Stepping Into a New Leadership Role | Dr. Gavin Adams

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Gavin Adams shares from his new book, Big Shoes to Fill, discussing with us about stepping into a new leadership role.

Podcast Notes

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Podcast Transcription


Bart Blair: [00:00:19] Gavin, I’m so excited to have you back on the show today. Welcome to round three on the Missional Marketing Podcast.

Gavin Adams: [00:00:26] Yeah. Thanks, man. Round three, that’s true, this is my third visit with you guys. I appreciate you having me back.

Bart Blair: [00:00:31] We are long-time friends now. We’ve spent a total of, well, about two hours together in our entire lives, and this will be the third hour that we get to spend together. But, you know, I follow you online, I see a lot of stuff that you post online, particularly on LinkedIn, and read a lot of the content that you create. So it’s kind of a weird, the internet world is kind of a weird world where, you know, we make acquaintances, we talk to people from time to time, but I feel like you’re a part of my life all the time because I’m consuming your content so frequently.

Gavin Adams: [00:01:02] I appreciate that.

Bart Blair: [00:01:03] Yeah. Thanks again for jumping in. For those of our audience members who might not know who you are, maybe they haven’t listened to the previous episodes, but they really should, we’ll link to those in the show notes. Give us a little bit of a background on who you are and what you do. And really, maybe just a quick update on how things have been going with your ministry and your ministry work since the last time you were on the show, which I think was like right around a year ago.

Gavin Adams: [00:01:30] Yeah, I think it was about a year ago. Yeah. So again, thanks for having me again. I, you know, we were chatting a little before we started, I love what I’m doing and I’m having a ton of fun doing it, so I’m glad. I’ll tell you a little bit about that. I, for those of you people, who just don’t know me, I came out of the marketplace, and I spent a decade as a strategic marketing consultant, for the most part before being called into ministry. Of course, I’ve been in ministry, man, gosh, since I was probably a teenager. And so that part isn’t foreign to me, but the professional Christianity was. So after a decade in the marketplace, I went into ministry full-time, and I helped plant a church, and then became a lead pastor. So I was a lead pastor for 13 years, and the last decade of that was with North Point Ministries. I led Woodstock City Church, a campus location of North Point.

Gavin Adams: [00:02:14] And so, in 2021, the very beginning, January of 21, really just felt like the season was ending and it was time to maybe move on. I had been working to replace myself and I had a really great guy who had been working for us for seven years, he was ready to take my job and probably do it a lot better than me. And I had just finished my doctorate as well, and so just felt like it was time to move on into something else. Also, I have such a passion for the local church and for leadership, and so really wanted to combine that marketing kind of, you know, business background with the church leadership experiences, and put those two things together. So for about two and a half years now, I have been working as a professional leadership coach and ministry consultant, with churches, I mean I guess I can say all over the world, I have some in the UK and Australia, but lots of obviously US churches, helping them on a few specific things. I do a lot of communications coaching. Obviously, working for Andy helped me as a communicator, and I grew a lot from his mentorship. So I do a lot of preaching and communication, but also coaching communicators. I do a lot of intentional strategy work around ministry models, discipleship pathways, things like that, and helping people lead change. As you know, the world is constantly changing, and so if leaders cannot work on it, if they’re constantly working in it, the world around them kind of leaves them in the dust. And so I help leaders and ministries keep up with what’s happening without losing the theology and losing the core of their DNA, but to figure out how to execute ministry in these more complex environments that we have now found ourselves in.

Bart Blair: [00:03:48] Yeah. A very interesting journey, the first time we had you on the show, there were two things to note. One, you had just finished your doctorate, so I introduced you as Doctor Gavin Adams, I remember that. And then secondly, you were just beginning, or had just, maybe you had just completed the transition out of Woodstock City Church there. So, I have been kind of, you know, watching your journey here over the course of the last few years, and it’s really cool to see what God is doing in and through your ministry.

