Influence

 the shape of leadership

Getting Things Done

Going from scattered to focused in your productivity

Chris Railey on December 21, 2018

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Many leaders have vision, few have a strategy, and even fewer have execution. That last part, I believe, separates success and failure in all walks of life, including ministry. Improvement and growth take action. That means getting things done.

I’m sure you’ve heard about working in the flow. When you are focused at work, you are more productive and more accomplished. But it also spreads into other areas of your life. You have more energy and more presence in the moment, both at work and at home. You are in control but relaxed. You can get more accomplished with less effort.

This is a great point for leaders of people. On the one hand, we want to motivate our people to be as productive as possible. Consistent focus produces high results. On the other hand, we need to make sure our environments do not lead to burnout. Misdirected focus produces high stress.

The answer is to get your entire team in the flow. But how do you get to that point? It’s not just a matter of time management or creating processes. Without the right framework, you may still be spinning your wheels.

Almost everyone feels like they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Your ability to get things done has less to do with the length of your to-do list and more to do with your plan to accomplish things. Your calendar can only do so much. New technologies can help you plan your day well, but they also give us plenty of distractions.

The Power of a Meeting

There is one way to get things done that perhaps you haven’t fully tapped in to. It’s about getting your people together, on the same page and moving forward. I’m talking about meetings.

If you have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the word “meeting,” then maybe you aren’t approaching meetings with the right preparation. Each meeting should end in action, not indecision. Everyone is on the same page, knows their assignments, and is excited to get started.

Here’s how you go from meeting to execution. Whenever you meet with your team, you should all leave knowing the answer to three key questions:

1. What needs to be done? Each week, you and your team have a list of commitments, things that must get done. There are common commitments, like staying on vision. There are shared commitments, like preparing for the weekend service or an all-church event. Then there are individual commitments, those things that are unique to your sphere of influence and oversight.

Your ability to get things done has less to do with the length of your to-do list and more to do with your plan to accomplish things.

Whenever you meet, you are clarifying the importance of those commitments. You are, in effect, managing commitments. It’s not about eliminating some and adding others. It’s about bringing them all into focus.

What is the importance of your meeting? It may be a time to gather information, wins and opportunities from the weekend or updates from staff. But ultimately, it’s to determine what needs to be done. What commitment is the focus at the end of this meeting?

That means you have to let everyone know what is important right now. What is the one thing that each of them needs to keep in mind? What is the key thing that requires full attention?

When everyone knows what needs to be done, they can commit to it. When you prioritize your actions, you can more easily get to work and get things done, staying in the flow longer.

2. How will we do it? Communicating what to do without deciding how to do it will only produce frustration. Come up with key actions to get to the end point of getting things done.

We manage actions, and that’s different than managing time or processes. When you manage your time, you don’t get an extra hour. When you manage a process, you don’t end up with more processes. But when you manage action, you increase your productivity every time.

Here’s how you decide on actions that must be managed. First, clarify the intended outcome. What’s it going to look like when it’s done? Next, set a timeline. Without an expectation for when things will get done, you may never start. Finally, determine next steps. What’s the very next thing that needs to be done? And then, the thing after that?

Knowing the next thing to do should naturally lead to doing it. When everyone is clear on the steps, then each person can walk out those steps. You are getting things done when you work on a task as far as you can take it each time you take it up.

3. Who is responsible? Assign responsibility and tasks out of every meeting. Determine who has ownership of each step to ensure that every person responsible will be able to pick up where they left off with plenty of time to get things done.

The key to assigning tasks is to provide feedback and follow-up. Feedback means you are coaching and teaching each person along the way. These go hand in hand.

Feedback empowers people to do their tasks. Follow-up on assignments keeps people accountable to their tasks. But it’s not about giving a grade; it’s about driving them to get in their flow. Then, they can work toward a common goal of getting things done.

Now that each person knows what they are responsible for, when and how to get it done, and the common goal everyone is working for, they can get to work. Laying the proper blueprint ahead of time is crucial because it creates an environment of low stress and high productivity.

Each person is ready and able to get in the flow and stay on task. And instead of constantly riding their backs about getting things done, they can exercise initiative and get to work.

You probably feel the crunch of deadlines and to-do lists. But they don’t need to be your master. Getting your team on task and in the flow will move you from struggling to succeeding.

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