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"Clarify What We Plan to Preserve"
by Tom Goodman
February 15, 2007

Vision can get fuzzy when leaders only focus on what they want to achieve and fail to communicate what they plan to preserve.  That's Bill Donahue's conviction.  He's the executive director of small groups for the Willow Creek Association.  In an article from a print journal, Donahue says there are three reasons why vision gets a little fuzzy and what leaders can do to adjust the focus.

Last week I pointed out that the article made me review my own work of vision-casting across these four years at Hillcrest.  I haven't been able to find it online for you, but across three weeks of LeaderLines I'll try to summarize his points and my reactions to those points.

I've already covered my reaction to his first point: vision can get fuzzy when leaders focus on “vision-casting” while neglecting “problem-casting.”  Here's his second point: leaders have to do more than just focus on what they want to achieve—we have to communicate what we plan to preserve.  When people are always hearing about the 'next big thing' we want to accomplish, it leaves them wondering if what we have done already has any merit.

I could improve in this area of vision-casting.  My tendency in leadership is to walk into a situation, roll up my sleeves, and get to work.  I focus my attention on areas that need fixing.  There may be a hundred things going smoothly in a church, but my attention turns to those few, but critical, issues that need to be fixed.

I lead churches like my friend, a chiropractor, fixes backs.  Years ago, I went to my friend complaining of a sharp pain between my shoulder blades.  He put me on the table and began to work the muscles in my back.

Suddenly he found the tender spot—”Ouch!” I yelped.

Do you think he said, “Oh, I'm sorry”?  Do you think he avoided that area and moved away from it to massage the rest of my back?  Oh, no.  He left every other part of my back alone and began to dig his fingers into the knot he had found.  He knew his job wasn't to give my back a massage (too bad).  His job was find and fix the knotted muscles that were giving me trouble.

This is a great way to fix backs, but not necessarily a great way to lead people.  I've found that people need to hear a leader say what's working in the organization, not just what's not working.  If a leader feels that changes need to be made, people need to hear what's not going to change, too.

Next week, we'll wrap up Donahue's article with the third thing that he says can sharpen a leader's work of vision-casting.


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