Bart Blair: [00:04:16] Now, there are about 100 different reasons that we could have you on this show because you’re gifted in so many areas and have so much insight on so many different things, but we have a very specific reason for having you on the show today, and that is to talk about a brand new book that, at the time that this podcast is released, it will have been like fresh on the market for, I think like three days. Your new book is called Big Shoes to Fill, Big Shoes to Fill. And it’s got a cover that has a whole bunch of big shoes on it, you happen to have a copy handy right there so you can hold it up.

Gavin Adams: [00:04:49] I do, yeah. Yeah, I’ve got one right here.

Bart Blair: [00:04:52] Okay. Big Shoes, okay, it’s a book with a bunch of big shoes on it. All right.

Gavin Adams: [00:04:57] Big Shoes To Fill.

Bart Blair: [00:04:57] So we’re gonna talk about this book, and you know what, it’s not uncommon for a leader of your caliber with your gifts and your talents to spend time writing a book. But what you choose to write about, I think, is really, really important. Why did you choose this particular content? Tell us what it’s about, and what led you to this particular place of writing Big Shoes To Fill.

Gavin Adams: [00:05:22] Well, I mentioned earlier that I just really have a passion for leaders and leadership, and the more I began interfacing with leaders, in the current job that I have, the more I realized that we were constantly seeing leaders enter organizations and exit organizations, we were seeing point leaders, but also leaders of departments, divisions, and ministries. And kind of the rapidness of this change is increasing, the research shows right now that the average person stays in a job for 4.1 years right now. If you’re a millennial, it’s even quicker, it’s every three years Millennials, as a generation, are changing jobs. And so, when I began thinking about how disruptive that is to organizations and obviously to churches, and then I started thinking about my own story I mentioned earlier, but I got to help plant a church. But then I got to leave after three years and come to Woodstock City, it was called Watermark Church back then. I was a revitalization pastor, our church was in really bad shape, but had an opportunity to be a part of that revitalization. But I walked into a leadership space to take over something that I did not create, I didn’t start it, but now I had inherited it. I inherited a team. I inherited a culture. I inherited the problems. I inherited the promises that had been made by the previous leader. I mean everything that I was leading I didn’t start, but I had to figure out how to lead it, even though I didn’t create it. I had another opportunity to do that, we bought and have subsequently gotten rid of a coffee shop. But I did, for about a year, I led a coffee shop, and I didn’t start the coffee shop. And so I realized that that story wasn’t unique, right? If you’re not a founder of an organization, you are inheriting something. And whether you’re going to be the CEO and sit in a C-suite or whether you’re going to be a team or a department division lead, odds are almost all of us that are leading something didn’t create what we’re leading. And so, how do we do that really, really well? That’s really the impetus behind writing Big Shoes to Fill.

Bart Blair: [00:07:23] It’s huge. You know, our primary audience, those that are listening to this, there are some pastors, probably some executive pastors, but the majority of our audience are people who sit in the space of being church communications directors or creative directors in that sort of role. And, you know, it’s interesting to me, and I don’t know how you would sort of dissect this. You know, there are certain things, I think, that we assume that if you’re stepping into the role of being the new senior pastor or the new executive leader of an organization, even though you didn’t necessarily create it, there are some, I don’t know, some authority that’s automatically given to you, and there is a certain level of autonomy, maybe, that you have in your decision making when you’re taking something over. It is very different when you’re kind of in the middle of the ladder, right? When you’re not necessarily the leader of the organization, yet you still lead part of the organization, and you’re stepping in to take on something that someone else created and someone else previously led. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the challenges that you see new leaders experiencing when they step into leading something that they didn’t build. What are some of the common pitfalls or some of the common obstacles that you see?

