Much of what a leader does can seem unproductive at times—and that is a good thing.
For someone wired for production and progress—a checklist-type person—unproductive time may even seem like wasted time.
I'll admit, even though this is in my leadership knowledge, I have to discipline myself to perform these practices sometimes.
Yet, every good leader I know specializes in intangible actions that don't always produce visible, immediate results. In fact, some of these actions are often the most productive part of their work.
In order for teams to thrive, there are things which, while they may seem unproductive to some, the leader must spend time doing.
Let me share some examples from my own leadership.
Here are 7 intangible things I try to do each day:
Did I need to share that one? And, yet I do—to remind myself and most leaders I know. Yes, even pastors need this reminder. We can get so busy making decisions, putting out fires and handling routines we fail to do the more important work—pray. What could be happening in our leadership if we spent more time praying for the work before we do the work? (That's a sobering question.)
Leader, how much time do you spend just thinking? I'm not talking about daydreaming on mindless things. I'm talking about disciplined thinking about where you and your team are, where you are going, what's working, and what's not working. I need those times every single day. Often new ideas hit me in the shower or driving in my car, but many times new ideas are only shaped and realized when I set aside quantity time to brainstorm. Every leader at every level needs this time, but the higher a position is in the organization, the more disciplined the leader must be to think.
I don't know why—even as I teach these principles—it has always made me feel uncomfortable when someone who works with me finds me reading a magazine or a book. I feel so unproductive. But I know the more responsibility a leader assumes the more important it is he or she be exposed to new ideas and thoughts. Leaders are readers. I don't always get something I can immediately put into practice, but my mind is stretched and my thoughts are energized. Valuable. Gold in many cases. (I read the Bible every day, but as a practice, I try to read one chapter a day from some book other than the Bible.)
Helping others succeed is what leaders do best. Sometimes leadership is as simple as believing in others more than they believe in themselves. I have to remember also, I'm into kingdom-building, not only church building, so investing in other pastors—even those not on our team—is a part of what I have been called to do. And, it should be noted, investing is not just talking. Leaders, in my opinion, do too much of that at times. It's also listening to others and learning from them. Whenever I meet to "invest" in some other leader I always grow personally as well.
Some of the greatest doors of opportunity as a church have opened because of my personal networking. Honestly, this is one thing which has made Twitter valuable in leadership. It gives me quick connections with my peers. But, this is why community involvement is important to me. I build a vital network I can glean and learn from. A leader's overall success is often directly related to the strength and size of their network.
Several times daily, if I'm in the office, I walk through our building. I see people. They have a chance to ask me questions, interact with me, and even share a concern. It's amazing how this action—which many times may not produce anything tangible immediately—seems to endure people to my leadership. Leaders need to be present. Visible. Even accessible to the point they can be. As an added value, the physical movement refuels my body and mind for continued productivity throughout the day.
I saved this one for last, and I almost said "meetings," but meetings are very tangible actions. But, let's be honest, meetings can also seem unproductive. I read the books and blogs about eliminating meetings—and I'm all about it when possible—but the fact is, most teams have to meet occasionally and regularly to stay on pace together. The problem in my opinion isn't the meeting as much as the meetings where nothing is accomplished. Planning may seem unproductive—even wasted—for those who are most wired for production. Many would rather do than plan to do. But, preparation, while it may seem unnecessary in the process, makes success more attainable. Some of the best leaders I know personally are military leaders. Ask them how much preparation and planning they want their teams to have before encountering the enemy. As an example of this one, rather than getting started answering emails or heading into meetings, I try to spend a few minutes every day, before the day begins, planning how I will approach the day. (This is where I build my checklist.) I leave feeling far more productive when I've attempted to plan my day. Interruptions will naturally come, but I'm more prepared for them when I start with a plan.
Depending on your wiring, some of these may seem unproductive. That's especially true for me when I do take the walk or put down the book and dozens of unanswered emails staring me in the face, but successful leadership demands we spend time investing in the intangible things which make our teams better.
In which of these areas do you most need to improve as a leader?
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
This article originally appeared at ronedmondson.com.
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