Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 159: Why Organizations Slow Down Pt 1

Welcome to the 159th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Hello this is Joshua Gagnon, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. Man, I am so honored by what God is doing through this podcast. We meet people all across the country who listen to the podcast and I never would have imagined. You know, sometimes I say that and I kind of imagined it. You know there are things in life I am blown away by, kind of, but I kind of expected it. This podcast is one of those things that i just never, ever, ever expected it. And even as much just a year into it, it was doing wonderful, but not phenomenal. And over the last six months, it has just literally blow up to tens of thousands of unique listeners every single month. So thank you so much for listening and hanging out. It is my desperate prayer that God would use this podcast to bless you in some way every single week. I have the honor of hosting a coaching network that we are doing. It’s the first time we have done one, I have fought against doing one for a long time, but I do feel like we can add a lot of value to many people in ministry. So if you are a senior leader, and you listen to this podcast, or if you are a senior leader and you don’t listen to the podcast, I would love to hang out with you for a few months. We are going to invite some of our executive team members, Carey Nieuwhof is going to join us for a week. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I believe God is going to use it in great ways. So you can go to and you can learn all the information there. It would be an honor to hang out, we’re going to be innovative. It’s not going to be a typical coaching network, it’s going to be as authentic as it possibly can be. And I hope that we all, including myself, leave the conversations just feeling better. We’re going to grow together, learn together, love one another, and we’ll see where God takes it. And so, I’d love you to check that out, and if not, I still love you and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Roman Archer: Well welcome to another episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in today. I’m sitting down with my friend, boss, pastor, leader, Pastor Josh. How you feeling?

Joshua Gagnon: Role model.

R: Role model.

J: Fitness coach.

R: Fitness coach. Listen, if you’re a fitness coach, I want my money back.

J: Hey, I can only do what I can do. I cannot be responsible for your discipline.

R: We’re sitting in these new chairs today and I definitely do not feel fit in the way I’m sitting in this chair. It’s more of like a lounge-y chair so I’m not sitting up straight.

J: You look good.

R: And it’s just like, oh man.

J: And you’re wearing a shirt, “Liberty.”

R: Oh, I’m patriotic today.

J: Liberty and life.

R: Let freedom ring. It’s an Old Navy $5 deal. Well hey, what have you been up to lately?

J: We’re in a busy season. We’re talking to a couple churches about the possibility of adopting them. Well, one of them’s made the decision to be adopted so. And then we’re talking to another church about that possibility. So a lot of conversations about expansion and staffing and a lot going on in Florida, and so I’m just positioning my family to be the most healthy we can be with all the traveling we’re doing. Building a hub in the Southeast now that we’ve seen God do in the Northeast. Signed a two-book deal, yeah with Thomas Nelson. So I’m really excited about that. We’re going to do an entire episode on that process. Talk about my agent and who he is, and talk about, just, I’d always wanted to know what it would look like, and of course, to God be the glory, I have mentors and many friends who have written books, so I was able to tap into some of those resources. However there are many people who don’t really even know what it looks like to write a book, or where do you go, or how does it work, so I really want to get into the trenches and just answer as many questions we can from all our listeners who have a passion to write and so I’m excited about that opportunity.

R: Yeah.

J: I’m excited to see the Lord use it and we’ll see, we’ll of course over the next several months give a lot more information on that.

R: It will be exciting.

J: It’s really exciting. Yeah, it’s a wonderful opportunity, a wonderful gift that God has given me to be able to,... not a gift to have but a gift to be able to put a book out there for people to be able to read. It’s such a wonderful blessing. I feel really honored. So excited about that. Yeah, it’s a good season, I’m excited. I feel like the Lord is maturing our team and maturing our staff and speaking to us in clarity so, it’s fun.

R: Absolutely. One of those seasons where stuff just kind of seems like it pops out of nowhere. It doesn’t, because as we talked before, it’s that idea of being faithful and stewarding the influence that God has given you as a leader and so when things like this happen, it seems like it just happens overnight. These conversations with other churches and the book sand growth.

