I make an effort to be a continual learner. I believe effective leaders must be constant learners to grow their own self-awareness, understand our changing culture and learn from the wisdom and mistakes of others. I continually read books and articles, listen to podcasts, attend conferences and ask questions whenever I’m meeting with other leaders to keep learning.

I was listening to a podcast by Donald Miller and Andy Stanley (Episodes #122 and #123) and as often happens, there was one conversation that as soon as I heard it I said in my head; “YES! That’s so true!” Sometimes others put into words what we instinctively know. And their conversation was about a critical part of great leadership that doesn’t get enough attention.

Here’s what Andy Stanley said that we need to be reminded of over and over. People follow clarity more than character. Now, he was quick to assure us that character matters. Further, Stanley noted that people will say that the character of a leader is the most important aspect in their decision to follow a leader. But in reality, people will follow the clear message, or clear vision of a leader, even if they have doubts about his or her character. Why? An effective vision, mission, and purpose are all tied to clarity and people need clarity, not ambiguity. There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that.

In the podcast, Miller and Stanley invited us to test the “theory” out. They asked the audience what the vision and slogan was of the last two presidential candidates who won. Almost everyone can remember the themes, slogans and chants of Barack Obama (Change and Yes We Can) and Donald Trump (Make America Great Again). No one remembers the themes, slogans or chants of those who lost. Often (not always) they did not present a clear vision. But this isn’t about politics, so please don’t go down that road. This is about clarity, regardless of whether you agree with a particular candidate or not. People respond to a clear message. By the way, if you want to have some fun with this, go to the list of presidential campaign slogans throughout American history and you can see not just who actually won, but the slogans that are winners and losers – go to Wikipedia Campaign Slogans.

Jesus Clarity

Now to the one who really matters…Jesus. There was never a leader who was more clear than Jesus! The clarity of Jesus literally knocks you over, especially if you have any spiritual sensitivity. That is one of the two reasons why 49 years ago I decided to follow Jesus (the other was that after reading his teachings, I wanted to be like his teachings and like him). Listen to the clarity of Jesus as to why he came and his purpose in Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We remember the clarity of our main priority found in Matthew 22:37-40Love God. Love others. And he was so clear about our mission in Matthew 28:19-20 – Go everywhere and make disciples!

Vision Clarity

Do YOU have clarity in your vision? Do you really know where you are going? Are you crystal clear on where you are leading your church or organization? If I sit with you, can you in 3 minutes or less, give me a clear sense of where you are taking your  organization? If I’m trying to get to know you and your organization, I don’t care about the hows (methods) and whats (programs or services). I want to know if you can tell me clearly where we are going and why I should be a part of it.

Mission Clarity

Is the mission clear? No military can ever succeed without a clear mission. A mission is what we are doing right now. It’s our job. What’s the mission you are inviting me into that will make a difference? Is there enough clarity that I actually, on my own or with others, engage and do the mission? Do you remind me about it over and over?

Discipleship Clarity

Is there clarity about your path and plan to make disciples? If I walk into your church, visit for a few weeks, will I have absolute clarity about my next step is to engage and grow in my faith? Are the steps toward becoming more like Jesus clear? Is there a roadmap that I can follow? It might literally be “step 1, step 2…” We use this process: Starting Point (that’s where you start if you are new or finally ready to start), Discover (to discover your next step), Launching Point (to help launch you into the community or service). It doesn’t matter what the language or program is, but that you have clarity and it is communicated consistently so it can’t me missed. Make it easy to engage!

Message Clarity

I’ve talked about this in previous blogs, but our Sunday messages or sermons must be so clear that they are memorable, actionable and portable. I attended a church whose pastor is well known and respected for great Bible teaching. I went with good anticipation, listened carefully and took notes. After my wife and I left I was so disappointed. The teacher went through a chapter of the Bible with some interesting points. But I left without any clear action I could take and without any key point or organizing principle that I could share with others. It was great information, but it gave me no clear path for transformation or application. Is your message clear?

Organizational Clarity

Patrick Lencioni wrote one of the top five books I recommend for Lead Pastors, Presidents, CEO’s or anyone in charge of their organization. His book, The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business has one main, clear point – clarity is what is core to organizational health. He has four disciplines that create clarity. It’s worth the read!

There is so much power in clarity to lead people to a better place. Have I been clear?…..

Glen

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Less is more

Focus multiplies the power of everything. Take light and focus it and you get the power of the laser. But if you try to focus on too many things you experience the law of diminishing return (see below) and you actually accomplish less. This is true in ministry and business as well as our personal and spiritual lives. As 2018 ends and we begin to look toward a new year, let me challenge you to embrace the discipline of focus.

Here’s a truth that I believe powerfully affects every aspect of life – Less is more! Focus provides maximum impact. If everything is important, then nothing is important.

I’ve seen the power of focus work over and over in my ministry work. My best messages are focused. In fact, for every message I develop a short sentence that captures my one main idea. Then, I make sure every scripture and illustration aims at that main idea. After numerous reviews, I find I keep cutting out good material that was not critical to my focused point. Folks will more likely remember a focused message with one main point rather than a message with eight or ten good ideas.

The most effective churches that are discipling people have focused ministries and don’t try to do everything or be everything to all people. They are great as saying “no” to good programs in order to focus on what’s critical. The best parents know how to focus on a few things rather than live scattered lives of non-stop activity. The best businesses know their “hedge hog” or their focused strategy (a term developed by Jim Collins in Good to Great) and live by a few key values.

