In my last post I shared 4 signs that decision fatigue has affected your decision making. Decision fatigue is a term that describes how a long series of decisions can actually diminish the overall quality of future decisions. Many leaders have unwittingly diminished their leadership effectiveness by making too many decisions. Ego depletion is a related concept that simply means the tireder you get, the less emotional self control you have. In this post I suggest 5 counter balances to decision fatigue.
First, a re-cap of the signs decision fatigue is affecting your decisions.
- You make quick, impulsive decisions you later regret you made.
- You needlessly delay decisions. This is the counterpoint to the impulsive decision noted above.
- You send thoughtless, terse emails.
- You get mad when someone asks you for a decision.
Consider these 5 ways to minimize decision fatigue.
- Make important decisions when you feel mentally and physically rested. Many decisions don’t take much thought time. However, really important ones take our full mental and spiritual capacity. When we’re tired, we simply don’t make the wisest decisions (decision fatigue). So, when faced with an important decision, evaluate if you can give it your best at that moment. If you can’t, delaying the decision may be the wisest choice.
- Delegate many decisions. One tool I use with staff when they ask me for a decision is this. I ask them, “What do you think?” This encourages their own insight and often the staffer will find his own answer which motivates him even more because he owns the solution.
- Don’t make spur-of-the-moment decisions when it creates unnecessary work for you. Often the decisions we make add more work to our plate. When faced with a decision, ask if it will create more work for you. Sometimes the correct decision will require you give more time to the project or the person. Those we should not avoid. However, other decisions may best not be made to avoid unnecessary work for you.
- Sometimes you must gracefully decline when someone asks you to make a decision. If the issue doesn’t pertain to your role, ministry, vision, mission, or values, sometimes we simply need to say,”No,’ to the person asking us for that decision. You can read more about gracefully saying no here.
- Always seek God’s wisdom when you make decisions. James wisely counsels us in James 1.5.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1.5, NIV)
What has helped you make the wisest decisions?
This past Thursday 65 leaders from Southern Ontario attended our first annual Nfluence conference at West Park Church, London. It was a great time to learn from three seasoned pastors, Dr. Dom Ruso, Steve Adams, and myself. In one session Dom explained how to empower the next generation. One insight he shared that particularly struck me was this. In order to empower the next generation of leaders, we must become aware of our own leadership bias. We all have a leadership bias and must recognize it to effectively integrate young leaders. So, how do we do that?
First, what is leadership bias? Simply put, leadership bias is the subtle tendency in leaders to only look for leaders like us.
This bias, according to Dom, can greatly restrict engaging emerging leaders. If we only see potential in young leaders who act and lead like we do, we can miss potential leaders. And unless older leaders do a better job of engaging young leaders, we’ll only reach our demographic and miss the young demographic that often views church as irrelevant.
The first place to start to engage young leaders is to discover your own leadership bias. These four questions may help you discover your bias.
- Who is your leadership hero? The qualities you see in that hero will tell a lot about what you look for in potential leaders. At the same time those qualities can reveal who you may overlook because they don’t fit your expectations.
- Do you tell yourself that you don’t have any biases? If you do, you just revealed that that you are biased. No one is bias free.
- Do you have younger leaders in your life that you listen to? When we invite younger leaders to speak into our lives, we can learn much from their perspectives that in turn can reveal our own biases.
- Related to number 3 above, to what degree do you invite younger leaders into your decision making? Often older leaders assume that younger leaders lack the wisdom that comes from age. Although age can foster wisdom, 30-year-old eyes can often see current culture more clearly than can 50 or 60-year-old eyes.
If you’d like to discover your biases, consider taking the Harvard-based Implicit Associations Test. It’s free and it’s here.
What do you think? Is leadership bias that big a deal? How have you learned to deal with your own biases?
The ‘honeymoon’ concept dates as far back as the 5th century. After getting married, a newlywed couple would often drink lots of mead, a honey-based alcoholic drink thought to have aphrodisiac properties. So, their inebriation made everything between the two early on appear overly positive. And then when they got sober they faced reality. In a similar way, when we take a new job or assume a new ministry role in a church (paid or volunteer), the honeymoon effect can mask the realities of this new role. So what do we do when the ministry honeymoon wears off? I suggest five ideas that may help.
First, what might be some signs that your ministry honeymoon is over?
- You may hear more rumblings and criticism than you did when you first came to your new church.
- People may become more overt in their criticism. In one church I delivered a message series with which a small group took issue. They boycotted the series.
- Mental fatigue may give way to chronic negative thinking. When we start in a new ministry, we bring dreams, excitement, and anticipation that all will go well. When things don’t go as planned, you may find yourself dwelling more on the negative rather than on the good things happening. This leads to mental fatigue which in turn leads to more negative thinking. This negative thinking loop is called rumination.
- You may question the decision you made to move into the new ministry role. You may begin to have second thoughts. “Did I make the right move?”
If you believe your honeymoon is ending, consider implementing these simple ideas to help you move forward.
- Remind yourself that it’s part of a natural ministry cycle for every honeymoon to end. Jesus also had a honeymoon (great crowds, Hosannahs on Palm Sunday, etc.) and even though He led perfectly, His ended. Yet, it had to end for resurrection to begin.