Gavin Adams: [00:08:42] Well, and they’re vast. And so we’ll just cover a few things. Of course, the book digs into a lot of it. But, you know, and just really quick to your point, you are right, everybody stepping into a leadership space is stepping into something unique. And so in the book, what I really try to do is create a framework for people so that they can develop the strategy that works best for their unique situation. There is no kind of magic bullet one size fits all because every situation is unique. You just mentioned one yourself. If you’re stepping into a senior pastor or XP role, that’s a little different than stepping into a communications director role, or a youth pastor role, or an administrative role. However, to borrow from John Maxwell, which we should probably always do, leadership is influence, right? That’s really what leadership is, which means every one of us, no matter what the role, we have our leaders because we have influence over something.

Gavin Adams: [00:09:33] Now, the issue that you brought up is very important, the senior pastor, or the executive pastor, because of their title, they may have some automatic authority. However, authority doesn’t always equal influence. One of the biggest issues that I see in this space is people assuming positional authority trumps relational influence, and it does for the moment, but it doesn’t long term. And so regardless of the role you’re stepping into, whether it’s the most senior in the organization or somewhere lower in the org chart, the reality is that if you’re relying on the title to gain the influence, you’re really relying on the wrong thing. So in the book, we talk a lot about that tension. How do we begin to foster more relational influence over this inherited team, and think about how complicated that is? I mean, if you’re stepping in, let’s go a little lower in the org chart. But even at the top, to be honest, you’re not the only person who was interviewed for this job. You’re not the only person potentially even in the organization that is interviewed for the job. Oftentimes, a new leader may rise up from within the organization, but not always, a lot of time we’re bringing in someone from the outside. And so imagine you’re coming in from the outside to lead an organization, and 1 or 2 people within your staff also interviewed for your job. I have two chapters in the book dedicated to the tensions that we have to manage in this space because it is so vast.

Gavin Adams: [00:11:00] So organizationally, there are tensions. There are rhythms that are established that might not fit your rhythms, and that’s going to be a really tough thing to balance. There are things that you and your interview talked about wanting to change. And in the church space, the elders were very excited about what you had to say until you started doing it, I see this all the time. I was talking with William Vanderbloeme, you probably know William, he’s a friend of mine. I had ten or so leaders who contributed to the book, he was one of them. And talking to William, you know, he is in the church staffing business and said this constantly, that the board of directors and the hiring teams, they always overestimate the amount of change they actually want to have. So again, you come in, there’s all that, there’s a team you’re inheriting that, by the way, you didn’t choose. If you’re following a leader who did it well, they probably built a team that helped them succeed by filling in their gaps, that’s what great leaders do. Well, your gaps are not going to be the same as the previous leaders, nor are your strengths going to be the same as the previous leader, which means that some of the people who are currently on the team might not be on the team long term, and that’s a tough reality, but it’s true. Or they may need to be in a different seat on the team, and so navigating that is so complicated. And then, of course, there are such interpersonal challenges with this.

Gavin Adams: [00:12:26] When you step into a new leadership role, you feel immediately like you’re being evaluated and judged. Right? I mean, you went through a judgmental process, that’s the interview. So people have interviewed you, but everybody on your inherited team probably didn’t interview you, they probably didn’t have an equal say, they just got you, you just showed up. And by the way, they’re skeptical of you, they don’t know what to expect, they don’t know. And this is what’s so funny to me, in studying and writing this, I talked to a lot of leaders who followed beloved leaders, and I talked to a lot of leaders who followed more, bemoaned, and disliked leaders. You would think following the disliked leader would be easier, and in some cases it is, but in both scenarios, whether the team liked their previous boss leader or not, they were comfortable with them, they knew what to expect, everything was clear, even if they didn’t like it, at least they knew what to do, right? It’s like everybody was sitting in a La-Z-Boy now they have been thrust out of it, and they’re so uncomfortable because they don’t know who you are, they don’t know what your expectations are, they don’t know if you’re going to like them or if they’re going to like you. So there’s this interpersonal challenge and tensions that we’re managing as well, that we want to be liked. When we step in, we have a tendency to want to maybe put the previous leader down to give ourself a leg up. I mean, there’s all of these kinds of tensions that we’re managing. So again, I could go on for hours about it, but that’s why I wrote the book, there’s so much behind this kind of stepping in without, as the tagline is, without stepping in it as you do.

