Leaders know that big things happen only when important things get done. Sadly, important things are often overshadowed by urgent things. How can a leader begin to prioritize what’s important over what’s merely urgent? The best tool I’ve found for accomplishing important things is 6×6 Execution.
It comes from Bill Hybels and he explains the idea in his excellent leadership book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. Hybels explains the genesis of the idea:
I was sitting in an airplane one time coming back from an international trip, and the closer we got to Chicago, the more my mind swirled with the long list of to-dos awaiting my return. I took out my calendar and counted six weeks left until year-end. Only six weeks’ time to tackle what seemed like a hundred critical challenges.
I grabbed a pen, took out an index card, and wrote one question at the top: “What is the greatest contribution I can make to Willow Creek Community Church in the next six weeks?”
It took me the better part of the remaining two hours of that trip to sort it all out, but the net result of that exercise was a list of six items that, if achieved, would have me singing the Hallelujah Chorus come December thirty-first…by God’s grace, over the next six weeks I got every one of those initiatives done. Candidly, I don’t know that I have ever made a more significant contribution to Willow than I did those six weeks. But then again, I’m not sure I had ever been quite so focused in my attempts.
Hybels found that while there’s nothing magical or spiritual about six weeks, it seemed to be a good length of time for keeping urgency high. Additionally, six priorities seems like a reasonable number of priorities to legitimately focus on.
We have been using the 6×6 Execution tool with our staff team for the better part of this year. About every six weeks we spend a staff meeting sharing our various 6×6 lists with each other. It’s had the following positive effects:
1. We prioritize what’s important but doesn’t feel urgent. For example, my 6×6 list usually includes the goal of reading 5 books. This is important for me as a pastor because books provide a constant source of encouragement, ideas, illustrations, and models that I need as I lead and preach. But reading is never urgent. Using 6×6 has allowed me to do much more reading this year.
2. We appreciate one another’s work. Every six weeks, we’re hearing about crucial things our teammates are working on. This allows us to esteem and encourage one another rather than suspiciously think, “What do they do anyway?”
3. We keep a focus on people. It’s easy for the 6×6 to become purely administrative. But we often use the tool as a way to examine whether we’re spending time with people and to prioritize equipping.
4. We experience healthy accountability. We write our 6×6 priorities on the white board in our office. It’s there every day when we come in and it’s there when others stop by. If you don’t accomplish one of your six priorities, it will get noticed. Therefore, there’s a fun and healthy kind of competition to get your stuff done.
So, as an example, let me share with you my current 6×6, beginning September 25th and ending November 6th:
1. Preach 5 well prepared sermons — “well prepared” means I’ve worked through my entire set of Sermon Prep Questions and read two commentaries on the text I’m preaching. It’s 5 sermons because that’s how many times I’m scheduled during this 6 weeks.
3. Oversee Staff Evaluations — we’ve never had a formal staff evaluation process, so I’m creating one and implementing it.
4. Recruit a Women’s Discipleship Team — one of the key, new ministries at our church in 2013 will be Women’s Discipleship. I’m working on putting together the team to help lead it.
5. Find or Create Starting Point Material — we need a simple curriculum that we can use to establish new Christians in the faith. I’m writing, finding and assembling it.
6. Create Christmas Offering Plan — we’re taking a special, over-and-above Christmas Offering. I’m working on the plan to execute this. Who we’re giving to, communication rollout, etc.
As you can tell, I have a lot to do. So I’ll end the post here and get back to work.
If you could accomplish one important thing over the next 6 weeks, what would it be?