• Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Summer Camp’s Coming and it Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

    2013-05-30 15.32.25Summer camp literally starts in a matter of days. We’ve known for years there’d be summer camp in 2013. We also know we’re going to have summer camp in 2014, 2015 and for as many summers as we can see into the future.

    In other words, it’s no surprise that summer camp is upon us. Of course this means there’s no excuse for not being prepared, planned out and ready for staff training and summer campers. Yet it wasn’t that long ago when, if you had visited SpringHill in May, you would have interrupted our frenzied work as being surprised by finding out at the last-minute that summer camp began in June.

    This mad scramble had its allies within our team. Many folks, if they were honest, love the adrenaline rush of doing vast amounts of very important work in a very short period of time. As an organization we even unconsciously honored these folks for their great sacrifice for the cause. Unfortunately this only reinforced our organizational addiction to adrenaline and ultimately led to our team entering summer stressed, exhausted and drained.

    So a number of years ago we all agreed that summer camp is never a surprise so there’s no good reason to save our all preparation for the month of May. We agreed that we would begin working on next summer during this summer, including pre-registering campers, finalizing host churches for our Day Camps, and signing up returning summer staff.

    We also agreed that all the other important work for the next summer such as property and facilities improvements, summer staff recruitment, and curriculum and program development would begin immediately after camp ended, having specific plans with key milestone dates to keep us on track.

    And, maybe most importantly, we also agreed to celebrate good, thoughtful and intentional planning and work instead of honoring adrenaline fueled activity.

    So take this post as one small piece of our celebration for the good planning and work our team’s done to be ready for the summer of 2013 (and, for that matter, 2014). Though we’d all admit we’re not yet where we want to be, I’m confident in saying we’re in the best position I’ve ever seen us in going into the summer. And for this I tip my hat to our team for a job well done.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    How Do You Climb a Mountain?

    2013-04-25 07.52.17

    How do you climb a mountain? As my wife Denise and I experienced on a recent climb up a southern California mountain, you do it one step at a time.

    This is true of any big goal or vision we have as individuals or as organizations. Our best chance at success is by breaking big goals down into smaller, more manageable steps, and regularly measuring ourselves against those steps.

    But too often we set these “Big Hairy Audacious Goals – BHAG’s” but don’t make the effort to break them down into the steps necessary to take every year, quarter, month, week, and day to accomplish those BHAG’s. Which, if you think about it, is a bit like my wife and I sitting at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at it and envisioning being at the top, but not mapping out the trail or knowing the elevation change or the miles we’ll need to walk or the time and effort required to reach the summit.

    But it’s this kind of planning that’s required to break down a BHAG into manageable steps. And it’s by these manageable steps that we’re able to measure our progress. And by measuring our daily progress we’re able to keep focused on the work before us and not become overwhelmed by the large amount of work we have to do before getting to the top of the mountain.

    At SpringHill our Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to serve 260,000 campers a year by 2025 (for context, we’ll serve about 55,000 in 2013). It’s an exciting goal, but to increase the likelihood of it becoming a reality we had to break our BHAG down into year by year goals, including our 2013 goal. Then we broke down our 2013 goal by season (we have three seasons a year versus four quarters), followed by monthly goals, and finally weekly goals, or steps, we call a split.

    Then every week, as a team, we review these steps or splits. If we’re on track each week, then we know, ultimately, we’re on track this week to reach our mountain top of 260,000 campers by 2025.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    What’s Required to Lead Teams, Organizations and Movements

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it comes to leading others, whether it’s a team, an organization or even a movement, there are four areas that require leadership – an Organization’s Thinking, People, Resources, and Self.

    Let’s start with an Organization’s Thinking. Thinking is the way an organization sees the world and sees itself in the world, then through these lenses, develops a sense of what’s important, articulating its purpose and distinction as well as unity in its beliefs and aspirations.
    Thus the leader’s job is to bring clarity to each of these culture defining attributes by asking the right questions and creating the best dialogue.

    The second area in which a leader must lead is People. People not only desire to be a part of something significant (as defined in an Organization’s Thinking) they want to know where they fit and what they can do to contribute to the organization’s success. An organizational leader’s job is to provide clear answers to these questions for the People they lead.

    The third area of leadership is Resources. Resources include time, property, facilities, technology, money, intellectual properties, partnerships, and any other tools at the disposal of the organization for the purpose of advancing its mission. To lead an organization’s Resources requires setting clear priorities which maximum the use of these resources. It also requires continuously improving as well as assuring the growth of these resources so that the organization can achieve its vision.

    Finally a leader must lead Self by assuring their own time, focus, and attention’s aligned with the Organization’s Thinking, People and Resources. There needs to be a clear and visible sense of consistency, one that’s seen by anyone associated with the organization, between the leader and these other three areas. This can only be accomplished with honest self-evaluation and frank input from others.

