Chasing Symptoms vs Addressing Problems

Post by Jenni Catron

Symptoms get our attention.

Watery eyes and compulsive sneezing alert us to allergy season.

An upset stomach and high fever may be indicative of the flu.

We know symptoms indicate that there is something bigger going on inside of us.  If we’re smart we proactively treat the real problem.

But unfortunately every day in our organizations, we can be guilty of chasing symptoms rather than addressing the real problems behind them.

  • We are frustrated with volunteer turnover but aren’t aware that our training for them is defunct.
  • We don’t understand people’s lack of engagement but fail to recognize how complex and confusing our communication is.
  • We grow irritated with the consistent under-performance of our staff but don’t provide regular feedback and accountability.

It’s easy to get distracted by symptoms.  They are the obvious.  The urgent.  But when we ignore the real problems underlying them, we keep ourselves and our teams trapped in the same frustrating cycles.

As a leader you must address the problems lurking in your organization.

What symptoms are you currently chasing?  Challenge yourself to look deeper to identify the real problems.

About Jenni Catron: Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville. Founder of Cultivate Her. Loves great books, the perfect cup of tea, playing a game of tennis with her husband and hanging with her dog Mick.

The Biggest Story

Research has shown an alarming trend. An increasing number of Christians, especially the emerging generation, dubbed the Millennials, would label themselves as antagonistic to both the Bible and the Church. Whether it’s in the church, your business or your family—what can we do as leaders to reverse this trend? The findings point to methods that have application to how everyone, regardless of age or generation, engages the Scriptures. How well are you telling—and living—The Biggest Story?

Willow Creek Association, in partnership with American Bible Society (ABS), is bringing you this webcast because Bible engagement is core to our mission. This webcast features Erwin McManus, interviewed by Geof Morin, of ABS. In addition to the many books he has written and his pursuits in film making and culture, Erwin McManus is the principle visionary and primary communicator of Mosaic in Los Angeles.

Next steps for the webcast: Download the Process Tool

Reflection on Scripture is the #1 predictor of spiritual health and growth.
Tackle your church’s Bible engagement challenge differently. Find out more.

Global Impact – Follow the GLS

Donate to the GLS

As many of you know, the GLS has launched throughout the world. Thousands are gathering for the GLS weekly in multiple countries.

This past week the GLS was in Myanmar:

“Praise God for an answer to prayer! The GLS sire in Yangon, Myanmar was approved by government this year. Leaders have been praying for this new site to open in this difficult area which has been a closed province due to civil war. The GLS brought 900 guests each day at a local convention center. Praise God for the impact that this site has had on many leaders!”

 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all the generations.

Psalm 89:1

Here are a few things happening this week:

Events happening this week (September 27-28):

  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Myitkyinar, Myanmar
  • Abuja-Trem, Nigeria
  • Ado-Ekit, Nigeria
  • Lagos-(TREM AKOKA), Nigeria
  • Lagos-(TREM APAPA), Nigeria
  • Lagos-TREM-(EJIGBO), Nigeria

See all the dates throughout the fall

Prayer Requests from these GLS leaders:


  1. Pray for all the leaders from different sectors of society who attend the GLS– in and outside the church
  2. Pray for unity among leaders and denominations as they catch the vision – the Church is the hope of the world, when it’s working right
  3. Pray that leaders would be encouraged as they face poverty, opposition, persecution and apathy
  4. Pray for safe venues, clear translations, and efficient technology so that nothing would get in the way of God speaking to leaders
  5. Pray for the growth of the GLS, and that lives, churches and communities will be transformed for Christ

See all prayer requests for the GLS

View stories, event dates, pictures and more at:

Missing the Key to the Whole Thing

Post from Greg Atkinson

Telling church leaders that discipleship is vitally important, or that pointing their people to Jesus should be the bulls-eye of everything they do is … absolutely nothing new.

Yet, everyday we talk with pastors who struggle with leading discipleship efforts in their churches. Perhaps you’re one of them?

In a recent blog, pastor and author Greg Atkinson described his own struggle with—and his fresh insight about—discipleship. In his words:

 “When I interviewed at my current church and they asked me about discipleship, I said that it happens in a number of ways…and that I love mentoring and one-on-one discipleship, as well as small groups. This is still true, but in hindsight I missed the key to the whole thing.”

