Give Them A Compelling Reason

Leaders crave for a way to increase the horsepower of their organization. And, by horsepower, what I really mean is manpower. It shows up in questions and conversations like, “how do we keep our people motivated and engaged?” “How do help people give us their best?” “What does it take to get more people to volunteer or to volunteer more of themselves?”

Creating an empowering environment is way to do just that.

I want to argue that building an empowering environment is one of the greatest contributions leaders can make to unleashing the potential of people. Piece by piece, it isn’t complicated at all, but it takes intentionality.

Over the next three weeks, I will post seven articles on how to create an empowering environment. Here is the first:

Creating an Empowering Environment #1:
Give Them A Compelling Reason

 

Knowing why comes first. Your people—employees and volunteers alike—need to know what is at stake and how their contribution is directly connected to it. Every church, non-profit, business, or enterprise of any sort is actually populated by volunteers.  Even when there is a paycheck involved, employees volunteer themselves to the challenges of the task at hand every day.

In the day-to-day people lose sight of the reason behind what they are doing. It isn’t a devious plot, it’s just human nature. It happens to you and me. In the midst of detailed and often mundane steps natural to fulfilling any responsibility, it is human nature to lose sight of the big picture. Individual trees dominate our field of vision and we forget about the forest.

You see, vision has a half-life of seven days.  That is to say, no matter how strong and clear the vision for what you are doing is today, seven days from now it will only be half as clear and half as strong.  Seven days later another half-life evaporated. Within 28 days, no matter how strong and clear initial vision was, you will be limping along with a meager 6½% of its original strength.

This means smart leaders are always asking connecting the dots for people. They are always talking about why the things you are doing matter so much. They get creative about finding ways to paint pictures of the compelling reason behind your work. An annual vision push will never be enough. People respond when the compelling reason motivating their effort is current and clear.


Without a compelling reason:

  • People are left to work out of duty or obligation alone.  And working solely out of duty is the pathway to burnout.
  • People compete for resources based on personality or positional power rather than vision and strategy.
  • Turf wars become the order of the day.
  • Pettiness reigns! Pettiness is a clear indicator of the absence of compelling vision.


This Week?
A brass plague in the lobby won’t get the job done. Get creative. What could you do?

  • Could you tell a fresh story illustrating the compelling purpose of your organization? 
  • Could you reward personal or even departmental behavior that is fully aligned with the reason you exist?

 
After you give it a try, consider coming back and posting a comment about your experience.
And, come back in a couple days for the next installment in this seven part series.

A Simpler View of the Church

We live in a world of moving parts. What used to be or at least appeared to be stable and predictable is changing. What was changing is now entirely unfamiliar. Shoot, even gas prices are in such flux that even though we are a car culture we can’t even take driving for granted anymore.

CommunityNow, drop the church into this vortex of change and you start running into destabilizing questions of identity, effectiveness, methodology, etc.

I am committed to the church and in fact have given my life to see her achieve the potential I believe God intended. But to be honest, in this world of complexity we need to re-discover the simple essence of what it means to be the church. I have given it a lot of thought and I’d like to offer a suggestion-a new attempt at definition, if you will.

My best understanding these days of the church as God intended is this: a community on mission.

When we start thinking about all the moving parts associated with the church, we get lost in traditions, methods, organizational structures, buildings, worship styles, denominational distinctives, etc. But when we cut things down to their basic essence, I find that the notion of a “community on mission” nails it.

The church as a community on mission confronts the notion that we can follow Christ or know God fully in isolation, that happens best in the safety, encouragement, wisdom, and diversity of a community. It also confronts the tendency of a well-trained consumerist culture to approach community as a place designed to serve us. A community finds its fullness in the very process of giving itself away. And since, God is a missional God, we find him when we join him in the work he is about.

There is great work being done on what it means to live in community as the people of God and there is equally significant work being done on what it means to live on mission as a normative expression of life. I am convinced these days that the church is an integration of both. As a community we are a place where people share life and discover more of the author of life. On mission we align our lives with His work in this world. We can never be a community apart from mission, nor can we be a missional enterprise apart from community.

Redecorating a One Room House

Over lunch in central Romania, across the table from a Hungarian church planter named Josef, I heard someone describe ways the church of North America. It was a conversation whose context helped make it profoundly unforgettable.

shifting the furniture

The subject of our conversation was the speed and complexity of change facing the church in former Soviet-bloc countries. While people in the U.S. often feel perplexed by the undertow of tidal change within our culture, these eastern-bloc countries have experienced change in the past 15 years that took us 75 years. Yet, his comments have direct application for us.

Josef’s comments, “so much of the time, the church is like people inside a one-room building who are busy rearranging the furniture but ignoring the real question. The fact is, we are ignoring the fact that we are still in a one-room building and nothing has changed. We are so busy with church activities that everyone is worn out and we aren’t bringing about real change. The church of Hungary is typically irrelevant to thepeople and life of our country.”

I fell in love with this man. He is culturally and organizationally astute. For years he ran an international import-export business and resisted God’s prompting to become a pastor. In his words, “I never wanted to become a pastor. They are poor, they have large families, and they are generally irrelevant.”

What’s my point? Moving the furniture around creates a busyness that masquerades as change, but it isn’t. The man sitting at a bar with his friend are not talking about the longing of their souls for a local church that is using PowerPoint and video clips. We live in a world that perceives the church as irrelevant and self-absorbed-at best. The world around us is looking for a church that will move outside its walls and into relationship with messy people and hurting world.

I don’t know about you, but as for me and my house, we will be those who give themselves to a new day for the church.

The Value of Sacrifice

Twice during my recent trip to Romania I had the same fascinating conversation. However, it happened two different times with two different ministry leaders. While asking about the changes that have taken place since the revolution in 1989, everyone I spoke with described the dizzying speed and substance of change that has taken place throughout Romania. However, two of the pastors I was with described a downside of these changes you won’t hear much of in America.

One of them, Valentin, told me about growing up in extreme poverty. There were many times he and his family had no food to eat at all. He and his brother shared the very same set of clothes and thus could only go out in public one at a time. Then Valentin told me about his concern for his own children these days. He said, “my children have no idea what it means to go without food. Sometimes they complain when we didn’t serve bread during a meal. I look at them and worry, they have no idea what it is to have no food at all.”

Another one of these leaders expressed it this way, “my children and their generation have it so good, they have no idea what it is to suffer. I am worried that because they haven’t suffered they don’t how to sacrifice. They don’t know about the privilege and power and life-shaping impact of sacrifice. I worry we might have a generation of leaders in the church that doesn’t know how to make sacrifices.”

They speak of a life and a value system that sounds foreign to a western ear. We are busy worrying about how to provide everything our children need. They are worried about the downside of having all your needs met. We worry about how to keep our children and families safe and comfortable. They are concerned that without knowing how to sacrifice your soul is somehow short-changed.

Sacrifice is not the pathway to less, it is the way to fulfillment, meaning, impact and more. In many situations, the path to healing and wholeness runs right through the valley of sacrifice. These leaders have lived there and they see in the eyes of their children the downsides of the very comfort we seek.

Maybe the path to healing of our culturally reinforced addiction to acquisition, to a life of meaning and mission, travels through the very suffering and sacrifice we typically avoid.