How to Be Strategic

It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Most Saturdays for our little family are filled running between baseball games, lacrosse games and eating food in the car. We’ve been pretty lucky thus far to juggle practice nights during the week without feeling like we are all running in opposite directions. However, Saturdays are a bit trickier. Everyone plays on Saturday. This usually involves at least two cars, some expert scheduling to get everyone where they need to be on time, and a lot of FaceTime calls so one parent can include the other parent in watching an at bat or goal scored from miles away.

A few weeks ago Tucker had team pictures at 8am, a baseball game at 9am, Cooper had a baseball game 20 miles away at 9am, and Branson had a lacrosse game 10 miles away, but not until 3pm. To complicate things a bit, Corrie’s phone had been dropped that week and her screen was cracked so much she was getting glass on her face whenever she talked on the phone. Knowing that our schedule would not be conducive to getting it fixed the next week I decided to “fit in” a Genius Bar appointment around lunchtime.

So…after the morning games I went and parked my car at the field where Branson would play later that afternoon, Corrie met me and we rode together to the mall to eat lunch and get her phone fixed. Then we drove back to Branson’s game where we had two cars.

I’m a dork, so I have to tell you that I actually sat down the night before to chart out the plan and talk it through with Corrie. I had checked Waze to make sure I knew how far it was between the various locations we needed to be throughout the day. I was pretty pumped about my plan.

That’s really all strategy is…a plan.

A lot of people say, “I’m not strategic” or “I need someone to help me develop a strategy for that.” While I agree that there are people who are more strategic thinkers than others, I think we can all be strategic. It just requires a little planning.

So here’s 4 ways to be more strategic.

1- Define the goal.

For us on that Saturday it was getting everyone where they needed to be as efficiently as possible. At my church, we have a goal to see 15 people get outside the United States this year and serve on the “mission field.” In your home, maybe it is getting all the laundry done before guests come visit next weekend. It doesn’t really matter what your goal is. You just have to know what it is.

2- Decide who will be involved.

Some people wait to add people to the process after the plan is developed. I like to know who and how many before I work out the how. Having a few more or a few less people may dictate what we actually do.

3- Determine the plan.

Work backwards from your goal. We had to get to Branson’s game by 2:30 for warmups. So what time do we need to leave the mall? Okay, is there a Genius Bar appointment between 12 and 1pm? How long will it take us to get to the mall from the field? What time would Tucker’s game need to be over for us to get to the mall on time? There seems to be extra time, would it be beneficial to park a car and meet so we are only driving one car to the mall and back?

Or…The guests arrive on Friday. I have 96 loads of laundry. It takes 2 hours to wash, dry and fold a load. I need at least 6 hours of sleep per night. So I have 18 hours a day of non-stop laundry to get it all done. 😉

You may realize as you work backwards that you have to eliminate some steps, or you don’t have time or the resources to do what needs to be done. So you have to change the plan, move the deadline or change the number of people involved.

4- Don’t be too rigid.

Work your plan, but be willing to adapt if necessary. Strategy is only as good as it’s execution. So don’t give up if it doesn’t work exactly like you hoped it would (more on that later this week).

I promise you can be strategic. You just have spend some time developing a plan.

 

If you are trying to accomplish something and need an outside set of eyes to help you develop or think through your strategy click here. I’d love to help.

How to Make Better Decisions

Knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no”

Recently our family visited the beach for Spring Break. The evenings were filled with All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffets, lazer tag, go-kart racing and Aloe Vera. The days were filled with walks on the beach, swimming in the pool, sand castles and riding waves in the ocean.

As I watched my three boys riding waves it was quickly obvious that what could be a leisurely activity was turning into the Wave Riding World Championship. They walked, waded, and maneuvered their way out to deeper waters and then waited…

It was at this point that I realized they were demonstrating something in the ocean that I needed in my leadership.

Not every wave is worth riding. Learning which waves to ride is what makes you successful.

There are literally millions of books, podcasts, magazines, and blog posts to inspire you, teach you and challenge you. The problem comes when you try to implement every (or a lot of) idea(s) you come across.

I once knew a youth pastor who literally changed what he preached (and really what he thought he believed about God) based on the latest book he was reading.

