Over the last month my wife and I have been talking about board members. Please understand, this is not about the board members that I have in our church. I could not ask for a more helpful, supportive group of people. They genuinely love me and my family and I consider all of them dear friends and co workers in the ministry God has given us. Throughout my ministry this has not always been the case. I have served as a board member and have had to work with numerous boards over the course of ministry.
I have noticed that most Board members fall into one of 2 categories. Those who see their primary role to encourage and support and those who have an agenda. I have the privilege of working with a board who all fall into the first category. The organizations we were talking about fell into the second category. People had gotten onto the board with an agenda to change some things. The things that they were seeking to change were not broken. In fact, the things that they were seeking to change were functioning very well. The problem was these people did not have accurate information, insight or understanding. They were functioning from a perspective of pride and power not service.
As my wife and I were talking, we were discussing the impact on these organizations if the board did not change directions. We discussed how it would impact other leaders within the organization. My wife with the wisdom of a Kindergarten teacher (25 years) said, “I teach my 5 year olds that they have to clean up their own mess.” Her solution was to make the board clean up its own mess.
It got me to thinking about ministry. Since I have pastored in the same place for 22+ years, most of the messes that I clean up are ones I created. I realize that many of you are in situations that you have to clean up messes or problems that were created by someone else. I realize you cannot have someone else clean up their mess, but it might be encouraging to remember that it is not your mess. It might be a good reminder to your Board that some of the struggles you face are not your own creation. You are simply assigned with the task of cleaning up someone’s mess.
THOT: When a janitor has the awful task of cleaning up after someone’s mess, we don’t criticize the janitor. We are understanding because he is simply doing a very unpleasant job. Maybe you could take encouragement in the fact that you are simply the janitor. It’s not your mess! And if you are like me and you created the mess, then my wife’s advice applies to you. “We clean up our own messes in Kindergarten.”
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Posted in Leadership, tagged decisions, Leadership on September 18, 2014|
A second lesson came immediately upon entering the dorm. The officer candidates had arrived a day early to get things in order for the training to start. Since they were not “officially” checked in, they needed to head to dinner. The problem was finding out what time they were allowed to eat. They notice 3 or 4 different schedules. Each schedule had different times posted. This made a simple task like eating very difficult. They spent time trying to figure out where they were allowed to eat and at what time. The problem was they were faced with conflicting information. therein lies the great lesson. Often when making a decision we are given incomplete information or information that contradicts itself. It is a regular part of leadership. I cannot count the number of times I have started counseling a couple when I thought I had truthful information, only to find out that one party had given me information that was “less than accurate”.
Before an Air Force Officer starts their training, they are taught that often decisions must be made with inaccurate or conflicting information. I would like to remind you that ministry is no different. We are often called upon to make the best decision possible with the information we have. Sometimes those decisions need to be made quickly, other times we have the time to gather more information. At some point, the decision must be made. At that moment, we make the best decision we can make and we go forward. We made need to evaluate and even change our decision, but we always learn from the process.
THOT – How much time do you spend beating yourself up over a bad decision? How many times have you made a decision, only to find out later that the information you were given was “less than accurate”? Good leadership makes a decision based on the most accurate information at the moment, realizing necessity is forcing an immediate decision.
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My youngest son recently received a commission to become an Air Force Officer. He started his training and has been sharing with me many of the things he is experiencing. As a Pastor I spend a large amount of time teaching and learning principles for effective leadership. As he has been telling me of his experiences, I have been focusing on the lessons to be learned from his experiences. For the next few blogs, I thought I would share some of those applications.
Upon entering his dorm area, there was a stack of books with each candidate’s name and room number on them. There was also a blank sheet of paper with a pen. The future officer’s had a decision to make. They wondered whether they should sign the paper or leave it blank. They were not given sufficient information to make a proper decision, but they had to make a decision. Some would sign it and then try to convince the rest of the group to sign it. Some refused to sign it. In the end everyone gets yelled at. The group who signed the paper was yelled at because they were not told to sign the paper. The group that did not sign the paper were yelled at because they could not use common sense and sign something that was clearly evident to be signed.
No matter what the future officers did, they got yelled at. It reminded me of an important leadership principle – No decision will please everyone. No matter what you do in leadership, someone will question your actions. It is a fact of leadership that often decisions are made with incomplete information. You simply have to make the best choice based on your experience, abilities and available information. When you make that decision – someone will be upset.
In 30 plus years of ministry, I have made a number of unpopular decisions. Some were good decisions and others were bad. In every case, people got upset and I have heard my share of yelling over the years. The Air Force teaches future officers on day 1 that your decisions will be second guessed. They will be criticized and you will be yelled at. You simply have to make the best decision you can make.
THOT – How many times do you allow people to encourage you to second guess your decisions? Do you really believe you can make a decision that will keep everyone happy? Have you convinced yourself that you are a poor leader because people do not agree with your decisions? Leadership is difficult and not for the faint of heart.
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