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Episode 39 - 25 Mar 2019

Leading Through Change

Adam and John interview John Elmore, Director of Community & re:generation at Watermark Community Church, about how to lead in the midst of change.

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Episode Summary

Introduction (0:45)

Change is incredibly difficult. Questions regarding it are some of the most common we receive. Many people tend to resist or avoid change. Leading well through change is something crucial for a leader to grow in. It is important to access where you are and why the change is truly needed. Ultimately, change is something crucial to leadership. John Elmore currently finds himself in the process of instituting change. He has learned 7 Principles that help guide him through the process.

7 Principles of Leading through Change (7:10)

  • Pray
  • Clarify the Ask
  • Define Reality
  • Envision the Future
  • Set a Strategy
  • Empower People
  • Sail Through the Storm

Principle 1 - Pray (7:47)

“As the leader, nobody is going to care about change as much as you.” - John McGee
Leading through change cannot be done with gut reactions. It must be an activity fueled by prayer. You must frequently plead to God to guide your steps. Change has to be a work of God or it will be useless. John recommends keeping a running word document as a single space to keep track of ideas. This gives you a place to brainstorm and to help remember all of the thoughts you will inevitably have regarding change. This also helps you have a way to articulate your thought process to others. Ultimately, it is important to pray because so often the church forgets to. Prayer energizes and encourages leaders. Prayer will help you stay enthusiastic about the change as you process through it.

Principle 2 - Clarify the Ask (11:36)

Clarify back to your supervisors/elders/bosses exactly what you think they want. Once you solidify in your mind what they want, you can more clearly articulate what changes need to be made. When under authority, it is always necessary to have alignment with those above you. This helps not catch anyone off guard with novel ideas or unforeseen changes. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Principle 3 - Define Reality (15:32)

Get everyone together and honestly access the current state of things. Ask one another to rate (A through F) how well things are going. This can initially be uncomfortable. But change requires leaders to be honest with where they are at. Without understanding where you are, it is impossible to see where you need to be. Giving things a grade can start to convince people that change is needed. However, make sure to reassure people that low grades do not claim they are doing their jobs poorly. You are simply allowing people a chance to rate how well change is occurring.

Principle 4 - Envision the Future (21:15)

Start with the end in mind. What is it that your team wants? Positive change will never happen by accident. There have to be guidelines, goals, and processes in place to ensure you are headed in the right direction. Determine a set of questions to be asking to access progress as you go. Remember that immediately after casting vision for the future, many people’s reaction will be to fear an increase in workload. When a leader is talking about changing the world, others are usually thinking about how that will change their world. Whenever you dream about the future, make sure to connect this with definitive and clear tasks. Don’t make change purely hypothetical or idealistic.

Principle 5 - Set a Strategy (26:46)

“Make things livable, don’t just try to learn them.” - John Elmore
Change needs to be actionable. It isn’t that people will be doing a different amount of work, but rather a different means of work. Remember that even if you are tasked with making the change happen, leaders must be able to give responsibility away if that is what is best. If you realize that there is someone else better suited to making something happen, then it is crucial you lead by empowering them to do so. Make sure that when setting strategy you love your team well. Communicate things early and often. Ask for feedback and ideas. Find out what you are not-gifted in and ask others to fill those gaps.

Principle 6 - Empower People (34:55)

Thank people for their patience. Remind people that large-scale change does not last forever. While small change is always occurring, but there will be seasons of large change and seasons without it. Empower your team by putting everyone in the right place, doing the right task. When you are making large changes, it may be useful to take a look at everyone’s role and see reorganization is necessary. Once everyone is in the right place, give them the power and authority to act.

Principle 7 - Sail Through the Storm (40:18)

“If you are leading change, be skeptical if it goes smoothly.” - Adam Tarnow
There needs to be direction and movement. However, there will inevitably be storms. Don’t become discouraged if there is resistance or difficulty. Find a north star and stay focused. Don’t be afraid to adjust as needed. You always have the ability to change directions as you move forward, but just remember to go back over any necessary steps for clarifying the ask, defining reality, etc. Keep your hand on the rudder.

Conclusion - (46:56)

Everyone has a different leadership style. You can lead through change in a variety of ways. Lastly, remember to be patient for those who don’t jump on board immediately. Don’t cater too much to those that are resisting change, but be prayerful and empathetic. Give them a healthy sense of urgency.

Questions or Comments? Email

Hosted By
John mcgee 20200223 wcc headhshots 001447
John McGee

Sr. Director of Watermark Resources

A tarnow
Adam Tarnow

Cohost of Church Leadership Podcast