Sunday August 19 my wife and I were watching the Today Show as we got ready for church. They were reporting on the progress of Hurricane Dean. It was projected that it would hit the Yucatan Peninsula as a category four storm later that week. NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders was on the Peninsula reporting on the preparations. He made this interesting statement: “People are putting tape on their windows, which does absolutely nothing, but they do it every time a hurricane is coming.”
Did you catch his observation? People were doing something they had been doing for years although it accomplished absolutely nothing! I am thankful to say that church leaders do not make this same mistake…at least we don’t often admit it.
What is the tape we might find ourselves putting on our windows? I suggest a few.
Unasked questions: Organizationally there is a tendency to either ask the wrong questions, or to not honestly answer the right questions. The wrong questions are the ones that are formulated only to validate what is already being done. The right questions challenge the organization, but people tend to be dishonest in their responses. Dishonesty is evident when people recognize an honest answer would disrupt, so the response is so “politically correct” no clear answer is evident. Either way the result is the same, it becomes easier not to ask questions.
Soft accountability: Bill Hybels, at the 2007 Leadership Summit, stated: “Strong leaders submitted to no one are trouble.” I might add: Leaders with soft accountability creates an illusion of submission. Soft accountability is centered in organizational structure, not relational strength. Soft accountability has no clear expectations of effectiveness. Soft accountability nibbles at the fringe of people’s core. Soft accountability insulates leaders from the tough accountability giving a false sense of security against coming hurricanes.
Visionless leadership: Often the managing of an organizational machine is confused with leading a movement. Management can get misconstrued as leadership to the point that it is no longer expected that organizations be led. Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO, says, “Management produces acceptable results within existing parameters. Leadership is getting people to move in a new direction.” We settle for management and then ponder the lack of progress.
Organizational sacredness: When the organizational structure informs the mission and vision, and not vice versa, the organization has been sanctified. When the primary question is “How might we get to where we need to be within our existing structure?” The organization has become sacred. If there is mission clarity and vision passion nothing ought to hinder its fulfillment, including existing organizational structure.
Shadow mission: John Ortberg defines a shadow mission as that thing, a part from the grace of God, that undermines who we are. For many organizations that “thing” is putting its survival as its ultimate driver.
There is time to negate the taping of the windows. It can be recognized that these do nothing. We can find more effective methods. Are we willing to take that risk?