Right now, I have friends working on setting two world records. The Two Eagles Balloon Team has launched a helium balloon in Saga, Japan headed for North America to break the distance and duration records in gas ballooning that were set more than 30 years ago. It is a very cool adventure and worth tracking to see how it turns out. What has been really impressive is how many people around the world are tuned in and want to help out. Ballooning is already a pretty close-knit group, and it is still impressive to me. So, why do people rally around something like this?
Do Something Big
I think people like to help out on projects that are big. Bigger than they have ever done, or may ever do. It is very unlikely I will ever attempt or hold a world record at anything. That is OK with me. It is a great privilege for me to work with people who are doing big things. In fact, although I don’t really do much, it is still a great ego boost to say, “I helped with that.”
The same is true of our workplace; people like to join something big. As you lead your organization, is your vision big enough to rally the troops and get them fired up?
Leading is Lonely
We often hear that leadership is lonely. As we blaze a trail into the unknown, we feel like we are on our own. I think that is true when we have a really big vision. It is big because nobody has done it before. If we wanted to feel comfortable we would join the masses and do something mundane.
However, I think the loneliness can also come when we shrink from that big hairy audacious goal and pick something easier. If you are feeling lonely, I suggest two things.
- Gather a Tribe. There are others like you trying to change the world. Find those folks and gather a tribe to support each other. Even if you are in different parts of the world, relating challenges with peers can bring great comfort, support, and insight. In fact, we think this is so important for church leaders that we started a whole section of our company dedicated to Tribes.
- Get a Bigger Vision. While leading the pack is genuinely lonely at times, you should also expect people to come out of the woodwork and ask to join. I am getting calls and emails every day from people who want to support this balloon flight. If you are not getting that support, consider that your vision isn’t big enough. Is it really amazing enough for people to pause and reflect, then ask to join?
Your Next Move
Go do something big. It is ok to be afraid and second guess the path; and do it anyway. If you are feeling all alone on this adventure, then make sure you are really doing something big enough to be worthy of you. You are amazing, let your work reflect that. Once you are convinced you are on a big enough adventure, then gather a tribe. They are out there, go connect.
So…I write a blog now. Of course, if you are reading this, it is not news to you.
I have been writing this blog since July. I made a commitment to post one blog per week for a year. Some weeks that is easy and the thoughts flow smoothly. Some weeks it is a dreadful task that keeps getting pushed later and later in the week as I avoid it.
Why Do I Write?
I started this blog under duress. I was convinced I didn’t have anything useful to say. Even if I had something to say, surely nobody would be interested in listening. While that may be true, I have found there is value to writing anyway.
- I get clarity. When I have an idea for a blog and I start writing, I often discover I don’t really know what I think about that idea. At least not well enough to say it out loud. Sometimes that results in putting the blog on hold until I get clear. More often some time soul searching brings that clarity and then I put it on paper.
- I am building a library. If you are around me for very long, you will realize I have a story for nearly everything. Many of them are actually true. By writing those down, I believe I am extending those stories across audiences and across time.
- It is a catharsis. I often write something I feel strongly about. That expression is often freeing and gives me a creative outlet. I notice a sense of peace and accomplishment when I am ready to publish.
Who Got Me Here?
Like I mentioned above, I did not just wake up one day and decide to write the blog. It was quite the opposite. People had been asking me to write for a while and I resisted. They eventually wore me down. I wanted to mention a few of them here and how they encouraged me. In no particular order…
- Steve Caton is a friend here at Church Community Builder who has been writing our corporate blog for years now. He encouraged me to believe my thoughts were interesting to people and that I would enjoy it. I want to lead like Steve when I grow up.
- Kevin Knebl is a friend who has taught me to focus on relationships and adding value to others, even in this environment of high technology and pressure to perform. He told me to get started and “do your pushups”. I want to love like Kevin when I grow up.
- Jon Plotner is friend here at work who balances people and processes better than most. He is insightful in the ways he cares for people’s feelings.Jon did much of the original work getting the technology sorted out, since he saw me using that as an excuse to delay. I want to care like Jon when I grow up.
- Ben Stroup is a writer I met several years ago. We talked about how to write. How much to write each day, how long a post should be, why people read some posts and not others, and how to disrupt the market. I want to be as insightful as Ben when I grow up.
There are many other folks who have moved me along on this journey, and held my feet to the fire.I appreciate everyone of you who reads the blog, who comments on it, or who leans on me to keep going. You are all very encouraging to me.
Your Next Move
Is there something out there people are pushing you to do? If they truly are friends looking out for your best interest, let them push you to get started.
I tend to make decisions quickly, often more quickly than my peers. Rest assured, it is not because I am smarter, or think faster. In fact, I make more mistakes than most. I think it is because I evaluate the risk of decisions differently than many.
Right or Repairable?
All too often, we delay making a decision until we have all the facts, and check them twice. Why is that? I think it is because we want to make the right decision. Seems admirable. However, I think that may not be the best criteria in this fast paced world. I think a better decision making criteria would be, “Is this decision repairable?” Not all decisions carry the same weight, so inherently some are more risk than others if we get them wrong.
As you may have heard before, I believe learning is defined as the ability to detect and correct error. If I make the wrong decision and I don’t get the results I wanted, that is an error. Repairability of a decision is really based on whether I can learn from this (and fix it) or not.
How will I know?
Rules to determine if this decision is repairable:
- Will I get good feedback? If we decide to change our church service times from 11:00 to 10:30am, I can watch the attendance trends to see if that had an affect, positive or negative. That is, if I track attendance carefully. Do you have a mechanism to provide feedback on this decision? If not, then the fear of getting it wrong is very valid.
- How long until I know I made a mistake? When probes are sent into space, they are programmed with a specific trajectory that will be in line with the mission. Many times, those missions take years to complete. If it takes that long to realize we sent the probe in the wrong direction, that is a decision I would consider not repairable. However, preparing a budget for the next year I know I will get continuous feedback every week I count contributions. As a result, that feedback can help me make small repairs before I get too off track.
- What will I lose in that time if I got it wrong? As humans, we like to employ catastrophic thinking as often as possible. At a high level, this means when we don’t know an outcome, we imagine the worst possible result. Coded into us for survival purposes (i.e.: rustling grass could be wind or a tiger), it is a healthy tool. However, we now imagine the worst case scenario when making every decision. Instead, think about what is the most likely worst case, in the length of time it takes us to get feedback. I was considering moving a person into a new position and didn’t know if they could be successful there. If they failed, the company would suffer, it could put their career in jeopardy, which adds strain to their family, which could… We decided even if they failed miserably, we were going to check in soon enough to minimize any real damage so it was worth the risk.
It is easy to see how this repairable criteria can drive our technical decisions, like budgeting, service times, or space probes. What about relational decisions, like whether to give an employee negative performance feedback? It all comes down to culture. Do you have a culture where mistakes are celebrated and relationships stay intact? If you do, then take a risk and know you can fix it. If not, then ask yourself what about your culture is preventing this?
Your Next Move
Think of a decision that is delayed waiting for more information and confirmation. Consider the points above and make a decision. When you make the decision, inform others of your plan to make it repairable. Do that now, and practice every chance you get!