“What do we want to focus on so that we can see our goals reached?” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just ask that question and rattle off our plan for the next year? Well, it can be a challenge for any of us to effectively identify our next steps for moving forward in our plans, personal goals, or with those we lead. Whether as a seasoned leader or a new leader, we can get stuck. And if we lead alongside someone who leads much differently than we do, it can be even more of a challenge! Following are a few reminders to keep in mind to simplify the process of planning as a team.
Evaluate— “Reality is our friend”
This may seem obvious- but we need to evaluate. Evaluation brings reality into the picture (yikes!)— and, we need to be reminded that, “Reality is our friend.” This is really the first step for making a plan: viewing reality, not as our enemy, but as a tool for shaping our future. If we loosen our grasp on our own plans we have a better chance of identifying what is next.
As we sat in our staff meeting we opened up a time of evaluation. We started with the “happy talk.” We shared the good or positive things we saw happen over the past year. Each of these things were written on the whiteboard.
Next, we listed the “not so happy,” or weaker areas from the year- the things that didn’t go so well, need attention, or were orphaned. This is where it can get rough. It is easy and normal to exaggerate the things that seem negative. “Things are SO bad.” Or, “Everyone thinks…” And it can also be easy to take things personally or feel the need to blame someone. Our tendency is to let the “bad” out weigh the “good.” This is where I don’t want to get stuck.
From our evaluation we want to see if we generally have the pulse of those we are serving. Do we really see the issues at hand?
Here is an important component of the evaluation process: a time of thanksgiving. As a staff team we took time to go back and acknowledge what God had done. We remembered and gave thanks. We offered thanks specifically and affirmed all is a gift from God. Then we treated everyone to coffee next door at the coffee shop!
Step Back and Pray
Sometimes being too close to something distorts our perspective. After putting a sample of paint up on the wall I step away to see if the color is what I want. As a leader we need to be stepping back— giving distance between us and the details of the evaluation and space between our own plans and different possibilities. This helps us to see things a little more clearly and to remember the goal is not to just fix things or usher in our agenda.
Before the evaluation with others I do my own evaluation. As I do this I am also in the process of stepping away from it and trying not to be fixated on figuring things out. This may mean not thinking about it and doing other things for a short time. This is also just sitting in it, noticing and writing down major themes. I will think about these things in light of the overall goals we have.
A few questions to ask:
- What are our goals for the next 3-5 years?
- What are the areas if not addressed will keep us from reaching these goals?
- If I could narrow down the noticed themes to three, what would they be?
Here is the most important part: I want to do this prayerfully. I am asking God continually for wisdom and discernment. I “hand over” all aspects to Him and ask Him to lead. I want to trust God and wait on Him.
After team evaluation, we don’t make any decisions or take any steps that day. We step back and call it a day. There may be more we need to say the next day. But we don’t want to be hasty in trying to figure things out. Our goal is not to hurry up and “fix things.”
Identify the Big Rocks
The phrase “if everything is important, then nothing is important” is good to keep in mind at this point. We will always have more things to address and do then we have time for. In order to see goals reached it is better to focus on fewer things— a few big rocks.
The big rocks are the non-negotiable things we need to address. “I can’t hit everything, but if I could pick three, what would they be?” (There is the illustration that if you put the big rocks into a jar first you can add small pebbles still to it. But if you fill the jar first with the small pebbles, then the big rocks won’t fit at all.) If we don’t identify our big rocks other things will end up filling our time.
We asked each staff person on our team to share their top three. “If you were the team leader what would you focus on during this new year?” Each shared three, and these were written on the white board. We began to notice overlap in ideas and repeated themes.
Then we stopped. We asked God to lead us.
This is important to keep in mind: it will always be tempting to address more than three areas. But if you pick three, there is a better chance for reaching your goals and seeing growth. Plus it will feel more manageable for your team.
Our Big Rocks
I do think themes become evident. Though this year felt different to me. I felt at a loss. There seemed like there were too many things to consider (as always). But the same areas were returning that had already been a focus during the last two years. Even though there had been some progress, we still wanted to see more.
I also felt perplexed by many areas we face — the isolation and distraction social media brings, the lack of male leadership, helicopter parenting, the changing times, etc.
As we evaluated, prayed and discussed candidly as a team, we did came up with three Big Rocks:
This is it! And I really feel good about what we came up with. I will share more in the weeks to come about each of these, and why we picked them, the steps under each and any progress we have seen. I also will share how we are addressing some of these perplexing themes.
As you plan and set goals, take time for the above three things (Evaluate, Step Back, and Identify the Big Rocks). Happy planning!
Next time: Prayer and a few ways we are incorporating it: Creating Solutions with Prayer