During year’s end, and often in the early parts of the new year, most leaders do some sort of long-range planning so that things will be more productive, fruitful or profitable over time. This is where strategies and new approaches can really pay off for both the leader and the organization. Thoughtful evaluation, analysis, and strategies are keys to all levels of success.
And yet there is also a living, breathing person underneath your leadership hat. That person is you. Just as your organization needs long-term growth planning, so do you!
The return on investment is great for the leader who takes a little time out to plan a personal growth strategy. What do we mean by, “personal growth strategy?” Basically, it involves addressing your spiritual, relational and emotional life in ways that will help you grow and be a better, more fulfilled and productive person. Leaders who do tasks well, but neglect their internal worlds, are often ultimately in jeopardy in both areas. So it pays off to take a look at your life below the hat. Here are some tips and guidelines for doing that.
Go deeper than the obvious. Often, when working on the personal arena, leaders will assume they need to look at activities such as losing weight, working out, spending more time with spouses and kids, having regular devotionals, and getting involved in a small group. While these are important matters, it would be helpful to add to them some deeper elements of growth which drive your activities, your vision, and life. Don’t avoid areas of struggle that you find keep you from being the leader you would like to be.
For example, ask yourself:
-What is the quality of my relationships at work and in life? Am I able to open up and be vulnerable to those who are safe? Or is it hard for me to trust others?
-What is the place of relationship at work for me? Do I get more into the “task” end of things, and forget the feelings of others? Or do I have the opposite problem?
-How honest am I in my relationships? Do I avoid confronting others when it is needed? Or am I able to be direct and loving with people in my life?
-Can I make my choices even when it disappoints others? Am I able to freely make the right decisions, based on God, wisdom and good values? Or do I find myself caught not wanting others to have negative reactions to me?
Once you have found a few of these that mean something to you, you are on the way! You are now addressing concerns that affect your leadership, and all aspects of life.
Get resourced. The fact that you have identified areas of growth for yourself means something important: that you haven’t attained what you want in these areas yet. And that probably also means that you can’t pull this off, in your own strength, willpower and resolve. So give up on trying harder! It’s overrated: “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (Rom. 7:15).” The answer is to reach outside of yourself and get resourced. Ask God for His help, by Word, and by Spirit. Go to experienced guides and mentors who have been down the road in your area of concern. Find books, groups, and information on your issues. There is a wealth of resourcing available. No more Lone Ranger growth.
Make your plans and goals. By the end of ’18, what would you like to look back on and see? A significant increase in how you trust, and in your ability to choose safe people? A better balance of being both relational and task-oriented as a leader? Is it easier to confront and be honest with others? Can you let down people and still make the right decisions?
These sorts of goals aren’t highly quantifiable, as revenues, profits, and numbers of people in a ministry might be. But if you pay attention to these, and listen to the feedback of others, you will see real change.
Here is an example of a plan: Say you want to become more vulnerable and accessible to those around you. You read up, pray up, and start meeting regularly with those who know these matters.
You let them know why this is hard for you, and what you may fear, or not have the ability to do. These people surround you, make it safe for you, practice opening up with you, and give you grace and feedback. You find that you are able to open up more, and you bring that ability from your support network to your family and trusted work relationships. They give you positive feedback (hopefully!) and the cycle continues. It’s a little different from a spreadsheet, but the point is this: your personal growth efforts should bear fruit in change that you and that others will see and experience.
So carve out some “growth hours” for yourself and see a difference in ’18. God bless you.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion; until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6