I can faintly recall as a child preparing to go on a road trip with my family, determined to bring every toy I owned along for the trip. Only to have my hopes tarnished by my mother saying “choose one to bring and leave the rest”. At seven years old this was absurd. How was I supposed to weigh out the balance of importance from one toy to another. Certain toys taught me lessons, others gave me memories, a few of them allowed me to see a stronger version of myself.
Almost thirty years later and this is still a problem. Not with toys, but tactics. The only differences are, the journey has changed, and new seasons are demanding us as leaders to leave some things behind. How do we embrace the unknown journey ahead and be able to distinguish which attributes are going to propel us forward, and which ones are going to leave us ineffective?
Here are three ways to filter what needs to be carried forward and what needs to be left in yesterday.
- Ask yourself, “Am I married to the idea or surrendered to the vision?”
Your life experiences have subconsciously built in you a backlog of preferences. Which is great because it develops your individual profile and gives you perspective no one else has. The downfall of this is that we can allow our preferences often to drive our decisions and when you’re leading and choosing direction, the paths you choose need to benefit the whole as opposed to appeasing your personal likes.
This is where many leaders and organizations get stuck because along their journey they tapped into a season where the path and their preferences married and were successful for a temporary time. The goal remains the same but the game often changes which will require us to be willing to adapt to new equipment and operate from a different playbook.
As a leader, if you’re willing to surrender your preferences to open up new paths, you will empower others on the team to lay the groundwork while you embrace the rewards of a new season with a new direction.
- Are you giving it enough time to produce?
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the follow through. Throw me a new idea or project everyday and you’ll never hear me complain. But, if you ask me to maintain and evaluate a project’s success rate to completion you’ve got the wrong guy. Don’t judge. This can be diagnosed as a character flaw but more often than not it’s a skillset issue.
Here’s the thing, and pastors are the worst for this. We’ll introduce the latest idea, give it a couple weeks or a month and if we’re not seeing results, we look for the next/latest popular church trend and try to implement it. Ultimately we end up taking our teams shopping looking for basic necessities and they end up in the changerooms trying on multiple outfits. It’s exhausting, directionless and even if you find one that’s palatable, you’re still undervaluing the unmatched experience of having your team work together to gain buy-in for where they feel God is moving the body next.
To sum it up, you will never produce what you don’t have the patience for. The best things are developed over time.
- Is it feeling? Or Foundational?
To be able to put your forward decisions through this filter can be difficult. I remember when I first came to church. I knew very little about the foundations of God’s Word, but I do know that when the music hit, there was a whirlwind of feelings and, depending on the band, those feelings would change. There’s nothing wrong with feelings. We’re human. We all have them. Passion doesn’t come from a 42 page manual. It’s a byproduct of our convictions meeting a cause.
However, feelings are fickle. They waiver. This is never a lone basis to guide your decisions. Foundations are what makes buildings rise or fall. The taller the building, the wider/deeper the foundation needs to be. In your path leading forward, these are not opposites but perfect partners. Allow yourself to weigh the decision in the balance of these two attributes.
Give your people direction in a way that allows them to emotionally attach themselves to the cause while giving them the foundational purposes of why you exist as an organization. Lean too heavy on the feelings side and you’ll create a flaky, inconsistent team. Lean too heavy on the foundational side and you’ll have head strong people but ineffective at compassionately meeting the needs of the community with a very low emotional intelligence..
In your new direction, develop guardrails that embrace emotion and foundational cornerstones and you will create a following that can intellectually and emotionally take new territory.