Jack Lee

Last September, I accepted the role of Director of Men’s Ministry at my church conditioned on a “self-imposed” three-year term limit, during which my strategic focus would be to identify, develop and mentor my replacement; hopefully someone half my age!

Almost six months into my new role, it feels like a good time to review initial lessons learned.  There are many so far but I will focus on three:

  1. Before accepting and starting a new role, complete a “Keep / Stop” analysis.

It feels good to be asked to take on a new job, position or role.  Taking on a new challenge often seems quite appealing, with the opportunity to grow and keep learning, and to set your sights on your “higher and better” use.

However, we all know what happens when you “pile” a new responsibility “on top” of everything you’re already doing. Your performance on the things you keep suffers and they are no longer as enjoyable, and you’re unable to deliver your “highest and best” in the new role, which is not much fun either.  Therefore, before accepting a new job, position or role, I have learned to complete a “Keep / Stop” analysis.  For more on this, see my June 2018 blog, Keeping seems easy.  Stopping is hard.  Starting even harder.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really wanted this job!  It is a good fit for my experience, personality and skills.  I completed the Keep / Stop analysis to make sure there was “room” in my life and schedule for the demands and expectations of the new role.

A major Men’s Ministry event that I knew required plenty of “room” is the annual “No Regrets” conference, which takes place on the first Saturday in February.  Planning and marketing for No Regrets begin in November and December, but the real work takes place in January which turns out to be the busiest month in my CPA practice.

Back when my practice was focused on large corporate clients, January was a month spent waiting to get busy, and a good time to get some CPE hours or take a ski trip.  In my current CPA practice, I focus on small businesses and their owners.  So January is my busiest month with estimated tax, payroll tax, sales tax, information reporting and client tax organizers and engagement letters.

When I thought through my schedule in consideration of taking on the Director role, I did not anticipate the stress of leading the preparation for No Regrets in my busiest professional month.

Lesson learned again. Creating “room” for a new role means more than freeing up “hours” on your schedule for the additional time required by the new role, but also considering when those hours fall on the calendar.  You must also consider the calendar and not just the clock. 

  1. Be vulnerable. Ask for help.  Steer clear of prideful people-pleasing.

No matter how careful and thoughtful you plan and prepare, there are always going to be “unknowns” which you cannot anticipate.  As my limitations to effectively lead preparations for the No Regrets conference became clear, I should have said something to Pastor Jon, asking for help and resetting his expectations.  I know this.  I have facilitated leadership workshops that teach this.  But as we often say, “knowing is not doing.”

Instead of facing the truth that I was overwhelmed and needed help, I avoided it.  I didn’t want to disappoint Jon by asking for him to step in for me.  But I know I disappointed him more by leaving him wondering about status and where things stood. 

Even with my lack of communication and status updates leading up to the conference, 2020 No Regrets turned out well anyway, with record attendance and 96% of those surveyed giving Excellent and Very Good overall ratings.

Just yesterday, Jon and I debriefed on No Regrets, and I was able to apologize and seek his forgiveness for my leadership shortcomings. Fortunately, Jon is a balanced and understanding leader who expressed recognition that the conference went well, and willingness to assist me in building a team to provide the support I need in the ongoing planning and administrative aspects of the Men’s Ministry.

Lesson learned again. Leaders avoid prideful people-pleasing and build trust through their honesty and vulnerability.  Leaders communicate – they talk straight and report status even when it’s not good. 

  1. Start working on Year 3 during Year 1

In taking on a new job, position or role, I have learned to have an intentional “three-year plan” going in.  Year 1 – Learn and listen to understand what works and what needs to improve.  Year 2 – implement your ideas for getting better.  Year 3 – Identify your replacement and position them for hand-off.

But in the blink of an eye:  Year 1 as Director of Men’s Ministry is half over!  This can only mean Year 3 will be “in my face” before I know it.  So must I already be working on the Year 3 transition?  And how can I do that when I’m still in Year 1 “getting acclimated” and learning to do the job?  I believe the answer lies in delegating and team building. 

So what is standing in the way of team building before I’m up to speed?  I believe it is my pride that wants to give the impression that I walked in the door already knowing what to do and how to do it.  Instead, I must trust my experience as a “learner” and be vulnerable enough to undergo the potential awkwardness of learning and struggling in front of my other team members.

Lesson learned again. I am not ready to hand off to my replacement right now; I don’t even know who they are yet. But it will take at least three years to build and develop a team of potential replacements.  So I must start now and be willing to learn alongside them.

Thankfully, Pastor Jon has the wisdom to see this urgency as well.  And I am thankful for his willingness to help me accelerate the transition to team building immediately.  More to come.

Three lessons to be learned again. (1) Make “room” in your schedule before taking on new roles; consider the calendar as well as the clock. (2) When things go “off track,” talk straight and reset expectations; when you fall short seek forgiveness and start again.  (3) Don’t wait to identify and develop your successors; start today.

We will continue to help our clients to grow and succeed as leaders as they learn to keep learning.  If you have ideas or experiences to share on this important topic, please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,

Jack