4 Simple Decisions that Can Boost Personal Productivity

Our church is growing and as we grow, our staff faces greater demands on their time. So, we must work smarter. Since I’m trying to build a learning culture here at West Park Church, I asked myself, “How can I help our staff work smarter?” I’ve adapted and used the Getting Things Done process for years, but sometimes it seems cumbersome. Recently, however, I discovered insights from a Microsoft employee who wrote the book, Getting Results the Agile Way. (I highly recommend it) It’s a simple process that helps improve personal productivity. I’ve summarized below the 4 simple decisions he suggests that can help boost our productivity. I’m beginning to apply them and they really work.

Production has really picked up since we installed coffee pots.

THE FOUR DECISIONS

  1. Monday vision: every Monday look at your week and determine the top three things you hope to accomplish. Write them down.
  2. Daily Outcomes: every day determine the top three things you want to accomplish. Write them down.
  3. Rule of Three: as you might have guessed it, practice the rule of three. That is, keep your high priority daily and weekly task/project lists to three items.
  4. Friday Reflection: on Friday look at what you accomplished, what you learned, and what you hope to do differently the following week.

This seems so simple that it seems simplistic. But, that’s it’s beauty.

Less is often more. Simple is often better.

 In his book he expands upon these principles, and many more.

Here’s how we’re trying to incorporate this insight thus far.

  • Each week we read 2-3 chapters of the book.
  • When we meet in our weekly staff meeting we discuss our learnings.
  • I created four posters reflecting the four key insights above and as a reminder I taped them to our conference room wall where we meet.

This author is quite unselfish. He offers a 30-day free plan here where he takes one key insight and expands it each day for 30 days.

As I seek to boost my productivity, while keeping healthy margins, I’m reminded that the Bible even tells us to use our time wisely.

  • Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5.16, ESV)
  • So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90.12, ESV)

How can you boost your productivity this week?

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What Makes a Great Staff Meeting? This May Surprise You.

Staff meetings…a necessary part of the ministry and the workplace. I’ve led hundreds. Some went well. Some, well, didn’t. My friend Tim Stevens just wrote a great book to help leaders not only lead great staff meetings, but become better leaders as well. It’s called Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace. I highly recommend it. He graciously offered to write today’s guest post to share his insight on what makes a great staff meeting. He calls this snippet from his book, the 3 S’s of a great meeting. You’ll appreciate his insight.

FairnessIsOverrated[1]

The 3 S’s

If I were only allowed to give one reason why the organization where I served for twenty years was often described as having a healthy culture, it would certainly be a decision we made many years ago to meet together on a weekly basis.

You might be saying, “Uh, you have a staff meeting? Congratulations. Every organization has staff meetings.” But this was different, and let me explain why.

This was a meeting we had every week that was for the distinct and single purpose of creating culture. We called it our weekly “SWAT” meeting—which is a cheesy acronym for “Staff Working As Team,” but within this title is the purpose of the gathering.

This wasn’t a meeting to make decisions; it was not a meeting to share prayer requests or worship (I know you think church leaders do this at every gathering); and it was not a meeting to fix things that were going wrong. None of those are bad, and they all help create culture to some degree. But instead, we focused solely on three areas we believed were the most effective at creating a healthy culture.

Stories

We spent the first fifteen to twenty minutes of every gathering sharing stories. We began the conversation by saying, “Where have you seen God at work in and through the church in the past seven days?” And then it was an open floor. We heard about changed lives inside and outside our walls. We heard stories from student ministry, small groups, and children’s ministry. We found out about the person in Canada who wrote in after watching an online service. We heard about the experiences of people who attended for the first time, and the baptism of someone who had been away from church for decades. We learned about the woman who walked into the building lonely and afraid on a Monday afternoon, and who left having found encouragement and hope. We heard about the guy who was delivered a box of food in last year’s food drive, and who came to help others receive food this year.

