April 7, 2020

The Early Adopters During Dramatic Change

As soon as I hit "publish" on my last post, I wished I had added one other thing to it ...

In moments of dramatic change such as the one we're going through now, there are a few that will respond quickly. These people and systems have an imagination for what is possible, what needs to get done ahead of everyone else. And they act; they use the tools they have available to them and put things into action ... don't screw over these people. 

Maybe they are already adept at the tools needed during dramatic change. If you are the provider of those tools or the person in charge of distributing these tools to a wider group, your job is not to isolate or impair the early adopters even while trying to accommodate those just beginning to use the tool. Leverage the experience and insight of the early adopter to assist others.

Maybe they were the first to put together a plan, a system or a schedule or response for themselves and their team or sphere of influence. If you are higher up the "food chain" of this person/team or have the authority to come up with a plan, a system or a schedule that can supersede the early adopter's ... don't! You need their momentum, you need to learn what they are learning. Find a way for their work to fit into the larger work without slowing them down. If this is impossible to allow, well, congratulate them, thank them and then apologize for making them start over.

Early adopters tend to get the principles I outlined in my last post. That's why they try new things and take calculated risks more often. They may not always be as reliable to the wider system but they are reliable in their specialty. They know how to say they're sorry because they've built their work on asking for forgiveness rather than permission. And we know that they show up, they were showing up long before everyone else.

When heard mentality begins to set in, we forget how crucial it is to have forerunners, scouts and early adopters out ahead of the heard scoping out what is coming. Their work is crucial to the wider group even though they look like they're separate or different. If you have these people in your organization, team, etc. your job is to improve sharing the signs, the lessons and warnings these people see to the wider group. Your job is not to further isolate or shut down. You need these kind of people right now.

April 6, 2020

No One Is Getting It Right

No one is getting it right all the time right now (or ever). So the pressure is off from getting it just perfect in this moment.

In a short amount of time, institutions large and small (along with individuals like you and me that function within those institutions) have had to make dramatic shifts in how they operate. We are going to screw up. We are going to make mistakes. So, here are a few thoughts on how to function during dramatic change (whether temporary or long term):

Be reliable. Show up when you say you're going to show. Be as consistent in this as you can. Whether this is a massive school district delivering learning online or an individual scheduling a virtual meeting with two others. Communicate clearly and frequently and do what you say you're going to do when you communicated you would. And when you don't ...

Say you're sorry. We are all are going to have moments when we can't be relied upon. We're human. Our institutions were built by humans. The pressure of perfection is off as long as you can say, "I screwed up. I'm sorry." Whether this is because you're nerves are on end and you need to simply turn it all off for a moment (or a day) or because you sent out the wrong date or time for a meeting on accident. Just say you're sorry and move on, which means ...

Keep showing up. Keep trying new things, different ways to solve problems. If perfection isn't required and it's okay to make mistakes, then what better time to learn something new, try something different and make something work better. Right now, it's way more important to us that you show up, that you try and by your actions communicate, "I am here. I care about what is happening right now. I'm going to try and address this problem, this opportunity." It tells us that you care, that we matter and that we're in this together.

In this strange moment in human history we have the opportunity to learn what's really important and yet we can only do so if we set hubris aside and show up with all the humility and creativity we can offer.

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April 3, 2020

Putting the Protest into Protestant

There are Christian communities that are still gathering in person for public worship.

This is a really bad idea during a pandemic.

Why do some churches do this? Well, there are many reasons but some of this stems from an understanding in some traditions that the Church's role in society is to resist norms, to go against the grain. It's a sentiment that has long existed in Protestant and evangelical circles in particular. This idea of resisting norms goes all the way back to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The movement was labeled as such because the father of the movement, Martin Luther protested the norms of the European Church of his day. But let's be clear about something: Martin Luther didn't resist the norms of his time because he wanted to retain a crowd. When the bubonic plague hit Wittenberg in 1527, Luther was not concerned with gathering a community but tending to the sick and dying.

In a time of crisis, our job is not to distract others or ourselves from what is happening but modify our leadership to ensure that no one is left behind. The marketplace and nation state will leave people behind. If you want to put the protest back into Protestant, resist the inclination to care for yourself and your own alone rather than looking out for who is being left behind. 

There are times when greater things are required of us. This is one of them.

April 2, 2020

Food for Flowers

Yesterday was the first of the month.

I'm hoping that you were not one of those that watched that date draw near with dread. Millions of Americans are jobless. Countless are struggling to pay the rent, utilities and put food on the table. Unfortunately, the numbers in this predicament will likely increase for a period of time.

This has me thinking of Easter flowers.

Lilies in particular. 

Christians spend an enormous amount of money on Easter lilies each year.

There is not a church in America that needs lilies this year.

What if this year you spent that money on food for someone that needs it?

An immigrant. A refugee. An artist or musician. A shut-in. Someone in hospitality or the restaurant industry. Or those serving us within health care.

Maybe this Easter we should turn flowers into food.

Just a thought.