How to be a DAREing Leader

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. This pace has only been accelerating because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in our lives.

The very nature of ministry often makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Is it possible that our productivity could actually be increased by first slowing down?

THE QUICK SUMMARYWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

Do work that matters.

Productivity isn’t just about getting more things done. It’s about getting the right things done–the things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward. In our current era of massive overload, this is harder than ever before. So how do you get more of the right things done without confusing mere activity for actual productivity?

When we take God’s purposes into account, a revolutionary insight emerges. Surprisingly, we see that the way to be productive is to put others first–to make the welfare of other people our motive and criteria in determining what to do (what’s best next). As both the Scriptures and the best business thinkers show, generosity is the key to unlocking our productivity. It is also the key to finding meaning and fulfillment in our work.

By anchoring your understanding of productivity in God’s purposes and plan, What’s Best Next will give you a practical approach for increasing your effectiveness in everything you do. This expanded edition includes a new chapter on productivity in a fallen world and a new appendix on being more productive with work that requires creative thinking.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

Jocelyn Glei describes the concept of “reactionary workflow” as follows: “Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us.”

According to this line of thought, being informed and constantly updated becomes a disadvantage when the deluge of information coming in supplants your space to think and act.

Cal Newport takes this concept further, writing about a “deep reset.” Already in existence, but exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing a severe dislocation to much of what they’ve come to trust and to expect.

What is the best response to this “severe dislocation”?

The essence of a Gospel Driven Life is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God – and that this is the most exciting life.

Matt Perman

To be a gospel-driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all areas of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard-to-keep-up systems.

There are four steps for leading and managing yourself for effectiveness: define, architect, reduce, and execute.

Define

This means not only knowing where you are going, but also knowing your criteria for deciding that altogether. This is not just a matter of clarifying your values, It is a matter of identifying the right values to have, and basing outlives – our entire lives, especially right here at the center – on those values that God and His Word lift up as central.

Architect

Once you identified the most important principles, goals, and ongoing priorities in your life, you can’t just leave it at that. You have to weave these things into the structure of your life through a basic schedule, or time map, because intentions aren’t enough. The essence of the architecture step can be summarized this way: Structure your life by living your life mainly from a flexible routine, to a set of lists.

Reduce

After creating this structure, often you’ll find that making everyone fit is the biggest obstacle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve archived wrong; it just means you need to reduce. But you don’t get rid of the rest by simply letting balls drop. Rather, you do it by creating systems and using tactics that ultimately expand your capacity. The essence of reducing can be summarized this way: Reduce not the basis of what’s most important, not on the basis of living a minimalistic life, and do this by implementing systems that enable you to ultimately expand your capacity overall.

Execute

This is the stage of making things happen in the moment. It is easy to think of execution as synonymous with productivity, but in reality it is actually only the last step. Execution is about living out our priorities every day, on a moment-by-moment basis. Plan your week, manage your workflow, and make your projects and actions happen – along with navigating your day in the moment.

Conveniently, these steps form the acronym DARE. We should be radical and risky and creative and abundant in using our effectiveness to make life better for others.

Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

A NEXT STEP

In the author’s words, will you DARE to let the gospel transform the way you get things done? Here are some of his ideas:

Define

  • Develop a mission statement for your life that actually works
  • Define your roles and keep track of them

Architect

  • Create a good weekly schedule
  • Set up the right routines

Reduce

  • Learn how to handle interruptions
  • Overcome procrastination

Execute

  • Plan your week in a few simple steps
  • Create simple project plans

Even by just reading the above list, you will be able to improve your productivity. For deeper dives into each of the areas listed, as well as additional helps, be sure to check out these additional author’s resources.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years, one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of My Weekly Reader, a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

Are You a “Rested” Leader?

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. This pace has only been accelerating because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in our lives.

The very nature of ministry often makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Is it possible that our productivity could actually be increased by first slowing down?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Every Day Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity by Brandon D. Crow

True productivity is less about getting things done; it is more concerned with stewarding priorities, time, and resources wisely and faithfully in a way that honors God. In Every Day Matters Brandon Crowe provides an accessible and biblical understanding of productivity filled with practical guidance and examples.

