Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Finding Success in Peoria

I am on my way back from this part of the Midwest tonight. Peoria (home of Swat raids and Twitter feeds J)is an unlikely place to plan and strategize ministry , but we did. Here, five of us gathered to consider the next steps for building an even stronger coalition of believers in the Middle East. Anyone attentive to the news knows these are dangerous times. The church can ill-afford to ignore the pain and suffering and deep evils that plague this region. Like an aggressive cancer, radical groups are spreading fear and terror. As I noted in my last post, there is deep concern we are witnessing genocide in various parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nonetheless, I am strengthened when I open Scripture and find that our mighty God does whatever He wills (evil men, take notice!). I am also heartened by incredible men, like these four, who have given themselves to advancing God’s kingdom in one of the most difficult places on earth, Lebanon. In a small guest house, two men with incredible corporate experience, an administrator for a state governor, a first class missionary, and a pastor prayed and listened, shared ideas and laid out strategies.

I have known all of them for several years. I am always fascinated by highly successful leaders like these. But what defines success? The corporate world tends to focus on productivity and outcomes. I am just finishing a book by Patty Azzarello, entitled Rise. It is a solid leadership book. Azzarello knows something about success. As the back cover of her book puts it, Azzarello “became the youngest general manager at Hewlett-Packard at 33, ran a $1B software business at 35, and became a CEO at 39 (without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk).”

I have distilled her chapters into ten basic rules she believes are critical to success:

1-Rise above your work. Successful leaders make themselves less busy. It’s not the work that matters; it’s the outcome that counts. It’s not who amasses the most yards, but who scores the most points. Don’t measure life by how many hours you worked today. This is both a trap and a false way to measure things. People don’t care how hard you work; they care that the work gets done.

2-Position yourself to work in your sweet spot. Don’t let people keep you from doing the things you are really good at. In other words, manage your circumstances to ensure you are doing what you are naturally good at.

3-Establish trust. People who trust a leader will go the extra distance for him/her. Here’s what degrades trust: always changing one’s mind; creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. Here’s what builds trust: authenticity; building a team of really smart people who make the organization smarter.

4-Occasionally hide. Find two hours a week to think, plan, focus, re-prioritize, and create processes.

5-Manage your energy. Identify that which energizes you and that which drains you. Know when you are at your best, and when you are not so productive. Plan life in light of these.

6-Build credibility. One huge way to do this is to manage resources. Be amazingly efficient at not wasting time or money or people. Be both a visionary and a careful manager.

7-Create a brand (a reputation for what you stand for). Be known for someone worth listening to. Send few emails(don’t write too many blogposts!).

8-Be visible. Carrying out these first seven is the “back office work.” There is also front office work to be done. In the right way, one must create opportunities to be noticed. This is not to be confused with self-promotion, bragging, or becoming an annoyance to others. But there is something to be said for presentation. Am I willing to get my ideas out there? Am I clear, relevant? Do I carry a certain gravitas? Can I handle pushback? Do I dress in a way that demonstrates competence? Will I have the courage of a gentle persistence that keeps what I am passionate about before others?

9-Network. This begins with keeping in touch with the people you know. Be the one who stays in touch,  offers to help, says thank you often, follows up, and remembers what is important to others. Give more than you take.

10-Find a mentor.  Building your life without mentors is like climbing Everest without a guide. Build a targeted list of people you want to learn from, mentors who will guide you towards your true desired outcome.

From what I have observed in truly successful people, people on the “rise” (like those I spent time with this weekend), is that they add something important to each of these ten rules—

1-They are attentive to measuring results, but in the end, they leave the outcomes to God. It is God Who causes the growth (I Cor 3:6). Though we make our plans, it is God who gives the answers (Pro 16:2). We live with the reality that many of the results from our efforts may not be seen this side of eternity. We prepare the horse for battle, but victory belongs to God.

2-They are working in their sweet spot—but they are not hesitant to find a basin and towel and do the necessary servant work (John 13). They will not be shoved into conforming to people’s expectations, but they will step out into people’s needs. This is how Jesus defined leadership.

3-They are building trust in others, but they realize trust ultimately depends upon their conscious commitment to walk with God, live out His word, and passionately pray each day. The greatest gift we can give those we lead is our personal godliness.

4-They do occasionally hide, but it is more than planning and prioritizing. It is heading for the wilderness, the mountain, to be alone with God, find rest, get their bearings, and get in step with His will (Mark 1:38).

5-They are attune to what gives them energy. Energy is the leader’s currency. But managing energy is  more than working in their best hours of the day, more than operating in their sweet spot. It is intentionally seeking to be filled with the Spirit, Whose energy empowers us to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Eph 3:20).

6-They continue to establish credibility. They are believable. Part of how they earn this is to manage resources with the conviction that everything is owned by God. Everything! Our task is to manage it all for His purposes, viewing waste as a dishonor to the Creator.

7-They each have a brand. Their lives are clearly stamped as missional followers of Jesus, leaders who are shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves.

8-They are visible. Their fruit is obvious. They are out there, and they are not afraid to be the light in a dark place. But they are determined to be overshadowed by the glory of God.

9-They network, but there is little time for Twitter and Facebook, and any emails that waste one’s time. They network to build coalitions that enable us to more effectively carry out God’s will.

10-They have mentors. They do not stop learning. They listen for the best articles and books and TED Talks. They find what MacDonald refers to as “Very Resourceful People” to connect with. And they are committed to mentoring others.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

1 Comment
  • sewcreative
    2:43 PM, 26 September 2014

    As always, I find your well written words, refreshing, valuable and and very much to the point. Wouldn’t it be rather powerful if more would adhere to the lessons obviously learned by the many authors who have echoed this same truth. Thanks again John.

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