Archives For adaptive change

My first year on the senior staff team of a large church has been exhilarating and pretty challenging. One of the biggest challenges has been learning to coordinate ministry initiatives across the church. This coordination requires effective communication and often meetings form the starting point for that communication. In a given week I usually lead a departmental staff meeting and three to four one-on-one meetings with direct reports. I participate in our senior staff meeting which is led by our Senior Pastor/Head of Staff, which is a blend of strategic discussion and tactical planning. I also attend our weekly pastors’ meeting which covers a variety of topics related to pastoral care, worship, and the like. That’s a total of seven meetings not including bi-monthly session meetings, and other committee meetings.

In each of these meetings, I capture notes as well as actions that I am responsible for. Early on I realized that by the end of the week I had a bunch of legal pads with meeting notes and actions accumulating on my desk. A lot of times it seemed that the stack kept growing and that I was at my capacity to keep up with things using such an ad hoc system. In ministry, just as in business, people don’t like it when you drop balls or miss important details. It erodes trust, which is the currency of ministry.

Stress Man

I decided to revisit David Allen’s influential book Getting Things DoneIf you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as you can. Read it. Implement it. It will change your life.

Allen’s approach (GTD, for short) is a simple five step process that will enable you to externalize tasks so you don’t have to have them buzzing around in your head. Here’s a snapshot of the system:

  1. Capture—collect what has your attention
  2. Clarify—process what it means
  3. Organize—put it where it belongs
  4. Reflect—review frequently
  5. Engage—simply do

Consider this a GTD tutorial. You can learn the system and put it into practice by reading the five posts (of which this is the first).

Step One – Collect or capture what has your attention.

My Capture Tools: these are the places–physical and virtual–where I place “to dos.” They’re sort of like different buckets that I empty regularly into an orderly system for processing.

  1. Email Inbox: I get about fifty emails a day (at work, which is low). Most contain information and often an action. I process my inbox daily with a goal of getting to zero messages in my inbox.
  2. Office Phone Voicemail: I get relatively few phone messages. I usually listen to them and write brief notes on an index card and then throw that card into my physical inbox for processing later.
  3. Cell Phone Voicemail/Text: Same as #2.
  4. Office mail box: I process my office mail box several times a day, putting actionable items into my physical inbox.
  5. Levenger International Pocket Briefcase [Link]: I put receipts in my wallet, jot notes on index cards that are in the wallet, and process these into my physical inbox every time I return from outside of the office.

All of these capture tools end up moving action items either (1) into my physical inbox or (2) into a file in Outlook that I use to categorize and process emails into task manager.

inbox-zeroDavid Allen will tell you that the critical thing about collecting is that you have to collect everything. You’ve got to build trust in the system by using the system to handle all of your tasks or other data points that are taking your concentration or subconscious memory. And you have to discipline yourself to take one of five responses to something that comes across your desk (see the graphic to the left).

For all of these decisions (other than deleting) you have to have a system to help you to do things like:

  • Keep track of items delegated to others so that you can follow up on them.
  • Keep track of items deferred so that you’ll come back to them when the time is right.

It’s a big task especially in a profession where there are often unplanned major events (hospital visits and funerals) alongside a rigorous normal schedule of worship and work.

Next up: how to clarify!

Most all of us work on a team or teams. I’m part of several–I’m on the senior staff team at the church, I’m on our church’s session, I lead the discipleship staff team, and I resource several ministry teams across the adult discipleship area. My education didn’t prepare me for effective collaboration, even in seminary. As a result, most of my training came in the form of professional education while working in management with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.I benefitted from strong bosses and team leaders like my last InterVarsity supervisor Don Paul Gross.

MGMT_TEAM

I also benefitted from the formal training developed by InterVarsity’s training department as well as resources I discovered and used myself. And I’ve still got a long ways to go. As an INTJ team work doesn’t always come naturally to me–I have to work at it!

Michael Hyatt offers the following suggestions for becoming MVP of your team (whether you lead it or are part of it):

  • Play till the whistle blows. Don’t walk off the field in the game. Even if you’re behind—especially if you’re behind—you can make a winning contribution. But you’ll never do it if you quit early.
  • Practice good communication. For me that all comes down to clarity, responsiveness, and frequency. Be clear, don’t bottleneck information, and keep everyone who needs to know in the know as often as they need to know it.
  • Work hard. More accurately, work harder than you think you need to. Doing the minimum will win no points with people who are putting in extra effort. If you have more to give, do it.
  • Share your best. If you want to serve your team members, don’t hold back. Creativity, talent, learning, insight—they can make all the difference in the final outcome, so share your best stuff.
  • Own your mistakes. Responsibility is the mark of a strong team player. If there’s a problem and it’s yours, own it. Accountability frees people to work on the problem, not fester about the one who created it.
  • Affirm others. Team spirit is critical for victory, and everyone on the team is responsible to improve the mood if possible. Catch others doing good work and call them out.
  • Be positive. By its very nature, cynicism kills teamwork. Unlike constructive criticism, it’s defensive and self-indulgent. It’s designed to protect the cynic at the expense of everyone else. A positive attitude about problems is the best way to help the team get past them.

Are there additional characteristics that make for a good team member?

The unlived life

October 16, 2013 — 2 Comments

Everyone has dreams. Some abandon them. Others embrace them. Some try and fail. Others fail to try. Many find a new success in their failures. It wasn’t the success they thought they’d experience. It was a peculiar success whose genesis lay in the failure of their first dream.

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10 Evangelical Distinctives

September 12, 2013 — 1 Comment

I recently wrote a post asking whether–and if so, how–the Presbyterian Church (USA) is evangelical. This generated some interesting conversations about what the word evangelical really means. In light of these conversations, I thought it worth exploring the variety of perspectives on the evangelical movement.

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One of the highlights of last week’s Global Leadership Summit was hearing Brené Brown speak. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and a TED Talk sensation since her 2010 talk went viral (more than 8 million views). That talk is embedded at the bottom of the page. Her research has focused on the interplay between vulnerability and empathy, encouraging people to experience “whole-hearted” living.

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