Good is Always the Enemy of Great

Life seemed to be spinning out of control for Libby. Married to her high school sweetheart, Tom, the mother of three elementary school age children, Libby is also the hospitality coordinator for the PTSA. Aside from being a homemaker, wife, and mother, Libby also works full time as a receptionist for an insurance company, sings in the church choir, serves on two committees, studies for a weekly Bible study group, and works with children’s church.

For some reason, since the start of this school year, Libby cannot seem to keep up. Accustomed to being on top of everything, Libby is feeling unusual pressure as things begin to fall through the cracks. Her Superwoman complex has left her.

What Libby and many others do not take into consideration is no one can be great at six different obligations. We see this often in the church and other organizations. One person taking on five or six positions in the organization. It is impossible to be great at five obligations.

If our focus is on good, we cannot make the leap to greatness. The best efforts of success come out of greatness. Good is always the enemy of great. Superman is a myth. And not even Superman was great at all things. As Clark Kent he was not the greatest of communicators and he wore glasses. Even Superman had his faults. No person can be great at all things.

Trying to carry too many obligations at once will never lead to greatness – for the person or the organization (ministry). Too often we settle for good when God created us to be great in service to Him.

No one can take on five, seven, or ten areas of responsibility and perform to the best of his/her ability in any of the areas. It is physically impossible. Given the choice, I would rather have a person be great at one thing she is passionate about than have her attempt to be good at six things pulling at her time and talents from different directions.

Why not conduct a little self-introspection and decide at what you really desire to be great? You will find it will be something that you also have a passion for. Then focus on being the very best that you can at that obligation. We all play multiple roles in our life. Some of these you cannot drop. Taking on more commitments for your organization does not make you a better person. In fact, it detracts from your ability to achieve God’s greatness. However, when we focus on one major and one minor commitment, we will succeed and then alone can we achieve the greatness for which God created us. Remember, Good is always the enemy of Great!

For more on achieving the greatness of God’s design in your life, organization, or ministry, contact George Yates and purchase your copy of Reaching the Summit:


Every Person Has a Story

A young man in his early twenties seeing out from the train’s window shouted, “Dad, look the trees are going by!”

Dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the twenty something year old’s childish behavior with pity.

Suddenly he again exclaimed, “Dad, look the clouds are running with us!”

The couple couldn’t resist and said to the young man’s father, “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?”

The boy’s father unassumingly, smiled and said, “I did, and we are just coming from the hospital, my son was blind from birth, he is seeing for the first time today.”

There are at least two lessons we can learn from this simple, short story.

First, it is easy to make assumptions based on what we may first see or hear. Too often we jump to conclusions without knowledge of the facts. Assumptions and jumping to conclusions like this can cause detrimental effects in our own lives and those around us.

The second lesson I see here is that every person has a story. Take time to learn and to listen to the stories of others. Other people’s stories can encourage and build us up in a way that will enrich our own lives and our story.

Rather than listen to another person’s story, it is easier to judge people before you truly know them.  When you are tempted to judge someone, first, stop and ask yourself if you know their story. If not, why not ask them to share their story. Carefully listen, the truth might surprise you. Then, see for the first time a brand new view from the train of life.

Making the Right Decision

Recently, while returning home from a speaking engagement the airplane I was on was experiencing turbulence as we began descending toward our destination. I fly quite regularly so I am use to turbulence and I have experienced harsher turbulence than on this particular flight. However, there was something new to me with this experience.

It was late at night so it was dark in the cabin as well as outside. As we descended through the blackness of night and thunderstorm clouds, bouncing with the turbulence, suddenly the plane dropped. The drop was so sudden and significant that it lifted everyone out of our seats. The incident only lasted for a couple of seconds. I’m not certain how far we dropped, likely only a few feet. Honestly, I do not want to know how far it actually was. The pilot was masterful and got us to our destination on time and safe.

Most organizations do not fall in one clear-cut, quick drop. There is normally a series of digression. An examination of the organization will, in most cases, show a departure from the original purpose and core values of the organization. The initial signs of decline may be subtle and ignored or explained away. This first phase can go on for several years without notice.

