Stay Focused

My business partner and I provide strategic planning consulting services for local governments. We use a slightly different approach to the traditional planning process where, instead of focusing on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we talk about strategic focus areas and the principles that guide them. Every community or organization has them. Sometimes they are found in mission or value statements but often they are representative of the things important to the community. For example, every city, no matter its size, will focus on fiscal sustainability and transparency. In the past, strategic planning often focused on dreaming big – “what would we do if nothing stood in our way” thinking. In today’s reality, there are plenty of things to get in the way, so we ask our clients what is it that they are focused on and what principles are they based in.

People, for the most part, can be the same – what are you focused on and what principles are those focused areas based in. Ask yourself, what am I focused on? How do you spend your time and what do you get from it? I’m not suggesting that if you spend your time watching TV for a couple hours at night and you’re not getting anything out of it and that you should stop; I am suggesting that if ALL you do is watch TV when you aren’t at work, perhaps you can focus some time elsewhere. Once you determine what you are focused on, you can start to drill in to why you do it and how you will do it. Bringing these things into perspective can help guide the choices that you make.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured on the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Talk about focus, Jesus had to keep His eye on where He was heading. Satan tried to blur Jesus’ focus when he tempted Him for 40 days. When God’s plan for His death was revealed to Him, Jesus remained focused on His goal of saving the lost. Even as He carried His own cross, Jesus remained focused on the goal of joining His Father in Heaven and defeating the devil once and for all. There were plenty of things to distract Him – fame, power, faithful disciples and the broken moral structure of the society that He lived in; yet Jesus remained focused.

His strategic focus was saving the world and He based that focus on the guiding principles established by God – the Ten Commandments. Because of His focus, we can drill in to being good and faithful servants. Jesus took with Him, in His death, our sin and the guilt of breaking these principles. This freedom from sin allows us to focus on the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God. We can find our daily principles spelled out in the bible and maintain our focus on God. Spend some time reinforcing those principles and make time with God a strategic focus area.

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What’s the Plan?

Do you start your workweek with a plan? How about the workday? Planning is easy for some people and then there are those who struggle to get out the front door on time each day. The concept of “planning” can be used for short-term things like the best way to drive to work or for long-term projects like building a house or starting a business. Whichever you are doing, a plan always starts with the end in mind. What is it you want to do or accomplish? Some authors call that the vision but “the end” is as simple as knowing what you are planning for. The best analogy is taking a car trip. We start by knowing where we want to go and then we look for routes to get us there. Along the way we look for cities or towns where we can stop for fuel or grab something to eat. Longer trips require us to look for a place to spend the night.

Whether you are doing long or short range planning, the process is virtually the same. Write down your goal or the end and workout a route to get there. Whether you are seeking personal growth planning or directing the work of a team, route the course to get to the end. Write down your goal and the steps (course) to get there. Share it with members of your work-team or for those personal goals; share them with close friends to make it more meaningful and to get support from those who might help along the way. Consider them your “reservations” for points along the way. You will need support to achieve your goals and a good plan will make the path that you take a little more direct.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

I have written before about God’s plan for us. If we let God direct our lives, we cannot fail and bring glory to Him. Letting God direct our lives sounds like He’d be our personal Google Maps and He chooses the path for us. Like Maps, we can choose to ignore the directions but it is always easier to just let the App tell us where to go. While this might be easier, its not what God wants for us. He wants us to enjoy our lives, love our neighbors and most of all, He wants us to be faithful to Him – Commit to the Lord.

If we work with the goal of being faithful to God, doing what He commands, sharing the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, how can we go off course? God loves us and sent His Son to die for our sins so that we may live with Him in Glory for all of eternity. The irony of eternal life is that there is no end. Our lives here on earth will end, so we must make plans to Glorify God in whatever we do. At work, be honest, work hard, be obedient and support those around you. In your life you can bring Glory to God through regular worship, bible study, Christian fellowship and supporting your fellow man. When your walk in life is in step with God’s, your plans will succeed because your goals are the same – sharing eternity with each other.

