How to go from Herding Cats to Leading Race Horses

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One of the most common frustrations shared by church leaders is that leading their team can be like herding cats; each leader seemingly moving in a different direction.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Effective leaders know that it is possible to align even the most independently-minded department heads into a cohesive, focused and purposeful team. The key is in following these three steps.

  1. Create a plan based on a single vision, not on a collection of department goals.
    In many churches the ministry planning process begins by asking each department to submit their plans.

    This approach almost guarantees a “herding cats” approach to leading the team.

    Before each department can tackle their individual plan there must be a sometimes exhaustive process of clarifying the overall church vision, and ensuring each department “gets it”. Then, and only then, can they prepare a departmental plan, designed to further that overall vision.

  2. Continually measure the performance of each department against the church’s overall vision
    Each time you meet with your department heads, lead them toward increasing alignment with the overall vision.

    In the large church where I served as executive pastor I once had a department head who, by all appearances, was leading a record-breaking ministry in terms of growth.

    The problem was that our church’s vision centred on becoming an increasingly inter-generational congregation, with each member more fully integrated into the overall life of the church.

    This growing department was developing into an independent ministry merely orbiting around the church, not integrated into it.

    But with a clear and shared vision we were able to use to steer that department back toward fuller alignment.

  3. Create multiple sources of information
    You’ll never create full alignment merely by asking your department head, “How’s it going?”

    To truly discern the degree of alignment you need to:

    • Personally spend time in and around each ministry. I’d suggest at least once per quarter.
    • Build relationships with people you can trust within each department. Ask them how things are going really.

If you’re leading a team of highly energized department heads, the tendency toward misalignment is almost inevitable.

But if you keep your team focused on the vision, and relentlessly steer them toward the vision, you can free your race horses to achieve great things.

How do you ensure your “race horses” are aligned?

the author

Scott Cochrane

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