While working with a particular church a few years ago, I realized a series of decisions they had made which had contributed to their decline. Highlighting those decisions, the group in front of me began to realize for the first time how those decisions had led to their steep decline. I stopped at a decision the church had made five years prior. On woman who had been in the church for years responded, “No, that’s not right. We were making bad decisions long before that.”

As a series of the right decisions propels you toward success, so a series of poor decisions will propel one toward decline. It is important to understand the difference between what seems to be a good decision and the right decision. What could seem good, can actually be detrimental to you personally and to your organization.

For more information on making the right decision contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the church. (It’s not for churches only)



The Money Lender and the 2 Pebbles

Many hundreds of years ago in a small Italian town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender. The moneylender, who was old, ugly, and dishonest fancied the merchant’s beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the merchant’s debt if he could marry the daughter. Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the proposal.

 The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender’s wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

 They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant’s garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.

 The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking.

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

 “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an advantageous one.

To choose one of the three options listed above for the young lady, would be to use knowledge and emotion. This would certainly be a logical decision and it is lineal thinking. What the girl did required more than knowledge. It required wisdom. This required lateral thinking. Lateral thinking requires moving outside the logical processes. What options might be running alongside the obvious? In the choices you make daily, do you use knowledge and emotion only, or do you seek wisdom for the moment?

For more information on lateral thought processes and other leadership assistance, contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Turnaround Journey for 34 other leadership tips and practices.

Frog in the Milk Bucket

A frog was hopping around a farmyard, when it decided to investigate the barn. Being somewhat careless, and maybe a little too curious, he ended up falling into a pail half-filled with fresh milk.

Swimming about attempting to reach the top of the pail, he found that the sides of the pail were too high and steep to reach. He tried to stretch his back legs to push off the bottom of the pail but found it too deep. But this frog was determined not to give up, and he continued to struggle.

He kicked and squirmed and kicked even more, until at last, all his churning about in the milk had turned the milk into a large pad of butter. The butter was now solid enough for him to climb onto and get out of the pail!

The Moral of the Story? “Never Give Up!”

Whether you’re happily hopping around the farmyard or exploring what is beyond the next door, life can land you in a deep bucket. Not one of us is exempt from experiencing pain and discomfort in our lives. We can struggle and try in our own strength to escape and move beyond the ill-circumstances. That normally ends in futile kicking and flailing (physical or emotional) and in the end the only outcome is wearing us down.

The frog was kicking and flailing in frustration and futile determination to get out of the bucket. He had no idea there was another force at work that would bring his liberation.

It is an intriguing comfort to know there is a power greater than our own with a desire to help us through no matter what life throws at us. The, one, Almighty God of the universe has a heart-driven passion and desire to bring you through your hard-life situation. When going through those tough times, call on and place your trust in Him. Watch as the milk turns to butter allowing you to once again stand tall and proud of God ‘s Work. Then you can butter your own bread.


What’s Common Among Great Coaches

John Wooden, Adolf Rupp, Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Pat Summit, Bear Bryant, Bela & Marta Karolyi. All these names are synonymous in American Sports as great coaches. Several others come to mind as I write this. What made these men and women not good, but great, enduring coaches? None of these coaches were one-hit wonders. They had a career of successful athletes and teams. But why? What did they have that others did not?

As I’ve studied and researched this the one, greatest common denominator is not that they attracted the best players and athletes. Some did of course. But team sports require a group of individuals working together to the best of their ability. As these men and women would all tell you, you cannot build a great team off one talented individual. No, the one greatest common denominator that I find is the great coaches know how to help athletes reach inside himself/herself to find the gift and attitude to be a champion. Then, the coach knows how to help that athlete reach inside and develop that God-given potential.

Rick Pitino, now the coach of University of Louisville, tells of Billy Donovan college career at Providence when Pitino arrived there as coach. Most coaches would have helped the overweight Donovan to find a AA school to play for. But Pitino recognized the potential inside Donavon and gave him a chance. Donovan credits coach Pitino for having Billy reach inside himself to be more than a “b” player. Billy Donovan, of course had a stellar final 2 years at providence, went on to the NBA, and has a successful career as a NCAA basketball coach as well. And Donovan credits it to that first year with coach Pitino.

