The threads of history are woven together by the incredible stories of women and men who created remarkable change in our world and inspired us to believe the impossible could be possible.
When we hear these stories, we often feel something stir within our chests, and we begin to wonder, “How can I create real change in the world?”
As I have wrestled through that question, there is one story I have returned to over and over as a roadmap to living a life of impact.
William Wilberforce lived in the early 1800s and was an English politician, philanthropist, theologian, and a leader of the movement to end the slave trade in England. He was also a man who loved God so deeply and knew Him so intimately, he was driven to devote his life to fulfilling the divine calling placed on his life.
During the time of William Wilberforce, England had torn over 11 million slaves from their homeland, packed them onto small ships, abused them, beat them, treated them as cargo, and then sold them as slaves in order to make a profit.
But this all ended because an unlikely group of individuals were used by God in a remarkable way.
Although many people have heard the name of William Wilberforce, he wasn’t the only one leading this fight. As we journey deeper into this story, we discover the radical tribe of world-changers who linked arms to abolish the slave trade together. They were called, “The Clapham Sect.”
There was in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a network of friends and families in England, with William Wilberforce as its centre of gravity, powerfully bound together by shared moral and spiritual values, by religious mission and social activism, by love for each other, and by marriage. Their greatest and most celebrated achievement was the abolition of the slave trade and then slavery itself throughout the British Empire and beyond.1
Wilberforce is the name we most often read about in our history books and watch on the movie screen. He never attempted to abolish slavery on his own. Rather, he intentionally gathered a tribe of passionate activists known as the Clapham Sect, who would partner together to create real change.
The Clapham Sect was a group of social reformers in the Church of England. Because of their unity, their commitment to each other, their compelling vision and their faithful collaboration, the world was never the same.
Collaboration is one of the most important elements of creating positive impact in our world.
As leaders in our world today, collaboration may be more important than ever. If we desire to see change in our culture, we must make an intentional commitment to collaboration.
Let’s examine the workings of the Clapham Sect to identify three ways we can foster collaboration in our organizations.
1) Work to Establish Unity
Wilberforce… wanted to found a society, with the highest backing possible, to improve the morality of British life, through the courts, local government, censorship, legislation, prison reform, by every means possible. There was huge support for the society, across quite a broad spectrum. It was not just an evangelical movement. By making this his first major campaign, Wilberforce won the support of a powerful coalition.2
How often do we miss out on the chance to use our leadership to create positive impact because we are unwilling to reach across lines of division? If we want to foster collaboration on our teams to maximize our positive impact in the world, we must intentionally work to establish unity.
2) Be Willing to Sacrifice
It was costly for them. They gave it, in different ways and to different degrees, their lives, their money, their careers, their time and their health. Few people can make a more persuasive claim to have been doing the work of God in the world.3
Collaboration is birthed out of sacrifice. We must sacrifice time, energy, pride and our own personal agendas. Great leaders must make sacrifices to collaborate with others if they desire to see change take place in our world.
3) Craft a Compelling Vision
The abolitionists made a tactical decision to confine themselves to the abolition of the slave trade, and until that was accomplished to avoid even talking about the abolition of slavery itself.4
People don’t buy into a complicated vision. They buy into a clear and compelling mission. If we want to see greater collaboration in our organizations, our churches and our world, we must craft a compelling vision that will motivate others to partner with us.
The Clapham Sect had a big vision to abolish the slave trade, inviting people of all backgrounds to join them in the pursuit of this compelling goal.
The heroes of our history rarely accomplished their great feats alone. Rather, they collaborated with individuals who made it possible to accomplish what often seemed impossible. They chose unity, sacrifice and vision, and this led them to truly change the culture and the world.
Which of the three elements of collaboration do you need to focus on in this season of your leadership?
