The Pharaoh Effect in Leadership

10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?” Exodus 5:10-13

pharaohHave you ever been confronted with the workplace concept of “do more with less.” For example, be more efficient with less people. Or be more productive with less resources. Or make more sales with a smaller sales force.

Pragmatic leaders can often look at efficiency, productivity, and task management through the lens of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the days of Moses.

We read in Exodus 5 that after a confrontation with Moses, the Pharaoh, or king, ordered the Hebrew slaves to continue their brick making, but without their daily supply of straw.

To make bricks you needed mud, straw and lots of sun.  Pharaoh’s punishment was to remove one of the necessary elements, normally provided to them, so that their work would be harder.  They would now have to gather the straw AND  make the bricks.

Yet, they were to keep their same quotas; meet their same daily goals.  Do more with less.  Keep up the same productivity levels, but now with less resources.

I call this the “Pharaoh Effect” in leadership and I see it everywhere in organizational life.  Do more, expect more, demand more, but with far less resources, staffing, and support.

How can this be considered good strategy?  How can this not be considered what it was in Moses’ day – cruel and harsh punishment.

As a mid-level leader myself, one of my goals is to constantly advocate for my team to the upper-level executives.  To show their value, efficiency and productivity to those who make the highest decisions.   I must work hard to never become the task-master who sees their work as inferior or secondary to my own.  The minute I begin barking orders and cracking the whip on them as slaves, I loose my leadership influence forever.

In other environments, I find myself as a first-chair leader.  I would never go as far as considering myself anything like a Pharaoh or king, but in some situations I sit atop of the organizational chart.  In that role, I must never, no matter the budget shortfall or the climate in the boardroom, choose to remove necessary resources from my team with the hopes of greater productivity.  I simply can’t take away the straw and expect the same number of bricks.

“Sorry team, our computers are gone until we pick up the numbers.”  “Sorry team, vacation and sick days are gone until we see third quarter gains.”

If the straw must be removed, competent leaders must find other ways to encourage their teams toward ingenuity, creative pragmatism, and out-of-the-box thinking to rebuild and grow.

The Pharaoh Effect in leadership is everywhere, but it should be avoided.  Give your teams the resources they need to succeed otherwise they might take an “exodus.”

 

 

Building Momentum in Ministry

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In the world of business leadership, there is much effort given to building and maintaining momentum.  Momentum is the underlying force that creates stronger morale among employees and customers and makes everyone involved feel excitement and anticipation.

In business, marketers try to create momentum around a new product or promotion.  CEOs and presidents try to create momentum around a new vision or campaign.  Management tries to create momentum around a new person, new assignment, or new department being added.

In the world of ministry leadership, particularly church-based leadership, the same effort is given to building and maintaining organizational and organic momentum.

Organizational momentum is when the church starts gaining small victories.  Small wins, that individually are not overly significant, but collectively propel a sense of “we are going somewhere” and “something good is finally happening around here.”

Organic momentum is when you actually start seeing spiritual growth in people, particularly those you are investing deeply in, and visible growth in a variety of metrics (e.g., giving, worship attendance, baptisms, small groups started, outreach efforts, mission trips, etc.)

The key for gaining organizational and organic momentum is seeing it as a real goal to actively strive toward.  Most pastoral leaders want to build momentum philosophically, but it is not really something that shows up on their week-to-week radar.  They want momentum to build toward their larger vision for transformation and growth, but they are not doing anything intentional to make it happen.  And for that reason, months come and months go and really nothing is gained.

So how do you build momentum on a week-by-week basis in ministry leadership?

1.  Tell lots of success stories.  Sharing the small victories over and over publicly in worship, in printed materials, on the church website, in small groups, in staff meetings, in leadership circles, wherever, whenever, with whomever you can.  You must keep telling the success stories.  No one will care, or even notice, if you don’t.  And when you start feeling like a broken record, you are not done.  Total submersion is the goal.

2.  Recast the vision over and over.  Along with sharing small victories, you have to keep casting the vision of growth, change, renovation, renewal, and revitalization.  To be a leader, you must take people to a place they would not go by themselves.  We all know Rick Warren’s axiom that vision must be cast every 28 days.  I am starting to believe it needs to be every 7-10 days in this culture.

You don’t have to cast all parts or every aspect of the vision all the time, but momentum is built when the larger body sees how this particular piece fits in with where things are moving and going.

3.  Give other people room to excel and then praise them publicly for it.  Momentum is a shared experience.  In other words, momentum begets more momentum.  When one of your teammates does something well, shout it from the rooftops.  Give them room to succeed and then cheer lead for them.  Cheer lead especially for the ones that often get overlooked like landscaping and maintenance, senior adult groups, benevolence, children’s ministry leaders, and the fellowship committees.

4.  Capitalize on the seasons of newness in the annual calendar.  There are several times a year when momentum can be built as a natural out-flow from the calendar.   Fall is perfect because of the start of school.  January is also strong with the new year.  I personally like the 90 day push of February-March-April because it has huge exclamation point at the end – Resurrection.  If you capitalize on these seasons, you will find momentum easier to gain.

5.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to be happy about what is happening.  Let your emotions show.  We all know there is a proper place for humility and recognition that all good gifts (including momentum) come from the Lord.  But you must let your people see that you are excited.  That you are sense a building anticipation.  That you see things happening and are so thrilled to be part of a move of God.

There is nothing wrong with being joyful that you are not in a dead church going nowhere fast, but God has been so gracious to plant you in a living church that is on the move.

Momentum is a one of those fleeting things that is hard to come by and even harder to sustain.  Here today, gone tomorrow is a very suitable cliché.  But when you do build momentum organizationally and organically, I encourage you to pour gas on the fire because it might be a while before it burns this hot again.