By Rick Calcutt
When conducting an experiment, trying is the important thing. It is okay to fail as long as you keep trying. – Mr. Rzykruski
Mr. Rzykruski is a Disney character in Frankenweenie. As an elementary science teacher, he serves as a mentor and inspiration to the main character, Victor. And Mr. Rxykruski is correct: The truth about leadership is that you will encounter failures and make mistakes. Remember, every leader goes through times of failure, but not every leader successfully moves through it. But success or failure can’t happen without movement – with a forward moving target.
Others call it a failure. Mr. Rzykruski and I call it an experiment.
Some leaders allow these “failures” to stop them while others turn them into stepping stones.
I’ve been in ministry leadership for 28 years, and during every season, there were experiments that moved me forward and others that needed to be tweaked and retried. It wasn’t until I served at Sun Valley that I found this concept embraced by the entire church leadership.
We have seven distinctives for a Sun Valley leader. Every organization has a culture and, at Sun Valley, there are a few things that make our staff culture unique. It’s the way we operate – the way we treat others. It’s what we expect from our leadership.
One of these is Risk: We have a big God, so we take big risks and trust Him for big results.
It’s a scary thing for a church to risk to reach those who are far from God. Instead, it’s easy to remain in comfortable buildings and focus on making the already convinced more comfortable.
We believe that this isn’t God’s plan for His church. At Sun Valley, we try big things to reach more people. Leaders are encouraged to experiment. Our leadership culture isn’t afraid to try things and make mistakes.
But an experiment isn’t a “cross your fingers” and “close your eyes” and “hope for the best” event. It’s far more than that. There’s a plan:
You can’t go anywhere until you know where you are. This is one of the best nuggets of leadership knowledge. A leader must know the current reality. Not the current perception, but the way things actually are. In order for a leader to provide an accurate target, they must understand their current culture.
When this has been accurately determined, then the experiment can begin. A plan can be set. And this plan is based on knowledge.
Accurate evaluation at the beginning provides great fuel for a “good start”. But it never ends. Evaluation is constant. Evaluation at every step.
We sometimes miss this. We often think of evaluation coming at the end. It shouldn’t be reserved for the finish but for the journey too. A leader’s sober assessment and evaluation should come at every turn and on every step.
This mindset provides for the third step in the experiment.
A leader is keen. Evaluation isn’t just a step in the process, but information that will propel – almost always forward. After all, that’s our goal. Right?
But the knowledge gained in evaluation must then be judged and new action steps developed. A new course is then set.
This is a midcourse correction. A leader must not be afraid.
I too often see this. Someone develops a process. They evaluate it. It works for a while. Then at some point it fails and the process gets scrapped. They start from scratch on a new process. But what a waste! What if they made midcourse corrections?
Make the corrections needed and move forward.
So let’s recap. In this experiment, the leader began with great knowledge of reality. Knowing well the culture around him propelled him to a good beginning and a good plan. When this knowledge is coupled with accurate and constant evaluation, the leader moves forward (even though the speed varies). But leaders are nimble and lead accordingly. Midcourse corrections are made when the evaluation considerations are made. It’s a Plan B if you will.
Will failure happen? Yes. Even a knowledgeable, nimble leader will get on the other side of an experiment and deem it a failure. But the leader and everyone around will learn from the risk.
And they’ll do it better next time!