This is so true, isn’t it? It’s so easy to get tied up in the “what’s” of discipleship—like the mentoring strategy, the small group curriculum, the sermon series campaign. Our REVEAL team just talked this week to a pastor in Arlington, Texas who was sure that revamping their Life Groups was the answer. “It’s so hard to assimilate,” he said. “We need a coaching system, a care structure. Life Groups are failing. It’s our biggest problem.”

Life groups are important. But if that’s where you’re placing your discipleship bet, Greg is right. You’re missing “the key to the whole thing.”

What’s the key? Let’s hear from Greg again:

“We’ve been so big on programs for years—whether it be a discipleship program, a Bible study, mission groups, Bible Study Fellowship, AWANA, small groups—you name it. We like to keep our people busy with church activities and rarely, if ever, do we point our people to Christ and encourage them to spend personal, quality time with Him daily.”

That’s the key—per Greg and per the findings from REVEAL, which are based today on 2000 churches and 450,000 congregants. REVEAL concludes, along with Greg, that personal spiritual practices trump everything when it comes to growing a “healthy, vibrant relationship with Christ” (Greg’s words). They trump small groups, worship services, mentoring relationships, evangelism activities, even serving the poor.

“Spending daily time with Him in prayer and in His Word…that’s how you and I and anyone in our church grows and matures. This is how we disciple. It’s always been about Jesus, and it always will be. No program and no movement will ever change that.”

Discipleship isn’t what you do; it’s who you know.

How are you leading your church into spiritual, life-giving practices with the person of Jesus—not just programs. What does it look like to practice this truth in your own life? 

Greg Atkinson has been in ministry for more than two decades and has been writing, speaking and training thousands of church leaders since 2000. He is an author, speaker, coach and the Campus Pastor at one of Forest Park campuses, a multi-site church based in Joplin, Mo. Visit his blog at or check out his brand new book Church Leadership Essentials.

Which YOU Do You Do?

Post by Denise Barreto

Coming off an incredible 48 hours of intense leadership training, my head is still spinning, 2 days later. All the incredible knowledge from lawyers, doctors,  Ivy League professors, corporate gurus, international pastors and some of the every day people like me who covered the event on the digital experience team is just bursting from my brain.

The one thing I feel compelled to share now, as I sort thru the most important nuggets to make action around in my life and business, is the point of “which you do you do?”

Meaning, which “you” do you do most often in your life? We all have this aspirational “you” – the person we idealize in our heads and if asked, is most likely the “you” we describe when folks ask us for a self-description.  The person who has specific principles and values that we can quickly rattle off. Many of us also have the “real” you that vaguely resembles the “you” on paper. This the  “you” that shows up in our every day living that rarely actually uses those principles and values that we hold “close to our hearts.”

Over and over as I listened to talk after talk, I kept challenging myself with this question, “do I really live up to the me I have dreamed in my head?” I would nod in agreement to many principles that were given and then ask myself, “do I live out those principles as often as I can?” I would peer deep into my own consciousness and look for inconsistencies as I furiously agreed and co-signed with many of the topics and themes discussed at the WCA Global Leadership Summit. Speaker after speaker referred to the important work of being honest on who you are, where you are so that you can make goals to be better.

I am happy to report that after much self-reflection, I’m congruent. The “me” in my heart and on paper is very close to the me I live. I even checked in with a couple of close advisers and they agreed with my conclusion. This was super important to me as I invest regularly in my own personal growth and development. One of the “returns” on my investments is the ability to actually see my own values and principles put into action on a regular basis. It’s not enough for me to “hear” and have my values reinforced if I am not actually converting that into action in my life and business.

Now, I throw the challenge to you. Have you made an effort to ensure that the “you” on paper and in your heart is aligned with your daily living? Do you make choices that honor your principles and values regularly? Are there people around to help you in this endeavor of being the best “you” you can be? If the answer is not in the affirmative to each question, that is OK. Taking the time to reflect and ask those questions are the first step to getting you there. But I challenge you to get to work on this immediately.

Regardless the theme or topic, it is imperative that the “you” you do every day lines up to the “you” you value most. One way to experience life the way you’ve dreamed is to bring your dream world into reality, starting with you.

