I admire people who can grow plants – sadly, I’m not one of them. My thumb is definitely not green – even plastic plants suffer under my care. However, I am making a concerted effort to grow a nice garden for my family at our little house in Copenhagen. Among the things I am learning is the importance of what to include and what to exclude from the garden; if I add the right things without removing the wrong things then I won’t get the result I want. I am learning to develop an eye for what is out of place – what doesn’t belong.
Have you ever felt out of place? Ever walked into a room and thought, I don’t belong here? Have you ever looked at something and thought it was out of place? As leaders, we need to identify the things that are out of place because we don’t want the wrong things to take root and suffocate the good things that are growing.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. – Ephesians 5:1-4 (NIV)
Before something can be OUT of place, there has to be something else IN PLACE.
As leaders, our job is not only to put the right things in place, but to notice what things are out of place. For example, in a program, on a website, in a building – is there something that doesn’t belong? We can train people to do the right thing, but we mustn’t presume or forget to identify and deal with the things that could be a potential threat to what is in place.
For something to be culturally OUT of place, there must be something that is culturally IN PLACE.
A predominant culture. To protect a culture, you have to remove things that are out of place. Has someone ever said to you, “That bag doesn’t go on that chair” or “Your feet don’t belong on that table”? Putting something where it doesn’t belong means it is out of place. We are faced with the reality of the law of entropy on a daily basis: Anything left to itself will decay; it will change from order to disorder. So, if you leave something unattended for enough time, chaos ensues. Doing nothing will lead to deterioration.
Find out what pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 5:10 (NIV). How can we please God in everything we do? One way is to find out what pleases your oversight. Know the vision and mission, the goals and purpose behind what you do in your role. If you aren’t aware of these things, then you have no way of knowing when you’ve ‘kicked a goal’. What does a ‘win’ look like? It’s not about being busy; it’s about being effective.
What is IN PLACE?
What are we doing and what is in place that enables us to get where we want to go?
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. – 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)
As leaders we should:
- Know the pattern
- Show the pattern
- Correct the pattern
Are things in place? Is anything out of place that you need to correct? Are members of your team speaking negatively and if so, is that out of place or is that just the way people on your team speak? If someone is gossiping around you, does it feel in place or out of place? The predominant culture around you happens because it is allowed.
One of the challenges a leader faces is not becoming a “yes” leader; saying yes to everything and allowing things that are out of place to ‘grow in your garden’. Leaders must learn how to say “no” to the right things.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. – Titus 2:11-12 (NIV)
Because there are things we don’t want to grow in our garden, there are certain things we must say NO to.
Take ownership. “It is on ME to see WE succeed.” Everyone plays a part in the success of the whole; it’s not about competing egos. As an individual, take ownership of ‘us’. For example, if someone makes a mistake, don’t point a judgmental finger but instead, look at what you could have done to prevent it from happening, make the change and move forward. Excuses are related to regret; they can be avoided with foresight. When you take your hindsight and add your insight, then you can have foresight. When you plan ahead, you limit the scope for excuses on the other side.
Be authentic. Have you ever had an ‘elephant’ in the room? There is only one way to deal with these elephants and that is to have difficult conversations. Don’t be afraid to confront attitudes or behaviour that is out of place. Deal with issues at the outset and don’t allow the elephants to be fed, becoming enormous and much more difficult to handle. Leadership means confrontation. When we don’t confront, it means we don’t love; if I love you, I will confront anything I see limiting you. If a relationship isn’t strong enough for a confrontation, it isn’t strong enough to grow. And beware – sometimes you are the elephant. Invite feedback and constructive criticism, ask others how they think you’re going and make it safe for them to do so.
Don’t be complicated. Be an easy person to be around and keep things simple. People who are overly sensitive or easy to offend are not conducive to a positive environment. Ask others if you are that person. Do people find it easy to speak to you or challenge you when needed? Are you teachable?
Obey your spiritual leaders and recognize their authority, for they keep watch over your soul without resting since they will have to give an account to God for their work. So, it will benefit you when you make their work a pleasure and not a heavy burden. – Hebrews 13:17 (TPT)
Be the culture that you want to see.
We are corporately who we are as individuals. The whole is the sum of the individual parts. We are who we are. If you want to see the team you’re building, just take a look at yourself. Are you inclusive? Are you generous? Are you proactive? Are you committed? You get the idea.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
Can this be said of you? That’s exactly how you grow a healthy, thriving ‘garden’. So, if something is out of place, put it back into place, explain how it was out of place; be the example and reward those who are exemplifying it. What you reward publicly, people copy privately.
NO EXCUSES. NO ELEPHANTS. NO EGSHELLS.