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Tuesday
Oct222013

Three Critical Questions That Need Answers

Originally posted by Matt Perman

Andy Stanley’s closing message at Catalyst was fantastic. He went to the core, the foundation, that you need to understand in order to lead. These are the absolute basics, but they are almost never talked about. If you were at Catalyst and had to catch an early flight, I would especially suggest reviewing these notes so you can catch what you missed.

Here are my notes:

“Level 5 leaders have the humility to aspire to be the dumbest person in the room” — Jim Collins.

Today, it’s leadership 101. Taking it down to the most fundamental level. I had to do this to survive.

Here’s where this came from. When we started North Point, there was so much to do, and I felt early on it was getting too big too fast for me to keep up with. I have to reduce things to an irreducible minimum to keep my eye on the ball. So I wrote down off the top of my head what I’m about to give you to keep me centered. This is at the core and epicenter of my personal leadership.

So, when it starts getting confusing, and there are too many people demanding too many things, and you aren’t even sure what to focus on, this is what I retreat to. And perhaps we should all consider retreating to this. This is at the essence of where leadership begins.

Always have an answer to these 3 questions. If you can answer these, you’ll be OK.

  1. What are we doing?
  2. Why are we doing it?
  3. Where do I fit in?

Everybody in your department, student ministry, staff, everyone in whatever your organization is, ought to be able to answer these questions.

The very next thing you should do in regard to your leadership is wrestle these questions to the ground.

1. What Are We Doing?

This is a participle. “We are creating” or “We are building” or “we are leading.”

About 24 years ago, Stephen Covey wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I got it right when it came out and couldn’t put it down. And there was a whole section on mission statements. Covey talks in there about the Ritz-Carlton, where mission statements had been embraced from the top of the organization all the way down. Part of their success was that everyone, even the cooks, had a mission statement. And I thought “can a maid really have a mission statement?” It turns out that the owner of the company was a friend of my dad, so I called him. I said “seriously?” Not disrespectfully, but I was wondering. We couldn’t even get our church to have a mission statement.

He said: “the only way to understand this is to go through our training for maids, cooks, and bellmen.” So we went and sat in on that training.

I cannot over emphasize the power of a statement that answers the question “what are we doing?”

In the training, the trainer brought everyone to a single statement: “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” It was empowering and dignifying to the staff. They saw they were people worthy of respect–just as much as the wealthy people they were serving.

“That’s when I became a raving fan of the importance of mission statements.”

Most decisions are pre-decided when the mission is crystal clear.

It is critical to push decisions down in the organization. The better leader you are, the fewer decisions you are making. And people are empowered to make good decisions by a clear and compelling mission statement.

You’ll never be great at what you’re doing if you don’t know what it’s for. There are no great organizations that aren’t clear on what they are doing.

Without a mission statement, you’ll have a hard time convincing others to join you. For they won’t know what you are doing.

Leaders love to work for people who have given them crystal clear marching orders.

I am always hearing from sharp leaders who are frustrated because their organizations don’t make it clear what the mission is.

There is something that rises up in a leader when it’s clear what we have come together to do. And there are few things more discouraging to a leader than to be given a responsibility that isn’t clear and tied in to a mission.

The reason you don’t have a simple and sticky mission statement is because you haven’t taken the time to create one.

Some people say “the local church is too complex and doing too many things; you can’t boil it down to one thing.” Oh yes you can. You just haven’t thought about it yet.

I’ll tell you what will happen when you do this: you will be perceived as the leader, you may make some waves, you may get fired, and we’ll hire you.

In 1997 Jobs comes back to Apple, and he says “Here’s what we are going to do: we are going to create easy to use computers. That’s what we do at Apple.” Boom.

For us, we decided we are going to create a church that unchurched people love to attend. And some years went by, and we said “let’s go create some churches unchurched people love to attend.”

My question for you is: what are you doing? One of the most healthy exercises is; your church probably already has a mission statement, and it’s way too long. If I were to ask you your mission, if you have to look away to remember it in order to say it, it’s too long. It needs to be short and memorable.

What’s the point of change if you don’t know what you’re trying to do? Change means you were going this direction and now you are going that direction. If you don’t know what that direction is, you can’t change. You aren’t changing.

What have you come together to do? If you can’t answer that question, you will never bring about meaningful, healthy change.

Wherever you have influence in the organization, start the conversation. “What are we doing?”

2. Why Are We Doing It?

The answer to this question is where you find your inspiration. This answers the question “what’s at stake? What goes away if we go away? What problem goes unsolved? What question goes unanswered? What service goes unprovided?” When you drill down on why, you will find the emotion rising and rising.

Don’t be afraid to reach back to God’s personal call on your life to answer the question why.

Here’s why: your personal call is where you found the courage to take the first step. You have to stay close to that, because ministry requires courage. And your personal is where you are going to find your passion.

What was it that first got you into the ministry? Behind your call was a why. Go back to that. You need to tap into this even in your division and department and organization. This is not selfish, because you are a leader, and when leaders tap into their passion, they attract people with a similar passion. And before you know it, you have a movement.

That’s how great things are accomplished.

Some of you right now have a calling that is so deep, and so rich, but you’ve allowed it to become vanilla because you are in a place that has squashed it. Get out of there!!! You will wake up one day and say “what happened to me?”

My dad would say: “Don’t you ever, ever let money, don’t you ever let money stand in the way of what God has called you to do.”

Maybe just one person in this room, God wants to do something extraordinary through you; if you stay where you are too long, and let organizational structures constrain you and the fear of how you’ll pay your bills keep you back, not only will you miss out, thousands of people will miss out.

Step into the gap. It’s not about you are your ego, it’s that you can’t imagine devoting your life to anything else.

Why has the power to get you through the tough times. When you retreat back to why, you will find your energy.

3. Where Do I Fit In?

Ask yourself, “what is my unique contribution. What is my core responsibility?” If you could only do what you could do, you need to identify it and schedule accordingly.

Your organization will be at its best when you are doing what you do best. Your entire organization.

To drive this deeper, create a one sentence job description for each of your direct reports. This is time consuming, but it’s almost magic. No matter how big the job is, you can boil it down to one sentence. And when you do, it’s gold.

My one sentence: “Inspire our staff and congregations to remain fully engaged in our mission and strategy.”

Our CFO: “Create, implement, and monitor systems that ensure our organization remains fiscally secure.”

My administrative assistant: “To keep Andy’s path clear of nonessential tasks and decisions so that he can do what only he can do.”

Leadership team: “Create a local church culture that inspires, empowers, and equips our staff and congregation to engage in our mission, strategy, and vision.”

+ Can you imagine what would happen in your department or division or church if even just 75% of the leaders could answer these 3 questions?

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