Tag Archive: accountability

Expressed permission to “Get Back!”

Who’s telling you to “get back!”? Who has the authority to step in and tell you to “step back” from something you’re doing?

You’ve likely seen it, but you may not know what it’s called. Or actually, what the person is called. Most college and professional football teams have a “get back coach.” During the week they have another role with the team (strength and conditioning coach or maybe a linebackers’ coach). But on game day, they have the charge to keep over-zealous players and coaches off the playing field (who aren’t supposed to be on field).

Why? Well people get hurt on football sidelines when they venture too far out. Also, their team can get penalized for crossing into the marked box where referees and players are running.

In a very odd scene, you have a head football coach who’s flailing and yelling on the sideline, and at the same time, inching closer and closer to the game action. And then behind him, you have the “get back coach.” And for some coaches prone to wander, the “get back coach” is literally touching him at all times or within grabbing distance at all times. He’s ready to grab the coach’s waistband and pull him back.

All this to help the wandering coach avoid injury for himself or a penalty for the team.

Who in your life has the authority to metaphorically grab your waistband and put you back into place? Who’s keeping you from harming yourself or the “team” (church) you lead?

“Get Back” Situations

If you were to make a distasteful comment in a meeting that most people would choose to ignore because you’re the boss, who’s going to come to you directly and let you know you crossed a line? What if you lingered too long after church talking to a member of the opposite sex who’s not your spouse?  If in an email you wrote a sentence that caused harm to others or was mean-spirited, who’s going to tell you it was too much? Who can pull you aside and let you know you ventured out too far?

Who can tell you the last 2% and not fear retribution? Who loves you enough to be a truth-teller?

Expressed Permission

We may think we already have “get back” people in our life. But they’re not official or effective until you’ve given them expressed permission to speak bluntly to you. They’ve got to have permission to figuratively, or literally, pull you back by your waistband.

When’s the last time someone you trust confronted you and told you to “get back”?

If you don’t give this permission, most people won’t do it. And this is especially true for those of us who are clergy and/or have tenure or positional authority. There’s a natural tendency toward being perceived as untouchable or “unchallengeable.” You’ve got to ask for it, and then when one of your “get back coaches” grabs you by the waistband, well, heed their warning.

If head football coaches making millions of dollars a year putting a “get back coach” in place just to help avoid 15 yard penalties, than maybe as church and family leaders we should realize our stakes are much higher and we should put them in place too.

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Leadership Blind Spot Automation

It beeps. It lights up. It creates awareness that your casual over-the-shoulder look can’t achieve. Vehicles have come a long way in blind spot technology.

It use to require a head turn of some seventy-five degrees. Then manufactures made the mini-mirrors to be added to your side view mirror. And now, automated blind spot checkers.

I doubt most of us have kept progressing in our leadership blind spot technology as much as vehicle manufactures have for their cars. In fact, as we’ve gone further in our leadership, our blind spots may have been ignored and probably gotten larger.

Because we’re the “leader,” the person riding shotgun with us may feel less freedom to warn us of our blind spots. And because we’re the “boss,” our ego may prohibit us from asking for input.

We feel like we have so much experience, we can just sense our blind spots. “Surely I’m self-aware enough, right?” Yet, the more longevity and leadership success we have means we might’ve broadened the width of our blind spots.

For these reasons, we need more sophisticated blind spot checking.

Blind Spot Automation


It begins with admitting you have a problem. “Hi, my name is Brian, and I know I have leadership blind spots.” If you struggle to say that, well, you’ve definitely got blind spots. They could be significant blind spots like character or competency. Usually though, they’re areas that didn’t use to be a problem, but over time without intentionality, the blind spot has become a reality. Are you aware you have blind spots? Can your self-awareness skills identify them?


No matter how self-aware you may be, you’ll still need a second opinion. And that means you’ll have to ask others. And when you do, ask with assumption these blind spots do in fact exist. Your inquiry shouldn’t be, “Do I have any blind spots?” But should be more like, “I realize I have some leadership blind spots. What are a couple areas you’ve seen where I’m most likely to be susceptible?”