Crowe draws insights from wisdom literature and the life and teaching of the Apostle Paul to reclaim a biblical perspective on productivity. He shows the implications for matters such as setting priorities and goals, achieving rhythms of work and rest, caring for family, maintaining spiritual disciplines, sustaining energy, and engaging wisely with social media and entertainment.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In the book of Genesis, we find the description of a seven-day week. On the first six of these days, God works. He begins by creating the universe, and as the week progresses, culminates His work of creation with man and woman.

As God’s week progressed, things got more complicated. After each of the first five days, God said, “Good.” After the pinnacle of his creation – Adam and Eve – God said, “Very good.”

But on the seventh day, God created the Sabbath, and whispered, “Holy.”

Up until this point, everything had been created out of nothing, but on the morning of the seventh day, God makes nothing out of something. Rest is brought into being.

The word Sabbath means “cease from working.” Resting one day a week by any name is holy – the point is to stop on that day and look for God.

Could it be that if we want to be our best, to be productive, we must do so from a day of rest?

To maintain an effective, productive lifestyle, you need rhythms of rest built into your schedule. Instead of working longer hours each day, you should aim to maximize your time devoted to working so that you have time to recover before the next day.

Brandon D. Crowe

Rest

One of the great productivity myths is that you can accomplish more by working longer hours and cutting back on sleep. But sleep cannot be cheated. You need various kinds of rest:

  • You need to get enough sleep each night.
  • You need breaks while you are working.
  • You need a weekly day of rest.
  • It’s wise to take time for an extended period of rest on a yearly basis – a vacation.

Refresh

In addition to sleep, you need recreation of down time in order to be refreshed. Not all rest, in other words, has to be sleeping. Sometimes resting from work means being alive in other ways. You need things to do when you’re not working that bring enjoyment, which ends up funneling into increased productivity when you are working. These are ways to decompress and unwind.

Despite your best intentions, you will not succeed in staying focused each day. You will fail. You will get distracted. Every day matters, but you will not be at your best every day. Do not be discouraged; each day is a new day, and each day is a new opportunity to move forward.

Repent

You should repent daily from your sins. This is not simply a matter of productivity, but a matter of pleasing God. You should constantly be examining your life to consider where you have sinned, and where you have sinned, you should repent and ask God to forgive you. A consistent review process will give you an opportunity to recognize and address negative habits.

Resolve

You also need to consistently renew your commitment to the most important things. Resolve to grow each day. As you identify areas that need improvement, recommit yourself anew each day to your vision and priorities. Each day is a new day for you to live by your priorities and do those things you know need to be done.

Brandon D. Crow, Every Day Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity

A NEXT STEP 

Author Brand Crowe developed the following action steps in the areas of Rest, Refresh, Repent, and Resolve. Set aside some time before the end of this week to review these, and resolve to begin implementing them next week.

  1. Track your sleep to determine how much sleep you need to function well.
  2. Determine what time you need to get up in the mornings for your personal routine, and resolve to go to bed sufficiently early to allow for your needed levels of sleep.
  3. Put away work related issues after your eventing shut-down rituals.
  4. Write down two to three activities you would like to do to provide refreshment. Begin to pursue these as you have opportunity.
  5. Resolve to take Sunday off from work to focus on worship and others.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

To Improve Your Personal Productivity, You’ve Got to Change Your Habits

Does your team need practical help with personal productivity?

You have a pretty good sense that most of your team has too much to handle and not enough time to get it done – you may not have a sense of how much you are contributing to the problem.

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. Why not show them how by modeling effectiveness in your leadership?

By its very nature ministry makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Solution: Change Your Habits

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Following habits is an important part of our personal routine, whether at home, work, or play. When you get up in the morning, you go through a routine to get ready for your day. When you arrive at work, you go through a routine for the day. When you arrive at home after work, you go through a routine for the evening. When tomorrow arrives, you begin it all over again.

Most habits are benign, but even some habits you maintain – at work, for instance – can be ineffective at best and detrimental to your job at worst.

If you desire to be more productive, you need to understand more about habits – and how to change them.

Research has documented that habits are a three-step loop in our brains. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward – becomes more and more automatic. You become locked in to the habits to the point that you no longer think about it. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.

While many of your habits are positive and productive, there are probably a few or more that could be improved. The problem is, habits are hard to change.

Unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

Changing a habit might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.

Here’s the framework for changing habits:

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with rewards
  • Isolate the cue
  • Have a plan

Step One: Identify the Routine

Researchers at MIT discovered a simple, neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your loops. Once you have diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behavior, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines. The first step is to identify the routine – the behavior you want to change.

