Shifting Gears

"Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival. Average people focus their thinking on maintenance. Successful people focus their thinking on progress." (excerpt from Thinking for a Change by John Maxwell) How does a beginning leader switch gears from thinking like a follower to thinking like a leader?

A follower is working for someone and thinks more about what they are doing and on keeping that someone happy. A leader needs to think big picture and work ON the organization instead of FOR the organization.

Even when your followers think “big picture”, and it would be great if all of the team took that level of ownership, it would challenge me as a leader to then keep them all looking in the same direction and working toward the same end.

Think like an owner

Craig Groeschel challenges leaders to think like an owner not like an employer when he says: “Leadership is more about how you think than what you do”.

Everyone on my team is looking to me for direction and for vision. In order to get the desired results I will need to think big picture. After all, the primary responsibility of a leader is to be the vision carrier. It is up to you to see most clearly ahead and decide the right path to take. It's why you are the leader. If you don’t have the vision, you aren’t the leader.

Don't Collect 'Monkeys'

This doesn't mean you are responsible for everything, in fact you must prioritize what's primary to your success. In Ken Blanchard’s book the “One Minute Manager and the Monkey”, he states that if you, as the leader, are the busiest person in your business then you are leading wrong. In his words, you are accepting all of the “monkey’s”. The monkeys represent the next thing to do. He describes the problem of employees running to the leader with their problems and the leader saying, don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it. You are training your followers to turn to you as the answer guy.

Instead Blanchard teaches leaders to ask the employee for 3 ideas on how to they would solve the problem, that way they go away with the monkey. Once they have the 3 solutions, he asks them to pick which one they would most recommend. Now the leader has his team working solving problems and they learn how to be expert problem solvers in the process. That book really revolutionized the way I led and immediately changed my perspective from being busy to being productive. While it a major gear shift in my thinking it took some time for my team to feel secure enough with it, that I could confidently put the monkey back on them.

Teaching your team to operate this way is a process. You have to firstly help them with the process of decision making. Help them separate a good idea from a bad one. And then walk them through with how to choose the best idea and then how to implement it. You gain confidence in your team and they gain confidence in you when you walk together through that process.

Recently our team studied parallel thinking from De Bono’s book “Six thinking hats” which will be looking at during next week's podcast but I want to give you a little sneak peek. De Bono’s book is brilliant because it offers a solution to the age old problem of each of us viewing problems and situations differently based on our outlook on things. Imagine a normal box shaped house. One person is standing in front of the house. One person is standing behind the house. Two other people are standing on each side of the house. All four have a different view of the house. All four are arguing (by intercom) that the view each is seeing is the correct view of the house. What would happen if all four of the people were to stand beside each other and together walk around the house? In traditional thinking, if two people disagree, there is an argument in which each tries to prove the other party wrong. In parallel thinking, both views, no matter how contradictory, are put down in parallel. If, later on, it is essential to choose between the differing positions, then an attempt to choose is made at that point. If a choice cannot be made, then the design has to cover all possibilities. What if there was a way to run our meetings in such a way that we could all look at a situation in the same way, from the same point of view, at the same time and then rotate around to the next perspective together? That’s the basis of the 6 thinking hats. It is really working with making our meetings more effective — and shorter!

Determine your Top 3

We live in an amazing information generation. Dave Nelson says there is 10X more information available today than there was 3 years ago.Filtering through all the information coming at you and learning to separate the relevant from the just interesting is vital to your success as a leader. I have people giving me books and sending me articles to read all of the time. Of course, I can’t get to all of them, so I prioritize by always being aware of what top 3 problems I am trying to solve right now in my organization. And I read and gather information on just those topics right now and table other interesting information to be read later.

I file those resources into Evernote and categorize them according to topics so that when I face a problem I already have banked sources of solutions at might fingertips.

Think on a New Level

If you want to lead on a new level, you have to think on a new level. When I was still pastoring a very small church, I began a relationship with 2 of my mentors, who were both mega-church leaders. Through them, I began to hang around other mega leaders and found that I was becoming more and more comfortable being with high caliber leaders. I wasn’t seeing mega results, and wouldn’t for some time, but I did push myself to think like a mega pastor, before I would get there.

Sometimes asking the right questions gains you a fresh perspective, but shifting gears to this level of leadership requires deliberate effort. One of my mentors to this day is Dr. George Hill. Before we began, I read all of his books and listened to all of his messages over the course of a number of years. I wanted to learn how he thought. When I discovered who he was and his amazing gifts, as I began meeting with him I would shape my questions around that gift to try and draw everything I could out of him. Then, as I was pastoring and encountered problems and roadblocks in my ministry, I would keep a running list of questions in my phone. When I had a chance to speak with him the next time, I’d ask him. I was prepared.

Focus on Who is in Front of You

In one day you can be celebrating with someone who just got saved to hearing from someone who is leaving the church, upset at you because you didn’t do enough, to celebrating with a family during a wedding, to grieving with a family at a funeral, to going to an intense board meeting to discuss the complexities of the finances, to going into a sensitive counselling session with someone who is giving up. All of this can happen in a day, and you have to be at your best for everyone, because they all matter! It’s a big job, but there is nothing quite as rewarding as it! I have learned to switch gears by focusing on who is in front of me instead of focusing on me and how I’m feeling. That’s when I’m at my best.

Ideation verses Implementation

I have learned that there is a big difference between ideation and implementation and they don’t often mix. So, I have learned as a leader who my ideation people are and who my implementation people are and I try to involve the right people at the right phase of a project. That way we can get the most out of everyone and I can get the help I need to switch gears in the process.

There are times when I have had to literally tell my team what stage we are in in discussions. Most of the time it is in the ideation process. I have to say we are just talking ideas here, we will need to work on a plan later. This protects me and the organization from having someone run ahead with a half-baked idea. Plus it helps me focus the conversation from becoming bogged down with all of the “how’s” that often kill creativity.

Mess with the Methods

There comes a time when every leader is challenged to switch gears from what has always worked to a new level of thinking that is more relevant for contemporary leadership. And its hard for leaders to shift their thinking out of their past way of thinking because change is hard. It always requires us to give up something we love or are comfortable with and it always requires us to lose something. It’s much easier in the short term to settle. But the truth is, if we don’t change we lose in the long term. We have to be always studying our results and if we begin slipping in our results we need to dig past the excuses and bring change. It really is change or die.

We are continually shifting gears at My Victory by messing with the methods of preaching the gospel to unchurched people, but we never compromise the Gospel. As pastors we often are accustomed to shifting gears spiritually but can struggle with shifting gears in our methods. It’s so easy for us to get focused on our methods and think that that is the only way to do things. We even think that the methods are the message, but that is not always the case. We have to always be willing to ask “why?” Why are we doing it that way? What result are we looking for? Are we getting the desired results? If we are not, who is? Is there a better way? Without compromising the message?

This shifting of gears with the methods has become my major heart cry because I am driven to fulfill the great commission Jesus gave the church, to make disciples. To populate Heaven and to plunder hell. If I stop seeing souls being saved and disciples being made, then something is wrong. And it is not the message! It is often the messenger. So I need to change, and always be changing… Because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, by every available means, at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.