Sarah, a Pastor friend of mine, has an 8 month old daughter. I love that age! It seems like there is something new every day for a child between 8 and 18 months old. So I asked Sarah, “What is your baby learning to do now?”
She said, “Lately she has learned how to crawl. But the funny is, she can’t crawl forward. She can only make herself go backwards. And the baby gets so frustrated! She sees what she wants; it’s right in front of her. But when she attempts to move towards it, she ends up traveling farther and farther away from what she really wants. She’s literally crawling backwards!”
That image is hilarious to me. I just picture the backwards crawl – and the frustration that it causes.
OK, maybe you see where this is going.
Over and over I have seen leaders who know where they want to go, and yet as they get into motion, they only move backwards. What is it that occasionally takes us away from where we want to be?
Here are three observations I would make about crawling backwards in our leadership:
- Wanting to move forward is not enough. If you value moving forward and talk about it, pray about it, but never change behavior, you will move backwards. The mistakes we make are often thinking that vision is the key to movement. It is not. Vision is important, you have to see where you want to go. But until you create new behaviors, vision can be a source of frustration. I see where I want to go, but as I take action I move backwards. What new behavior is needed for you to move forward?
- The same motion takes us forward; we just have to turn around. Sometimes the behavior we need is just a shift in how we behave. Sarah’s baby learned that if she turned around she could actually move forward. Now this is not a long-term solution for the baby, but it gets her started. Let me give you an example of this leadership principle: Imagine a leadership culture with lots of meetings that focus only on problems that need to be solved. The highly committed people in these meetings feel defeated – and in some ways discouraged – by what is happening. What if they changed how they run meetings? What if the meetings were focused primarily on vision and possibilities? They could keep the same movement (meetings) but start to go forward. So many times, we talk about the future and only take action on the present.
- There is power in the familiar. Where we have been in the past is a known commodity. We tend to gravitate back towards the familiar, even if we don’t like the past. We need to develop a picture of what the new may look like. Many times the new destination of growth and innovation require a new frame of reference. Maybe it means taking a field trip to see how others are doing what you want to do? I know of a church that tore down its existing building so that they could start fresh with a new vision. What is the new picture that allows you to move forward?
Sarah’s baby will learn that facing forward will allow her to get where she wants to go. First she will crawl, and before you know it she will be running.
In the comments section below, tell me where you crawling backwards – and when you’ve recognized it and turned around.