Mind the Gap

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The term “mind the gap” is a visual or audible warning to subway passengers to be careful while crossing the spatial gap between the station platform and the train door. The origin of the phrase is typically attributed to being introduced in 1969 on the London Underground in the United Kingdom.

This is a great reminder for leaders everywhere. We too must mind the gap. While there are many different gaps we need to be aware of as leaders in our organization, let’s focus today on just three main areas: communication, values, and goals. Let’s look first at communication.

 

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As leaders, we are constantly communicating. In fact, if we are honest, it can sometimes feel like we are communicating the same things over and over again. We must be very cautious when we begin to feel this way. People tend to fill any real or perceived gaps in communication with their own stories. That can be very dangerous to any team or organization.

Here is an analogy which might help. Imagine a marathon race with a field of runners so large that the start must be staggered. In other words, a group of runners start, then after a few seconds another group of runners start, and so on. The runners are not racing as much against each other as they are the clock. If the field was large enough, it might be possible that the last group of runners were just starting as the first group was finishing. How might the last group feel watching the first runners cross the finish line? Challenged? Defeated? Encouraged? As leaders we are often way out in front of our team. We are the ones creating the strategy, making the plans, determining the course for our organization. We need to ensure the communication is clear and consistent to everyone. Chances are good that when we are getting tired of talking about something, there are those on our team who are just hearing it for the first time.

Now let’s look at values. What are the values of your organization? (As long as you’re looking, go ahead and find your mission and vision too.) Every organization has values. You may or may not have taken the time to identify them, but they are there nonetheless. Values are what guide your decisions, plans, and how you treat people both internal and external throughout your organization. Think of them like the banks of a large river, determining the course and speed.

If your organization has identified your values, take an honest look at them and see if they are real or aspirational. If people within and outside your organization were asked to list the values which come to mind when they think of your organization, would their list match yours? Remember Enron? Guess what, their values were: communication, respect, and integrity! What a gap between what they said were their values and their actions and behaviors. Your gap is certainly not that big. However, there very well may be a gap in your stated values and your actions and behaviors. As a leader, you must own this gap. It is not too late. Start today. Communicate your values again throughout your organization, and intentionally work on living into those values.

The final area we are going to look at for closing gaps is goals. Does your organization have goals for this year? How about you, do you have personal goals for the year? If you have one or both, take them out now. Too many leaders and organizations create goals, and then file them away and forget about them until the end of the year. This behavior creates a gap in importance. Creating goals but then forgetting about them sends the message that this is just an activity to complete, not a priority we feel will make any difference in ourselves or our organization. Again, it is not too late. Establish a habit now of reviewing goals at least monthly. Put it on your calendar. Share it with someone who can hold you accountable. Consider working with a coach who might help you with this habit.

The other gap in many goals is the “why.” If you are familiar with SMART goals, this is the “S” – Specific. Why are you setting this goal? In my work with both individual leaders and organizations, this is the component missing most often. I would also share that it is my belief that this is the single most important component to ensure the success of a goal. Two things tend to lead to this gap. First, the reason why the goal is being set seems to be so obvious there is no reason to state it on paper. When organizations create a gap by leaving the “why” out of their goals, everyone tends to fill that gap with their own “why.” At best, this creates confusion. At worst, this creates conflict. The second thing which tends to lead to this gap is too much focus on the “M” or measurement component. As important as the measurement component might be, it should never be the main focus of a goal. When the “why” piece is missing in a goal, the measurement component tends to become the whole goal. And those types of goals are rarely accomplished.

Here are a few suggested next steps:

  • Have an honest conversation with your team about communication. Be sure to include peers, supervisors, and those who report to you. Assess where you are, then make plans to improve. Try to listen without getting defensive.
  • Read, Time Management for the Christian Leader to learn more about setting SMARTER goals for yourself and your church. You can find it on Amazon
  • Check out my blog on SMARTER goals here
  • Work with a coach who can be a partner with you on the journey to close the gaps!

Check out my church leadership online webinars at: www.leadership4transformation.thinkific.com

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