Accidental entrepreneur, author and TEDx speaker Denise W. Barreto brings a fresh marketplace perspective to the WCA GLS team this year. A seasoned corporate strategist with over 20 years of marketing experience across multiple industries, Denise is the founder and managing partner of Relationships Matter Now, LLC, a boutique strategic business and marketing consultant firm.

The Biggest Challenge of Being a Leader

Post by Tony Morgan

When there is uncertainty for the future, leaders clarify vision for where the organization is going.

When a good opportunity pops up that pulls the organization from its core strategy, leaders say “no.”

When teams are pulling in different directions, leaders prioritize what’s important now.

When conflicts arise around competing core values, leaders lead through the conflict to preserve unity.

When leaders make mistakes, leaders are quick to admit responsibility.

When mistakes are made by someone else, leaders are quick to take responsibility.

When the team gets comfortable and content to stick with past practices, leaders challenge the status quo.

When there is work to be completed and deadlines to hit, leaders prioritize time for leadership development and equipping others.

When talented, high capacity people join the team, leaders let others lead but they never give away accountability.

When someone continues to drop the ball, leaders step in to coach and redirect.

When someone continues to ignore the coaching, leaders remove people from the team.

When consensus is impossible and people are watching, leaders make decisions knowing criticism will follow.

When the future is set and a team has clear vision, values and priorities, leaders empower others to make decisions.

When the crisis hits and people are searching for direction, leaders make decisions quickly and decisively.

Do you know the biggest challenge of being a leader?

Eventually you have to lead.

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact.

How to Change Entrenched Bad Habits

A Leader’s Guide to Influence - Part 2: How to Change Entrenched Bad Habits

By Joseph Grenny

Over the past 30 years, I’ve sought out and studied a different kind of leader. I’ve tried to find those who had remarkable abilities to influence change—rapidly, profoundly and sustainably. I’ve studied up close the methods used by one remarkable influencer who—with no formal authority—has changed behavior in thousands of US hospitals. I’ve looked first-hand at one influencer who saved five million lives from AIDS—simply by influencing behavior change in a country of 60 million people.

These influencers have the skills to create influence strategies that really worked. They influenced profound change in behaviors rapidly and permanently. Those who sustained their influence efforts described how changes lasted for years.

Below are a few of the most powerful strategies they, along with other influential leaders, routinely employ. If you put these strategies to work, you will be far more likely to turn entrenched bad habits into positive work practices.

1. Pick two or three behaviors. Ironically, one of the best ways to improve results is to stop focusing exclusively on results. Effective influencers target one or two “vital behaviors” to bring about significant change. For example, if you want to improve accountability, influence how people talk to those who let them down.

2. Overdetermine influence. Effective influencers refuse the temptation to find the “one easy answer.” For example, unsuccessful leaders rely on a heartfelt e-mail to drive change and mediocre leaders may deliver a PowerPoint presentation explaining what must change. By contrast, successful influencers combine four or more “sources of influence” to facilitate change. For example, they employ values, training, praise, coaching, incentives and environmental factors in combination.

3. Influence the influencers. Many leaders wonder how they can influence dozens or even hundreds of people. Effective influencers realize they don’t have to have personal relationships with everyone; they just have to have relationships with the opinion leaders who do. Less effective leaders could think they’re working with opinion leaders when they’re actually working with people who look good to management but are held in low esteem by their peers.

4. Enlist the environment. Much of behavior is influenced by our physical environment—the buildings, reports, tools and things surrounding us. Smart influencers design the environment to enable new behaviors and by doing so, create an influence strategy that works 24×7. For example, one leader increased accountability in her team by posting all commitments made, kept and broken in the team area. She also listed “Review of commitments” as the first and last agenda item at meetings. These small visual cues kept the team focused on changing their behavior.

If your organization has found a way to tolerate or “live with” entrenched bad habits, then it’s time you challenged these behaviors and turned them into productive work practices. If you don’t, then our research suggests these bad habits will continue indefinitely and produce profoundly damaging results. On the other hand, if you learn the skills of influence, you will make change inevitable.

