Tag: Commitment

Navigating Your Vision

In addition to my role on the leadership team at Church Community Builder, I have a somewhat unique set of skills. For most of my life, from childhood till today, I have been involved in ballooning. I am a hot air balloon pilot and spend much of my free time flying and participating in ballooning events. On the surface, the experience of flying balloons may seem unrelated to my day job … but in reality, it has helped me be a better leader. When we launch the balloon, we frequently have the intention of landing in a specific place. Unfortunately, balloons don’t have steering wheels, so we have to use the winds available to navigate to a landing. Much like leading people or implementing system change, there are some variables that a balloon pilot can control and many circumstances they cannot. I have learned how to plan for the things that I can control and respond to the forces that I cannot, while still aiming at specific target. Here are three lessons leaders can learn from piloting a balloon.

Make a plan, but keep it fluid

Prior to any flight, there is a plan. You don’t want to get in the air and then just ‘figure it out’. We could plot a path on a map and use a ruler to draw that line, but our actual journey won’t work out that way. There are obstacles along the way we have to go around, and there are well-worn paths we can use to move a little faster or a little more easily, even if they are not perfectly on track to our destination.

Flight Path 2014_10_06

Look at the path above. I started in the top left corner of the map on that flight, and landed within five feet of where I wanted, after 40 minutes and 5 miles. Something interesting to note about this path: If you look closely at my launch, it initially took me backwards from the goal. This is common in ministry as well. There are times we have to close down a ministry and shrink before we can grow in the right direction to achieve our vision. Planning is important — it is a must. But even in the best plans, there will be things that come up that were not anticipated. We don’t know what we don’t know. Planning is not something that is done once and complete. There are always in-flight adjustments that must be made.

You can’t always head straight for the target

When we see our vision, or our landing place, we usually cannot just go straight there. You can’t tackle every problem straight on. You may notice that the first half of the flight was very straight, but not in the right direction. If we had continued in that direction, we would have missed our target by a long shot. That path was not direct, but it was setting us up for the last half of the journey. I recently worked with a church that was growing a teaching team to reduce the dependence on the senior pastor. The quality of the preaching went down for a time, but it set them up in just the right way to really thrive.

When you divert, it is easy to get distracted

I remember this flight. After I had crossed the river and was in the wide open spaces again, I almost gave up on the vision. There were many great landing places that would have been ‘just fine’. I had to keep my mind fixed on the destination. Specifically, I had special guests on board and I wanted to show them a great picture opportunity.

As you approach your target, you may be tempted to let down. It has been a hard and long journey getting here and you may find yourself asking if this is close enough. This ‘good enough’ syndrome is tempting for all of us, but should be resisted. If I had landed somewhere else, my guests would have had a great day. They would likely not have known what they missed out on. But by pushing on to the target landing spot, they had much more than great day. They had a spectacular experience that was awe-inspiring. Even when your path twists and turns, you have to keep your eye on the prize and go the whole distance.

MuseumReflection

Your Next Move

You have a vision; now plot a path. That path will have diversions and convenient stopping points, but you can ensure your path gets you to the goal. Identify those distraction points as best you can so that you can remind yourself and your team there is a bigger destination in mind, even though this one seems nice enough.

When To Renege on Your Commitment

I am a big fan of doing what I said I would do. I consider that to be a sign of trustworthiness and reliability. Interestingly, if you fail to meet your commitment once it is not that big of a deal, but a trend means people discount your word completely.

Always Keep Your Commitments

I think if we start with the attitude of always keeping all the commitments we make, we will all be better off. The keys to being successful at that include

  • Consider Carefully – Before you make any commitment, regardless of how big or small, truly consider whether you can pull it off. Given everything you know right now, can you really do that? Can you do it well and on time? It is great to take risks or have “stretch goals” and please make them at least a little realistic.
  • Accept Inconvenience – When we agreed to this, it might have sounded easy. Now that you are neck deep in it..not so much. “This is such a mess, I didn’t realize how much I would have to clean up before I could do my work.” The other day, I agreed to do a small house project that would involve cutting some baseboard material, painting it and installing it. No problem – should take an hour, tops! As it turns out that one hour estimate was poorly informed. When I went to the garage to start, I realized I had not cleaned up my last project (or seven). As a result, the first hour of this one hour project was spent organizing the work bench so I could get to the saw. The effect is the job did not get done in an hour, so I was not able to do the next thing I really wanted to do. However, rather than weaken my word, I kept at it and finished, even though it was inconvenient for me.

Except When You Should Renege

If keeping all our commitments is a starting point in our thinking, that is great. However, it is not reasonable all the time. So, when should you bail out?

  • The World Changed – In 2006, Seth Godin did a TED Talk called This is Broken. I have watched it several times and I like it more and more each time. The point he makes that is relevant here today is some things are broken because the world changed. My friend recently (casually) agreed to do some balloon work for me in May. He is very talented and a great fit for the job, and he was more than happy to do it. Last week, he got a new job that is a 10-hour drive away. His world changed, and I think it is OK for him to bail on my job.
  • Your Health is at Risk – Although I believe accepting inconvenience is a good idea, there are limits. When you have been working tons of hours and the kids are all sick and the dishwasher is broken and you have had a raging headache for three days…you might need a break. With as much warning as possible, you should cancel your commitments and take care of yourself first. If you are not healthy, you are useless. Remember, this includes mental and emotional health. If you ignore your emotional health on a regular basis, I encourage you to watch this TED Talk with Guy Winch.
  • You Should have Said No – Back to that Careful Consideration thing. When you immediately have buyer’s remorse over an agreement, bail out quickly. You go to lunch with a friend and they ask a favor. Through guilt, care, or habit you agree. Moments later you get in the car and ask yourself, “Why did I agree to that, I can’t do that.” Call your friend quickly and renege. Sure, that might be a tough conversation, but it is better to rip off that band-aid quickly instead of letting the decision fester.

Your Next Move

Are you overcommitted?

If so, it is time to change your habits about committing in the first place, then go back and evaluate what agreements you can get out of. In my experience, it took about six months before my calendar was markedly different…and it was worth it.

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