Set the Pace 01 Leaders Set the Pace!

How long could the hare sleep and still win the race against the tortoise?  | by Krist Wongsuphasawat | Medium

One of the tasks of leadership is setting the pace for the community or group that you lead. For example, as we went into lockdown and came out of lockdown, my job as leader of the Tree of Life Family was to set the pace.

We cannot run off, charging wildly, but we cannot stay where we are. We need a healthy, dignified, safe, but bold, marching pace to advance – and it is one of the essential tasks of leadership that you set the pace in the group or community you are leading. Jim Collins in his book “Great By Choice” (I recommend it!) found out that one of the keys to the top companies in any field was this: they knew when to slow down and they knew when to move fast.

In Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen says “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast!”. Sometimes in life it feels like we are going as fast as we can and going nowhere. That’s the wrong pace, and that sadly is the default pace for many people – but as leaders we can set a better pace.

The key to sustaining a pace in your church, your business, your family, your community is this: you need to build and maintain momentum. Let’s use this introductory blog post to focus on this: what do I mean by setting the pace? Then we can move on and look at aspects of this in later weeks. There I am setting the pace! We are going to grab the basics first then move on. I have just set the pace by the way I am writing today. You can set the pace in your organization with the speed you do things, the speed you release information, the speed you hold meetings and conferences, the speed you move from one thing to another.

You need to deliberately set the pace. Some things need to be done quickly and efficiently and got out of the way. Other things need more time. Working out the difference and setting different paces for these different things will mean you are more fruitful. There are things you can do to speed things up and slow them down – the art is knowing when to do which!

A key point that must be made early on is this: do not look to someone else in another organization to set the pace for your organization. Pace must be individual to your leadership responsibility. Even the six Tree of Life Churches did not come out of lockdown at the same pace in the same way. It was very similar, but we are aware each church is individual. You have different challenges, different people, different gifts within your church or business, so do not set your pace with someone else. Another issue that must be understood early on as a leader is that your church, business or community cannot go at 100% pace all the time on every issue. An unrelenting, driving pace is unsustainable. That’s my polite way of saying it is stupid to push people too hard in every area.

So how can we set the pace? How can we slow down the pace? How can we make sure there are times to pause and reflect and dream? How can we “know when to slow down and when to move fast”?

The first answer is this: dream big. You were reading my blog waiting for me to say this weren’t you?! DREAM BIG! A big dream sets a healthy pace. Dream tiny and you will gather no pace, as it is too easy, so everyone goes slowly. Dream average and people will hurtle at the goal, achieve it and be exhausted. Dream big and people realize this is a marathon, not a sprint, and start to set a good pace from themselves. The second answer is this: give people a nearby target. We all do this almost subconsciously – if you are tidying a room, you go well I am 1/4 done of 1/2 of the room, and I will do the clothes next, then this, then that. We set ourselves sub-goals to keep us moving forward. As a leader we should be setting sub-goals.

  1. Dream Big
  2. Set Sub Goals

It is not that hard to get a community moving forward if you do this. Dreaming big is a great thing, because it makes people think big, it stops a lot of the pettiness that consumes so many people. I am a pastor running a church and I see it a lot in churches, people get upset over petty things. But if you are dreaming big, it is harder to let those small thoughts dominate. Eric Schmidt, the co-founder of Google, said “If someone offers you a free ride on a spaceship, you will not be asking which seat”. You need to let people realize you are the captain of a spaceship, and you are boldly going where no one has gone before, and that will instantly stop a lot of the pettiness going on in your group!

At the same time, travelling forward in space means it takes a long time to meet your goals. I have goals for 2030 and 2040 and 2050. So, those are a long time to get people motivated for, so I set sub-goals. We are currently aiming for our Dagenham church to be 300 people. That’s a sub-goal. Jack Welch, CEO of GE said “You need to eat while you dream”, and he meant you have to achieve things on the way to the big dream! That’s wisdom right there!

This is your responsibility as a leader – you have to encourage your people to dream big and at the same time give them something they can reach “soon”. Then, if your organization is doing several things – setting the pace across all of them.

You need to take some time to think about how you are going to set the pace in your life and then in wherever you are leading. Next week, I will discuss some ways to immediately add pace to something you want to achieve.

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