- Stay hopeful. When a marriage couple’s honeymoon ends, it gives them an opportunity to truly love each other. If they are both committed to the marriage, their love will deepen. When your ministry honeymoon ends, you have the opportunity to deepen your love for those in your ministry and in your church.
- Remember, it’s seldom as bad as you may think. Our brains are wired to focus on the negative. It’s called the negativity bias. We have five times more brain circuits dedicated to focus on the negative in contrast to those dedicated to the positive. Guard against catastrophizing like Chicken Little mistakenly did when he yelled, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” The sky probably isn’t really falling in your ministry.
- Don’t cut off your critics. This post unpacks the important principle that distancing ourselves from our critics often backfires and makes things worse. Don’t ignore and dismiss your critics yet don’t let them use you as a punching bag.
- Don’t get defensive. Defensiveness only complicates matters. This post suggests 5 ways to avoid defensiveness.
So, enjoy your honeymoon while you have it. But when it ends, embrace the new ministry phase that offers great new opportunities for growth and learning.
What has helped you weather the ministry honeymoon?
In the 1992 presidential race Ross Perot coined the phrase, “giant sucking sound,” to describe his concern that a proposed treaty would cause American jobs to go overseas. I believe it aptly describes how ministry can sometimes feel to church leaders. Every day church ministry demands that we sooth someone’s hurt feelings, solve a ministry problem, seek new ways to grow our churches, or satisfy what seems to be some church members’ increasing expectations. Ministry does feel like a “giant sucking sound” that can suck the life out of us. How do we know if our ministry is drowning us?
Major crises can certainly increase our stress as church leaders. But often lots of small stresses converge at once that unless we see the warning signs, we can end up casualties of ministry. Several years ago several church issues converged at once and I found myself not liking ministry, feeling stressed, and not being a very nice person to be around. I had to step back to re-calibrate my life. My first step was to take inventory and define reality.
I’ve listed below what I saw happen to me as I got sucked into ministry stress. As you read these, ask yourself if you can identify with any.
- I felt like I was skimming my most important tasks as the senior pastor in an attempt to get to everything else that was screaming for my attention.
- I felt so tired when I got home that I wanted to go to bed at 8.30 every night. Sometimes I did.
- I easily began to do mind-numbing stuff like check Twitter every hour.
- When I went home all I seemed to talk about were the problems at church.
- What I’ve always enjoyed doing (looking and dreaming ahead about new ministry ventures) I now had little internal drive and motivation to do.
- My daily devotions suffered.
- I felt achy all the time.
- I felt anger floating just beneath the surface ready to quickly surface when faced with another stress.
If you hear that “great sucking sound” in your ministry, I suggest you take inventory as I did as a first step in gaining a healthy balance in ministry.
What have been indicators of that “great sucking sound” in your ministry?
Shame is a powerful and often silent killer of our soul. It has afflicted many pastors and ministry leaders. Edward Welch, author of Shame Interrupted (a great book) defines shame in this way. Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. Or, to strengthen the language, you are disgraced because you acted less than human, you were treated as if you were less than human, or you were associated with something less than human, and there are witnesses (Kindle loc 177-180). So how do we deal with it. Here are some thoughts.
3 Ways Leaders can Deal with their Shame
- Realize where shame comes from.
- It comes from our own sin.
- It comes from sins others commit against us.
- It comes simply by association (i.e., someone in your family commited something scandalous and you feel shame because of it).
- It comes from our humanness (i.e., when we realize we don’t have what it takes to achieve our goals in life; this is often true for pastors when they realize they may never pastor a big church).
- Take comfort in God’s perspective on shame.
- He takes great interest in the shamed, forgotten, and marginalized (1 Cor. 1.26-28).
- Jesus experienced shame for us and therefore knows it intimately (Is. 53.3).
- God loves us not because of our worthiness (our perception that we have it all together) but because of His loving nature (Deut. 7.6-8).
- Make four critical decisions.
- Turn to his face in repentance. Read the amazing story of Isaiah’s encounter with God in Is. 6.1-7 for the biblical basis of my thoughts below.
- When we feel shamed, we don’t want to look someone in the face. We want to avoid them. However, Jesus wants us to come into his presence and look Him in the face to deal with our shame caused by our own sin. He wants us to confess and repent. Psalms 34.5 says, Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
- Receive his touch of forgiveness.
- Jesus often physically touched the outcast, broken, and shamed. Human touch can often melt away shame. Jesus wants us to experience his touch of forgiveness and cleansing
- Drink deeply of His Spirit.
- In John 4 we read the familiar story about the woman at the well. When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, he crossed many shame barriers: rabbis did not talk to women, Jews did not talk to Samaritans, and Jews did not contaminate themselves by eating or drinking with non-Jews. He offered her life-giving water from His Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit can wash away our shame as it did for this woman.
- Feast at his table of acceptance in the church community.
- After Peter denied Jesus, he felt great shame. Yet, after Jesus’ resurrection and after Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, he had a meal with Peter and the other disciples which pictured his being welcomed back into community. Shame can melt away when we experience real community in the church.
Shame stings, but it need not be deadly. Although people and circumstances around us may still shame us (and it hurts), Christ can release us from its destructive power.
1Pet. 2.6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
What has helped people you know deal with their shame?