Without the outside help of someone willing to help the young man look inside and see the potential, and then encourage him to dig deep – sometimes painfully deep – to develop that potential into greatness and success, Billy Donovan would have gone to a small school and only his family would today know his name. The same might be said of many athletes who learned under great coaches. But he was encouraged, guided, and equipped by coaches to develop and implement the tools of success.

In ministry, one of the difficulties we face is implementation. Sure most churches implement, but not for effectiveness and not for biblical success. I realize some churches have difficulty in effective planning much less implementation. This is why in “Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church,” I strongly recommend that a church use an experienced, trained outside observer – a coach to help lead you through planning and the transitions of implementation. A coach is not someone who will come in and give you the 4 steps to success. Rather a coach guides you as an individual or a ministry organization to discover and develop the gifts, talents, and skills God has already blessed and placed within you/your ministry. Effective implementation of a strategic plan is critical for any level of success.

You can try to accomplish this on your own (many do attempt), but great successful, implementation is almost always accomplished through the guidance of an intuitive coach.

For more information about being coached and finding the right coach contact George Yates, and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries. To learn of a coaching process for greater successful implementation year in and year out, pick up a copy of Turnaround Journey.

Indian Mounds and Cell Towers

While living in southern Ohio I learned of (and visited) a series of Indian mounds that stretched across the state. These were mostly man-made mounds of earth that stood 60-100 feet above the terrain. The mounds were erected for one specific purpose; communication. When these native Americans wanted to communicate to other tribes and villages, a designated team of two or three would climb to the top of this man made hill (mound) with wood and other natural debris, a special heavy blanket, and usually a lit torch.

Once atop the mound the team would use the wood and torch to build a fire. The other debris, grass, leaves, and vines were all items that would create lots of smoke. Then two members of the native team would send the desired message floating into the air using the blanket and smoke from the fire. Holding the blanket over the fire, keeping the smoke at bay, for different segments of time (seconds) allowed the puffs of smoke to relay various signals to surrounding villages.

One of the most interesting things about this to me was every village had members watching for these smoke signals which could come from a mound to the north, south, east, or west. When a signal was spotted in one village coming from another village (which could be 10 miles away), this village’s team sprang into action, repeating the same steps as the team from the first village. Two members of the village would quickly gather the wood, debris, torch, & blanket and make the climb up the sometimes step side of the mound outside their village. The fire would be built and the message would be repeated. This process carried on for as far as the message needed to be carried, potentially from Indiana to West Virginia (on today’s maps).

Driving today’s interstates and highways seeing cell towers every few miles, towering above everything else, I at times wonder, how much consideration was given to former ways of communication while planning and mapping out today’s communication corridors. Whether much thought was given or not, today’s communication, technology and all, still operates off some of the same principles as earlier times.

I am one who believes and teaches we are not to live in the past. Living in the past will drag you to a stand still and not allow you to grow – be it in your personal life, or organization. We are given the past to learn from, not to live in. With that being said, it is true as evidenced in the Indian Mounds and cell tower analogy above, that we can learn from the past.

Perhaps more important than learning from the past is to capture the principles of the past. The same principles that worked in communicating for native Americans, works today. The principles that Jesus Christ used to transform lives 2,000 years ago, are principles that are just as relevant today. The principles used to build a great company or church in Atlanta Georgia, can do the same in Boise, Idaho, or Seattle Washington. The methodology will not be the same, but the principles are constant and stalwart. Methods always change, principles never do.

For more on building a principle based life, church, or organization contact George Yates and pick up your copy of Reaching the Summit at SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Concrete Pigs

I received a phone call last week from the treasurer of a church I had served as transitional pastor a few years back. After our greetings to each other, the caller jumped immediately to the reason for the call. “We want to name something after you and want your permission…” Actually, it was not naming something after me, rather after an idea. The church has received a financial gift from a member’s estate and is going to set up an account to take care of present and future “concrete pigs” as I refer to them. Here is the story that will go on a plaque in their church.