I see leaders who change their mission, vision, strategy, hiring process, staffing structure, and more after every conference they attend.

I know people  who move the furniture or hang a new picture in a room in their house after every episode of “Fixer Upper”.

There are several problems for people like this:

1- They don’t truly know who they are or what they like/believe.

Remember the movie “Runaway Bride”? To really find herself she needed to know how she liked her eggs, and not just how the man she was with at the time liked his eggs.

When you are secure in who you are, you aren’t as easily swayed by the latest fad or most recent podcast you listened to. That doesn’t mean you don’t implement new ideas, but you do so after evaluating the information and filtering it for your context.

2- They don’t make me want to follow their lead.

The only thing worse than a lack of leadership is schizophrenic leadership. If I can’t be sure that who we are when I show up to work today is at least similar to who we were when I left work yesterday, I’m not sure I can stay here.

Some leaders think they are inspiring followers by being open to change, when really they are creating an uneasiness that eventually becomes unsettling.

So how do you decide which waves are worth riding?

Be patient. Recognize that there will be far more waves you don’t ride than those that you do ride. Activity is not success. Effectiveness is success.

Go for it. Just because you can’t ride every waves doesn’t mean you can’t ride some. When you see a wave that you think will carry you where you want to go, start kicking!

I loved watching my boys run to where I was sitting after riding a wave all the way up onto the beach. The excitement was written on their faces.

I want more days like that in leadership. I think it means I just have to let some good waves go by while waiting for the best ones.

 

Quit Lying About Your Past

I know a guy, who will remain nameless for the purposes of this post, that always has a story about when he was in high school or college. I’m not talking about one of those funny stories that stirs up a sense of nostalgia. I’m talking about a very specific story about some athletic or academic achievement that he was recognized or remembered for. To hear him reminisce he was the perfect blend of a Rhodes Scholar and 1st Round Draft Pick. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about he can pivot the story with a line like, “that reminds me of that time in high school when I…”

It’s super annoying!

I’m not sure the level of truth in his stories. I only know that he didn’t play sports professionally, and I’m pretty sure I could beat him at a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.

I don’t have a lot of friends like him, but I know a lot of people who do the same kind of thing. Truth be told, I do it too sometimes.

We look back in our past and the size of our accomplishments grow.

It’s like that little phrase on the mirrors in our cars: “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.”

Well I’m afraid that sometimes we live by the adage: “Accomplishments in our past must be exaggerated by at least 20%.”

 

I realize it may not seem like a big deal, but exaggeration is a character flaw. It’s birthed out of some place of insecurity in your life.

It may seem like stretching the truth about your GPA back in high school isn’t a big deal, except when it masks your insecurities about not getting into the college that you wanted to.

It may seem like exaggerating your role on the state championship team isn’t a big deal, except when it is actually used to make you feel equal to the accomplishments of your co-worker who actually makes you feel inadequate.

It may not seem like a big deal to put on your resume that your last church or youth group ran 75 when you actually averaged 37, but you had 75 at that one event when you gave away free money…except when you realize that you are actually LYING to potential future employers.

Don’t fix the exaggeration without dealing with the heart issue. Why do you do that? Answer that question and deal with that first. The rest will start to take care of itself.

I’m not perfect and I used to struggle with this issue a lot, because of some of my performance-based acceptance issues and personal insecurities. But I’m telling you, it’s not worth it.

Tell the truth. About everything. It really is worth it!

 

Polish vs Raw

A few nights ago I went to the Y to play basketball.  The usual suspects were there, mostly “streetballers”, guys trying to relive the glory days, and some guys trying to get in cardio to lose weight without the use of a treadmill.  (I won’t tell you which group I belong in)  Since the local high school teams have finished their seasons there were also several of those players and it was obvious who the HS players were and who the “streetballers” were.

From the first game there was a glaring discrepancy between the two different systems that existed on the court.  One system existed on the team of high school players.  They had a structure that hasn’t existed in my previous visits to the Y.  Each player upon receiving a pass, faked a pass into the paint, made a pass, and cut through to the other side of the floor.  They called out when a player was about to set a screen on their teammate.  They took good, calculated shots.  They were polished.  It was a beautiful thing to watch.

