February 28, 2012
Note: Part 4 of 4 in a series on “Getting Unstuck.”
If you’re still stuck, look around the room the next time your key leaders are gathered. Ask yourself, “Is everyone truly pulling in the same direction?” Churches and other ministries are notorious for their “silos.” A simple definition of an organization that is “silo-ed” is that the people are more interested in and focused on the success of their specific ministries than in the success of the overall organization. Whenever this happens, it is difficult to make progress toward the broader vision.
Few people will admit to this mindset, but we’ve all seen the behavior that indicates its presence. Think of any ministry – worship, youth, children, discipleship, missions, etc. – and you can probably think of someone who only seemed to care about that area. He or she fought for resources and celebrated successes in this one slice of the bigger pie. If you are the first chair leader, you may have even contributed to this issue by emphasizing individual accountability and department-level results.
One of my favorite resources on this topic is The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith. They define a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Common purpose and mutual accountability are some of the most powerful tools that any leader can use to move from silos toward teamwork.
Another of my favorite books is Patrick Lencioni’s The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Lencioni identifies the number one dysfunction as an “absence of trust” And while we may think that this is a disease of the corporate world, any honest ministry leader recognizes that distrust can be just as prevalent and problematic in the church.
Have you ever watched a rowing competition? The difference between a great and an average crew often has more to do with coordination than athleticism. The precision of a great team is a work of art, with each oak striking the water at exactly the same time. Not so for the average crew, which never seems to be in sync, no matter how hard the rowers may try. What does your team look like? Is everyone pulling in the same direction? Or just like the boat that loses the race, are they working hard but not truly working together? If you want to get unstuck, you need a unified team, not a collection of silos.
February 24, 2012
Driving home from a conference in Dallas last night, I stopped at a Dairy Queen in Buffalo (Texas, not New York) for a snack. While I was waiting, I noticed two of the employees walking over to look out the front window. That got my curiosity going, so I looked and saw a spectacular sunset. And in that moment, I sensed a nudge from the Spirit. God was telling me not to miss the wonder in life in my hurry to get to my destination. It’s something that I need to be reminded of regularly. My “to do” list is always long, and I am driven by a desire for accomplishment. And yet, I was reminded that many of the best things in life are free and fleeting. Within a few minutes, the brilliant array of reds and oranges and purples was gone from the sky and night had fallen in Buffalo. But I’m thankful that two teenagers pointed me toward the window and that God used that moment to remind me of an important lesson for life.
February 10, 2012
Note: Part 3 of 4 in a series on “Getting Unstuck.”
Perhaps you have a clear, shared, and compelling vision, but you’re not seeing the momentum or results that you expected. Does that mean the vision is “wrong”? While lack of progress may point to a problem with the vision, it more frequently points to confusion about the visionpath.
If vision describes “where we are going,” visionpath describes “how we will get there.” The ministry world is often full of vision but deficient when it comes to developing a visionpath. Churches and other Christian organizations fall into one of two fatal visionpath traps. The first is producing a mind-numbing list of new initiatives in response to the vision. This approach spares the leaders from making hard choices about priorities in which they must choose to implement certain plans ahead of others. The end result is that nothing happens because the organization is overwhelmed, is incapable of doing all that is required, and doesn’t know how to allocate resources.
The second common problem is a complete lack of a visionpath. This often happens when a charismatic, visionary leader pronounces victory upon articulation of the vision. This leader tends to think the vision statement is all that is needed and that everyone will “get it.” But when he or she leaves the room, the rest of the troops look at each other with puzzled expressions and ask, “Now what?” They aren’t sure how to translate a motivating slogan into concrete plans.
The best visions are linked with visionpaths that are practical and feasible. Ministry leaders must be realistic about the human and financial resources that they have to work with. (This doesn’t mean that God is left out at this point.) A visionpath should describe who is responsible for an initiative, what is being done, and when it will be completed. When this happens, your ministry should be well on the road to getting unstuck. If not, the next blog will deal with a final obstacle to consider – divisions in the team.