November 12, 2015
A few months ago, I started a series talking about the culture we are trying to create and preserve within CARE for AIDS. We identified six behaviors that could easily be recognized and celebrated within our organization. I have taken a short hiatus from the blog in the last couple months, but I want to pick up discussing another key behavior – stay focused.
One of my earliest convictions in ministry was that CARE for AIDS would not go the way of so many well-meaning organizations that came before who lost their way. In his book Mission Drift my friend, Peter Greer, says this, “Leaders often first ask what, then move to how, and finally transition to why. The ordering really matters. Everything flows from why. Not only does it motivate others to join you, it also guides what you do – and often more important – what you don’t do.”
The needs and opportunities today are so numerous that if you first ask, “What can we do?” you may find yourself doing a lot of activity but not creating much impact. If you start with “why,” your “what” will be intentional and focused. Bill Hybels calls it your “white-hot WHY” that creates purpose and passion in an organization. At CARE for AIDS our white-hot why is twofold: 1) Sharing the Gospel with those living with HIV/AIDS and 2) Preventing children from being orphaned by HIV/AIDS. This white-hot why not only informs our work in Kenya but also here in the U.S. There are many more opportunities to promote CARE for AIDS here in the U.S. than we could ever pursue, so we try to choose the activities that help us go further faster towards our why.
So, what can you do stay focused? Each year, our team creates the following three things as we do our annual planning:
1. Picture of the future –the vision that produces passion in us
2. Priorities – areas of specific concern or importance that need to be addressed to achieve that desired future
3. Plan – strategies and tactics to move towards that preferred future
Along the way, we are continuously asking ourselves questions that allow us to assess if we are staying focused and adjust as needed:
- Why are we doing this?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What does success look like?
At CARE for AIDS, there are so many things that we could do but that doesn’t mean we should. In a world with so much suffering and need, it is so hard to stay focused on what we have been called to do, but we continue to trust that God will call others to do what we cannot. We know that if we try to do everything, we won’t do anything well.
“Focus” happens to be my top strength on the Strength Finder assessment, so I often take for granted that this may not come as naturally for other leaders. But, as with most strengths, they can be either be leveraged for good or manifest in a negative way. In my case, focus and awareness must live in balance. John Maxwell said, “Leaders see everything but focus on the important things.” We must not become so fixated on one idea that we fail to see what is going on around us.
“A failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.” – Daniel Goleman
Do you have a clear picture of the future, personally and professionally, that brings clarity and focus to your life?