OK – I promised that I would give some how-to on leadership activities.
1) Cast Vision or Mission (at some level) for the future activities
Vision or mission can start with one person, but often things seem so obvious to that person (who had or received the vision) that it takes other leaders questioning how things work or how things happen to really flesh it out. When you share your vision, you want it to be a relatively complete and comprehensible story. Collaborating with other leaders is a great way to get feedback.
Not suggesting that the vision itself should change, but we need to become better at communication. The communicator is responsible for the content. If you send but nobody receives – that is not communication – that is broadcasting. If you are speaking English but your audience is Spanish speakers – is that going to work? How about if you are speaking martian? Or theological jargon?
Preachers can spend years in seminary developing their ability to communicate biblical truth. Yet when communicating about other things, they don’t practice with the same level or they delegate to other leaders. Leaders should collaborate around the content and communication of vision so that
a) all (leaders) are invested in the vision (there is unity).
b) the communication to the larger community is well thought out and aimed at the target audience.
c) all are able to answer questions and explain the meaning of the vision from the perspective of their role.
2) Establish Goals
Goals are important. When we set goals, we want to ensure that they support our vision. We want to ensure that they can be understood and explained. We want to be sure that they can be measured. Goals are important because they provide a framework for planning and measuring our progress in implementing the vision we have for our ministry. Not only do they allow us to measure progress, but they allow us to publicly celebrate that progress.
Goals help us in two ways:
a) They help us break down the mission into discrete components that we can plan around (plannability)
b) They help us publicly celebrate or express our progress towards mission achievement along the way. This helps keep people interested and excited about what God is doing.
3) Create Plans
While your vision is broad, your goals are focused. Your goals don’t change – but how you will achieve the goals will change as you progress. The “how” is your plan.
STEPS: A plan is nothing more than a set of steps or tasks that represent what needs to be done to accomplish a goal or some set of goals. As you work through the steps, you may find that some tasks that are needed are missing from your plan. Other times you find that some planned steps are not really necessary or important. Plans can change! Sometimes your plan is ineffective – that doesn’t invalidate the goal(s) you intended to achieve. As the plan changes, you should continue to evaluate whether or not it is aligned with the goals.
RESOURCES: Plans have to contemplate resources. Human, financial, facility, equipment etc. Along with each step or task, there is some human effort, some cost, some facility or equipment that is needed. A task may require specific skills. As you plan your tasks, note the resources that will be required and whether they are flexible (can 1 person do the task – can the task be split among 10 people, can you use any room or does the room have specific requirements, etc).
SEQUENCE: Planned tasks tend to be done in some sequence. Sometimes tasks require or are simplified if other tasks are complete first (i.e. you can’t paint the walls until you hang the wallboard). Sometimes tasks produce knowledge that is essential for future tasks. Sometimes multiple tasks can be done at the same time. That is called “concurrency”. Concurrency is limited by the availability of resources. Sometimes I could do two tasks at the same time, but since I only have one person to do them, I end up doing them “serially”. Your sequence is not dependent on the availability of resources.
SCHEDULE: Planned tasks are completed in time. They start on some day and they are complete on some day. Sequence is important, but is not the only thing that affects the schedule. The task cannot start until we have resources available to do it. Sometimes tasks are dependent on external events (we can’t do this until the next board meeting). The thing about the plan is that everyone is focused on when it will be done. The schedule determines when it will be done. Of course execution can be ahead of or behind schedule – but the schedule is what you are talking about.
The thing about plans is that they change. They change because our original plan was incomplete. They change because our most recent plan was insufficient. They change because our current plan was optimistic. They change because they were not perfect. There is nothing wrong with having a plan change, as long as we are aware of the change and communicate to our constituents.
4) recruit and develop staff (including leaders)
The important things you want to accomplish as a leader involve other people. Be they volunteers or paid staff, they are your staff and they are the most important resources to achieving your important goals.
Talents and Skills: Everyone has some talent or skill. Most people are happiest when they are able to contribute using the things they are already good at. It is the leader’s job to know who is good at what, and when we need them.
Leadership Ability: Some people are born leaders, others grow into leadership roles. You need to have a way of assessing who wants to lead, and who is “ready” to lead. You need to take their desire and help them become prepared to lead others.
Personality: Some people are extroverted, good communicators. Some are compliant servants. Still others are hard driving achievers. Others are behind the scenes helpers. Some work with their hands, others with their mouths, still others with their minds. We need all kinds, not just one kind. When we plan, we need tasks suited to all kinds. And when we create tasks, we need to know who we have available that can do them.
Movement: We want people to move from the fringes to the core. As people get involved, we want them to participate in the work, then we want them to be responsible for the work, then we want them to be responsible for others doing the work, etc. Not everyone has leadership ability or even desire to lead, but you will not discover this unless you work side by side with them.
5) encourage/influence others to invest (mentally/emotionally) in the vision/mission
While we are expressing the vision or mission, and defining the goals and creating the plans and recruiting the staff – we should be communicating in ways that get our constituents fired up about the vision. We should be encouraging others to consider funding and or staffing parts of the necessary work to accomplish the mission. We should celebrate the successes – the achievement of goals. Nothing gets people more excited about participating in a “movement” than when they see movement; progress; action.
6) execute plans
You have made the plan, recruited the staff, coalesced the right investment in the vision or mission. Now it is time to get it done. Execution means following the plan, and helping others follow the plan. It means adjusting the plan when it is not good enough, and it means communicating when things are changing, so that there is no confusion or missed expectations.
Execution means dealing with disappointments, and managing peoples expectations. Execution means dealing with the unexpected and re-planning when things don’t go the way you thought.
7) achieve goals
To achieve the goal, you have to remember the goal. You can’t get so caught up in the planning and the details of execution that you forget about the goal. The leader has to remind everyone else why we started doing this in the first place.
Sometimes to meet goals you have to make compromises. The leader will have to carefully weigh options and choose in ways that allow plans to be altered so that goals are achieved. People can get hung up on the plans, but the leader has to focus on the goals and alter the plans to ensure goal achievement. In these alterations, there must be communication, so that ALL the people who are executing the plan can “keep up with the changes”. Leadership involves a certain amount of improvisation, but when too many people are “improvising” there can be a discord. The leader needs to keep the general order as changes are contemplated, and keep the team focused on the goals, so that changes and compromises intended to increase the probability of achieving goals don’t destroy the teams ability to execute.
8) develop other leaders
As an organizational leader, you work with others continuously. You should be identifying and developing talent, and looking for prospective leaders to join your leadership team. You should be looking for those with talents that complement your own, such that the team is improved and strengthened with each addition. You develop leaders by giving them opportunities to lead; by assigning them leadership activities. You develop leaders by giving them expectations and asking them to “make good” on those expectations. You develop leaders by observing how they work and giving them frequent feedback, both affirmative and corrective. You develop leaders by modeling leadership attributes in front of them, and allowing them to observe your leadership and learn from it. You develop leaders by spending (investing) time with them.
So now the question goes to you, as a leader, which of these activities are you doing? Which of them would you say needs work?