Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Excellence vs. Development: Which Should You Choose?

There's a tension between maximizing excellent performance and developing people. It applies to every organization I know, including churches.

If you, as the leader, decide to emphasize excellence, then it's easiest to do just do it all yourself. Maybe you also find the few others who are as experienced as you and have them do the parts you can't. This small group of highly skilled performers can achieve high levels of excellence week after week. Mission accomplished.

But maximizing excellence this way means that anyone outside this small group doesn't get to practice anything new--they might make mistakes. In order to help people grow fast, you have to let people step outside their comfort zone and allow some risk of failure. You have to be willing to endure lower levels of excellence.

Almost every church I know of has made a clear choice to value excellence over people development. They measure their leadership by how excellence their services were and allowed people development only up to the point where it couldn't threaten the excellence of the service.

I'm more interested in maximizing the growth of our people. I'm willing to look less impressive to accelerate the development of our members. For example, anyone who wants to sing or play an instrument can join our worship band any week--just show up to the practice time before the service. Many of us are experienced musicians, but a few have never played their instrument for others before. Could we make tighter music if we picked only a few (the best ones, of course) and sent the others home? Yes. But we'd be achieving maximum excellence at the expense of their growth.

Having said all that, the most mature approach is to live in the constant tension between both excellence and people development--to not permanently choose one over the other. Excellence and people development actually need each other. And this is what we're working as a church right now--trying to raise our excellence a little bit more without walking away from people development.

Some tensions aren't meant to be permanently eliminated and mature living means managing them well for the rest of your life.

What have you chosen to emphasize in your organization? In your life? What has the impact of that been?

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