J: It just seems like every hail Mary pass and catch happened overnight, but we don’t see all the practices that led up to the hail Mary. All the times that the hail Mary was thrown in practice. All the reps that went in and you hear so many stories and it feels like they happened overnight cause you heard them, and it seems like the moment you heard them is the moment the miracle happened. But the reality is is there’s been a lot of digging trenches, a lot of digging ditches, there’s been a lot of faithfulness to every story. There’s no overnight success story. There’s some quicker success stories, however I believe that even in the overnight success stories that appear overnight, there’s been a lot of pain, a lot of faithfulness, a lot of prayer and preparation in the midst of getting to where it is that we now see them.

R: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, along those same lines, if you were to talk with any of our leaders or our staff, you ask them to explain our team or our culture, our church in three words or less, I’m willing to bet that one of those words are going to be “fast”. You know, even in this conversation it seems as if things are happening fast. And to a certain degree, even if things don’t happen overnight, we certainly work and move at a pace that I think compared to other churches and other leaders that I’ve talked to, it’s a pretty fast paced environment. And we were having a conversation with our location pastors a couple weeks ago and we had this conversation about one of our values as a staff, as a leadership about moving fast. You’re constantly saying the older we get, you don’t want to see us get old, and you used the word “sluggish”.

J: Fat, slow.

R: Fat, sluggish. What do you think that looks like for a church or a team?

J: Any organization, not just a church. Any organization has a tendency, as they grow larger, they grow slower. Because there’s so many more moving pieces, there are so many more people that every decision affects, and often there are so many more people that have a say in the decisions that are made.

R: Slows it down.

J: So the larger an organization grows, it has a tendency to grow slow so the very thing that allowed you to see great growth, which is quickness and speed, agility, all of a sudden now, the very thing that allowed you to grow to where you are becomes something you no longer have because you’ve grown. And I don’t want to become fat and sluggish and slow. I don’t want to be a church that at ten years old used to be quick but now we just are nervous to make decisions, we’re nervous to step outside and walk on water, we’re nervous to lose everything. It’s so much easier when there’s nothing to lose. Right? When you’re making decisions and you have nothing to lose, you make crazy decisions full of faith and you don’t sit around and think about them forever cause there’s not much to think about. When you don’t have much to lose, you don’t think about all that you have to lose. But the bigger an organization gets, all of a sudden you have to think a lot more about the decision and it affects so many more people and there’s so much more communication that goes into it and fear can creep in because it just costs a lot more making a bad decision the bigger you are, and so I don’t want to become an organization that loses our quickness, because I really believe that what we’ve lacked in experience, what we’ve lacked in resources, what we’ve lacked in intelligence and competence, we’ve made up for in passion and speed. And, you know, it’s like a sports illustration, which I hate giving them, because I know… By the way, I was going to talk about our listeners, another record last week. Thousands of people listening to this podcast. Yeah, it’s just incredible to think, I don’t even know why, I just keep doing it because I feel like if people are listening then I’ll keep doing it, but I don’t know why people are listening. But, hey, praise God for you. Leave a review, if you don’t mind, that would be kind. But I think a lot of our listeners, what was I talking about?

R: You were going to give a sports analogy.

J: Yeah, I was going to give a sports analogy about speed and quickness. You can have a team that is great and fully competent, fully experienced, but they’ll get beat by the team with more passion and speed. And I want to be that team that continues to live with passion and speed.

R: Yeah, absolutely.

J: Can our listeners hear the…?

R: Maybe, I don’t know. We’ll see what they do in post. We’ve got our staff Christmas party happening tonight.

J: Yeah, so we don’t have like, ducks we’re strangling in the background, those are…

R: Small gunshots. So our office’s podcast room is below our auditorium at one of our locations and evidently, they are either dropping cement blocks on the floor or moving the chairs this morning to get ready for that.

J: Yeah, alright.

R: So you made a declaration to our team. Specifically, this was a talk that you gave to our location pastor team. You kind of made this declaration that we will continue to be agile. We will continue to be quick, to move fast.

J: We’ll quickly lose everything.

R: Yes, there’s that, I think it’s actually a country song, there’s that saying, “We might not be here in ten years, but they’ll know we were here.”

J: Yeah, it is a country song. You know it’s a country song.

R: Well, no, I know it’s a country song.

J: I think it might be a country song I sang this morning.

R: I’m not a closet country fan, I’ll say it.

J: Yeah you are.

R: But I don’t know if I’m saying it right.

J: You are, it says, “We might not be here in ten years, but they’re gonna know we were here.”

