Here are my top 3 tips for planning when, in all honesty, it seems as soon as you have a plan it has to change.
This week, the various devolved governments in the UK have announced a further tightening of restrictions in the light of increased infection rates and rapidly decreasing capacity in the Health Service to try (once again) to bring the Covid pandemic under control – obviously this time hoping the vaccines hold the long-term solution. Effectively these new restrictions mean we are back into a lock-down with all non-essential activity put on hold – including impact on what churches can do. I realise that I have readers here who are NOT in the UK so this does not specifically impact on you, however I do want to use this as a way of exploring a theme I believe we can all benefit from – how we plan effectively in a time of great uncertainty. That is something we all need to learn to do. So, here are my top 3 tips for planning when, in all honesty, it seems as soon as you have a plan it must change.
By the way, the very worst option is to NOT plan. The old quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin is “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” That is very true, and I have learned over the years that planning is a vital part of what we must do in media. However, knowing how to change our plans at a moment’s notice is also crucial.
Tip 1 – Flexibility is your friend. I know it probably doesn’t seem like it to those of us who love our rigid routines and “locked down” plans (excuse the pun) but embracing flexibility rather than resisting it can be a game changer. What I mean by that is to maintain flexibility in every area you possibly can. We often get locked into unchangeable patterns that really are traps of our own making. I like to say “there are no sacred cows in the Kingdom”, question everything you think is a non-negotiable and ask if it is only that way because it is easier for you. If so, then you have set up your own sacred cow and that thing needs to be killed. Keeping an attitude that embraces flexibility will be a great help to you and those you are serving and leading.
Tip 2 – Use the strengths of others. OK, so I said flexibility is your friend – well, I want to confess, it often hasn’t been mine. In fact, IN-flexibility is much more my “norm”. So, being flexible has honestly been one of the hardest things for me to learn (and still is hard to apply) but I have been fortunate to work with others that even when I think something is a non-negotiable, THEY have shown me it isn’t. Surround yourself with people that will help you see your blind spots in this area. Also, draw on their strengths. We often think (particularly as leaders) that we are the ones who need to have all the answers – well that is a fallacy. I believe our job as leaders is to make decisions but NOT necessarily to have all the answers – in fact, good leadership is about allowing people around us the freedom to speak into the situation and give them the confidence to contribute. Proverbs 11 v14 talks about there being safety in an abundance of counsellors – so positively inviting people into our planning process is important – they may just have the piece you are looking for.
Tip 3 – Don’t take things personally. I think for me, this is one of my worst traits. I get SO invested in a solution or “my plan” that when something (or frankly more often someone) comes along and forces change, I struggle to cope as it seems to become about me, my value and my worth. My “go to” here is that I should have foreseen what was coming and planned accordingly. It’s very hard to get out of that mindset but I am trying to learn not to fall into this trap, and instead roll with the punches. I think if 2020 taught me anything it is that nothing is certain and that when changes have to made they are not necessarily because of your inability to foresee the problem. Getting to the stage where your “worth” isn’t on the line when things happen and changes have to be made to the plans you have made, then your battles will be quicker to recover from.
So, there you have my top 3 tips for planning in a time of uncertainty.
I would love to hear your stories on this as well – would you take a minute and send me an email with your insights? I am quite sure that 2020 has taught you some really valuable lessons and I’d then like to share some of them with our Media Mentoring social media followers too – as I think we (and particularly those in the UK) need some encouragement right now. So, please shoot me an email at email@example.com with your thoughts.
For those of you in the UK, I’m praying that you rise (once again) to the challenge to preach the Good News of Jesus – something that has never been more needed – despite all the problems you may face in doing that right now, and if I can be of help as you relook at your plans, please don’t hesitate to reach out.