Monday, October 18, 2004

It's amazing what you find and where!

We get The Costco Connection, a monthly marketing magazine because of our membership in Costco. In addition to promoting its wares, it publishes articles of general interest. An article printed a couple of months ago gave me information about "blogs" and that led to my first blog. The most recent issue featured an article entitled "Conventional Wisdom" that I found interesting and applicable to leadership in ministry. (I'm not opposed to improving leadership, I just don't think we should spend all our time there to the neglect of sound doctrine.)

Peter J. Malcolm cited management consultant Wolf Rinke's new book, Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel ... and 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw Hill, 2004). Some of Rinke's suggestions make a lot of sense. Here are a few of his ideas.

Don't oil the squeaky wheel. In too many situations, preachers spend a majority of their time with negative individuals who roil the water in churches. As a result, the eye is taken off the goal in attempt to please the few who create most of the trouble. Rinke says, "If you spend more than 5 percent of your time with troublemakers, you're messing up." The way to develop an atmosphere of trust and cooperation is "to spend the majority of your time with the people who behave that way." In my own experience, when the squeaky wheel gets oiled it just squeaks all the more. The issue is usually one of attention and self-importance than a focus on the church's purpose and goals.

Don't be tough. Too many ministers operate out of a sense of insecurity thinking that to be effective they have to be the boss. It took me some time to discover that I can trust other people to do a job delegated to them without hovering over them or telling them how to do it. Sometimes I could do it better, but I found out that when I gave people the freedom to serve they often exceeded my wildest expectations. Rinke says, "If you're tough and you push people and shove decisions down their throats, you're not going to get people to think for themselves."

Don't satisfy customers. While I absolutely hate it, we live in an era of "consumer mentality." I would like to think that people find a church because it is faithful to Scripture and teaches the truth. Only a few, I've found, think like that. Most look for a church that is friendly and offers a variety of choices all of which are done well. Excellence isn't an attempt to meet customer satisfaction, it is a desire to exceed their expectations. When you think about it, shouldn't we all seek excellence to God's glory?

Don't make decisions. We have the mistaken idea that the minister must make all the decisions. Rinke suggests that genuine leadership gets others to make decisions for you. Ministers who act like dictators will surround themselves with others who are dependent and do only what they are told. Believers need to take ownership. Instead of autocratic leadership, spend time asking questions, planting seeds, and working quietly to help other people to make your ideas their own. Rinke says the two best questions are, "What are you going to do about that?" and "What do you think?"

Don't be proud. Give credit away.

Don't have goals and objectives. Rinke says you should have an H.O.G. -- one humongous overarching goal. That's what Jesus gave the church, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature...." An H.O.G. is one really critical goal you implement and drive home so that every team member internalizes it.

Don't have people work for you. Treat everyone as volunteers. When you deal with volunteers, you say, "Please do me a favor." It is an issue of respect and treating people with honor. Too many times, we treat Christians with disrespect because they aren't doing their duty. We moan and groan because we can't get enough people to serve but it is largely true because we haven't learned to treat people well.

Isn't it amazing what you can find?