Surface to Soul

Nimble folks and agile teams

Moving from mediocrity to excellence requires individuals and teams to be more nimble and adaptive. It necessitates involving people who are open-minded, naturally curious and are willing to initiate action without being asked to do so. Listed below are a few ways to become more agile as an individual, team and organization.

  1. Measure the value you create rather than time you spend. Agile teams and organizations need a clear process for describing what is most important for the organization. Start measuring what generates value and you’ll move from good results to great outcomes.
  2. Test everything. Test your assumptions. Test your beliefs. Test the impact of your communication. Do more of the things that generate great results and less of what gets in the way.
  3. Clear the path. Remove the obstacles that prevent work from being done effectively. Focus on long-term solutions rather than quick fixes. Focus on creating safe spaces for having transparent and truthful conversations. Focus on creating systems that support sustainable change. Find ways to enable others to act and position them for maximum impact. Speed up decision-making by removing unnecessary bottlenecks. Make note of the things that slow you down or drain your energy and schedule time to revisit these ideas at a future time.
  4. Be a consistent and compelling communicator. Individuals and teams need effective ways to communicate among each other and with their stakeholders. Identify your most important communication channels and use them for providing timely updates on WHAT you’re doing, WHY it’s important, and HOW people can contribute in meaningful ways. Keep in mind that if you don’t communicate what’s happening, people will make their own assumptions which are often way off base. Take time to manage your key messages. Provide other leaders with responses to FAQs. Spend your time inspiring a shared vision rather than fighting fires based on false facts.
  5. Design, do and then debrief. Most projects people work on today are adaptive in nature. This requires leaders to try on new ways of being, thinking and doing. This involves experimenting as well as learning from your successes and failures. Perhaps you and your team need to find ways to fail faster so that you can succeed sooner. Get in the habit of defining your most vexing challenges, designing plans and processes address these concerns, doing what you designed, debriefing about the results of your experience, and then designing a new way forward.
  6. Be bifocal.  Keep in mind the big picture and the direction in which you’re heading.  In addition, stay focused on 30-day next steps and short-term wins. Invite everyone to share what they can do in the next 30 days to contribute to the vision.  If you’re part of a church staff, consider sharing action steps and wins at every meeting. Find ways to share your progress and short-term wins with all stakeholders, not just your team members.


In what ways might you, your team and your congregation become more nimble, agile and adaptive?  What’s holding you back from doing your best work?  What are you learning or unlearning?  In the whitewater of life and ministry, find ways to make your home and workplace serve as laboratories for innovative thinking and doing.






March 19, 2015

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Helping leaders GO DEEPER:
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Jim Ladoux serves as the Lead Partner for Coaching at Vibrant Faith, and is author of the book Surface to Soul: Coaching Spiritual Vitality in Congregations.

Jim and his wife, Gina, and their two young boys, Brett and Kenton, enjoy traveling, camping, board games and serving at their home church, Prince of Peace Lutheran in Burnsville, MN

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