Hannah Gronowski is founder and director of GenerationDistinct.com, an organization that exists to inspire and equip the next generation to discover their passions and fight for justice, in order to make God’s name great in this world. She has a passion to empower the next generation to become leaders and difference makers in a way that sparks a global movement. Hannah is an author, blogger and speaker who lives in the Chicagoland area.
Is leadership something we’re born with, or is it something we learn?
Yes. Both, and.
Some people seem to be born with leadership skills. These people may be more charismatic, sometimes more extroverted, more affirming. Maybe he or she was president of their class and captain of a team in high school. Their voice holds the room’s attention, and their ideas catch on throughout an organization.
You Have to Learn Leadership
But, in my experience, natural leaders often rely on instincts. Instincts work for a while, but eventually they fail. They do not scale up to tackling new or more complex leadership challenges—to creating plans for strategic leadership or for effecting system-wide change. That takes processes, strategies and tools that don’t always come with instinct or experience.
Other people are dropped into leadership positions without natural leadership gifting. Maybe it’s the wise, compassionate woman who is asked to lead her Bible study. Maybe it’s the pastor who loves theology or biblical counseling, but who feels overwhelmed when faced with leading a congregation.
That’s the situation I was in during my second year of a church plant years ago. We’d successfully launched the church, counting 234 people in attendance for the first Sunday. But then we moved past the frenetic energy of the launch, saw our numbers settle at around a hundred and slid toward rhythms of regular church life. And I realized I did not know what to do next. I was stuck, and leadership was the lever I needed to get through.
I am not a natural leader. I am a nerd, thank you very much. While some of my good friends were leading student government in school, I was reading the encyclopedia for fun.
This love of learning became a powerful tool when I got stuck after our church’s launch. I was in the middle of a DMin program during the launch, and I focused my dissertation on leadership and influence.
Through that process, I learned tools of leadership. I learned how to apply ethical principles of persuasion to lead our church to where God wanted us to be.
You Can Learn
Let me repeat that: I learned leadership. Studying leadership principles provided the tools I needed to get unstuck and lead my church well.
That experience showed me that we can learn leadership skills. If you are placed in a position of leadership and you don’t have a natural gift for leadership, you may need to express leadership that’s not in your natural gift set.
You will need to fall back on tools and processes to do that—tools and processes that can be learned.
You do not have to be a natural-born leader to become a strong leader. You can learn how to lead, to move toward strategic goals and to change your church for God.
Furthermore, leadership is different depending on who you are. Some of the best leaders I know are introverted. I’ve seen great leaders who are men and I’ve seen great leaders who are women. I’ve seen them young and old. But, they all know, you have to find the way of leadership that works for you.
Leaders are Learners
There is an old phrase, “Leaders are learners.” I think that is true, but would add you can learn your way into leadership. Most pastors I know have had the same experience over and over. They’re not learning, but just repeating the experience of the last year or years.
So, get some books. Do some reading. Get a mentor. Leadership can be learned if we will be learners.
This article originally appeared on ChristianityToday.com, here.
Ed Stetzer is the executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is a prolific author, and well-known conference and seminar leader. Ed has planted, revitalized and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is former executive director for Lifeway Researchand is a contributing editor for Christianity Today and a columnist for Outreach Magazine.
The eight-hour workday was created during the industrial revolution in an effort to cut down on the number of hours of manual labor that workers were forced to endure on the factory floor. This breakthrough was a more humane approach to work 200 years ago, yet it possesses little relevance for us today.
Like our ancestors, we’re expected to put in eight-hour days, working in long, continuous blocks of time, with few or no breaks. Heck, most people even work right through their lunch hour! This antiquated approach to work isn’t helping us; it’s holding us back.
A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees’ work habits. Specifically, the application measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared it with their productivity levels.
In the process of measuring people’s activity, they stumbled upon a fascinating finding: The length of the workday didn’t matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.
The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100 percent dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by emails.
When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.
People who have discovered this magic productivity ratio crush their competition, because they tap into a fundamental need of the human mind: The brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15 to 20 minutes).
