One Shift, Four Steps, Healthier Leadership


Are you a mover and a shaker? You might be limiting yourself by this one habit. Are you about tasks or responsibilities? I love, love, love my task list. I also get really excited about giving others tasks and watching the tasks get finished. I have a sense of accomplishment. This busyness feels good, but limits greatly the capacity of my organization.

The problem is that tasks require a low level of ownership and overall knowledge of the vision. I can tell you to clean the toilet and I’m sure you’ll get it clean. But, then you’ll spend your time waiting to clean it until I tell you it’s time. However, if I shift my thinking from “tasks” to “responsibilities,” I can help you take ownership over the cleanliness of our bathroom. You’ll be happier because you get to choose your own schedule for when it gets done. You’ll also get the pride of knowing that squeaky clean seat is yours. But, at first, you might fail, which means I need to be prepared to give you space to fail. Your failure is your learning experience and opportunity to grow. In the end, you’ll be a better person, the job will get done better, and I’ll have less anxiety around whether or not all my little tasks are being handled correctly and on time.

Instead, one format for developing people is the leadership square (first noted in Breen’s work on Discipling Culture). Following this training practice, there are four steps:

  1. I do, you watch.
  2. I do, you help.
  3. You do, I help.
  4. You do, I watch.

In this four-step process, I provide ample opportunity for you to grow in a safe environment, but I gradually turn up the heat so that you can experience what it feels like to actually take responsibility for outcomes. Go ahead and shake things up by releasing some responsibility and giving someone space to come through!


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