Just assuming they exist and framing it in a way that gives the person permission to answer candidly without feeling like they’re attacking you will go a long way in getting useful feedback.


Personality assessments are not perfect, but they can be a tool for many things, especially in forecasting leadership blind spots.

In the most recent personality assessment I took, its results reminded me of some areas that are square in my blind spot. But there were some results that were new to me. For example, one note mentioned, “[Brian] may rely too much on past experience.” I’d never considered this before, but because I became aware of this possibility, I was able to investigate. If you haven’t used a personality assessment, I encourage you to find a free or affordable one and see if it will create awareness for you.


Who, without you asking for it, can make you aware of your leadership blind spots? Who have you given permission to be a “back seat driver” and let you know when you’re merging into an area that could cause a wreck?

You’re a leader. You get things done. You care about others. But a leader who cares about those they lead will make sure at least one of the things you get done is identifying and eliminating your leadership blind spots.


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So You Think You’ve Arrived

When you’ve “arrived” in ministry, you begin to get a distorted view of self. A distorted view of self leads to an ineffective and unholy you, and then an ineffective ministry.

At a recent staff retreat, my friend and retreat speaker, Mark Bricker, using Paul Tripp’s A Dangerous Calling book as a framework, reminded us that “arriving” comes via:

  • Ministry knowledge
  • Ministry experience
  • Ministry success

Each of these is relative to the person measuring. But suffice it to say, in our own heads, we arrive faster than what reality likely is. (As a friend of mine says, “We’re legends in our own minds.”)

The greatest symptom of arriving is self-glory. My friend defined self-glory as worshipping yourself more than you worship God.

This sounds so sinful. And it is. But it’s not so sinful that we wouldn’t do it. Self-glory happens incrementally. It’s smalls steps that get us to this state of self-glorification.

And for a while, others may not even notice what’s happening within you. In fact, you may not even know it’s happening within you. And even if you or others are aware of this increasing self-glory, it may be deemed acceptable behavior. A.W. Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God, wrote the sad, yet truthful sentiment:

“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ has become acceptable in church.”

Without guardrails, the path to self-glory is the natural path. (Remember, we’re fallen and depraved.) There are unintended consequences of ministry knowledge, experience, and success. It manifests in hubris, a lack of self-awareness, a sense of entitlement, or the feeling you’ve become indispensable. (I’ve written before about the danger of becoming or feeling indispensable to your church.)

My friend Mark provided self-diagnosing questions for self-glory, and I’ve listed several here:

  1. You worry too much about what other think about you.
  2. You care too little about what others think about you.
  3. You find yourself envying the success of others. (I’ve written previously about church leader jealousy.)
  4. You resist facing your sins, weaknesses, and failures.
  5. You lean toward the controlling side of ministry (having trouble letting go because you have an elevated view of self).

Slowing down the self-glory train—

Just because you’ve been doing ministry awhile and gained experience and knowledge, and maybe even had some successes, doesn’t mean you’re bound to self-glory. But, as we acknowledge that our natural human paths will lead us there, we have to find ways to slow down the self-glory trajectory. Here a few ways to combat self-glory:

  • Admit you haven’t arrived. My friend reminded our staff, “We’re all in the middle of our own sanctification.”
  • Give someone permission to speak frankly, and then ask them routinely, “How’s my self-glory meter?”
  • Talk to others who have had ministry success, yet been able to steer away from self-glory.
  • Memorize and put in your mindset Scriptures related to this (Here are a few: Romans 12:3, Philippians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, James 4:10).
  • Always try to get better. If you see your need to improve, it’s hard to be content with your previous “arrivals.”
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously. There is strength in self-deprecation and to admitting you’re a work in progress. (I’ve written before on the benefits of the occasional self-deprecation in leadership.)
  • Give it away…pass your experience and knowledge onto others who are in ministry, and when there is success, give that away too.

I hope we’re all vigilant in ensuring our self-glory doesn’t rise with our experience level.


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