September 13, 2021
Leaders are people of action and most have a long list of things they plan to do to change their world. But serving leaders also stop and ask themselves what they are doing which they should stop!
Paul provides these instructions to all Christians, 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV). Paul’s instructions tell us that a part of our Christian growth is to stop doing some things and begin doing other things. He provides several examples in the following verses (25-32)—stop lying, start speaking truth; stop stealing, start working to bless others; stop unwholesome talk, start meeting the needs of others with your tongue. While these actions relate to spiritual growth serving leaders learn to look at their actions to see what needs to be “put off” or stopped. They do this for three reasons.
Serving leaders ask “What should I stop doing?“ to clarify priorities.
Paul’s command to “put off” relates to things which are always wrong to do. Wrong actions clearly should be stopped! Leaders, however, often face an additional dilemma. Of several good things which could be done, which one should I do? Serving leaders learn to stop doing some things so that they can focus on things which are a higher priority. They say ‘no’ to the less important to say ‘yes’ to the most important. They recognize that serving others often means saying “no.”
Serving leaders ask “What should I stop doing?“ to increase productivity.
Serving leaders recognize that they have limitations with their time. They cannot physically continue to do more and more. As activity and responsibilities increase it becomes harder to focus on the task at hand and productivity decreases. Leaders who continually accept new responsibilities without a corresponding end to others find themselves in a frantic struggle to do more and more. They are soon fatigued physically and mentally and are not able to bring their best selves to the task at hand. Serving leaders learn to look at their tasks on a regular basis and ask what they should stop doing. If the tasks do not actually need to be done, they simply stop. If they need to be done but should be done by someone else, they delegate to others. As serving leaders stop doing the things they should not do, they are able to productively do the things they should be doing.
Serving leaders ask “What should I stop doing?“ to empower others.
Leaders often do many things that could be effectively done by others. They justify their actions with convincing arguments that they do them well, they are working hard and that the activities are a part of their job description. But serving leaders recognize that when they continue doing things that others on their team could do, they not only diminish their own effectiveness but they stunt the growth and development of others. When they deny others the opportunity to grow, leaders place themselves in a vicious cycle of unending responsibility. Serving leaders learn to ask themselves what they should stop doing to identify areas that could be passed on to others. They slow down enough to ask the question, and then make a plan of how effective delegation can be done. If training is needed, they put that on their ‘to do’ list. Serving leaders learn to keep a “not to do list” next to their “to do list.”
For further reflection and discussion:
- What is on my “to do” list that are not high priorities for my role as a leader? (Begin a “not to do list.”)
- What things am I currently doing, that keep me from being fully productive? (Add them to the list you started above.)
- What things am I currently doing which others on my team could do either immediately or with proper training and empowerment? (Add them to your list.)
- Now look at your list and decide what needs to be done for each item. If it is not essential to accomplish your vision, simply stop doing it! If it is something that someone else should be doing, put their name next to the item. Then indicate whether they are ready for the task or need training to be ready. Where training is needed, indicate when you will do that and add that time to your “to do” list. Use the chart below if helpful.
Until next time, yours on the journey,
In the next issue, we’ll examine the related question serving leaders ask others: ‘What should you stop doing?”