    In my next post we’ll look at an approach to leadership that makes leading an Organization’s Thinking, its People, Resources and Self a reality.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Dancing to Your Organization’s Music

    Christina Dancing

    There’s an old song by the band Genesis called I Can’t Dance which includes the lines “I can’t dance, I can’t talk. The only thing about me is the way I walk.” I can relate to these lyrics because they’re the words of someone who has no rhythm.

    And though I have no musical rhythm, my goal has been to create an organization that does; I want SpringHill to have rhythm so it can dance to the music of its annual work calendar.

    What does organizational rhythm look like? It’s when an organization’s structure, leadership, meetings, communication, reporting and planning align with the natural rhythm of its work.

    For example, at SpringHill, we discovered that we have three distinct seasons (winter, summer, and fall) and not the traditional 4 quarters. So we’ve organized board meetings, SpringHill wide staff meetings, and planning sessions around these three seasons. It allows us to evaluate the past season and plan the next.

    Then within each season all our teams meet after the middle of each month to review the monthly progress towards seasonal and annual goals. We also have weekly “huddles” where we review our weekly progress towards these same goals.

    During the next two weeks, for example, we have our monthly leadership team meeting, our winter board meeting and our winter SpringHill wide staff meeting. In each meeting we’re reviewing, discussing and evaluating all the same information – the evaluation of our 2012 results and the progress on our 2013 plan.

    And the beauty of having this rhythm is that at the end of this two-week period all our staff and board will be both informed, aligned, and focused on achieving our goals.

    So like dancing, having organizational rhythm, makes moving to your organization’s music easier, exciting, and more importantly, effective in achieving your goals.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Leadership

    General Norman Schwarzkopf and My Office Chair

    OOn December 28, 2012, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf died. In the early 1990’s General Schwarzkopf led coalition troops in Operation Desert Storm to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion forces. Because of his plain speech, clarity of conviction, love for his soldiers, and his skilled work as a general, those under his command as well as the public, including me, admired, respected and loved “Stormin’ Norman”.

    At the time of the war I was working for Steelcase, assigned to their wood furniture division. As American troops were preparing for war word spread throughout Steelcase that General Schwarzkopf’s staff, in putting together the General’s command center in Saudi Arabia, had bought up the inventory of Steelcase Breton chairs from a Saudi Steeclase dealer (a chair manufactured by our division).

    This meant that “Stormin’ Norman” would be leading and directing the war against Iraq sitting in one of our chairs.

    It also meant, because I too had a Breton chair in my office, I now sat, and led, from the same chair as General Schwarzkopf. So as strange as it sounds, sitting in the same chair of this great American general inspired me. I somehow believed that if General Schwarzkopf could lead from a Breton chair, then so could I.

    As a result I never gave up that chair. When I left Steelcase I asked if I could take it with me. They kindly gave it to me as a gift. And ever since then that Breton chair has traveled with me to every assignment and office I’ve been in, including the past 15 years at SpringHill.

    Now I believe God loves irony. He uses it to make us stop and think. Which He did once again because, within a week of General Schwarzkopf’s death, my beloved Breton chair broke, sadly the chair literally snapped off its base.

    But this irony has given me a reason to pause and reflect on this great leader, reminding me of my continue responsibility to speak plainly, have clarity of conviction, love my “troops”, and to plan and lead our team in a way that ends in victory.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    How to play your first Game like it’s Mid-Season

    197This weekend I watched our SpringHill Michigan team perform during our second Winter Teen Retreat of 2013. And frankly, it seemed like it was our seventh retreat because it went so smoothly. Yet I know this didn’t just happen, instead it was the result of our team’s good work before the first retreat.

    So what was that good work our team did leading them to perform at a mid-season level in our second weekend? Well our team took four intentional and necessary steps to be ready. First, they created a plan, second they prepared, and then they practiced before they ever played the first Winter Retreat.

    Let’s take a closer look at the four steps our team took look:

    Planning: plans require setting measurable goals and then mapping out in detail how to achieve these goals.

    Preparation: preparation is where the identification and the gathering of all the resources necessary to successfully work a plan takes place. A plan without resources is just a dream.

    Practice: once the necessary resources are in hand then practice and rehearsal provides insight into what needs to be re-planned and what resources are still needed. It also builds the confidence and habits required to win. This step is the one most often skipped, yet as any coach knows, without practice a team will not be ready for the game.

    Play: playing is the outcome of the first three steps. And, as coaches know too well, how the team plays is 100% dependent on the game plan, the preparation, and most importantly, the practice a team’s had before the game.

    And so, because our team worked through the first three steps before taking the fourth, this second retreat went as we’d expect our seventh one to go, which a good for our team, but even better for our campers.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Wisdom Applied

    The test of our wisdom is found in the decisions we make. It’s displayed in the quality, timeliness, and the process in which we go through to make decisions. So it’s all three of these aspects of decisions – quality, timeliness, and process – that reflect the wisdom we have, or don’t have.