A business owner wanted to do a little research on his employees. He purchased a large concrete pig and placed it directly in front of the elevator that all of his employees used to arrive at work each day. The first day he watched as the elevator doors opened. Regardless of what the discussion, mood, or laughter had been in the elevator, each time the doors opened his employees all had the same expression on their face. It was a startled look on each face upon seeing the pig. Each employee climbed over or squeezed around the concrete pig to exit the elevator. Some workplace and breakroom discussion took place about the pig amongst employees that first day. Yet, no one inquired about the concrete obstacle they had to climb over or around to exit the elevator. At days end the process repeated itself. All employees climbed over or squeezed into the elevator at one end of the pig.

The second day was similar. Except the startled look on the employees faces, this second day was more of a disturbed look. The third day was the same. So was the fourth and the fifth day, the end of the work week. But, there were no frowns, disgust, or startled looks. In fact, by the end of the work week, as employees were going home some were actually joking about the concrete obstruction. Nearing the elevator, talk was about getting past the pig to enjoy the weekend.

By the end of the second week the concrete pig had become so much a part of the work scene that the employees paid it no attention. In fact, as the elevator doors opened, conversations that had been going in the elevator did not come to a stop. Instead, employees stepped over or around the pig without missing one word of their conversations. They no longer saw the pig. It was no longer an obstacle to them. It was part of the scenery. Guests to the company however had a different experience. They were seeing the pig for the first time in all of its enormity.

In the church and in our lives we often have concrete pigs and we do not even realize them. That broken floor tile, the cracked light fixture, small hole in the wall from a furniture move in 1994, cluttered rooms. And outside, the weed stricken, unattended flower beds, untrimmed hedges, black streaks revealing a needed roof replacement, broken asphalt, cracked window panes or 50 year old, non-efficient windows.

These are all concrete pigs. Imperfections and needed repairs that we come so accustomed to that we, as regular attendees, never see. However, a guest can pick out every one of them. Can you walk through your church home with fresh eyes to see the concrete pigs? If so, what are you willing to do to rid your church of these obstacles, these glaring concrete pigs?

When serving at the church mentioned above, we recognized a sizeable number of concrete pigs. When they prepared their budget for the next year, they added a line; “Concrete Pigs.” The church has been working on ridding their facilities of concrete pigs ever since. How is your church? Your home? Your attitude toward life? What concrete pigs can you remove, repair?

For more information or help with this and other leadership needs, contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

When Doing Battle for God, You Need God on Your Side

“When you are doing battle for God, you need God on your side.” I am not certain who I heard this from, but I wrote it down in some notes from a convention recently.  This may seem catchy, but simplistic. However, it is not always the correct scenario taking place in many ministry settings or in the lives of believers. It is so easy to get sidetracked into thinking we know God and we know what would please God. Therefore, what I want to do, is God’s way. Think about this for a moment.

God said His thoughts and His ways are much higher than you and I can imagine. We, in our finite minds, cannot begin to think like God. Yet, we often try to think for God. In the end, we often try doing things the way we want because it is perceived as easier than what God might want. “It is convenient and safer for me because I know how, and I know the potholes and cautions to avoid. This has to please God.”

God grows each one of us by stretching us. No learning or spiritual growth ever takes place in the comfort zone. Yet, we do not like to be stretched. So, we circumvent God’s ways with something we are more comfortable with.

In the book of Joshua, God is very clear in His instructions to Joshua, leading the Israelite nation. In verse two of the first chapter, God says, “Moses, my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them – to the Israelites.” In the verses following, God goes into more detail of the direction He expects Joshua to lead the nation of Israel.

When you are doing battle for God, you need God on your side. Joshua was about to do battle for God and he intently listened for the directions from God. Joshua was successful in his quest and the battles for God as the rest of the book of Joshua depicts. Joshua had God on his side because he listened intently to God and waited for God’s direction.