Step Two – Experiment with Rewards

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the craving that drives our behaviors. Most cravings are obvious in retrospect, but incredibly hard to see when we are under their sway. To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving.

Step Three: Isolate the Cue

To identify a cue, identify categories of behaviors ahead of time to scrutinize in order to see patterns. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action

Step Four: Have a Plan

Once you’ve figured out your habit loop – you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself – you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving.

– Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

A NEXT STEP

Set aside two hours to examine your typical ministry weekday schedule. Identify at least three habits in your schedule that are not effective in helping you be as effective for the gospel as you could be. Of the three, choose the one habit that, if changed, will benefit you the most.

Using Steps Two – Four from the framework above, begin the process of changing that habit. Follow each of the steps, spending time each day for two weeks on building personal effectiveness into this part of your schedule.

After two weeks of your experiment in modifying the change of habit, evaluate your progress with the following questions:

  • How easy was it to first identify habits that needed to be changed and then select just one?
  • How many rewards did you experiment with changing? What was the key to finding the most successful one?
  • How easy was it to isolate the cue among all the noise of your daily activity? Which of the five categories was the clear leader in the cue?
  • How easy was it for you to begin making choices again in changing your behavior?

Make a calendar reminder for three months to determine if you are still following your changed habit. Once you feel some momentum, lead your team to walk through this process.


Becoming effective in your own work habits will serve as both an inspiration and guide for your team. By demonstrating an effective, balanced role model, you are leading your team to effectiveness of vision, not just managing their output of activity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 16-1, published June 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

It’s Your Move

In the easy-reading but powerfully-impacting style he is known for, Mark Miller has released his newest book Chess Not Checkers.

And he’s not playing around…

Well, actually he is – and that’s the part leaders everywhere will enjoy. Miller tells the story of Blake Underwood, newly appointed CEO of a company troubled by poor performance and low morale. Nothing seems to work – especially trying to do what he’s always done before.

The problem, his new mentor points out, is that Blake is playing the wrong game.

ChessNotCheckers

Here’s a couple of quotes that set the whole book up:

Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary.

The game today for most leaders can be better compared to chess – a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.

Chess Not Checkers is an enjoyable read that leaders in all organizations will want to put into practice quickly. Here are the “4 Winning Moves” Miller develops in the book:

  • Bet on Leadership – Growing leaders grow organizations
  • Act as One – Alignment multiplies impact
  • Win the Heart – Engagement energizes effort
  • Excel at Execution – Greatness hinges on execution

It’s your move…

ChessNotCheckers

Moving from Chief Executive Officer to Chief EXECUTION Officer

What happens when the CEO gets involved in the details of strategy execution?

The E in CEO gets changed.

It’s all too easy for a leader to delegate the actions of strategy execution to levels of management below them.

And it’s a mistake.

By retaining the execution of strategy, the Chief Execution Officer can achieve consensus and commitment across the leadership team; establish and preserve the integrity of the strategy; and engage the team. If done correctly, this approach and these achievements can greatly improve any strategy’s performance.

Randall Russell, VP at Palladium Group and founding editor of Balanced Scorecard Report, has identified the following three practices that can lead to a successful management style of a Chief Execution Officer.

Lead the Leadership Team – creating a leadership team that is unified around the strategy is the most important prerequisite for successful strategy execution. Consensus on and commitment to the strategy provides a litmus test for determining who should stay on the team – and who should go.

Share the Story of the Strategy – too many strategies never get executed because they remain the closely guarded secrets of the leadership team. To be effective, strategy should be shared with all team members. Successful organizations believe that people who perform non-strategic but vital roles should know the general outline of the strategy so that they can become more engaged and find ways to contribute.

Leverage Strategic Performance Feedback – Once the strategy is se and the extended team is engaged, a system of strategic performance feedback must be established. Alignment of performance reward and recognition systems with strategy execution must be done early in the process. Team members who see how their individual roles make a difference will be powerfully motivated.

Application for ChurchWorld Leaders

  1. Establish cross-functional integration, high-level consensus, and commitment to the strategy across your leadership team.
  2. Translate the strategy into a set of measurable objectives that guide behavior across all your teams.
  3. Integrate organization-wide measurements that enable individuals to understand their contribution to the strategy
  4. Align reward and recognitions to the overall strategy while acknowledging unique individual contributions.

Smart leaders translate strategy into execution.

For more information, see the full story here.