20 April 2011 0 Comments

Running on Empty?

My friend was distraught, growing more anxious with every turn. He was grateful for the ride from the airport, but concerned about the gas gauge indicator, which looked as if it had passed “E” sometime last week.  It didn’t help that the surroundings were unfamiliar and that the driver appeared unconcerned (or unaware) of their predicament.

When the driver pulled off the freeway and started taking side streets in the opposite direction, my friend reached his limit.  Armed with the finest GPS system, he identified the most direct route to their destination and located several gas stations along the way. Still, he was unable to persuade the driver to follow his lead.

Only after allowing my friend to stew awhile longer did the driver admit to the prank: The gas gauge was broken!  Instead of fixing it, the driver would simply note the mileage each time he filled the tank, and knew he could drive 350 miles before needing to refuel. It was a practical, inexpensive solution that also provided some good laughs (at the expense of my friend!).

What Do We See?

As leaders, we often can be so sure of ourselves. From where we sit, we see the situation clearly and know exactly how to address the problem.

  • Sometimes we think the leaders above us don’t understand reality or are headed in the wrong direction.
  • Perhaps we think the leaders who report to us are concerned about too many details and can’t see the big picture.

Funny how things are not always as they seem!

 Unless we know all the facts with full transparency, our judgment is skewed.

What Indicators Do We Use?

Even the best indicators are useless if they are broken or measure the wrong thing. My friend was certain the tank was nearly empty because his experience taught him when the gas gauge approached “E” it was time to fill up.  But in this new environment, the odometer, not the fuel gauge, provided that information.  The GPS didn’t help either.  Despite being precise and accurate, the information wasn’t relevant and so gathering it was a waste of time.

  • Churches and nonprofit organizations often measure their success by financial results or by the number of people served. 
  • Nonprofits, however, are mission-based.  Sure, it’s important to be fiscally responsible and to track the number of people served.  But if an organization is not accomplishing its mission, those indicators are meaningless.

 The best indicators of success measure how well the mission is being accomplished.

Usually, these are less about budgets and more about changed hearts and lives.

What About You?

  • Have you found yourself certain to have the right solution, only later to discover additional information or perspectives that changed your mind?
  • What are the key performance indicators of your organization? Do they align with your mission? If not, what indicators would better signal success?

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