Tag Archive: problem avoidance

Mistake Fail Safe

Who’s keeping you from losing your job?

Who’s the person you reach out to and say, “Can I run something by you?”

Last week I was minutes away from publishing a new blog post. And at the last minute, I copied and pasted the content into an email and sent it to a friend. I asked, “As a church member, anything here that says to you, ‘He’d be an idiot to publish this on his blog?’”

He replied, “Yes.”

And I didn’t publish a blog last week. Do you have people who can answer “yes” when you’re on the brink of stupidity?

Now, I thought I had good content for the blog post. And maybe even clever content (I can say this since you’ll never read it). But I asked for borrowed perception and he gave it to me.

Do you have people who can quickly and honestly give you an assessment of something you plan to say, write, or do?

We need people who give us unvarnished feedback.

I’m not talking about accountability partners. We definitely need spiritually mature truth-tellers in our lives to help us remain grounded in scripture and spur us on to godly things. That role is vitally important. But this is a lesser issue, but still one that can keep you from misstepping in your church leadership role.

Who can you text, email, or drop in on when…

…you plan to have a difficult conversation with your boss?

…you’re about to send an email to your team that might not be taken well?

…you’re about to introduce a new element into your worship services?

…you plan to rant about an issue in the public domain of social media?

All major decisions should have a process by which you get input and feedback. But I’m talking about who you can quickly get unfiltered feedback from when you’re not quite sure about your choice. At times, we need an informal and expedited fail safe opinion.

I think we’ve all seen or heard “it.” And when they’re done with “it”, we mutter to ourselves, “They obviously didn’t run that past anyone.”

Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that gal.

These are unforced errors on our part. We need a guy/gal (or better yet a gaggle of folks) who can give perspective on an idea. Who can tell you the email is, “Really good, except for that last sentence.” And someone who’s got the experience to tell us the likely consequences for our action.

Find the people who can help you with a quick opinion. Use them, and avoid these missteps which can hinder the ministry you’re called to do.

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Good and Bad Reasons Not to Tackle Problems

If you’re a leader, you see problems. Many times you’ll see them before others do. But what if as you see these problems, and you choose not to engage them?

When a leader chooses not to engage a problem in their area of influence, I can think of at least two reasons for making that decision – one is good, healthy, and exemplifies excellent leadership – the other is bad, unhealthy, and indicates you may be done with leadership.

The healthy reason:

Solving the problem in question won’t help your church or organization get further down the road. It’s a problem, but it’s not the problem. You know that with or without your input, the problem won’t last or be prohibitive to fulfilling your mission.

You’re conserving energy, by choosing the important over the urgent

You’re staying in the lane only you can run in. You know there are better-equipped people to solve that particular problem.

When you’re evaluating problems this way, you’re exemplifying excellent leadership.

When I’m tempted to engage problems that aren’t mission-critical, it’s usually for a couple reasons:

I want a win. When I can successfully solve small problems, it feels like “winning.” It makes me feel better, and in control. It also makes me feel useful to others, and my worth is validated. Yet, we know this isn’t good leadership.

I don’t bill my hours like an attorney – nor do I deserve that kind of money. But one thing I’ve done, is I’ve figured out my hourly rate. Now that I know it, I use it this way—

When there’s a problem to be solved or a question to be researched and answered, I run it through this filter: Is this the kind of issue the church had in mind for me solving when it selected my hourly wage?

After I’ve done this, out of pure stewardship of the church’s money, I back away and disengage from many problem-solving activities. For example, last week, I was asked to approve a paint color variance in our office color scheme. It won’t impact my personal office space, and I’m not an interior designer. I began to consider the question and was tempted to ask a lot of questions and give my decision. But when I placed that filter on the decision, I realized it wasn’t my problem to solve and it wasn’t good stewardship of the church’s money for me to pursue it further. Instead, I said, “Whatever you all decide is fine.”

I think disengaging from these kinds of problems is healthy. But there’s also an unhealthy reason for disengaging from problems.

The unhealthy reason:

You see a problem, but have no desire or energy to engage it.

When you see problems hurting your mission yet can’t muster up the energy to begin solving it, it could be a sign of something unhealthy, and needs to be addressed – not only for your sake, but also for the sake of those you serve and lead. A filter for discerning the ambivalence factor: If one 1, 3, or 5 years ago you saw the same problem, would you’ve jumped in without hesitation?

If so, your lack of energy and willingness to engage could be a sign of unhealthiness (but not always). In April’s monthly podcast with Andy Stanley, this idea was unpacked and attributed to the former Home Depot CEO, Frank Blake. In Blake’s case, he was seeing things that needed his attention at Home Depot, and yet, he didn’t want to wade into them. He found himself not engaging things needing his attention, and that reluctance caused him to ask questions about whether he needed to remain in his CEO position (he later chose to transition out of that role).

The people around you will catch on that you’re problem-avoiding. It’ll be like Maverick in the movie Top Gun when he wouldn’t re-engage in the dog fight (I always look for opportunities to point people to Top Gun) and people around him are screaming, “Engage, Maverick!” But even before others notice, it should begin with you noticing it with self-awareness and then self-governance. As a leader, you need to be aware if you’re mentally backing away from the work you’re supposed to be doing. If you’ve become ambivalent and lack energy for the work and the vision, you’re not necessarily wrong for feeling that way, but you’ll be wrong to not make changes.

Maybe a shift in the responsibilities will be enough, or you just need a two week vacation. Possibly, it could indicate the need for a more permanent change. What problems are you currently avoiding? What’s left unchecked on your task list or unread in your email? Is your avoidance intentional because those particular problems are a distraction from your most important work (healthy leadership)?

Or is it because you no longer have the moxie to wade into the hard issues and lead out of them?

If you’re avoiding problems, use these filters, and then make the courageous leadership decision.

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If It Stinks, Investigate (the task a leader can't ignore)

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Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

You’re approving odd expense reports. You keep seeing someone in a place they shouldn’t be. One department seems to always have the latest technology. An employee quickly minimizes their screen when you enter their office.

These scenarios stink.

In my home I change some diapers, but my wife wins the “most diapers changed” award. My primary responsibility is diaper disposal. Disposal involves picking up the dirty diaper, placing it in a bag, and taking it to the outside trash (where squirrels, cats, and our neighbors can enjoy the smell).

Sometimes before I’m asked to dispose of a diaper, I smell something that stinks (a diaper left on the changing table, bed, or moved by some other child to unforeseen areas, like under a couch). I smell it, but I don’t want to investigate. If I investigate, I’m agreeing to the disposal chore – which clashes with my preferred option: to move farther away from the smell.

Many leaders take the same approach to issues that stink at work.

Investigation of difficult and stinky situations can’t be ignored. Investigation is the incumbent responsibility of the leader, and it shouldn’t be abdicated.

To your boss, board, congregation, denomination or judge, these words won’t cut it: “I thought something was off (smelled bad), but I didn’t really check into it.”

Your lack of investigation makes you culpable. Whether accountable to God’s standards, a judge’s, (or in my case, my wife’s) we must provide an answer for what we did or didn’t do.

What stinks in your work-place today?

What situation have you been unwilling to engage, because it might be trouble? Waiting only increases the trouble. The smell worsens.

Don’t wait for someone else to find out what smells. Don’t wait for the annual audit. Don’t wait until the stink has impacted your organization beyond repair. Don’t allow a dirty diaper to create a spiritual problem in your church.

Good leaders investigate, engage, and deal with whatever they find.

And sometimes after investigation, it turns out to be just a wet diaper, and it hardly stinks at all.

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