Better late than never…

Ten days ago I spent five days on Hilton Head Island, SC with our very dear friends from Boston. We usually see them about two or three times a year and have tried to travel to different spots in the US when we do. This year they bought a “retirement home” on the island. They are about 8-10 years away from actually retiring but the market was right so they plunged. It is all part of their plan and with a little faith; they finally got what they dreamed of. I spent time talking to Scott about goals and dreams while we were there. He was so clear about his vision. We all need a vision for our lives. Most of us live year to year and we don’t think about we want 3-5 years down the road. What will your life look like then? Visioning is difficult especially when we try personal visioning. On the plane returning home, I read an article about Google managers and how they are asked to create a vision for their team or section and then communicate about it regularly. As the business changes, they communicate how those changes impact the vision. Organizations create vision statements, leaders have visions of what they want to accomplish and we should too. Have faith in your abilities to accomplish them; you can do anything you set your mind to.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

Christmas is two days from now! All of our planning for the holiday will finally come together. God gave THE ultimate gift that day, His Son. This day was prophesied throughout the ages. Even John the Baptist talked about “someone who is greater than I”. God set His vision in motion and found that the only way to make it “a reality” was to send us a savior. God’s vision depends on just one thing – our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. Matthew is encouraging us to keep our faith (even if it is small) and remain strong in our belief. If we can be strong in faith, nothing will be impossible. Whatever your vision of the future looks like, keep your faith in Jesus Christ strong. A future without Christ in it is not a future, it’s the end. Eternal life is hard to put into a vision of our future here on earth but we don’t have eternal life without faith in Jesus – they are mutually exclusive. Enjoy the birthday party today (Christmas), I hope you are spending it with your family or friends or both. Ask God for help in crafting your vision for this life and let your imagination run wild for what eternal life will be like. Merry Christmas!

Vision

Most employees, your self included, want to know what direction they are headed in. Creating a vision is the single most effective way to get people to buy into any proposed change or altered direction. Employees can lose sight of and will need to be reminded of, your organization’s core values and purpose during periods of uncertainty. Leaders need to construct an envisioned future by describing what the future will look like and how you will get there. Be sure to share the plan with everyone. Set goals and objectives that describes the milestones along the way and set benchmarks with the vision in mind. Employee participation may help re-define the benchmarks because of their unique perspective within the organization. Communication throughout the entire process is the best way to keep the vision out in front of everyone. Tell people where they are headed and watch them work toward achieving that goal.

“…He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10

The Old Testament is the visioning process of the bible. God gave us a look into what He could do and what He wanted for us. God spoke through angels and in some cases; He spoke directly to ordinary people telling about His vision. Jesus continued to set the vision of “everlasting life” and the promises of God our Father. Some people have a hard time reading the Old Testament. When you read it now, read it like a vision of what was to come and as a description of the power that God possess. He was able to overcome armies, flood the earth and cast famines to ultimately overcome Satan. We have a simple responsibility now; stay connected to Him while believing that Jesus is our one and only savior. The goal is simple – everlasting life. The vision is beautifully described throughout the bible, be sure to take the time to find where.

Have Faith

Have faith, which to some can mean “trust me” and to others it may mean “believe me”. In today’s world we follow the mantra of “I’ll believe it when I see it”. As leaders, how do we build people’s faith in us? One answer is with a vision. As leaders we need to describe a vision of what we’ll do, how we’ll do it, why we need to do it and how it will look at the end; paint a global picture of that vision. Once it’s created (your small mustard seed), don’t stop caring about it (water and feed it). Share your vision with everyone; keep it in the forefront of all of your discussions by tying all issues back to the vision. Once the vision grows and more people start to have faith, you will be able to move mountains. Resistance is natural but with the right care and feeding, your vision (mustard seed) will become reality. You can overcome challenges with good communication and regularly reminding your staff of the final vision. Nothing is impossible.

Matthew 17:20 “… if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The bible is the playbook for us to use when we look for ways to overcome resistance. It is filled with communication techniques, example of hope to share a vision, and sacrifices that were all made in truth. How is your faith these days? Are you struggling with having regular bible study time or living a Godly life? Remember that it all starts with a mustard seed and nothing will be impossible for you. Nurture that seed and care for it. Spend a little time each day with God in study, prayer or both. Share your day with your Father in heaven, what was great and what wasn’t; the help He can offer might surprise you. God wants to hear from His children. Your faith, even in the worst of times, will get you through and move the mountains of things you thought were impossible. Have Faith!