They got absolutely KILLED in most games, losing everytime.

The other team didn’t call out screens.  They usually laughed if there teammate got picked or fell down.  They turned the ball over a few too many times.  They attempted passes that were risky at best.  They tried to recreate scenes from AND1 videos.  They missed on a lot of these attempts, but ultimately made more shots than the other team.

This same thing played out again and again throughout the night.

So what?

I work at a very polished church.  While we don’t do everything perfectly, we do a lot of things well and with excellence.  Because I’m demented, as I watched the 2 differing styles I thought about some raw churches I know.  They “make some mistakes” (in some people’s opinions).  They aren’t polished in many areas, but they are just flat out getting the job done.  That isn’t to say that all “raw” churches get it right, and churches with structure, excellent systems, etc aren’t getting it done.  This is about me.

My prayer is that I don’t become so polished that I lose the raw.  The raw for me was really falling in love with Jesus, which didn’t really happen until college for me, though I was raised in the church.  The raw for me was my first few years in student ministry when I made a lot of mistakes I’m sure, but I just loved kids, spent time with them, and constantly looked for ways to get better at my job. The raw for me was in the first few months of our portable church experience when we were committed to “whatever it takes” to get the job done.

My church is great, and I believe I’m still doing effective ministry.  I just hope I never get satisfied executing within the system, but find myself on the losing end when it’s all said and done.

It’s All the Same Game

A few weeks ago I had a really cool day that revealed an amazing truth to me as a leader and Pastor. The staff from both of our campuses took an outing to go see the Rome Braves play the Asheville Tourists in a Single A Minor League Baseball game. Every few months our staff will get out of the building to do something fun together and to celebrate all the amazing things God is doing at our campuses.

 

On this day that outing was a 10am baseball game featuring mostly 18-22 year olds on their quest to make it to the big leagues. Our tickets were up in the 2nd section, but I’ve never attended a ballgame I couldn’t “move down” and find a better seat, so I ended up sitting on the 1st row right behind the visiting team’s on deck circle. It gave me an opportunity to do a little “trash talking” and to take in the game from a very close vantage point.

BransonBaseball

After the game was over we returned to the church to continue our workday. Later that evening I again found myself at a baseball game. This time, though, I wasn’t watching I was coaching. And it wasn’t 18-22 year olds, it was 7-8 year olds. I did a lot less “trash talking” and a lot more encouraging from my even better vantage point on the field.

 

At some point it dawned on me…

 

They were playing the same game.

 

Yes the minor leaguers had more experience and looked a little more polished in their efforts. Yes our 7-8 year old game didn’t offer the same amenities that the minor league stadium had…

 

But the objective was still the same: Throw it, hit it, catch it.

 

Every player all day long was trying to get outs on defense and score runs on offense.

 

In the midst of my day leading my team, preparing my sermons, or planning events if I’m not careful I will look at the bigger church across town. I’ll think about the Pastors I follow on Twitter.

I might be tempted to get frustrated and think “I’m not as good as they are.” “If only I had the budget/building/people/etc they do.”

 

Take pastoring and leading out of the equation, and the process is the same. I look at others and don’t think I measure up or that they are somehow doing things so much better or different than I am.

Author Seth Godin says, (paraphrase) “No matter what business you think you’re in, everyone is actually in the people business.”

This is a great reminder that WHAT you do doesn’t change WHY you do it. 

It doesn’t matter if you Pastor 50 people or 5000 people. It doesn’t matter if you make widgets or sell cars. It’s all the same game. That church that’s bigger than yours is driven by the same motivation yours is: reaching people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. That Pastor that has lots of staff members and gets opportunities you can only dream about started with the same desire you started with: reaching people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.

Those people you look at and think you’ll never measure up are looking at someone else living with the same insecurities.

Don’t allow yourself to think that just because they look better doing it or you can’t offer the same things they do that somehow they’re playing a different game than you.

 

God created you, just like He created them. God called you, just like He called them.

 

To my 7 year old, his game that night was just as big a deal as the minor league game…you know why? Because it was.

 

And so are you!