One of the things I love about systems is that they often make me better than I really am. I think that we sometimes have this idea in our mind that we just need to be better, get better and become someone without weakness. This side eternity, I think we make this harder than it needs to be. Most strong leaders will tell you that they didn’t become who they are because they focused on making their weaknesses strengths. They became who they are by making there strengths even stronger. Primarily focusing on your weakness can be a fleeting endeavorer and at best, only makes you average.
That’s why the best leaders recruit people who are DIFFERENT from them. They recruit people who are strong where they are weak. They cover all their bases so that they can focus on what they can do better than anyone else.
Systems can be very similar to this. I meet ministry leaders all the time who consistently fail in the same areas all the time. They might say things like, “If only I was a little more administrative.” I sometimes fail in certain areas because there are specific things about my job that I don’t like to do, so I procrastinate or do them poorly. When you look at these areas of your ministry, look for how a system can make you better.
Here’s an example. I’m very much a systems person. Sometimes I think I’d have more fun dreaming, planning and developing that developing people. I’m very extroverted, but I love getting to work behind my laptop. I’ve been accused from time to time for being less appreciative than I should be. An idea I came across several years ago is a simple system of thanking and encouraging people ever day. This system dictates that you might put together a list of people that you need to thank/encourage every week/month/semester. Every day, before you check your email for the first time, write 3-5 encouraging notes to people on the list. I’ve found that with some volunteers, I can do the same with text messages because they’re more interactive (but there’s nothing like getting a card in the mail). Another relational system I’ve been working to set up is having coffee/meals with leaders/volunteer automated. I’ve found that I have at least two mornings/lunches a week that are almost always free. I’ve thought of putting together a list of people I’d like to meet with face to face on a monthly/semester basis and have a staff/volunteer take care of the scheduling. I just know that every Monday morning, I’m going to have coffee with someone at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 and lunch at 12:30. I don’t worry about setting it up, I just show up and it happens. I know that the more control I have over it, the less likely it will happen.
Sometimes I need reminders too, as well as others on my team. I use my calendar to remind me of things I can’t afford to forget. Every other week, I get an email reminding me to approve timecards for some of my staff. Once a month, some members of my staff get an email from me reminding them to do something they need to do. I set up the email years ago, now it just sends every week. I even get an email and text message every Tuesday night reminding me to take the garbage out. I even adjust the reminders on my calendar for certain events. Some remind me 10 minutes prior to the event, others send reminders the day before or even a week before (like an important birthday or anniversary).
Systems can make us better. Self-awareness is an incredible first step. Know where you struggle – then, look for ways that you can create systems that minimize your weaknesses.
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Thanks for the suggestions about reminders/ emails. I struggle with feeling that it’s impersonal or forced when I do it, but when I don’t I end up forgetting. One of my goals for this year in ministry is to be more relational and get out from behind the computer sometimes.