Bart Blair: [00:13:59] Yeah, it’s really interesting, you hit on something that I was actually going to have follow-up questions about, which was the idea of following a leader. You know, you’ve got some leaders who leave having killed it and some who leave after having blown it up, right? You’ve got some that leave well and some that leave with a lot of collateral damage. In your experience and what you’ve seen, what are the key nuances for a new leader stepping in based on those two scenarios? If I’m stepping into something and I know that I’m replacing a beloved founder, or I’m replacing that beloved pastor who served in this church for 25 or 30 years…

Gavin Adams: [00:14:37] Or their picture is hanging on the lobby wall.

Bart Blair: [00:14:39] Yeah. Or I’m…

Gavin Adams: [00:14:40] Do not take it down.

Bart Blair: [00:14:40] Exactly, I’m replacing someone who really, really succeeded and really did well in their team and was really, really well respected, versus someone who really left with, you know, they were chased out of town. Like it could be, you know, there are a lot of different reasons for that. What are some of the nuances, what are some things that as a leader coming into those types of scenarios, ought I be looking out for, or things maybe you can caution me on?

Gavin Adams: [00:15:06] Yeah, that’s a big question. So let’s touch on it on both of those. And before I talk about them, on my site, and this is obviously going to come out when the preordering is over. But, if you go to my website and just shoot me a message or email me. I created ten companion guides for the book because these situations are so unique. And so I have a companion guide for the leader following a beloved leader, and also a companion guide for the person following the more disliked, bemoaned leader. So I’d love to provide that to anyone who wants it as well. So to quickly answer your question, when you’re following a beloved leader, I’ve got a friend who’s doing this, we’ve been working together on it for a while.he person’s picture, his family picture, is hanging in the hall. The guy was there for 30-something years, right? Now the new person is there.

Gavin Adams: [00:15:54] Now, here’s a quick funny story even about it. Within the first couple of months of the new guy being there, there were some lights in the hallway that were out. They changed the lights out, and somebody that next Sunday said, well, my previous pastor wouldn’t have done it that way, just with the lights. I mean, we’re not even talking about ministry strategy, or preaching style or whatever. So following a beloved leader is really, really challenging. When you follow a beloved leader, your temptation is going to be to want to change things, to kind of put your thumbprint on it, to make your mark, to almost be highly visible, and maybe even stronger than you need to be to kind of enforce your position. But remember, positional authority is not the goal, relational influence is the goal. And so what I coach leaders to do when they’re replacing a beloved leader is to belove the leader with everybody else, agree with everybody. Because here’s what’s happening, I mean, I spent a lot of time in the book on this, but here’s what’s happening, people are not resisting you as the new leader, they’re resisting the loss of the leader that they loved. They’re not against you, they just don’t want to have to change. And we hear this all the time, people resist change, which is not really true, right? If someone comes to you and says, I want to double your salary, you don’t say, no, no, no, I’m resistant to change. I mean, change isn’t the problem, loss is the problem. And so when people lose something that, even if they don’t want it, but especially if they do want it, when you lose something, it creates grief, and therefore it looks like resistance. And so what really a leader should do is come alongside and help the people grieve the loss, not try to pretend that it’s not happening or that that grief isn’t a real thing or, see it as resistance. And so I encourage leaders following a beloved leader to just embrace what they’re losing and to acknowledge it. Because, by the way, you know this, right, every counselor would say this, you can’t move past what you can’t name. Most people don’t know that it’s grief that they’re feeling, they just feel frustrated, they feel sad, they feel angry, and they end up taking it out maybe on the new leader. So it’s our job to kind of walk by the well, this is the mental picture I always have, see the person grieving at the bottom of the well, and instead of lowering a ladder and saying, come on up here and listen to how great my vision is. Instead, we climb down the ladder and sit with the person and we help them name what they’re feeling, so now they can move past it. By the way, helping you gain relational influence in the process. So following a beloved leader is very complicated.