R: There’s that idea. And you’ve said that before, it’s kind of that thought that at the end of the day we can’t get slow and safe, we’re going to be quick and risky. And we talked about some of the things that cause people to start slowing down or even stand still. And organizationally, before it every happens organizationally, it happens within the leaders. And so we talked through four different things; we’ll see how far we get in this episode and maybe we’ll only do two, but the first thing we talked about is, when we slow down and we start standing still, a lot of times it’s because of a lack of character. I think it takes a certain kind of leader to be self-disciplined and to keep the pace. You know, famous saying, pace of leader, pace of team, speed of leader, speed of team. But what motivates you as a leader? You don’t necessarily have anyone over you that is dictating to you…

J: I have the Lord over me, Roman.

R: Sure, but I don’t think he’s setting the alarm for you early in the morning to get up and to start writing or to get up and work on the message, or to work through some of the upcoming problems that we have.

J: There’s a level of character that’s needed in order to keep pace. One of the things that we were… We did this talk which was for all of our location pastors and Roman and I meet with our location pastors. I wasn’t doing it, I was only meeting with them once a month, but we just moved to every single week because in this season, I haven’t had a lot of face time with our staff and this gives me that face time, that gives me opportunity to just love on them, and so every Wednesday I’m trying to make that meeting and we talked about in order to stay quick and not slow down, you have to have a level of character because the truth is is leaders that are out front, they’re accountable to their own character. And you can take advantage often in ministry, you can take advantage of the position because sometimes there’s nobody asking you to clock in or clock out. There’s a lot of freedom in our structure and in our system. Our location pastors, some of them are four hours away some of them are twenty-four hours away in Florida and there’s a lot of freedom in there. And so we hire people who are self-starters, we hire people who are leaders who want to think for themselves, who want to change the world, and you could find yourself slowing down and taking advantage of the system for a season, eventually your fruit will find you out. However, you could take advantage for a season and I just believe high-character leaders don’t need alarm clocks to motivate them, their character motivates the. High influential leaders don’t need a boss telling them to work hard and get starter and self-think, high influential leaders, their character continues to be the very thing that they need in order to push them forward. My character is what keeps me pushing forward when I know I can take advantage and I can settle in. My character and also the vision and dream that God’s placed in my heart, I don’t know if they’re separated, but I’m thinking in the moment.

R: Yeah, I think on the flip-side of that lack of character that causes people to slow down or stop is just this idea of working diligently. And we really encourage and challenged them that when we’re not looking over your shoulder, when you’re not clocking in when you don’t have to be at the office at a certain tie that day, are you self-motivated as a leader to continue to work diligently, to have that character?

J: If we’re just keeping it 100, which means keeping it real in today's terminology, if we’re just keeping it 100, Roman, which I really pride this conversation and our podcast on, just being honest, open, and real and relevant, and I don’t want to be a fake conversation, who wants to listen to a bunch of fake people? If we’re just being real, the church, man, we have some lazy people up in this place. Just in general, the church globally. There’s some people who take advantage of the lack of accountability and then they gripe and complain about how they’re not seeing any growth. And you’re like, you work two days a week. You work two days a week. And then on the other hand, we’ve got a group of people in the church world that are really hard workers that are giving it all they have. And I am just convinced that, not hard work unbalanced is blessed, but hard, balanced work ethic is blessed. And I really believe it with everything inside of me, that we will work harder. We always say we will work harder than anybody else in a healthy way. We’ll work harder than anybody else. And so, you’re right. Working diligently pays off. It pays off. If you’re just working a couple days a week, three days a week, taking advantage, spending all your time just at lunch, I mean the reality is is you’re going to get that type of fruit. There’s nobody who frames houses who shows up who just stares at the wood all day long, wondering why the home isn’t being built. There’s nobody that just, you know? That builds homes and stays home Tuesday and Wednesday, you know, just working from home doing nothing.

R: Yeah, or showing up and just studying the blueprints. They study it, and study it, I’m gonna pray over the blueprints.

J: Yeah, I remember before I started Next Level, I was at a church that we would just walk around the auditorium all day, it felt like, and pray for God to bring growth, and I told myself when I started a church I wasn’t going to be someone who just prayed for growth, I was going to be someone that prayed for growth and then worked for growth. Cause I believe our muscle works alongside of our miracle. And I believe it with all my heart. And so we’re going to work diligently and as we grow, we’re not going to slow down because our character is going to hold us accountable more than our supervisor. If you can create a team where you’re accountable to your character, then you’re going to have a great team because at some point, supervisors won’t be able to hold everybody as accountable as character can.

