In the book of Genesis, it is certainly clear that God wasted no time in taking action when he created the world. Certainly, nothing could be in place without taking action. He spent 6 days taking action and he did it swiftly and intentionally. I believe that great leaders do much of the same. Certainly not haphazardly, but they don’t always wait until the perfect moment. Neither do they procrastinate?
Being a leader acknowledges that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others, and get things done. The job of a leader is to make decisions happen— to make sure that decisions lead to actions. Not necessarily to make all the decisions, but to ensure the decisions happen, and that the clear understanding is that decisions lead directly to action.
In fact, a more efficient organization is not reliant on the leader making most of the decisions. When the leader gets others involved and empowered to make decisions, everyone learns, people are more engaged and the organization begins to have a culture of deciding and taking action – as opposed to identifying problems that result in endless discussions.
Turning decisions into visible, results-oriented actions has the maximum benefit for the organization. For instance, if you are trying to establish a strong culture, actions speak louder than words. People will usually pay more attention to what you do versus what you say. Not only do actions get things done, they engage people. Word spreads fast when people see action being taken. I certainly believe the most effective way to establish your desired culture is through action.
I am a continuous learner, and I love it. I am certain that I still have a lot to learn, and I have a healthy appetite to do so. Here are some items that I have learned in my career thus far:
If something is obvious, take immediate action.
Especially if you are a new leader, you will quickly find recurring issues that have been around a long time. If delegation is not the right direction, then gather input and make a decision. Make sure that decision is acted upon. These items can even be small items, but being decisive will establish you and send a message to the organization that decisions that are followed through with action will be the “new” culture.
Name a person to be accountable for the action to be taken.
This always reminds me of a pop fly in baseball. How many times have you seen an easy pop fly hit near the pitcher’s mound, only to drop on the ground with five players standing in a circle around it? Name one person to lead the work. Make it clear that they are responsible for taking action, reporting progress, and getting results. In my experience, if there is more than one person named to be accountable, then, in reality, no one is accountable. Very important! The person named as accountable does not need to do all the work, but they need to be the one to make sure it happens.
Set a deadline.
When driving actions, always get a specific date when the next step will be taken, and a clear deadline for when the entire action will be complete. Do not leave it open-ended. I am always surprised how many times target dates are not set, resulting in little action. I have made this mistake many, many times. I try my best not to repeat it.
Establish a process to monitor progress.
For larger, more complicated actions, it is easiest to establish checkpoint dates in advance as to monitor progress. A review process not only keeps activity moving but also helps the lead person get help from others. Checkpoints are an ideal time to make mid-course corrections and deal with barriers that might be impeding progress.
Do not enable people.
People (including you and I) make mistakes, misjudgments and sometimes just flat out misunderstand things. When the person accountable does not “get it right”, do not do it for them. I struggle with this mightily. Sometimes, the temptation to just step in and “get it done” is hard to resist. But, it is not the best thing to do for the long-term. Remember week 23 about taking the long-view? It is best to provide additional information or feedback and let them go back and try again. If you do the work – then they have avoided accountability. And, this then becomes your culture.
When reflecting back on Jesus’ life, he certainly did not just sit around and teach. In fact, most or all of his teachings required action. In order to follow him, you had to leave your possessions behind. You had to love your enemies and care for them. In the Beatitudes, Jesus’ teachings are full of action points for people to take. Admittedly, God’s law does give us guidance in things that we should not do. Jesus taught us a lot more about things that we should do. One example that comes to mind is the parable of the talents. This parable, in itself, teaches that a lack of action is not good! You must take action with the resources given to you! Take the resources, and use them to plant a garden…take risks and take action!
When the Gospels are carefully studied, you will find it full of action. Jesus didn’t just claim to be God, he showed people that he was God. He turned water into wine. He raised the dead. He took actions that proved it! His teachings also inspired people to take action. His teachings involved inspirations to his followers to actually take action and do certain things, not to sit back and just try not to sin. Christianity doesn’t involve just not doing certain things. Quite the contrary, it focuses on taking action that relies on faith. Like Paul said, “faith without works is dead!”