Gavin Adams: [00:18:36] Following a disliked leader, here’s what’s so funny to me about this is, I talk to a few different people, some really smart people, way smarter than me. Frank Blake, who was the Home Depot CEO, and Cheryl Batchelder Popeyes CEO, both former CEOs, they’ve had experiences following beloved and not-so-loved leaders. And they talked about when they followed these kinds of not-so-loved leaders there’s this tendency to walk in and almost like, and you would never say this out loud, but to walk in and think, the savior is here. You know, finally, you have someone to lead you here. And the reality, it is weird as it is, even when a team was working with a leader they didn’t like, at least they knew what to expect, as I mentioned earlier, they were comfortable with what they had. So when the day you walk in, if you expect everybody to throw a parade, you are expecting wrong. Because for all the team knows, you may be worse, and for all the team knows, your expectations may not meet with what they are able to do. I mean, it’s so much discomfort for people in that state. So our temptation is to kind of put down the previous leader to give ourselves kind of that leg up, and that’s the worst thing we can do.

Gavin Adams: [00:19:49] So what we really need to do when we’re following a disliked leader or just a poor leader, or in the church world, as much as we hate it, a lot of leaders, a lot of pastors, leave because of failures, moral failures, different kinds of things like that. To walk in and pretend it didn’t happen is silly, right? But to walk in and use it as a comparative for you and your success, that’s not leadership. A leader who has to have an enemy or a comparative to lead isn’t leading, so you can’t ignore it, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen, but you also have to come in and build those relationships with people. And by the way, unhealthy leaders typically leave very unhealthy teams. So to think it’s going to be easier, think again, you’re probably inheriting more poison and toxin in the organizational bloodstream than the beloved leader has left. It’s going to take longer to rebuild trust. It’s going to take longer for them to lean in relationally with you. Because, by the way, they probably leaned in with the previous person who burned them, so they feel. So again, it all is going to come back to the relationships you’re able to form and the process that you go about to ensure that you’re prioritizing those interpersonal connections.

Bart Blair: [00:21:00] Yeah. You know, when we’re talking about leadership there are obviously two aspects to what you’re doing. And again, it depends on sort of where you fall organizationally on your team. You may be a person whose primary responsibilities are to cast vision, and to lead, and to give direction organizationally. Or you may be leading a team that is primarily there to execute on strategy that’s determined by someone else, right? So you could be anywhere or organizationally. Either way, I’ll go back to an Ed Youngism that I learned some 22 years ago, and that is the best leaders ask the best questions.

Bart Blair: [00:21:42] And as you’re talking about this, like the visual image of the person in the well is what really made me sort of process this. And I love that analogy Gavin, is that until we ask people deep, honest, sincere questions about where they are and how they feel, what their expectations are, and what their hopes and their dreams are, whether they are the staff members that we’re leading or if you’re leading the church, the congregants that have called you to be their pastor, until you know the answers to those questions, it’s really, really difficult to set a course forward. You know, I think you’re right, you sat in the interview and you told everybody how amazing you were, and what all the awesome things were that you were going to do if you were called to be the leader of this church, this organization, or fill this particular role on this team, but the reality is, once you get there, you learn a whole lot more about the organization than you could have known as an outsider looking in. And secondly, you start looking at the relationships that make what you’re doing either very possible or very, very difficult, and investing in those relationships in those early stages of your role as the leader is going to be so, so important. And I would say, you know, go and buy five legal pads and fill them all with questions over the course of the first five months. Just ask a thousand questions, and write down the answers to those questions, because the better you’re able to process with people what they’re grieving, what they’re hoping, what they’re looking forward to, I think the better it sets you up to be able to start making those relational withdrawals when you need to, right? It’s like putting marbles in the jar in the early stages of your tenure, right? Because eventually you’re gonna have to start making withdrawals. Yeah, exactly

