorry God, I will trust you. I don't understand and probably never will, but I choose to trust you anyway. Your ways are higher than mine and so I surrender to You and Your will."

The next day was the day of the funeral. As we were driving to Cochrane for the service, I was still searching for God to show up in a tangible way. I wasn't sure how I'd make it through the day and I really needed Him. I sensed nothing. Just an empty hollow void. I cried out and still nothing. It wasn't until we were descending the hill into the town of Cochrane that I felt this physical rush of peace. I don't know how to explain it, I just became overwhelmed by a strong presence of peace. It was so tangible that I gasped and whispered, "there you are!"

I made it through the day and through the next 5 years. I have chosen to trust God, no matter how I feel or what the circumstances are around me. I have come to realize that I don't need to understand everything in order to put my faith in Him. He is God, I am not. It's that simple. And you know what? My relationship with God is somehow deeper now, and I have an incredible internal peace I didn't have before.

Do I believe God heals? Absolutely! In fact, I witnessed one of the greatest healing miracles only a month later, but I'll have to save that story for another time.

Question: Do you trust God? I mean, really trust God? Even when your circumstances are confusing or frustrating or painful? How did you get that trust? Please comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box.

Another article on a similar topic: The Purpose of Storms

Followship = Real Leadership

The book of Judges 5:2 says this, "That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, bless the Lord!" followship_blogpic

The writer of Judges says that when leaders lead and people willingly follow, it is worthy of an expression of worship to God! Wow! So much emphasis is put on leaders to develop their skills so that people will willingly follow, and rightfully so, but I believe it is possible for good leaders to have unwilling followers. Jesus couldn't lead Judas. God couldn't lead Lucifer. David couldn't lead his son Absalom. And these are just a few of the biblical examples! Success comes only when there is a proper combination of a good leader and good followers.

Much has been written about leadership, but I want to spend some time over the next few blogs addressing the often forgotten skill of following. I believe real leadership begins with learning how be a great follower. What you sow as a follower, you will reap when you are the leader. So, let's begin by looking at some of the attributes of a good follower.

In Philippians 2:19-22, Paul, one of the greatest leaders in church history, makes some notable comments about a follower of his that we should pay attention to. He said this:

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

In verse 20 Paul says about Timothy “I have no one else like him.”  You might read that and skip over it, but that is one of the greatest endorsement you could ever receive as a Christian.  Paul is the greatest Christian who’s ever lived next to Jesus Christ himself.  And Paul says I have nobody in the world like Timothy.  If Paul said that about you, it would mean you’re at the top of the heap.  You’re on the A list.  You’re the very best Christian he knows. So this is not a small issue here. He says, I’ve got nobody like Timothy. We need to pay attention to this. Why did he single Timothy out like this? What made Timothy so special?

Paul goes on to tell us in verse 20 and 21. He says about Timothy, "he shows genuine concern for your welfare." In other words, “he genuinely cares about you." He goes on to say that “everyone looks out for their own interests,” making it clear that this type of unselfish thinking is rare and that Timothy is the real deal. He was a man who genuinely cared more about the kingdom of God than he did about himself and his own wants and desires.

So here we have the first characteristic of a great follower.

  1. A great follower is unselfish. He is compassionate, caring, and unselfish.  He thinks about others, not just about himself.  He’s not self-centered.  He is caring while everybody else is only interested in their own agenda, their own business, their own things that they’ve got to do. If there’s ever a trait that’s needed today it’s this one.  Because everything in our culture teaches us to be self-centered. It is rare to find an unselfish man.  It’s rare.  Paul says I don’t have anybody like him who genuinely cares about other people.  Everybody else is only caring about themselves.  They’re not self-giving.  They’re self-centered.
  2. A great follower is trustworthy. The second trait of a great follower can be found in verse 22. Paul says this about Timothy “He has proved himself.” The word “proved” there means tested.  It means verified. It means checked out. It means determined reliable. This guy is dependable. This guy is reliable. This guy has been proven faithful. One of the greatest abilities in life is dependability. The number of people who are dependable, who don’t flip flop, who keep their word, who do what they say, who keep their promises even when it hurts them, is unusual. What is needed today are men and women who are trustworthy.  That’s number two.

God is looking for individuals who are caring and men who have a proven track record. Men of conviction and character. Jesus said it this way, "if you are faithful with little you will be given much." That's good followship.

We will continue to dig out more traits of good followers in the articles to come.

Question: Have you tried adding someone to your team who violated one of the above followship traits? What effect did it have on the team?