I am a lousy golfer. That sport requires an attention to detail that I do not have. When I play with friends they give me direction on how to better my game or correct my swing. Often they highlight small details on every swing that could be tweaked to make it better. The problem is their advice changes with every swing! While I am grateful for the insight, it often stumps me even more. I simply cannot keep up. Golf overwhelms me.
One famous golfer who mastered those details was Arnold Palmer. He is equally as brilliant engaging with people as he was perfecting his swing. Arnold had a coach in college who gave him one simple strategy for success. He had Palmer do something as he was walking to his ball between shots, to make eye contact and smile at one person in the gallery. He told Arnold if he would do this between every shot then before he knew it he would have “an army of fans” following him.
Soon Arnold had swells of people following him as he played. When he won his first Masters tournament in 1958, the local newspaper ran a headline calling this crowd “Arnie’s Army.” It all began by narrowing his focus to doing one small thing that created momentum.
Your days can be overwhelming. There are endless things to be done, emails to be returned, issues to be dealt with and crises to be averted. The task of leadership is vast and sometimes we feel the weight of it. On top of that, you are an agent of change. You want to leave your organization better than you found it. Perhaps, like me, you have wondered, “Where do I begin?”
I believe you can find clarity. Instead of telling you dozens of tweaks to make to your day, I want to coach you with some simple questions. As you begin your day lay these questions over your organization, church, family or your own personal leadership. These four questions should generate four lists. These lists are what you should focus your energies on. They are your gallery of action items to begin chipping away at, one at a time.
Ask yourself these four questions today...
What is going right?
It is helpful to write down the things in your organization that are going right. Often leaders begin by gravitating to what is going poorly. We like to fix things so we naturally see those things first. There can be a struggle for some to see anything but negative. I want to shift your thinking and train yourself to see good, here are six ways to do that! You need to identify what is working for you. This reveals to you the things you need to optimize. Fixing broken things can manage some growth, maximizing things you do well can generate unstoppable momentum!
What is going wrong?
While I would love to only talk about what works, reality is that some things do not. Your area of leadership has something going wrong. Begin by emotionally detaching yourself from the believe that it is perfect. Spend a few minutes exploring what is broken. Could you use a better communication process? Do you need to replace a leader on your team? Is it time to better control your spending? Do you need to develop your own leadership in order to make everything better? The best way to uncover these things is to involve your team. Give them permission to be honest. Knowing what is wrong identifies what needs to change.
What is confusing?
Every organization has one or two elements that are simply difficult to understand. Leaders communicate well so your job is to clear up what may be muddy. Maybe you have a process no one uses because they do not understand it. There could be money walking out your door because your transaction method is not clear. Perhaps you struggle to engage people because you use insider language only understood by those who have been around for years. Mining out what is confusing reveals what needs to be clarified. Examine this by including people outside of your direct team. Ask parents of your youth group, congregants in your church or the customers buying from you. Their voice will give you clarity.
I recently spent time clarifying for our volunteers at my church what we need from them during this next season of ministry. Maybe you need to take time to do the same. Giving people clarity allows them to serve effectively. People in your church want to serve and make a difference.
What is missing?
Sometimes we lose effectiveness when our plans are not complete. Every leader has to spend time asking what is missing from their model. My church always asks the question, “What’s your next step?” We never want people to stay where they are, but progress forward. There have been times when we wonder why people seem stuck only to discover that a clear next step was exactly what was missing! We had the language down, but came up short in providing what someone needed to do next. Asking the question, “What’s missing?” defines for you what needs to be added.
Golf overwhelms me. Leadership does not have to overwhelm you. Explore these four questions today. Take some minutes to create four lists. Here is the key to keep you from getting in over your head. From your lists, only focus on 1 or 2 items from each list per season. Trying to do more is too much.
You are in your role to lead and navigate change. Push through complexity by employing this strategy that forces you towards simple and actionable steps. Keep Leading Bravely!
Kevin is a coach for couragetolead.com. He is also Executive Pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia, and the founder of LeadBravely.org. Kevin specializes in strategic thinking, financial health and developing teams. He lives in Augusta, GA, with his wife, Melissa, and two daughters.