I have to confess that I’m not much of a car/engine guy. I can change my oil, but that’s about the extent of my automotive skills. But there is a concept I’m familiar with about engines, which is the misfire. Misfire’s can be sneaky, because the engine can still; it’s just not as effective as it should be.
An ideal engine has everything well timed and fitted in order to maximize the power. A well tuned engine both maximizes power and efficiency. But an engine doesn’t have to be running at it’s best in order to run. Many engines will have ‘misfires’, where the timing is just a little off, or a part isn’t moving as smoothly as it was before. In those instances, the engine still runs the car, just not as efficiently or powerfully as it should.
I’m learning more and more that there are lots of chances to misfire in leadership. Maybe information doesn’t get distributed as quickly or smoothly as it should, causing confusion. Maybe you have a person in the wrong position. Or maybe the timing of the team(s) are just slightly off.It’s a ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ kind of situation, where things are out of order.
My church has continued to grow, which can let me feel like everything is going just right. But I’m reminded that I’m still growing as a leader all the time. Every leader will experience ‘misfires’, so here are some ideas I’ve had that help me:
Give yourself some slack – I’m putting this first, because if you’re like me, you’re likely your biggest critic. It’s easy for me to take mistakes hard, and walk away from a good situation really negative and frustrated because of “what could have been”. Leadership of any kind is tough. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Communicate early and often – This is one of my biggest weaknesses. I don’t let my leaders know my idea clearly or early enough, which creates unnecessary confusion. The more clearly you can communicate, and he more you follow up to ensure that people are on the same page, the better.
The Right Fit – You can have the right people in your team and still have misfires because they’re in the wrong place. Plenty of sports teams have run into this problem; a roster full of talent doesn’t guarantee success. It takes the right fit in order to get the results.
Fuel the fire – People want to know what they’re doing matters and makes a difference. You as a leader need to remind and encourage your teams about what they’re doing and, more importantly, why they’re doing it. Why do you have these meetings? Why are you making these changes? Why are you working so hard? All of those ‘whys’ run on success or purpose. Give your team a big enough why, show them how they’re winning, and do it often.
Inspect the parts – Your team members are people, who go through good and bad in life. Sometimes the grind of helping out in ministry wears them out. Sometimes something happens in their daily life that wears on them. You need to keep up with your team members and see how they’re doing. They may be close to breaking down.
Misfires will happen. The trick is to grow and learn as a leader to tune and retune the team to work more effectively.
I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.