Joseph Grenny is the coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers—Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything. He is also a sought-after speaker, consultant, and cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance,

The Essential Ingredients of a Growing Faith

Post by Andy Stanley

It’s the fall of 1995 and I’m sitting in a friend’s basement with the original North Point staff hashing out the mission and strategy statement for our newly formed church. It was within the context of this lengthy discussion that the subject of spiritual formation first surfaced. We began wrestling with questions such as:

  • What should our discipleship model look like?
  • What is our goal for the people who choose to partner with us in ministry?
  • What does a mature believer look like?
  • What role does the church have in developing Christ followers?

More than anything, we wanted to create a model that would actually facilitate spiritual maturity. We had enough church staff experience to know that in most churches spiritual formation was not the driving force behind programming (or budgeting, for that matter). We wanted to be the exception. We wanted everything we did to focus on building mature followers of Christ. And we knew that if we weren’t intentional, spiritual formation would get lost in the plethora of activities that tends to gobble up valuable time and resources.

The mission statement we had settled on was (and still is) to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. But we felt like that needed further definition. If someone is in a growing relationship with Christ, what specifically is growing? Her hair? His beard? To make a long series of conversations short, we determined that faith is what grows in a growing relationship. Specifically, a person’s confidence in God. Confidence that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he has promised to do.

Faith, or trust, is at the center of every healthy relationship. As trust goes, so goes the relationship. A break in trust signals a break in the relationship. Sin was introduced to the world through a choice not to trust. In the Garden of Eden, humanity’s relationship with God was broken when Eve and Adam quit trusting. God has been on a quest ever since to reengage with mankind in a relationship characterized by trust. The entire Old Testament is the story of God saying, “Trust me.” It’s no coincidence that God didn’t give Israel the law until they first learned to trust him and follow him. With that as a backdrop, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that at the epicenter of Jesus’ message was the word believe. Just as humankind’s relationship with God was destroyed through a lack of faith, so it would be restored through an expression of the same. At its core, Christianity is an invitation to reenter a relationship of trust with the Father. At the cross, sin was forgiven and we were invited to trust. It makes perfect sense that salvation comes by faith, not obedience. Intimate relationships are not built on obedience. They are built on trust. Walking by faith, again, is simply living as if God is who he says he is and that he will do everything he has promised to do. As a person’s confidence in God grows, he or she matures.

As our team continued to wrestle with the relationship of faith and spiritual maturity, we all agreed that we were way more inspired by the people who have the kind of faith that endures a no from God than those who claim their faith arm twisted a yes out of him. Big faith is a sign of big maturity. We concluded that the best discipleship or spiritual formation model would be one designed around growing people’s faith. The model most of us had grown up with was designed around increasing people’s knowledge. The models we were exposed to were primarily teaching models. We wanted to go beyond that.

But how?

If our mission was to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ — a growing relationship equated to growing faith — then we needed to know what grows people’s faith. So the conversation quickly turned to these questions: What fuels the development of faith? What are the ingredients that, when stirred together, result in greater confidence in the person and promises of God? That’s when I introduced my findings to our team.

Essential Ingredients

I explained the five things I had found that show up in everybody’s faith story. One by one, the members of our team acknowledged how each of these five dynamics had played a role in their spiritual formations as well. It was a defining moment for our team. We decided that if this was how God grew people’s faith, we should create a ministry model that continually pointed people back to these five dynamics. If these were the essential ingredients to big faith, we should build our entire model around them. So that’s exactly what we did.

The Five Faith Catalysts:

  • Practical Teaching
  • Private Disciplines
  • Personal Ministry
  • Providential Relationships
  • Pivotal Circumstances

As you might expect, you won’t find this list anywhere in the Scriptures. Remember, this list is the result of what we’ve observed. We’ve made no effort to make the list complete or balanced. These five things are what surface on their own when people tell their faith stories. Since those early days, we’ve tested our theory on numerous occasions. For several years, Reggie Joiner incorporated the five faith catalysts into his leadership training for student pastors. In one exercise he would write each of the five on a three-by-five card, turn them over so no one could read them, and then attach them from left to right across the top of a planning board. Then he would ask his audience to think through the things that contributed most to their spiritual development, good and bad, and begin calling them out. He would write down whatever came to their minds on cards and tack them under one of the five catalyst cards across the top of the board. When everyone had finished sharing, he would turn the cards over to reveal the five catalysts. Time after time, summer after summer, everything these leaders threw out as major factors in their spiritual development fit at least one of the five.