R: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things in there that you talked about was this idea of rhythm and working hard in a balanced way.

J: (singing) Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain. It’s my first single.

R: It’s releasing before Christmas. Go find it on Spotify and iTunes.

J: Tip the waitresses on the way out.

R: He got it in. He got it in. You’ve been saying that as a mic check this week.

J: I preached last night, I said I was gonna say, “Tip the ushers on the way out.”

R: You’ve been talking about this three block idea. Just kind of mention that really quick.

J: What did I talk about?

R: Well in God’s economy I do think that there’s,... it’s the same idea as tithing, that 90% is more blessed than 300%.

J: What’s the three blocks?

R: And so, yes we work hard but there’s three blocks in a day.

J: Oh, yeah.

R: And so during the two blocks…

J: Yeah, I don’t really want to take credit for that. Gordon MacDonald showed me that when we were at lunch one day, who by the way we’re going hiking in Switzerland with Gordon MacDonald, we just talked about it last night that’s why it’s on my mind, in June. How cool is that?

R: It’s freaking awesome.

J: We’re hiking the Swiss Alps with Gordon MacDonald. My gosh, carry him.

R: He’ll be carrying us.

J: He will. Three blocks. Yeah, we’ve got three blocks in everyday. And I told my staff because I was told by a wise man this model, that two out of the three blocks everyday that you use is considered a work day belonging to the church. That third block belongs to you. Two out of three. And then your Sabbath fully belongs to you. And what we typically do is we typically work on our Sabbath cause we don’t handle each block of the day correctly. So let’s call Monday a work day, just for talking’s sake You have three blocks in that day: morning, afternoon, and night. You may be working the night that that Monday, and not in the morning, which means the afternoon block is your block. Right? So, it’s a morning, you’re at work and you’re working diligently. The afternoon, you’re golfing, cause it’s your block. Or you’re doing the lawn. Or you’re hedging, right? And then that night, you work diligently. Two out of three blocks every day are your employer’s. Right? And then you have a day off, right? Your Sabbath. That’s fully yours because you used the blocks during the week to do the yard work so that now you could actually have a day of fun and rest on the Sabbath. So we’re teaching our team that model where two out of three blocks on your work day belong to the church, you choose which two out of three you want to give to the church, but you have to give two out of three and you work diligently in those, and then enjoy that third block.

R: I think in God’s economy that is important. Cause there are some times where, if it’s not balanced and you’re spending all three blocks, it’s out of whack. And so the same idea as tithing, the way we budget our time matters. And so when it comes to this idea of character and working diligently, I think that’s an important thing to mention there.

J: Thank you.

R: Another one that we talked about was reasons why we slow down or stand still.

J: Character.

R: Character, lack of character, number one. And then number two is lack of confidence which just is so big. How often do things stall out? Opportunities get missed because of a lack of confidence of moving forward, of decisions, of mistakes we’ve made in the past that now haunt us and hold us back.

J: Yeah, we have a hard time making decisions and leaders that are not decision-makers lead within organizations that are slowing down. And as we continue to grow we want to make sure that we don’t have a team full of people that lack confidence but a team of people that know that we can be confident in our decisions even if we make a bad decision. You know, someone once said, “We’re all going to make mistakes, the worst part of a mistake is if you don’t use that mistake to learn from it.” But there should never be a wasted mistake. And so we want to create a culture at Next Level Church because you can’t be a fast organization and always get decisions correct. I will say slow organizations will probably get decisions correct more often than fast organizations. However, fast organizations are going to make multiples more decisions, so at the end of a year, let’s just say the slow organization, for speaking’s sake, makes one decision that year that’s correct. The fast organization makes ten decisions that year and gets two wrong. There’s still a large, large outcome of fruit from the decisions that were made, right? I’d rather make ten decisions and get three wrong, rather than make two decisions and get both right.

R: Well, you gotta swing the bat. It’s a swing rate.

J: Yeah, A-Rod, I thought that was a good thing I had heard. A-Rod: Alex Rodriguez, who, a baseball player, and if you don’t watch baseball, you don’t care but you’ll get the point if you know baseball.