You can’t underestimate the power of a story. It is so easy for people to get caught up in the micro-purpose of what they do: cleaning floors, organizing small groups, rehearsing lyrics, or preparing to teach kids. And sometimes you can work week after week and never see any tangible results from your work. But when you have an opportunity to gather every week and hear stories from your area and others, it does three things:

  1. It keeps you from a silo mentality, or thinking you are the only one getting anything done.
  2. It gives you a reason to celebrate what is happening all across the organization.
  3. It gives you hope and reenergizes your vision when your team may be going through a tough season.

If I were running a company, I would do exactly the same thing. I would orient the story-telling segment of the meeting to share reports of great customer interactions or feedback. What are our customers saying? Where is our product helping better people’s lives?

Spotlight

Following stories, we spent time putting one individual in the spotlight. With no warning ahead of time, we asked someone to sit up front and field questions from the rest of the team. We found out about his or her childhood, likes and dislikes, faith journey, spouse, hobbies, and history. This gave us an opportunity to get to know someone on a level we never did before. It took us out of the subculture of our individual departments, and it communicated that we were all on the same team, caring for one another as individuals.

Following the Q&A, we stopped and said, “Now let’s tell [Jill] why we are so glad to have her on the team.” And one after another we told her how her life added joy and meaning to the rest of us. People who were very close to her got to voice in front of others how significant she was to the team. The executive leaders got to communicate the value she brought to the entire organization. People who barely knew Jill got to tell her how they had been encouraged by her presence, smile, or attitude.

Stuff

The final segment in our meeting was used for sharing inside information. It added value to the team when they knew stuff ahead of time. Sometimes we talked about upcoming events; other times we were throwing concepts out that hadn’t been decided on but that needed input from the team. They had ownership when they knew stuff before others, and it equipped them to answer questions and carry the vision.

Occasionally our “stuff ” section consisted of one of the leaders talking about vision, teaching values, or sharing a spiritual lesson. These tended to be unprocessed thoughts. They felt more as if the leader was sharing off the top of his or her heart rather than delivering a prepared talk. Sometimes it was a bit raw, as it hadn’t been written for a larger audience, but the staff really appreciated the authentic nature of being able to hear from their leaders as they were learning—not when it was all finished and packaged.

These weekly gatherings kept everyone on the team energized and focused. We realized, It’s not just about me or my department; I’m part of something bigger. Even if we were having a tough week, for a few minutes we were pulled above that and realized again why it mattered. By the way, I would start this even if my business were brand-new with only one or two paid staff. And in the church setting, this would be fabulous to do regularly with a room full of volunteers. So I’ll say it again: if I were going to do one thing to create a positive culture, I would start with a weekly gathering and the three Ss. With our team at Granger, this ritual was hugely effective in keeping us focused in the same direction.

Tim Stevens is a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders.

Previously he was the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact.

Learn more about his new book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.

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Is a Pastor’s Job a Calling or a Career?

My good friend Godfrey Thorogood is one of the smartest guys around when it comes to church leadership. He’s served as a pastor and now serves as FEB Central’s Leadership Development Director in Ontario. He’s worked with literally hundreds of pastors and recently shared with me that he noticed a disturbing trend among pastors. I asked him to write this insightful guest post.

Successful leader

As I ask myself if ministry is a calling or a career, my mind goes back to the day in May 1978 when God spoke to my heart and said “Godfrey, I want you to help people.” I soon discovered that the manner in which God wanted me to help people was by becoming a pastor. Throughout the past 36 years, God has reminded me many times of that specific call to help people through pastoral ministry.

Since I know I was called by God to be a pastor, that call has driven my passion to serve God and to serve His church. Even at times when my passion waned and I wrestled with staying in pastoral ministry, God would take me back to His specific call upon my life, which in turn would renew my passion.

Over the past few years, I have seen the trend of some men viewing pastoral ministry as a career rather than a call.

As I come alongside to assist pastoral search teams in our churches, I occasionally hear from those search teams that some of the men whom they talk with seem to lack passion as a pastor and preacher. These search teams pick up very quickly that some of the men whom they talk with view the pastoral opportunity at a particular church as a way to advance their career rather than fulfill God’s call upon their lives.

