This article is from my weekly lectures [on the subjects of leadership development, optimization, and productivity] delivered at the Leadership Forum of our church. It is of particular relevance to home church pastors, group leaders, and Christian business leaders. The present post is a continuation of last week’s Become an Astute Leader.
My primary emphasis in this lecture series on strategic thinking, optimization, productivity, and leadership development, is that you can accomplish so much more simply by applying your efforts at certain key areas. As I wrote in Become an Astute Leader, optimizing your leadership performance is not necessarily about changing what you are doing; it’s rather more about upgrading, evolving, taking your most effective efforts to ever increasing levels of productivity and impact. Its about making the most out of the smallest.
Optimization is the process by which you get more and better result from WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE by making little and incremental adjustments at critical points of your overall operations.
For more about how little things, consistently done over time, gradually accumulate into large things that can then be leveraged over and over and over again to create even bigger and more significant accomplishments, read How To Boost Your Productivity and Become A Happier Person.
Discern the results that will give you the results that will give you the results you need!
Fundamental to optimizing your leadership performance, of course, is vision clarity – a sharp, clear, definite, and unambiguous picture of your end result. In other words, you need to know the exact results you NEED to have.
In 4 Steps To Boost Your Productivity, I referred to this as your Personal Success Indices, and pointed out some helpful guides towards determining the objectives that resonate with your personality – what creates that inner sense of fulfillment, ‘specialness’, and relevance. It will be very helpful to read that post in order to aid your discovery, in very specific terms, of the tangible and intangible results that you desire to see in your life from your various efforts.
However, beyond a clear picture of your end result, you must be astute enough to recognize the primary results that will give you the secondary results that will give you the tertiary results, on and on to your ultimate results.
You see, it is very easy to become so focused on the end result that we become blind to those little things that NEED to be accomplished in the moment before the ultimate dream can be achieved. This is a common cause of failure among dreamers.
In reality, though, the path from the foundational result, to the ultimate result is not always linear and logical.
Illustrations from my pastoral experiences
How in the world, for instance, as a young and inexperienced pastor, would I have known that overcoming my need to socialize was going to be critical to growing the numerical and spiritual strength of the church?
I wanted our church membership to increase in numbers as well as grow spiritually, and I theorized that I would accomplish this by frequently visiting each member in their various homes. By so doing, I imagined, they would know I cared for them and loved them, which in turn would inspire them to become more devoted to God, church attendance, and evangelism.
This idea was inspired in part by what I had read in a church growth manual. I called it my home visitation strategy. It made sense, appeared smart, and I felt it was going to work.
Well, it didn’t.
I quickly observed that the church grew more when I wasn’t visiting than after I implemented my home visitation strategy.
As a matter of fact, I noticed that the numerical strength and spiritual development of the church was rapidly diminishing, not in spite of, but actually as a result of my home visitations! 🙂
Of course I was bewildered!
But then I also got the point, and thankfully soon enough; they didn’t want me visiting them. They would rather I stayed back at home and did whatever it was I did that made them experience God every time they assembled in church.
It had seemed to me that visiting them would have gotten them to come and commit. In practice, however, it didn’t; it rather had the opposite effect.
In the end, I could have stubbornly stuck with an unproductive fantasy of mine just because it appeared ‘pastoral’ and ‘caring’ and then watched the church die as a result. Instead, thanks to God, I learnt. I got the point.
I learnt that the fundamental result I needed to have, towards a secondary result of growing the church numerically and spiritually, wasn’t the goal of visiting 50 members per week as a pastor. That wasn’t a basic result to gun for.
A more fundamental result was to overcome my own need to socialize, become more disciplined in prayers, meditations, personal spiritual growth, and intimacy with God.
This understanding, of course, reshaped my priorities and redefined the focus of my time and resources.
Yet in the beginning I saw a logical but illusory path from (achieving the visitation result of) 50 members per week, to growing the church numerically and spiritually. In retrospect, considering my personality and several other factors, I now know that that path never existed for me.
So identifying the primary results that will give you the secondary results that will give you the tertiary and ultimate results you need – and hence define what you need to focus on in the moment – does not necessarily happen by backtracking from the ultimate results. Such backtracking might yield a logical sequence of steps that ultimately lead to failure!
The wise man identified this paradox when he wrote that:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12).
Nevertheless, you can become adept at discerning the results that will give you the results that will give you the results you need.
As you can imagine, this discernment – a core aspect of the distinction of astute leaders – comes from a combination of instinct, intuition, observation, experience, and even more.
Accurate discernment that THIS, (a present ‘insignificant’ occupation), will inevitably lead to THAT, (an ultimate phenomenal result), is an invaluable asset.
At the onset, astute leaders usually don’t make sense because they appear to be so focused on very ‘insignificant’ objectives (like, in my case, spiritual contemplation as opposed to house call). In the end, however, the world is wowed by their ultimate results.
The key to this discernment is to not become emotionally attached to your ideas and opinions (or those of others for that matter) as to what will or will not work; and neither to the means and methods adopted by you, or anyone else for that matter.
Yes, you might have to begin with a hunch, an intuition, an intelligent guess, your best bet, whatever you may chose to call it, plus lessons from others’ experiences, as to what will work. But then you must quickly begin to pass them through the hot crucible of actual performance.
You would notice the principle at work in my case. The initial idea as to what should work came from a book I had read, in combination with my own religious instincts. However, when it was subjected to the heat of actual practice, it proved counterproductive. So I abandoned the idea, but in the process stumbled upon what I should have been doing in the first instance.
Bear in mind, however, that I was able to abandon that idea as a pastor because I was not sentimentally attached to it. Otherwise, I would have been stubbornly stuck to it to my detriment and that of the people I was trying to pastor.
Develop the brutal objectivity that judges methods and performances strictly on the basis of fruitfulness; in other words, on the basis of how well they enhance, enable, accelerate, or actually produce desirable and strategic results.
In learning from your own efforts and those of others ahead of you, be brutally honest and objective in separating what is working from those that aren’t working.
This is critical to optimizing your leadership performance.