Gavin Adams: [00:23:24] Here’s one thing really quick on that. You know, just because you were chosen doesn’t mean everybody chose you, and so you’ve got to walk in with that recognition. And part two of the book, the entire part two is dedicated to, the conversation about you can’t lead until you learn. And so we don’t go in leading, we go in learning. One of my good friends, Tensley Almand is a newer CEO of Atlanta Mission. It’s a massive missions organization in downtown Atlanta, a huge $20 million organization. He for the first six months called himself the CLO, not the CEO, the chief learning officer. He spent his entire time learning the team, learning the organization, and then learning about himself in this role. And again, in the book, I just give copious amounts of questions that you can ask to different kinds of people, peers, people who may be subordinates, people who are above you in the organization, and customers. How do we go about actually learning? And to your point, we do that by asking great questions.

Bart Blair: [00:24:25] Yeah, phenomenal. Speaking of asking great questions, Gavin, what question have I not asked you about this book that I really needed to ask you? What’s something that’s worth spending a little bit more time on before we kind of wrap this one up today? Yeah, well, you’ve asked great questions. I’ll tell you, I mean, I really had a great time putting the book together in the content together, it’s been something that’s been kind of birthing in me for years and years. But the one part, part three of the book, is dedicated to leading people, including yourself, through leadership transitions. And I think it’s a little bit of a, it’s overlooked too often that a plan, a change management, for instance, or a transition, you know, plan is necessary. However, it isn’t the plan that trips people up, it’s the emotions along the way that cause the problems. People are always the opportunity, they’re always the point, but people are also always the problem. Right? And so if we don’t know how to lead people, including ourselves through the transition, we’re going to have a failed transition.

Gavin Adams: [00:25:30] And here’s what I have found, you are maybe the leader that’s transitioning in or transitioning out. However, if you’re on a team that’s getting a new leader, you need to understand the emotions that you are going to go through, and that the team is going to go through. And so in part three of the book, we kind of outlined this framework of the emotional journey, and these four emotional states that people go through during transition. And this can be, by the way, any kind of change, this is even when I developed this kind of framework, I use it for every version of change and transition because that’s really how it fits.

Gavin Adams: [00:26:05] But the four states that you go through, I’ll give them to you very quickly. Everybody’s in a state of comfort until the day the leader says, hey, can everybody sit down, I’ve got something to share. At that moment, everybody is tossed out of the state of comfort, and they go into the state that I mentioned earlier, the state of grief. Again, there’s a whole chapter on grief and loss and how we have to grieve things so that we can bury it dead, that way it doesn’t haunt us for the rest of our career or life. But after we grieve that loss and we’re kind of ready for what might be next, the reality is the next state is the emotional state of confusion. Now confusion, as a leader, we always think of it as being a bad thing. I mean, gosh, if we looked up leadership quotes on clarity, we would have thousands, right, there’s not a leader’s quoting how great confusion is. However, and this is so important, in these transitions confusion isn’t always a bad thing. Now your team should not be confused about the mission or about the vision, however, how we’re going to execute it, the strategy that we’re going to use today under you as the new leader, under your tenure, that is going to be a little confusing for a minute and that’s okay. Confusion is actually proof that people are letting go of how they used to do it. So the reason they’re confused is because now they’re beginning to think about a different way of execution, a different ministry model, a different discipleship pathway, right? In the marketplace, a different product mix, a different offering. And so this confusion is actually where some of the most innovative and creative ideas happen. Out of confusion, we actually begin to accumulate some small incremental wins that lead to the final state, the fourth state, and that’s acclimation. Acclimation is where we are now ready to be led or to lead because we’ve been accepted into the position, but not only just personally and relationally, but the new systems, the new rhythms, the new routines, and really, the new culture. Not the organizational culture necessarily, but the staff culture, our working norms, and behaviors are now new and established, we have acclimated to the new reality. So those four emotional states are so critical and they’re so often overlooked, which sets leaders up to fail because, again, the steps of transition are important. However, if you ignore the people side of it, you’re ignoring the most critical part, the most important part, and the part that’s going to eventually determine if it works or not.

