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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Opening Session

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Bill Hybels had a great opening session.  He started with a simple leadership principle from his journal:  Leaders move people from here to there.  It's not anything new.  It's the vision piece, the picture of the preferred future.  It's the thing you get excited about and say, "It will be bliss on a stick when we get there."  It was a really helpful reminder that "The first play is not to make there sound wonderful.  It's to make here sound awful."  That the preferred future begins with a "holy discontent" as Hybels has said in the past.

"Long before MLK gave his "I have a dream speech," he gave hundreds of "We Can't Stay Here" speeches."

He used some great examples, including moving Willow's food pantry onsite:  "Imagine if at the end of our weekend services... I could say, go right over there and we'll give you groceries for the week."  The reality is, though, that there are many people who say, "there, shmere, what's wrong with here?"  They don't want to move.  Hybels has given a number of good talks (I have several in my own journals) on the change process and important steps along the way, and this is another.

One of the other important pieces of leadership is hiring fantastic people.  Bill reminded us that hiring fantastic people requires Character, Competence, Chemistry (cf. Bill's book Axiom).  He added a new C, that he calls Culture.  Understanding the culture of the organization and the culture of leadership is key to moving from here to there, and is as important at Character, Competence, and Chemistry.

I love Hybels focus on his staff.  Here are a couple thing he said:

"We don't offer potential staff persons a tidy career opportunity, we offer them a mission they can lay their lives down for."

"Building teams of fantastic people who fit our culture is one of the joys of leadership."

"Do you view the assembling of fantastic people as a privilege, as a leadership essential?"

He also said that there are usually 3 reactions when a person resigns.  Bill invited us to imagine that as we sit here we get a text from someone or an email saying they've resigned.  Here are the 3 normal reactions:

  • Phew
  • Aaugh... I feel bad about that, but we're going to be ok.
  • Read the text.  Read it again.  Run into the lobby and vomit because you've lost someone who feels irreplacable.

I love the questions that arise out of this for any leader:  what would be your reaction for each person on your staff?  Do you have a staff that you would be in the 3rd category for every single one?  Which of the 3 reactions would your boss have if he or she received the text from you?

So, if you do have some of these fantastic people, how to keep them on your staff, excited, passionate, and engaged?  Here are some things Bill suggested:

  • Regularly refill the vision bucket.  With his typical phrase, "vision leaks," Bill reminded us again that we have to continue to refill the vision bucket with our staff.
  • Put mile markers along the way, and celebrate.  What keeps people on the journey is a sense of hope that they're going to get there someday.  And it's important to celebrate along the way, not just at the end, even if you have to make up mile-markers.  When is the last time you had a party for progress along the way, not just the destination?

The last thing Bill talked about was hearing from God.  He passionately talked about the whispers of God in his own call to faith, to plant a church, and to serve other pastors.  He spoke about hearing from God through the word, lowering the ambient noise, repairing our antennas, and listening and obeying the whispers deep in our hearts.  Bill was right on when he said, "I don't think you get from here to there without hearing from God in the process."  This gets at, in my opinion, one of the great failures of many of us who are leaders.  Too often we merely see the picture of the preferred future in the beginning, but we don't listen to God and his ever-present whispers along the way.  Too often, the initial picture is fuzzy and we don't fully understand it, and God continues to lead all the way to the end, all long the way.

Some Whispers:

  • Step Up
  • Take the Risk
  • Stand Firm
  • Start a Church
  • Apologize Now
  • Admit Your Mistake
  • Make The Tough Decision
  • Get Help
  • Stop Running From God
  • Slow Down (for some of us, velocity is killing our soul)
  • Show Your Heart
  • Let Others Lead
  • Feed Your Soul
  • Bless The Team
  • Make the Ask (some of you know here "there" is, but you're just chicken to make the ask)  Courageous
  • Do Something Impactful (some of you have been pounding the same nail your whole life)
  • Come Clean
  • Embody the Vision
  • Celebrate the Victories
  • Speak the Truth
  • Pay the Price
  • Count Your Blessings
  • End the Secret
  • Check Your Motives
  • Set the Pace
  • Give God Your Best
  • Get Physically Fit
  • Serve Your Spouse and Kids
  • Pray
  • Humble Yourselve

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