When I finished serving as an intern in my home church, and was called to serve as assistant pastor in another church, the pastor of my home church told me not to view my role as assistant pastor as a stepping stone to future ministry. He said, “God may choose to use it that way, but go into the role with the mindset that God has called you to serve in the church at this time for however long He wants you to serve there”. He also said “Serve with passion, joy and with loyalty to your senior pastor and fulfill God’s call upon your life as assistant pastor in the church”.

I believe the words of my pastor are good words for all of us as pastors to be reminded of today.

Let’s not forget that we have been called to serve as a pastor. Take some time to read through Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Note the passionate statements Paul makes about his own life and ministry. Make his statements your statements as you think about your current place of pastoral ministry. Ask God to continually reignite your passion for serving God and His church.

What do you think about this view that a pastor should view his role as a calling versus a career?

You can reach Godfrey here.

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Would you Give Up Your Job so Someone Else Could Have it?

I have the privilege of leading a young men’s leadership development group on Thursday mornings. Recently one guy, Sam, shared an amazing story about “giving up” in the workplace. Since this is guest post week, I asked him to write this post. You will be encouraged and amazed.

sacrifice

I was burned out and ready for a change. Getting recruited by a manager I greatly respected and the prospect of moving into a new position where I could gain some high demand skills had given me new hope. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my team mate and friend Tim. I would never have predicted what happened next.

My friend had also been recruited by the same manager and as we discussed the news that had until then remained private, it became apparent we were both interviewing for the same position.

I was desperate to find relief from the unrelenting demands of my current job, but I knew that Tim’s situation was no different. More than any professional association or bond of friendship we shared, we had something even deeper in common – our faith as brothers in Christ.

On one hand I really wanted that job, but on the other I knew that Tim did too – and in my opinion he was also a stronger candidate. Furthermore, his wife was dealing with cancer and their family was under enormous stress.

Pride and entitlement were whispering in my ear, but I knew I was in a situation that called for something higher. I remember feeling so conflicted as I sorted out what to do, but thankfully there were some deep scriptural truths embedded in my heart that provided clarity.

1) To truly love someone, you must consider when to put their needs ahead of your

 (John 13:35). My friend’s need was greater than my own, competing for that job would have added stress to his life and our relationship.

2) Sometimes giving is better than getting - In Acts 20:35 Christ teaches “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” - this truth can’t be realized without testing it.

3) When you have the chance to do good – do it! In fact, not doing the right thing when you know you should can be considered sin (James 4:17).

4) Sharing the spotlight with others allows them to exercise their God-given potential - when someone is better than you at something, show humility and let them shine! (Philippians 2:3)

5) God knew my needs - even if I didn’t pursue the job, I wanted to trust that my needs would still be met (Philippians 4:19).

In light of these truths, I wrote a letter to the hiring manager to endorse my friend as the best man for the job and excused myself from consideration.

But the story doesn’t end there …

It turned out that there were TWO open positions and we both ended up getting hired. Our careers grew as did our friendship. And I’m pretty sure that manager will never forget the day I almost turned him down but he hired me anyway.

If something like this happened to you, how do you think you’d respond?

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Are you a Brain-Savvy Leader? 7 Posts that Show you How

One of my passions is to bring the conversation about how brain insight can help us love and serve God better. My blog tag line is even titled, NeuroMinistry: Leveraging Brain-Based Insight for Kingdom Impact. I’m serious about this as I’m completing an executive masters in the neuroscience of leadership (May) and wrote a book focusing on that topic that hits the shelves in May, Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry. I’ve written a bunch of blogs on this subject and I’ve included my top 7 most read posts in 2014 that relate to brain insight.

brain child
  1. 8 Signs of the Emotionally Anxious Pastor
  2. 10 Subtle Signs You have Hit you Stress Red Zone
  3. 6 Brain Barriers to Healthy Church Change
  4. 5 Ways to Get People to Pay Attention to your Sermons
  5. 6 Ways Leaders Can Keep Their Brains Sharp
  6. 4 Legal Drugs Every Leader should Know about and Use
  7. Pastor, are you Addicted to This?

What brain insight would you like me to write about this year?