Healthy Leadership: The Ministry Within
From Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President, BDI
I make lists. Developing, updating, and referencing my various lists have become an essential approach to order the attentions and intentions in my life. It’s a simple way to capture an overwhelming amount of important detail and to help supplement my memory.
If you generally love change and the adventure of navigating shifting tides, 2020 has been a blast! Despite the many unique opportunities and blessings we’ve encountered thus far in this most unusual of years, it’s the increase in complexity in helping our organization stay healthy that’s been my personal greatest challenge. Perhaps you can relate.
While much has been written about leading organizations through change, I’ve found most of it formulaic and too academic. And though I’m an eager student of both social science and innovative business strategies, the novelty of this season has inspired me instead to reach out to several of my most respected colleagues. I have gathered expertise from those who are currently leading agencies, ministries, and nonprofit organizations whose focus and approach appear to be paying great dividends in personal and missional health.
Today I’m pleased to share 10 practical tips that seemed to draw upon a common thread of promoting the relationships and ministry we engage within our organization. Particularly during this humbling COVID-19 season where so much of the external environment is out of our control.
- Be intentionally empathic. We’re often so outwardly focused on those “out there” who are fatigued and stressed out that it’s easy to forget members of our team may be personally struggling too. Unless we’re paying close attention and asking them, we may not even know. Take the time to dig a little deeper to discover how “OK” your people really are.
- Double up on transparency. Perhaps the one who is struggling is you. If you’re in a position of leadership, it can be particularly difficult to have the courage to ask for help or risk the perception that you’re not bulletproof. Quite the contrary, healthy leaders have the self-awareness to recognize their limitations and to invite their support system to step-up. In fact, it’s healthy for your relationships.
- Promote change readiness by modeling an openness to change. While many leaders are famously opinionated and rigid in their approaches – after all, we know what “works” best, right!? – they also recognize the importance of the organization being change ready and capable. Now is a terrific time to model the value of flexibility by challenging yourself to be even more open to new perspectives and more collaborative in your critical decision making.
- Be hyper-aware of what you control – and what you do not. Seasons of tremendous change and volatility can drive focused, energetic, and action-oriented leaders nuts. Trying to control the uncontrollable or waiting out the season(s) of change are both recipes for frustration and dysfunction. On the contrary, leaning-in to only the things we can impact and influence is both efficient and freeing.
- Make back-up plans to your back-up plans. Perhaps more than ever, situational planning is critical. We’re already pivoting from the expected plans for 2020. While it requires the investment of additional time, energy, and increased collaboration, now is the time to ask ourselves: How has 2020 differed from our expectations? What have we learned that we should carry over into 2021 to fuel ministry success? And what’ll be the plan if next year comes with a whole new set of ministry conditions that are unlike both 2019, 2020, and what we expected of 2021?
- Ask around. This one is really convicting for me personally. I can get so intensely focused in my efforts and so in my own head, trying to make sense of all there is to learn in anticipation of what’s coming next, that I’ll forget to simply ask a handful of those I respect and trust what they’re thinking, experiencing, and planning next.
- Be grace full. It’s safe to say that with complexity comes error. As the whole world has been disrupted, mistakes, delays, and miscues naturally increase. Stress and fatigue compound and patience dissipates. What a wonderful time this is to be generous with grace for others, understanding we are all out of our comfort zones, and to accept the grace of others with humility, when appropriate.
- Embrace your call. Especially when times are tough, remember – Ministry work is absolutely essential. We’ve been called to this cause by the Heavenly Father and He has tremendous plans to bless our work, our commitment, and our sacrifice. Put that truth in context before becoming too discouraged by the obstacles, inconveniences, and even acute struggles that we face. Be bold in your faith and affirming of others in how critical they are to the Lord’s redemptive story on earth.
- Be realistic in your expectations of yourself and others. One of the developing challenges of this season is how long it has dragged on. Admittedly, when the pandemic really dug in during the spring, I fully expected we’d be weathering a storm of no longer than 3 – 6 months. As we approach the fourth quarter of the year and consider that this destabilization may continue for additional months (or more), it’s critical we shift our mindset. Adjust your expectations of yourself and your ministry teammates with an adaptive focus on relational health given that this environment may persist.
- Pray for wisdom. Even as we ask the Lord for the safety and protection of our family and co-laborers in the Kingdom, I believe it is absolutely essential that we seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom about how to be healthy leaders and how to promote health within our organizations.
In the end, we cannot share or give what we do not have. It gives me great hope that in addition to the commitment to join our partners in fueling their Kingdom work, and the guiding insight of the collective experience of the team at BDI, that HE who has no equal, that HE who has all the answers, that HE who made us for this very moment in history is with us.
As I look back at these 10 encouragements, one commonality among them sticks out: They are all totally possible and each is simply a choice.
I hope you’ll also find inspiration that you do, in fact, have some real influence and control on health and happiness. I will too. In fact, it’s first on my list.
For more specific strategies on expanding your digital platforms and reaching your online donors, check out these resources from our weekly BDI QuickShot:
Michael J. Tomlinson, President and CEO
Michael Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is the President and CEO of BDI. With more than 25 years of executive leadership in business development and media, MT’s expertise involves leading organizations like Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk and Dunham+Company in the ideation and execution of successful integrated marketing, broadcast and digital media, and fundraising strategies that fuel growth.
As BDI’s President, MT leads the strategic direction, ensuring that the agency is equipped with the talent, tools, and technologies to effectively serve clients long-term by reaching and cultivating loyal, heart-connected, and generous financial donors.