    Wisdom requires knowledge, experience, judgment, and analytical ability, combined with a strong sense of right and wrong. And the measure of all these things, the proof that we have wisdom comes through in the decisions we make. Decisions are the tangible, measurable expression of our wisdom. Its wisdom applied.

    It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies someone needs to possess if they’re to have long-term success at SpringHill is quality and timely Decision Making.

    At SpringHill this competency is absolutely critical because of the freedom we provide our staff to do their jobs and the sense of stewardship we expect them to practice. It’s because we believe that the best people to make decisions are the ones closet to the “action”, not those sitting far behind the “frontlines”. We believe this to be true because those at the “front line” have the best perspective and expertise.

    Thus when an organization keeps decision-making closest to the “front lines” it requires staff who can display wisdom through their Decision Making. And, if done right, this kind of Decision Making ends up being the best because it’s almost always faster and higher quality.

    And the added benefit of entrusting decision-making to staff on the “front lines” is that they continue to grow in their wisdom and in their ability to make decisions, helping the entire organization continually become better and more effective in fulfilling its mission (it’s all part of Personal Learning I covered in the last post).

    This is part 4 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Always a Student – The Essential Need to Learn

    When you learn, you grow and change, and when you grow and change, it’s almost always a result of learning. There’s an undeniable relationship between these concepts. So if a person or an organization wants to grow, whether it’s in a career, a relationship, or in their impact on people and the world, it almost always requires ongoing learning. Because the reality is growth and change will stall or burn out if not fueled by learning.

    This is why one of SpringHill’s core values is to be a learning and mission-driven organization. Without learning we would not experience the necessary change required to grow in our influence, outreach and effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and achieving our long-term goals. As we often remind each other “if we’re not learning we’re dying.”

    It’s also why one of the qualities and competencies a person needs to have long-term success at SpringHill is what we call “Personal Learning”. It’s that personal and professional curiosity and inquisitiveness which leads to continuous improvement in one’s self and in the organization.

    Personal Learning is evident in people who read, listen to others, ask lots of questions, and seeks out other people and organizations to “go to school on”. It’s also evident in people who take mistakes, defeats, and crises and see them as opportunities to learn , grow, and change. Struggles are an ally to people who love to learn.

    One of the tell-tale signs a person (and organization) embraces Personal Learning is that they’re humble. You see Personal Learning requires people who accept and acknowledge to others, and to themselves, that they don’t have it “all figured out” and never will.

    So, as you can see, Personal Learning is an absolutely essential part of SpringHill, which also means it is an absolutely essential quality of our staff, board and volunteers, especially if, together, we’re to make an enduring impact on our world.

    This is part 3 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

  • SpringHill Experiences

    The Beginning of SpringHill Indiana – A Reminder of God’s Working

    This past weekend we had a SpringHill board meeting held at our Indiana camp.  Keith Rudge, our Indiana Operations Director, gave a devotion to kick off the meeting. In his devotion he shared this video he found packed away in his desk and thought it was a great illustration of God’s faithfulness, His timing and His direction in guiding our lives and our work.  It was an excellent way to start to a productive meeting.


  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    “Handsome is as Handsome Does”

    “Handsome is as handsome does.”  Samwise Gamgee

    Having lofty goals and big visions is important. But they’re nothing more than words unless an organization takes  intentional and thoughtful steps to make them reality. And it’s in taking tangible, day-to-day action that separates ineffective from effective organizations.

    So there are two additional questions an organization needs to answer if it’s going to make its dreams come true. The first question is “what do we have to do to be successful?” and the second question is “what’s important right now?”

    The first question drives an organization to determine the key long-term actions necessary to reach their targets and move towards their BHAGG and Vision. At SpringHill we call these long-term actions (actions that takes more than a year to implement) our “Big Moves”. They’re strategic in nature and typically center on major initiatives and shifts within our organization or the ministry we do that will help propel us forward.

    The second question, “what’s important right now?” drives those Big Moves into our daily work. We call these our Annual Moves (to be completed within a year) and our Seasonal Moves (to be completed within the next four months). Annual and Seasonal Moves are tactical in nature. They’re the work that needs to be done “right now” and should align with our Big Moves.

    We spell out our Big, Annual and Seasonal Moves with as much definition as possible, including having defined beginnings and endings. Then we review their progress every week so that they become things we do and accomplish not just grandiose words or ideas.

    Now I’ll admit implementing tactics isn’t as sexy as developing strategy and vision. But the truth is it’s in this day-to-day work that Visions and BHAGG’s become a reality. It’s what “handsome does.”

    This is part 5 of 6 in a series of posts about the questions every organization needs to answer to achieve their vision.

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