Here’s what we know from research and from observing life: If you focus on two or three goals you’ll have a reasonable chance at accomplishing two or three goals. But if you try to accomplish from four to six goals, you’ll actually only likely accomplish one or two. And if you try to accomplish from eleven to twenty goals, you’ll likely achieve none of them. That’s the law of diminishing return. There is power in focusing on fewer things at a time. Remember, less is more.

 

WIN – What’s Important Now

At our church, we focus on one key goal that everyone on staff can engage in. We use the acronym WIN which stands for What’s Important Now. A WIN is the single top priority over given period of time that will make a difference for the whole church. It requires the collaboration of all. It becomes our rallying cry. A WIN is a goal that can be accomplished in 3-12 months.

To discover our WIN for a particular season, we ask, “If we accomplish one thing during the next X months, what would it be? What must be true X months from now to be able to look back and say with any credibility that we had a good season?”

 

4X4

We personalize the power of focus by utilizing the 4X4 principle (or 1X1, 2X2, 3X3 or 6X6, etc.). We use this simple goal setting idea with our staff of focusing on a few key things that would make a big difference that are not a part of our normal daily job description or routine. A 4X4 would be focusing on four things over a quarter. Recently, I used a 1X6 where I had one very big goal that I needed to focus on for a six month time period. This is a flexible principle that allows you adjust the number of goals over a variety of time frames. But the key idea is to focus on less because less is more!

 

One Word

About six years ago, I found a new way to apply the less is more principle. It came from a short book titled One Word. The idea is to choose one word to focus on for a whole year. I decided to help our church use this principle and connected it to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Over half of all Americans will make a bunch of New Year’s resolutions. What percentage of people who make resolutions are actually fulfilling them? 8%! And over half of those who make resolutions have failed or forgotten them by the end of January. That’s not a good track record. Now, there’s many reasons why that happens. Sometimes the goals are too big or not specific enough. But one factor for sure is that we have too many resolutions. How can we increase our shot at experiencing real life change and have maximum impact? The answer again is focus!

Here’s how the one word idea works. First, you think about something that you want to change in you or about you this year. Maybe it is an area you want to grow in or become more like. Prayerfully, reflectfully and boldly ask God for one word that will help you accomplish that. Identify one word that will best capture the one thing that would bring hope, change, renewal and newness to you in the new year. It can be a habit to overcome or a discipline to embrace. It can be a character quality you want to adopt or develop more deeply. It can be an action that you want to become more a part of your life. We’ve heard so many stories of real life change because of the power of focus practiced in the one word exercise. Try it! It has became an annual experience that our church looks forward to each year.

Embrace the “less is more” life. Discover that focus provides maximum impact. Say “no” to more and “yes” to less. May your 2019 be a year of powerful God-infused focus.

One of the absolutely vital components of a healthy church, business or organization is focus. Back in 2001, Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, shares how focus is a secret to a great company in an idea called “The Hedgehog.” Here’s what Collins says about this idea:

Are you a hedgehog or a fox? In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial.

Foxes try to be clever and know and try lots of ways to catch a hedgehog. But the hedgehog has one and only one defense that works every time. It rolls itself up in a ball with its quills outward and its soft inner body protected when danger comes.

Too many churches and organizations try to know and do too many things. The question for you as you lead is simple. What is and what can your group be the best at? What must you be the best at? These are questions of focus. You see, there is no church or group that can be “all things to all people” (Those are Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and they have a very different context and purpose).

Some of the best and most effective churches and organizations focus on a few things. Life.Church is an example of focus. They focus on excellent worship, kids and youth, and small groups. That means they say “no” to things others want them to do like concerts or men’s or women’s ministry. Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix has always had a targeted focus or “customer.” They seek to reach unchurched men. If they can win the man, they believe they’ll reach the whole family. Continuing to use the church as an example, your focus might be discipleship, teaching, spiritual formation, targeting a specific type of group, a specific type of community transformation or recovery ministry.

Back about 10 years ago I decided our church needed to offer a traditional style worship service with hymns, piano, choir, etc. It’s a valid style of worship and I was sure there were people who liked this style. Other churches do “traditional” very well. But we were pretty bad at it. And it took tons of works, time, volunteers, and resources away from what we do really well. I made the decision after a year to stop that service. Some people left disappointed and unhappy. But that decision helped us to focus on what God has called us to focus on.

One of my favorite quotes says; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!” Jesus knew his main thing. His focus dominated what he did and how he lived his life. Jesus actually told us his main thing; For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lostLuke 19:10. That’s the one thing that really matters to Jesus – reaching lost people. That’s where he spent a significant amount of his time. It was lost people he sought out and hung out with. He had a reputation of focusing on the people the religious folks said were lost. That’s why he told three specific parables about the lost in Luke 15. Jesus was focused.

As leader you need to figure out, with other key leaders in prayerful connection with God, what your “hedgehog” is. You need to figure out what you are best at and what is most important for you to focus on. As I lead our church, I know the things that are non-negotiable to accomplish our vision and mission. Focusing on too many things will sabotage excellence and dilute effectiveness.

And yes, a clear focus has both ups and downs. A clear focus will mean some folks and clients will decide they want something different and go elsewhere. That’s okay. But a clear focus will also attract quality leaders and allow you to leverage your people, finances and other resources to make a clear difference. When you are focused you know exactly who you are trying to reach as new clients or who you want to serve. You learn to say no to the good things that in fact are the enemy of what’s best.

Great leaders have a focus and are tenacious in keeping the main thing the main thing. The attacks on focus will never end. You’ll be tempted over and over to weaken your grip on your hedgehog concept. Resist! You can’t and don’t want to be the answer to every problem in your sphere of influence. Figure out the problem that God is calling you to address and stick to it with all you have.