We are absolutely convinced that these five things reflect the way faith is developed. We’ve presented this idea to church leaders from every church background imaginable. Each time we do, we walk away even more convinced that these five things represent the common ground for faith development. I’m convinced this is how God works in spite of how we organize and program our churches. But imagine what would happen if we actually organized and programmed in concert with the way God works? We believe that what we’ve seen over the past seventeen years is a direct result of our efforts to do just that.

Join Andy Stanley at Catalyst One Day Chicago on November 7, 2013. Register Now for a special offer in partnership with Willow Creek Association and receive a discounted rate! Register using rate code WCA for $99. Offer expires Thursday, September 26th – Register Now and claim your spot today!

Why Leaders Have No Influence

A Leader’s Guide to Influence - Part 1: Why Leaders Have No Influence

By Joseph Grenny

As my coauthors and I conducted research for our latest book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, we sat down with two dozen senior executives from several Fortune 500 companies and asked each leader whether they faced any of these problems:

  • Bureaucratic infighting that smothers innovation and change
  • Self-centered silo thinking and turfism that prevents true collaboration
  • Shoddy accountability wherein failure, plus an excuse, is acceptable performance
  • A “let’s do the minimum” work ethic

The most typical response was, “Can I pick ‘all of the above?’”

Suffice it to say, these are very common problems. These issues are also especially costly and difficult to resolve because each involve entrenched habits—ineffective practices that have come to be accepted, or at least tolerated, within an organization. Consequently, solving these problems requires influencing chronic patterns of behaviors.

Why Leaders Have No Influence

As we continued to interview senior leaders, we began to see some very clear failure patterns. Before long, we could quickly tell whether the change strategy a leader described was going to fail. Below are the five most common failure modes we observed.

1. Leaders act as if it’s not their job to address entrenched habits. Most leaders put a great deal of time into crafting breakthrough strategies, selecting winning products and engaging with analysts, shareholders and major customers. However, few realize the success or failure of their grand schemes lies in influencing the behavior of the hundreds or thousands who will have to execute on the big ideas—their employees. In fact, our research shows the average leader spends less than five percent of his or her time on active efforts to create behavior change. Instead, they delegate these responsibilities to others, mainly leaders in HR—who often lack the credibility to influence real change.

2. Leaders lack a clear influence plan. Many leaders who previously stumbled into success at influencing behavior change couldn’t articulate why their efforts succeeded. Even worse, the study showed that while most executives were frustrated with many behaviors in their organizations, only one in 20 had a carefully developed plan for influencing change.

3. Leaders confuse talking with influencing. Many leaders think influence consists of little more than talking people into doing things. It’s no wonder most influence efforts start with PowerPoint presentations. But profound, persistent and overwhelming problems demand more than verbal persuasion. Anyone who’s ever tried to talk a smoker into quitting knows there’s a lot more to behavior change than words. Leaders make the same mistake when they publish platitudes in the form of Mission and Values statements, give a few speeches on why these values are crucial and then assume their job is done.

4. Leaders believe in silver bullets. When leaders actually attempt to influence new behavior, they commonly fall into the trap of thinking deeply ingrained bad habits can be changed with a single technique. Some host star-studded retreats. Others hand out inspiring posters and color-changing mugs and think people will line up for change. Still others believe it’s all about incentives, and so they tinker with the performance management system. The research shows that when leaders rely on just one simple source of influence to drive change, they almost always fail.

5. Leaders try to influence everyone. The few leaders who do understand that influence is their job make the mistake of trying to influence everyone. The most influential leaders amass a wealth of social capital by investing time and energy with two influential groups—their chain of command and their opinion leaders. Influencers know they don’t have to have personal relationships with everyone in the company—they just have to have relationships with those who do. If leaders spend time building trust with formal and informal opinion leaders, they will inherit social capital that extends their influence into every corner of the organization.

Don’t fall trap to these failure modes. Awareness is the first step in changing your own behavior so you can become the Influential leader your organization needs to succeed. In my next post, I’ll share important strategies leaders can use to change entrenched habits.

Joseph Grenny is the coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers—Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything. He is also a sought-after speaker, consultant, and cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance,