Stirred But Not Shaken

Leaders come and go. Their seasons change. Their circle of influence changes and their challenges change.  Some rise to top, and others slowly drift away. What is the difference in the mindset of a leader that never stops stretching and is resilient compared to a leader that get buried beneath crisis, personal struggles or loss of motivation and passion? Why are some leaders stirred to go forward and some shaken by the amount of challenges and problems facing them? How do you become a leader that rises to the challenge regardless of the season you are in?

Develop A Personal Growth Plan

I became a Senior Pastor at 23 years old. I knew right away that I had no idea what I was doing.How was I going to get people follow me?I knew I needed to figure out how to lead, and fast. So I began to read like I never had before.I listened to every great leader I could, trying to get as much information into my brain as it could. I devoured knowledge and it became addictive.

The key to stretching yourself, and growing as a leader, is to develop a consistent personal growth plan. When you do,it is inevitable that those you lead will grow. Maybe not immediately, and certainly not as fast as all of us would like, but they will grow.

If you have ever gone water skiing from a dock, you know that the boat leaves first and you can watch as the rope unravels until suddenly it catches and you are launched out. That’s what happens with growing leaders. Eventually the rope catches. If you are growing - what you lead will grow. And when it grows, you are in new territory and will have to continue to grow in order to manage what has now grown. This is the addictive cycle. And for me, this cycle has caused me to be resilient in my personal growth plan.

Retrain Your Brain

We all battle indecision and procrastination, sometimes more fiercely than others. The key to pushing yourself through is to trick your brain into thinking differently. I think that is what Paul must’ve meant when he termed the phrase “renewing the mind.” It’s simply retraining your brain. I think each one of us has to do some self study and find the best way that will work for them. For me, one of the best ways is by utilizing my calendar. I find that when I place things directly into my calendar, instead of on a to do list, I am more likely to get right to it instead of procrastinating.

Allowing yourself blocks of uninterrupted time keeps you stirred in one direction. So I utilize weekly routines, categorizing my days into blocks of time.This allows me to be consistent each week with what I am focused on. For example; I block Monday’s for message prep, instead of procrastinating and getting to my message later in the week. I found I am more focused in prep time when I get right to it after the previous Sunday. It’s in my calendar, and so it gets done.

Realize the Importance of Re-creation.

But what happens when your desire for success is lower than that of your followers? Its time to find a way to regain and reengineer your passion, momentum, giftings and sense of urgency or risk being replaced.

I am very passionate about purposed rest and recreation. To me, I think when I learned this trick, it actually transformed my abilities as a leader. That’s probably why I am so passionate about it. I used to just rest... if I got everything done. There was no focused purpose behind it, I just did it when I had to. The truth is, I was neglecting myself, my health, my family, and my church. By just resting…. I mean I would sleep in real late on my day off and then go to the couch and watch movies or play video games all day. Just trying to get my brain to shut off from the stresses of leading. The problem was, I was often more tired afterward and more stressed and less able to focus. So, I changed my routine.

I decided that I needed to do more than just rest, I needed to recreate. Recreation is just re-creation — re-creating yourself. So, instead of watching movies and lazing around all day, shutting the brain off, I decided to activate the brain instead. I actually put into my calendar, on my days off, reading time and family time. I take my kids out on daddy dates in the morning because they recreate me. I date my wife in the evening because one on one time with her recreates me. And I will take 3-4 hours in the afternoons — on my day off — to sit in a coffee shop somewhere with a good coffee and a good book and feed my brain instead of starving it. I began looking forward to getting back to work and felt energized and full of new ideas and life. Doing this as a regular habit created a way for me to regularly regain and reengineer my own passions.

Each leader must ask “what recreates me?” And then put that into your regular weekly routine to keep your passions fired and consequently keep yourself stirred. By recreating you draw from every area of your life and you become energized.

