Saturday, April 22, 2006

How do we grow SMART Leadership?

This morning I joined in an Eagle Scout project at church for Bradley, one of our fine youth members. The sun was shining brightly on this gorgeous spring day when I pulled into the parking lot, to be greeted by about 25 scouts and at least 10 parents gathered for the day's work: planting a large number of trees around the perimeter of our new parking lot. Shovels were lined up against a wall for the project, trees were waiting to be planted, and young scouts had their gloves on for the work ahead. I told the leaders present, "We've got enough energy and work readiness here to plant 5 acres of corn by hand!" How did we get to this project? What were the steps involved that led to a successful service project to benefit the church? And what does this have to do with life and faith and ministry?

Let me share the meaning of the SMART acronym:
S..........Strategic/Specific objectives and goals
M..........Measurable goals, avoiding fuzzy thinking about the specific objective
A..........Attainable goals that stretch you to achieve, but are realizable
R..........Relevant results that contribute something of real value or significance
T..........Timely process of accomplishment

Several months ago, Bradley approached me at church one day about his desire to plan an Eagle Scout service project that would benefit the church. As a former Scoutmaster and father of two Eagle Scouts, Bradley knew I cared about scouting and that I had some experience in helping plan Eagle projects. I was also honored to be asked to help Bradley. So, we began the service project in a collaborative way and I helped Bradley through several steps of his goal, always bearing in mind the Scout focus on developing "boy leadership", not taking away the opportunity or challenge for a Scout to learn leadership priniciples. Scouts are expected to carry out their Eagle project as an independent leadership project, with the objective of involving adults and other scouts in a team process along the way. The benefits involve preparation for leadership in life.

S......Strategic/Specific I coached Bradley to approach the Building and Grounds
Committee at church to gather ideas about service projects of worth and
benefit to the church. A number of ideas were considered. One involved
ripping out the old carpet in the fellowship hall, where a remodeling effort
was underway. Bradley briefly considered this project, but decided it
involved skills that were not aligned with Scout experience or abilities.
Finally, after a few other ideas were considered, it was determined that the
new parking lot would benefit from landscaping, especially the planting of
several ornamental trees. A plan for raising money followed. With some
brainstorming, Bradley decided to offer church members a chance to pledge
money for the trees. Since most of the trees were over $100, we decided that
was a little costly for some members. And so I suggested breaking the request
down into $20 shares, with an opportunity to designate memorial gifts for
a plaque to be displayed. This idea was a huge success with our membership!

M......Measureable: Bradley worked with the Building and Grounds Committee to
determine the number of trees that were needed for the new parking lot.
He also researched the cost per tree, and he did some research on the most
desireable tree varieties. He had a complete assessment of needs and costs.

A......Attainable: Clearly, the landscaping plan met a need of the church. After
doing some brainstorming about a reasonable pledge for a share, Bradley was
confident that $20 shares were easily within reach of member giving. Added to
the appeal of the project, was a plaque in memory or honor of members. For a
few weeks ahead of the project, Bradley made announcements to the church
regarding his project, and he was enthusiastically supported.

R......Relevant results: Bradley's Eagle Scout project focused on the needs of
his church. He discarded some ideas as either unrealistic or unattainable,
given the skill level of scouts or financial costs. He settled on a very
appealing project.

T.......Timely planning and accomplishment: Spring time is the ideal time for
planting new trees. The weather is good and the trees do not suffer from
extreme heat. Several months of planning and coordinating scout and adult
leaders resulted in a well designed and executed project.

"Find yourself so that others may follow," is a principle in leadership development in the scouting movement. If we seek to lead others, then we must first learn how to lead ourselves. Bradley accomplished this with his Eagle Scout project, and he should be able to continue applying these leadership principles.

In church life, we too could benefit from SMART leadership. There's the proverb that says, "Without vision the people perish." That sense of "perishing" has the sense of being confused, directionless, aimless, and wandering. Too often our churches drift into that visionless wandering when we do not practice effective leadership skills and apply wise understandings of leadership. The SMART process of goal setting offers one reliable, easily grasped, and tested approach to shared and personal leadership. More and more, I am applying it in my own life and ministry.

What do you feel are benefits to this SMART model? Are there any limitations?


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