R: Well, he was a long time Yankee, so the fact that you bring him up is a little bit...

J: Yeah, it’s a good point. Yeah, he’s fifth all-time in strikeouts in major league baseball but I think he was a 14-time all star and considered one of the best to ever play the game. Yet he’s fifth all time in strikeouts, which tells us you’re gonna strike out a lot of times before you’re ever considered the best ever. Right? You’re going to strike out a lot of times. I want to build a team where we understand that we can confidently strike out because we’re confidently swinging the bat. And when you confidently swing the bat, you’re going to hit more home runs than most ever. You may get more strikeouts than many, but you’ll probably go down as one of the best ever. It’s the person that’s at plate not swinging the bat because they lack confidence as a leader because they lead at an organization where failure is seen as disappointment and failure is seen as a reason to get fired or whatever that looks like. Bad culture. You get a bunch of people standing at plates all across America today and not swinging the bat, calling themselves people who have a job. No, people who have a job get up to the plate and swing the bat.

R: What do you think are some of the things that are confidence-robbers that steal our confidence?

J: Just culture within an organization. I mean, failure in the past, of course, but just, frankly, poor organizational culture is what people step into and they fear that they cannot make decisions because if they make a decision, it’s going to be looked down upon if it doesn’t work. And I just think that from the top down, the bottom up, it has to be an organization where we understand we’re going to make decisions, now we’re not saying we’re trying to make bad decisions, of course we use wisdom and we do the best we can. However, when you’re making a lot of decisions in a fast-paced organization, you’re going to get some wrong.

R: Yeah. Two things that I would say that I’ve seen kind of lived out is…

J: Did you just ask that question so you can give beautiful information? You don’t have to ask the question to.... “What are some things that lead you to believe…” I give an answer and you go, “Yeah, so two things…”

R: I’m glad you asked.

J: “Two things that I’ve seen…”

R: No, you made me think of a meeting that we had this past week. Two things that I would say: Number one, and you’ve said this before…

J: Objection, leading question, your honor.

R: You’ve said this on the podcast, is that we don’t want to make the same mistake over. You love when we make new mistakes.

J: I just told a staff member that yesterday.

R: Exactly. See? You’re proving my point. You reminded me of that meeting is what I’m saying.

J: Yeah, we’re good with failure but you won’t see Next Level making the same mistake too often twice. We learn from our mistakes, which allows mistakes to be beautiful. Cause as long as you learn from the mistake, you’re going to win for the rest of the decisions.

R: Yep, and I’ve seen us celebrate new mistakes. And what I mean by that is we’ll bring it up as an example and just be able to say, “Listen guys, so-and-so tried this and it didn’t work out, but honestly, we celebrate the fact that they stepped out and they tried something new and  they tried something different and it does create this culture where people are not afraid, they’re more confident.

J: What was the second thing?

R: That was the second thing.

J: You only said one.

R: No, the first thing was make new mistakes and the second one is celebrate those mistakes. I think it builds confidence in our team and so in that meeting…

J: Yeski!

R: ...that’s what was reminded. You’re now yelling at staff mid-podcast.

J: Come here. He’s gonna close it out, we’re all done. He doesn’t know the code to get in. Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you just tell our listeners to please leave a review? Come here.

R: You have to do it in the microphone.

J: No, just go with the accent.

R: He’s got a face for radio, ladies and gentlemen.

J: Just say, “Just do us a favor, leave a review and we’ll finish the rest of these points on the next episode.”

Yeski: Okay.

J: Thank you for listening to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast.

Y: Wow, that’s a lot of pressure. Um, just do us a favor, leave us a review, and then,... what was the rest of it?

R: Yeski, you created so much post-production work!

J: You’re HR! Come on!

Y: We’ll finish these next points on the next week, and thank you for listening to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast.

J & R: Yeah!

R: Yeski, ladies and gentlemen!

J: That’s HR, HR really keeps us all together.

R: A lot like Toby from “The Office”. Get out of here, Toby!

J: Toby, I hate you!

R: Hey, thanks so much for tuning in and as you heard from Yeski, leave us a review, help us spread the news.

J: Come on, people, leave a review.

R: We’ll finish up this talk, we got two other things we want to talk to you about next week, so we’ll talk soon.