A second misplaced fixation I see today is church leaders and other believers who try to justify their thoughts by using scripture. As I work with men (& women) who have teaching and leadership responsibilities, I share with them great words I learned from Pastor Leroy Armstrong, several years ago. My version is, “Never use the Bible to go looking for something to say. Always, let what you say come from the overflow of your study.”

In other words, as a spiritual leader (or as a Christian in general) you should never search scripture to find justification for something you want to do. You should be reading and studying God’s word regularly so that He can prepare you for what you need, when you need it. This is true God-usage of scripture. We should never use God’s word, The Holy Bible, to rationalize or defend what we want to do. This is, in my opinion, about as close to worst case heresy as anything else. Yet, I see and hear people use this quite often – pastors, teachers, spiritual leaders, politicians, and people from many walks of life.

Moses did this a couple of times. One in particular, by striking a rock with his staff to draw water for drinking. God had directed Moses not to strike the rock, but to speak to it and the water would flow. However, Moses wanted drama. He struck the rock with his staff because he apparently wanted (or believed he needed) a visual effect of his leadership. The water did flow, but Moses faced some heavy consequences because of it.You can read of other people in the Bible who faced dire consequences because they acted like Moses.

God will give us clear direction. We do not have to try to justify what we want to make us appear spiritual or God-driven. Looking up scripture to defend your position will keep you from accomplishing what God desires. His ways are much higher than yours. And the joy of life comes in allowing Him to accomplish His directives through means that you would never have dreamed or thought of.

Don’t sidestep God. If you’re going to do battle for God, you need God on your side. Let your words and actions come out of the overflow of your study of God’s word.

For more information on this and other leadership help, contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Leading vs. Managing

For this week’s post, I am pulling out one first posted in Feb. 2014 and adding a little.

A little more than a year back I wrote a series of posts on Organizational Health for religious entities including the church. In the first post I mentioned the need for returning to leading instead of managing. In recent months speaking on this topic I have observed many realizing as for the very first time that they have slipped from leading to managing in the church or other religious entities. I have also received several comments and questions about moving from managing to leading. In this article my aim is to briefly address the difference between the two.

I have never met a person who entered the ministry to be a manager. Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone say one of the following: I want to be in ministry so I can manage people. or I think ministry is right for me because I want to manage programs and facilities.

My guess is, like me, you’ve never heard these or similar statements because no one enters the ministry to be a manager. Rather, a ministry calling involves the desire to lead; leading people to faith in Christ, leading others in deeper spiritual intimacy with God, leading people in maturation of discipleship, etc. It is all about leading. We want to lead. Our passion is to lead.

When you look up the word lead in the dictionary or thesaurus you find words as front-runner, guide, direct, and steer. When you look up the word manage you see the words; to cope, control, and handle. Ask yourself, “Do I prefer to be guided or controlled?” The answer is always guided. Your people, your staff, team, volunteers, and members are the same. They want to be guided, to be led. No one wants to being controlled. It is not an enjoyable lifestyle.

I do understand in leadership there are times when you must manage. However, when our focus becomes managing instead of leading, we have missed God’s calling. While no one enters ministry to become a manager, too often ministers and ministry leaders become managers – managers of people, programs, and facilities. When managing occupies your time you are not leading. In our churches and religious organizations of North America we must return to leading as God ordained and called each of us.

For some pastors and leaders managing is all they know. They have never seen or been taught the difference. There is a very big difference in the two and the effectiveness of good leadership vs. managing always shows in greater beneficial results. You may not realize you are a manager. But if you realize you are or may be, please contact me or someone who can assist and coach you in becoming a true leader.

You may be seeing positive results, but I promise you, as a manager you are squelching the happiness and potential of those you are supposed to be leading.

Every leader is a learner – constantly reading, training, and observing others in order to be a better leader this year than last. When was the last time you read a book on leadership, or attended a leadership conference, and came away with one or more ways to improve? If your answer is more than 3 months ago, you are not growing as a leader and it is likely you are more manager than leader.

For more information on leading in ministry and moving away from the manager mentality contact George Yates and visit