You Can Make More and Better Happen
Two Stanford professors have much to say to church leaders about how to get from here to there.
Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao are leadership thinkers and professors at Stanford University who have wrestled with the process of spreading excellence across organizations. Their book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, speaks to a mindset and strategies for getting to more.
It’s actually the Problem of More; and it gets worse, there is also the Problem of Better. These problems plague every organization.
Do you know how to spread the excellence you find one place in your church to other teams and departments? Some things may be good, but how do you get more of the good?
Always wanting more and better.
Better systems. More special events. Better leadership character found in more leaders.
4 Steps to Scale up Excellence to See your Church Grow
Start by thinking like a leader who scales up excellence.
1. Tolerate a manageable mess.
Leaders who know how to take small things excellently done and germinate them across their organizations are comfortable standing “knee-deep in a manageable mess”. They can muddle through without losing their sense of direction and perspective. The mess doesn’t worry them, much; they know it will clear up eventually.
The authors quote David Kelly, CEO of Ideo:
“Life is messy sometimes. Sometimes the best you can do is to accept that it is messy, try to love it as much as you can, and move forward.”
What if you decided that your mess is manageable and that you are okay with it swirling around your knees? What if the disarray that comes with improving things is something your church values? Decide that it’s okay for things to be messy.
2. Have a relentless restlessness.
Leaders who scale excellence are never satisfied. Improvement is on their to-do list every day.
Pixar’s Brad Bird calls it:
“Relentless restlessness – an uncomfortable urge for constant innovation and the feeling that things are never quite good enough.”
There’s no complacent satisfaction here. Leaders who scale excellence have a running dialogue in their heads. “Really? Haven’t we solved that yet?”
Do you wake up in the middle of the night troubled about things that aren’t right in your church? That is the time to wrestle with Jesus about it; and the upside is that it shows that you are a leader who isn’t satisfied. You want more and better, and it keeps you up at night.
3. Start where you are.
You don’t need a bucket of money or a ton of influence. Just do what you can do this week. Use what you have in you and around you to raise a little excellence. Take it a step further next week.
Draw people around you who like to see improvements and who have energy for getting things done. Find the people who click with your mindset. Ask them to help you spread an excellent idea or practice to other areas of your church.
Listen to the late adopters, the naysayers, the pessimists to glean truth, but don’t let them get to you. You don’t have to turn them around. You’re not trying to move anyone 1000 feet.
Instead try to move 1000 people one foot. One foot worth of change isn’t terrifying.
Start where you are.
4. Keep it simple.
There really is such a thing as cognitive load. Our brains can only handle so much before they explode – not literally, of course.
Protect your church from too many moving parts, too much complexity. We love the design simplicity of Steve Jobs’ Apple products. Be beautiful and simple in the program design and the systems design in your church, too.
Side Note: Studies show that the bigger the team, the worse people perform. The magic number seems to be seven – plus or minus two. Bigger than that, and you multiply confusion, drama, conflict, and mis-communication. Smaller – even just four to six people – and teams work more efficiently and are more satisfying.
Take a minute to reflect on these questions:
- Where do you see a pocket of excellence in your church?
- What about it makes it excellent?
- What other department or team would benefit from those practices?
- Who has the innovation and energy to begin the conversation?
- The 6 Skills you Need to Accomplish your Goals
- How to Use a Better Standard to Measure Church Success
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.