What to do about what you can’t control for you and your team
My wife homeschooled our children for a few years. She did a great job motivating our kids. She set an end of the year reward for the kids to go to an amusement park if they hit their weekly and semester goals. The kids hit their goals and the day trip was planned. One of my children had their heart set on riding one particular ride for months.
The day came and the excitement grew as we stood in line to buy tickets. The gates opened and with great anticipation, we headed to the desired ride. Everything was magical until the dreaded “Closed for Maintenance” sign blocked the ride entrance. Tears followed as the reality of the hoped reward was dashed. For a bit, this child wanted to go home because there was nothing else there they wanted to do. We had a quick talk about what we focus on and what we could control and what we couldn’t control. It was a simple adjustment: we could focus on the closure of the ride and be despondent or we could enjoy all the other open rides and focus on things we could control, like our attitudes. My child was allowed to be sad while at the same time choosing not to let it ruin their whole day of rewards.
Especially in the current climate, having control and being able to lead a team well can feel like sand pouring through a sieve. The more you do to stop it the faster it goes. Yes, it’s true that a lot of pieces of our environment and team structure that were set and dependable have been disrupted. In-person teams have become virtual. Projects and events have gotten delayed or even permanently canceled, causing your team to have to quickly shift gears. Suddenly change is required where you never expected it. Adaptation has grown from an asset to a necessity.
How do you keep your head above water through all of it? How do you keep your team afloat if you feel like you are barely treading water? Possibly the most concerning of this current reality is the influence you have as a leader to impact your team. Your stress, anxiety, and depression all communicate themselves to them. Now you not only are trying to manage your own cloud of grief, struggle, and transition, but you are trying to pull your team through theirs. Maybe trying harder isn’t the solution. Maybe it’s changing what you are trying to do and where your focus lies.
You can’t control everything. In fact, you just made a very long list of things you can’t control. Stop right now and grab a piece of paper (or if you prefer digital, type away and miss out on the beautiful sensory experience of writing) and list out all of the things that you have no control over that are making ministry difficult, such as social distancing barring everyone from the office and having to work long-distance or having to juggle work with helping your kids with their online learning. Write it all out. Then pause. This list is very real and it very much affects your life right now. That is reality right there. You get five minutes to sink into all the worry you can hold over that list. Well done.
That list is not your responsibility. You can’t change anything on that list. Hand it all over to God and let Him worry about it. Next, start a new list of everything that you do have control over that can create positive results. This list is your priority list and should be the focus of your day. Even more, let it impact your team. You can’t control your team’s personalities, their work ethic, how they let stress impact their work, how quickly they complete tasks, or how the current pandemic is affecting them. You CAN control the culture of your team. As a leader, you are responsible for either creating or allowing the culture. Most leaders don’t prioritize creating a positive emotional climate for their people, and yet people don’t think well when stressed, afraid, or depressed. So a positive culture has a HUGE impact. And it’s something you CAN control.
Actively work to identify negative thinking and set effective boundaries so it doesn’t take root. Police your own thinking and then study how your team is thinking. Focus your team on what they have control of that directly affects the desired outcomes. That is something they can make progress on and be successful with. Suddenly instead of bailing water out of a sinking rowboat, you are gaining momentum.
Here are some areas that can aid you in choosing where you and your team focus and where you need to release things in trust and faith to the Lord, specifically in your MPD efforts. Henry Cloud suggests these three categories to help you maintain focus in challenging times:
- Attend-What is most important in MPD and always needs to be attended to?
- Spiritual health, addressing fear with Biblical truth, prayer, clear communication, asking for appointments, ministry vision, personal calling, caring for partners, commitment to being fully funded.
- Inhibit-What is not important in MPD and is destructive/toxic?
- Cloud’s three P’s: it’s personal, it’s pervasive and it’s permanent. It is also called stinking thinking.
- Letting fear run wild, poor talk, apologizing for asking, taking no personally, failing to communicate, making situational judgments that support raising doesn’t work, working in your own strength, negotiating your needed funding amount.
- Working Memory-What are the relevant data, theology, and practices that staff need to successfully track their progress in MPD?
- A worker is worthy of his wage, God provides, celebrating God’s provision, being thankful, tracking efforts in calls and asks, generating new contacts, practicing phone script and ministry presentations, tracking progress towards your funding goal.
What area do you feel the most struggle with keeping you and your team focused? What has helped? Share in the comments below.