Lead With Vision

A couple of years ago my dad gave me a plaque that says, “Lead With Vision.” I keep that visible in my office as a constant reminder to myself of the importance of leading with vision, instead of reaction. Glen Jackson says when "leaders lose focus, they lose momentum and get distracted by pressure rather than priorities."

It is too easy for leaders to react to what’s going on around them, to allow the whirlwind of priorities to distract them from advancing their vision. I know I talked about this in a previous podcast entitled “How to Make Winning a Habit”, but I believe it is worth repeating here. I believe there are four deadly “D’s” to leaders that we all need focus on overcoming:

  1. Distractions. The more success you have the more distractions tend to come your way. It’s important to ask yourself with every decision, “will this opportunity benefit the big picture of the organization and it’s vision, or is it a distraction?”

  2. Discouragements. Every leader battles discouragement. It’s going to happen. And it is usually the result of the regular pressures of being a leader. That’s why it is so important to regularly “re-create” yourself and find a way to refuel and re-fire.

  3. Divisions. Divisions come when there are multiple visions. Multiple visions tend to occur when we become distracted by pressure and reactive instead of leading and advancing with the focused vision.

  4. Disengagement. If I feel myself disengaging from God, people, or the vision I know that there is a problem, most likely because I have lost focus, got distracted, or lost momentum because I was overcome by the pressures. Again, I need to reflect, regroup, or recreate to get my passion hot again.

Address the Warning Signs

Watch the warning signs of being "shaken".  Loss of focus, feeling distracted, becoming isolated. Emotional or physical exhaustion. When you begin to echo the language of disappointment, discouragement and depression you may be on the brink of burnout.

It is vital for a leader to read the signs in their own lives of when they are tired and on their way to burning out. For me, I know I am heading there when I am more emotionally reactive to circumstances then normal. When something little bothers me, I’m like, uh oh, I better schedule some rest and recreation time. Learn to read the physical signs. If I am needing more and more coffee just to stay alert in a day, that’s not good. If I just can’t seem to get enough sleep, that’s not good. If it gets harder and harder to spring out of bed in the morning, that’s not good.

I have learned over the years of doing ministry to know the seasons in the year when, no matter how disciplined I am in my weekly recreation time, I am just tired. And, my wife and I schedule regularly holidays in those seasons for rest and recreation. I think we need to understand and utilize both rest and recreation to avoid burning out.

Develop Your Team

Choose wisely who you surround yourself with. It takes a lot of self-control to optimize opportunities while at the same time prioritize day to day operations without adding undue stress to the team.  Realize that EQ — or emotional quotient — is more important than IQ, talent, or skills. When hiring and working with my staff, I try to surround myself with leaders who have high EQ. Skills and talent are important, but they are easier to teach and train into someone than EQ. That’s the first step.

The second one is to regularly teach your people the value of a personal growth plan. Hold them accountable for growing themselves. If any of us on leadership stop growing, our organization will stop growing. So, I regularly ask them about their growth plan. I regularly resource them with books, podcasts, or conferences to keep them stirred. If they are regularly stirred, they will keep me regularly stirred. And we wont be shaken by day to day operations.

Then, give them projects.That’s the third way. I regularly give them projects that will challenge them and stretch them. I believe it was Noel Tichy who said“Winning leaders push people not just to memorize the organization’s values but to wrestle with them, to internalize and use them.” He advocates putting people “in progressively more difficult situations where they have to make decisions, and then give feedback and support.”

This keeps them stirred and engaged.

How do you develop the mindset of a leader that is always stretching to remain stirred?

  1. Develop a personal growth plan.

  2. Retrain your brain by utilizing your calendar to create blocks of uninterrupted time.

  3. Realize the importance of recreation and schedule it.

  4. Lead with vision. Act not react.

  5. Address the warning signs.

  6. Develop your team.

It is vital to continually grow and stretch both yourself and your teams how to live stirred but not shaken life if you want to take your church, your business, your life to the next level.

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