Monday, October 23, 2006


Are you making progress? Are things in a forward gear, as opposed to neutral? One way to get things moving is to constantly define "next steps" in conversations you are having with ministry leaders.

Never leave a conversation about the ministry without defining "the next step" that needs to be taken, and by whom, and by when, and at what point you will check back in. Defining the next step has the following benefits:

1. Releases energy to take the step. Ken Blanchard says, "The more clearly one understands what must be done, the greater the energy and motivation that exist for doing it."

2. Gets the ball rolling. We all know that the all important "first step" of any project is the most difficult to take. Once that step is taken the others become easier.

3. Breaks the project into bite-sized pieces. It is much less daunting to consider taking the next step in the project --make the phone call, schedule the appointment -- rather than being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the entire project.

4. Allows for two focal points. Defining the next step allows you to switch your focus back and forth between the "bigger picture" and the "next step." You can leverage these two points of view back and forth. If the bigger picture is overwhelming, focus on the next step. If the next step is discouraging, then focus on the "bigger picture."

Let me expand on point 4. for a second, because I view it to be a key lesson. Leadership requires vision, but the object of a leader’s vision is not always far off in the distance. In fact, the most effective leaders are constantly alternating their focus from near to far, and back. When it seems as though the work that is right in front of a leader is pointless, then a leader knows to expand his field of vision to see a bigger picture. When the bigger picture is overwhelming, he comes back to the next step that needs to be taken (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.) This is an important leadership principle as you attempt to make progress: When what you are looking at causes you to stall, change your focal length (either get smaller or bigger in your point of view).

This principle also matters to those who are following you. In your communications to those you lead you need to vary the focal length from time to time, as well. If a leader constantly paints a HUGE picture, people can become burnt out by the magnitude of it and actually end up uninspired, because it seems unrealistic. So a leader needs to shorten the focal length from time to time and present a “small picture” – something that can be easily assimilated. For instance, to say “We want to establish 100 small groups in the next five years” is a great big picture statement. A small picture statement might be, “We want to start a new small group in the next thirty days.” Alternating these statements is the best case scenario. The statement about 100 groups provides context for the single group you are starting. The statement about the single group brings credibility to the vision of 100 groups.

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