What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Vision and Strategy Meet Blankie and Bedtime

I tend to be a big-picture guy. I like nuance in books that I read or sermons that I listen to, but when it comes to action I just want to get to the goal and I haven't always thought through the best ways to get there.

But then God gave me kids. And my kids aren't necessarily motivated by the end game...say, getting to bed, for example. They get tired and cranky towards bed time. My solution has been to try to rally them towards bed. I've historically done this by trumpeting the wonders of a soft, cozy bed and by invoking visions of getting all snuggled up and drifting off to sleep. But they need more help than that.

After a couple of years of maddening bed time processes that ended in melt-downs, time-outs, and me and the kids locked into a grudge match, I've realized that the vision (getting to bed) isn't as helpful in this situation as breaking down the process.

So now as we're headed to bed, I focus on breaking down the process into bite-sized chunks: "We've just got four good decisions to make and then we can get to bed: quick bath, brush teeth, get pj's on, and climb into bed! Can you make that first good decision?"

When the kids are gearing up the whine-fest as we make our way toward bed ("I'm too tiiiiiired to get ready for bed! I need my blankie! Where's my doll?"), we re-direct. I try to get them talking in terms of the next good decision. This has gone a long way towards making bed-time less of a disaster and (slightly) more sane process.

I've come to realize that dealing with a task that feels overwhelming isn't helped by more pep-rallies towards the big-picture vision or goal. Nor are we helped overly-much by the proverbial stick: time-outs or other consequences, although that's certainly implemented and necessary from time to time.

What's needed is to make the change or movement towards the goal manageable. We figure out what the next good and wise decision is. And then we do that. And then you do the next good and wise decision. And eventually you move towards the end-goal.

As I've reflected on this, I've realized that unfortunately my leadership has often been overly-dependent on rallying people towards a vision but not supplying the necessary "next wise step" towards getting us there.

Not that everything needs to be scripted, but there at least needs to be the recognition that working out those next wise steps is important to get the bus moving towards the goal. And creating those "next wise steps" might be the collaborative work of a group of leaders or members of an organization.

But bottom line: it can't just be all visions and pep-rallies and slogans. There has to be concrete, practical and as simple as possible steps of implementation--be that towards bed-time or towards developing a healthier campus ministry or even in our own personal lives like developing spiritual disciplines or losing weight.

We are more likely to move if the first steps don't feel overly-daunting. And of course, having that blankie already in hand is a helpful tool, too.

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