Leadership Newsletter - February 2014

How Is Your Focus?

 

The early church as described in the book of Acts lived incredibly in one accord, displaying doctrinal, financial, and ecclesiastical unity. That is until a controversy arose over unequal care between two groups of widows connected to the church. Some rightly voiced a complaint that the Hellenistic widows of the Jerusalem church “were being neglected in the daily distribution” of food (6:1). In response, the twelve Christ-appointed leaders of the church rolled up their sleeves and took to caring for these widows themselves. Or did they? No, instead they articulated clearly that they would devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word,” while designating others to oversee a just distribution system that provided care for all widows.

Purposeful leaders live with a laser-like focus on the critical tasks they must accomplish, both long-term and short-term in nature.

I have a "love-hate" relationship with my "to do" lists. On typical mornings, I arrive at the office quite early to enjoy a few hours of quiet space prior to the staff arriving. In these moments, I review yesterday’s task list and then rewrite a similar list for the new day. And on most days, I scratch my head wondering how I can ever accomplish all the tasks now sketched out before me. Do you have the same head scratching experience? I think many of the leaders I've interacted with over the years experience similar angst.

A title and byline of a recent Harvard Business Review article caught my attention: "Beware of the Busy Manager: Are the least effective executives the ones who look like they are doing the most?"

In the article, the authors comment on their research regarding four types of executives: the procrastinators, the disengaged, the distracted, and the purposeful. The largest group—more than 40%—fell into the “distracted” group. These leaders were “well-intentioned, highly energetic but unfocused people who confuse frenetic motion with constructive action.” These shortsighted and overcommitted individuals “don’t stop to reflect” and “have trouble developing strategies” that would ultimately help them be more effective.

The smallest group in the research was the “purposeful” leaders—only about 10%. The research indicates that these individuals “pick their goals—and their battles—with far more care than other managers do.” The purposeful executives “decide first what to achieve and then work to manage the external environment” that facilitates reaching the prescribed purposes.

The leaders of the early church knew well to focus on their primary purposes. As a pastor and ministry leader, have you paused lately to reflect on your primary purposes within your ministry? Take just five minutes today and write out a purpose statement that articulates your core ministry focuses. Be prayerful and be specific as you pen your thoughts. Then, starting today, begin to narrow your to do list with your core purposes in mind, delegating other tasks to individuals who can fulfill them.

I’m glancing at my “to do” list right now, recognizing my need for greater focus. Together, let’s take care to focus intentionally lest we become labeled with the sign—“Beware the Busy Pastor.”

 

Dan Hamil, Ed.D.
Executive Director (Interim)
North American Baptists, Inc.

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