5 Critical Questions for Leaders by Bill Hybels

At the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit, during the first session Bill Hybels shared the following:

“When we stop learning, we should stop leading. Every leader can get better if we want to do so. Swing hard or surrender your bat.

Five Key Questions:

1. What is your current challenge level at work? From under-challenged to appropriately-challenged to dangerously over-challenged, where are you on the scale?

Where do you think you do your best work on this scale? Lots of research indicates that we do our best work just above appropriately-challenged. Under-stressing a muscle keeps it from growing. Stressing a muscle properly helps it grow. Too much stress then the muscle breaks down.

We need to create the place where people are challenged but not dangerously so, and we need to create the atmosphere where we people can honestly share where they are on this scale.

It is possible for an organization to be under-challenged, appropriately-challenged, and dangerously over-challenged.

2. What is your plan for dealing with challenging people in your organization? Not sure? Do the line exercise: pretend you have to let some of your staff go, put them in order from most critical to least critical. Those at the end of the line may just not be carrying their weight or not a good fit. Our organization’s future depends on our ability to field and develop the right people.

Ask yourself: how much time are you going to give the most difficult people to change their attitude and/or behavior? For some leaders, the first bad day would be their last day. For other leaders, they feel like if they didn’t have people with bad attitudes then they wouldn’t have anyone on staff. A timeframe needs to be established to deal with those who have a bad attitude.Willow Creek has a 30 day timeframe.

How long should we keep someone who is under-performing (someone “worthy of their hire”)? Start the conversation immediately. At Willow Creek, they have a 90 day timeframe. They try to coach, inspire, and put them on a performance-improvement plan.

The hardest transition is when a wonderful person needs to be replaced by someone who is more equipped to handle the growth. Moral failures are easy to transition. In these situations, Willow Creek moves much slower (6 to 9 months).

If you don’t deal with challenging people in your organization then you devalue and drag down the high-performing people. Often challenging people aren’t happy anyway, and they may even return to thank you!

3. Are you naming, facing, and resolving the problems your organization is facing right now? In Acts 6, the leaders of the early church addressed and resolved a problem they were facing. As a result, the leaders gained credibility and the church grew (Acts 6:7). We come from a long line of leaders who were willing to tackle and solve the problems they faced. Are we willing to do so?

The life cycle diagram should be used to evaluate all of our ministries and programs. The life cycle starts with accelerating then moves on to booming then on to decelerating before finally tanking. Create re-invention teams to move from decelerating to accelerating before that area falls into tanking. Looking problems straight in the eye and solving them gives your team confidence to face and solve the next challenges.

4. When is the last time you evaluated your core mission and vision? It is easier than we realize to lose the plot of what we are supposed to be doing. Churches are in the people-transformation business! The power of the Gospel, the message of Jesus, is the only thing that can truly transform people.

In 5 words, explain the central message of Jesus (without using churchy words). This exercise can generate some heated discussion! Hybel’s words include: love, evil, rescue, choice, and restoration. When you are clear about your core, there is no end to what God can do.

5.  Have you had your leadership bell rung recently? Has any crisis, book, conversation, etc. rocked you lately? Too often, we aren’t willing to learn unless we get our bell rung. Our God-given job is not just pontificating or preserving something from its demise, but to move our organization from here to there!  Why not make your next 5 years your best 5 years?!? How we finish will be how we will be remembered! Don’t end with a whimper!”

Click here for some free resources from Bill Hybels.

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