Bart Blair: [00:28:31] I would imagine that as people go through those stages, I mean, the comfort stage, everybody’s, it’s a honeymoon, right? It’s the honeymoon, everything’s happy, and we’ve filled the seat we needed to fill. When you get into the grief and the confusion stages, those are probably the most likely seasons in which people start to seriously second guess, number one, whether they accepted the right position or number two, we hired the right person.

Gavin Adams: [00:28:59] If you’re on the team, or the team lead, either way.

Bart Blair: [00:29:01] Yeah, exactly.

Gavin Adams: [00:29:03] In fact, in the book I compare it, this is probably, I mean, it’s not a Christian book, but I do use this biblical reference in the book that this is the Israelites in the desert. Can we just go back to Egypt, where we at least we had meat and slavery? I mean, it’s exactly what people do. Because, and you know, this during a transition or change, things always get worse before they get better. So as they’re getting worse, everybody is feeling we made a mistake, this isn’t working, can we just go back to the way things were? And so as a leader, it’s so imperative we understand that’s going to happen, it’s natural, it’s not abnormal, and it’s okay.

Bart Blair: [00:29:39] Gavin, as we’re moving through these different stages, and I’m sure that you get into this to some degree in the book, if we’re in that grief stage or we’re in that confusion stage, are there mile markers or some sort of indicators that would help me see whether or not I’m actually stuck in the middle of it, or I’m actually moving through it? Because if I’m stuck in grief and I can’t get out of grief, I need to know what steps I need to take to get out of it. If we’re stuck in this confusion stage, what are the things that can give me at least some hope that maybe we’re eventually moving out of that?

Gavin Adams: [00:30:17] That’s a good question. Everybody goes through the process a little bit differently in the timeline. And by the way, not everybody makes it through the process of a transition, it’s just the reality. Some people just don’t make it through, and that’s okay because if they’re not going to be successful with you as the leader, the worst thing we can do is keep them and rob their future. Right? So it’s not the worst thing that people can’t make it, sometimes it’s a good thing for them. So some of those mile markers are, in grief, for instance, the number one mile marker is someone acknowledging that it’s grief, not irritation and frustration. The number one thing that keeps people trapped in the grief state is not acknowledging that it’s grief. They think they’re resisting you, they don’t even know what they’re resisting, they just feel resistant. As a leader, for us to step in and help them name it, and the way that we help them name it, again, I talk a lot about this in the book, is by asking the question, what do you feel like you have lost? That one question kind of illuminates what the real problem is.

Gavin Adams: [00:31:17] So in fact, I’ve got to a point now in my leadership journey over the last six, seven years where whenever I’m involved in helping make a change, one of the first questions I ask is who is going to lose something and what are they losing? Who is losing what? If we can ask that question preemptively, we can help lead people through. So a milestone is can you name it? This is why, you know, when you go to a counselor, they’re trying to get you to name what you’re feeling because you can’t fix it if you can’t name it. So I think a huge mile marker is calling it what it is, and then processing it with someone. So the term I give for the job of a leader during the state of grief is to process with people, to help them walk through it. So a mile marker, or missing a mile marker, would be are they naming it and are they willing to actually grieve it? Are they willing to call it a loss, and are they willing to see it as such and move through it?

Gavin Adams: [00:32:09] And confusion, it’s a little different, right? In the state of confusion, a mile marker is innovation. Are we beginning to think differently? Are we beginning to suggest alternatives? Here’s a really big one, when people stop saying, well, that’s not how we do it around here, that’s a mile marker that we’re moving away from the old thinking, the old way of doing things. Again, the better mile markers, though, are these incremental wins. And so we’re often, as a leader, looking for the big win that will set the table, that never really works. What we really need is incremental wins, because very small wins accumulate. And these incremental wins as they accumulate end up really moving people out of confusion into acclamation. So every time we have a small win during these transitional moments, we celebrate them like we won the lottery, right? Because it’s kind of moving people and it’s painting a picture of where we’re heading as a team, as a department, you know, as a church, as an organization. So those are really important mile markers as well. And again, if we’re not having them, then obviously we’re not leading well through that state. But if we’re beginning to have some incremental wins, then it’s proof that we’re moving along the journey, like a race, like they are mile markers on the race.

Bart Blair: [00:33:22] Yeah, that is fantastic. I really, really appreciate your insight on that, and I’m confident that this book is going to really help a lot of people, who have either recently stepped into a leadership role, a new leadership role, or really, man, maybe we could do some preemptive striking by getting this book into the hands of people who are about to step into something so that they don’t step into it.

Gavin Adams: [00:33:47] Or honestly, if you’re on a team that is going to get a new leader, it’s so helpful to know what you’re going to experience, and to even help lead up with that individual as they’re leading through the transition. I have a companion guide for HR leaders because again, you can imagine, you know, in Woodstock City and North Point, we were a part of a bigger church, obviously. But the poor HR people are stuck in the middle of all of these conversations, they’ve got the new leader coming to them frustrated, and they got the entire team coming to them frustrated. So how do we even help these new leaders and the new teams that they’ve inherited work kind of through this process? So I don’t want to say the books for every leader and every person, but in some realities, it’s very helpful for anyone who’s going to or is experiencing a leadership change.

Bart Blair: [00:34:31] Well, without a doubt, reading a book like this, when there is a transition going on in your organization, it can’t hurt to know what the common thread is in these types of transitions. So I am really, really excited for you, Gavin. Is this the first book that you have written and published?

Gavin Adams: [00:34:50] Yeah, it sure is. Yeah, it is the first one, so I’m excited about it.

Bart Blair: [00:34:54] All right. Well, we’re excited for you. Come on, it will probably not be the last one, I’m sure it’s going to be the first of many to come, and we’re really, really privileged that you hung out with us and our audience today to share a little bit about the book. At the time that this podcast is out, this book is fresh and ready to be purchased. Tell people where they can find it.

Gavin Adams: [00:35:16] Yeah, you can get anywhere you find your books. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, all the online retailers, and lots of physical retailers as well.

Bart Blair: [00:35:25] Okay, great. And your website is Do I have that correct? And you’ve mentioned several companion guides, I’m going to expect that those are going to be relatively easy to find when we come to the website. I’m going to share this with our audience, and I’m going to invite them to say if there’s a companion guide that Gavin hasn’t yet created, that he needs to, send him a message and say, hey, you’ve missed something here. Because I know that your goal is to be as comprehensive as you possibly can. Again, I really, really appreciate you. Any any parting shots for our audience before we wrap this one up today?

Gavin Adams: [00:35:59] No, I just have such a heart for the local church, and so for all of you who are working in it, man, I am so grateful for the effort and the time you’re putting in. I’m so grateful for, just the challenges that you face every day. And listen, I’m in it with you, I know that it’s not getting easier, it’s just getting harder and harder to do this well. But, you know, the good news is that God has promised that, that nothing is going to stop it, and we get to be a part of ensuring that happens. I think it’s our goal to make sure that we don’t do anything to stop it. So, I’d love to help you lead as well as you can because I don’t think there’s any organization more important than the local church.

Bart Blair: [00:36:34] I agree with you 100%. Thanks so much, Gavin, for being on the show today. And, God bless you, man. We’re just going to pray that you sell lots of books because we expect it to help lots and lots of people.

Gavin Adams: [00:36:46] I hope it helps lots of leaders, that’s the goal.

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