For most of us, this natural ebb and flow of energy leaves us wavering between focused periods of high energy followed by far less productive periods, when we tire and succumb to distractions.
The best way to beat exhaustion and frustrating distractions is to get intentional about your workday. Instead of working for an hour or more, and then trying to battle through distractions and fatigue when your productivity begins to dip, take this as a sign that it’s time for a break.
Real breaks are easier to take when you know they’re going to make your day more productive.
We often let fatigue win, because we continue working through it (long after we’ve lost energy and focus), and the breaks we take aren’t real breaks (checking your email and watching YouTube doesn’t recharge you the same way as taking a walk does).
The eight-hour workday can work for you if you break your time into strategic intervals. Once you align your natural energy with your effort, things begin to run much more smoothly.
Here are four tips that will get you into that perfect work rhythm.
1) Break your day into hourly intervals
We naturally plan what we need to accomplish by the end of the day, week,or month, but we’re far more effective when we focus on what we can accomplish right now.
Beyond getting you into the right rhythm, planning your day around hour-long intervals simplifies daunting tasks by breaking them into manageable pieces.
If you want to be a literalist, you can plan your day around 52-minute intervals if you like, but an hour works just as well.
2) Respect your hour
The interval strategy only works because we use our peak energy levels to reach an extremely high level of focus for a relatively short amount of time. When you disrespect your hour by texting, checking emails, or doing a quick Facebook check, you defeat the entire purpose of the approach.
3) Take real rest
In the study at Draugiem, they found that employees who took more frequent rests than the hourly optimum were more productive than those who didn’t rest at all. Likewise, those who took deliberately relaxing breaks were better off than those who, when “resting,” had trouble separating themselves from their work.
Getting away from your computer, your phone and your to-do list is essential to boosting your productivity. Breaks such as walking, reading, and chatting are the most effective forms of recharging, because they take you away from your work.
On a busy day, it might be tempting to think of dealing with emails or making phone calls as breaks, but they aren’t, so don’t give in to this line of thought.
Don’t wait until your body tells you to take a break. If you wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s too late–you’ve already missed the window of peak productivity. Keeping to your schedule ensures that you work when you’re the most productive and that you rest during times that would otherwise be unproductive.
Remember, it’s far more productive to rest for short periods than it is to keep on working when you’re tired and distracted.
4) Bringing it all together
Breaking your day down into chunks of work and rest that match your natural energy levels feels good, makes your workday go faster and boosts your productivity.
Dr. Travis Bradberry (GLS 2016) is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His best-selling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries.
There are generally two types of organizations when it comes to how they manage their money.
The first group looks at what came in last year and then adds a percentage of how much more they hope to receive in the coming year. They view that additional percentage as the “faith” portion of their budget.
There are other organizations that begin in the same place. They first look at what came in last year, but they subtract a percentage from what they expect to receive in the coming year. They would argue that the entire budget requires faith.
Obviously, these are two extremes, and there are also many organizations that are somewhere on the spectrum in-between.
These two approaches to managing money lead to two very different outcomes.
For that reason, I’d place the first organization in the “foolish” category when it comes to stewardship of financial resources, and I’d consider the second group to be “wise” in their approach.
Here are some examples of the trends that distinguish the two:
I want organizations to be wiser with their financial resources, because it creates opportunities for generosity—including investments in new initiatives that the foolish will never be able to afford.
In which direction does your organization lean?
The following questions might help you diagnose your tendency:
Do you plan to spend less than you reasonably expect to receive?
Are you willing to make tough calls and cut expenditures in some areas to fund other priorities?
Have you found yourself in the enviable position of finding new ways to bless others or expand your vision because you received more than you planned to spend?
Are you fully funding your growth engines to experience new opportunities rather than just funding what you’ve done in the past?
Does your budgeting process create freedom for leaders to accomplish the mission of your organization?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it may be time to revisit whether or not you are wisely stewarding your financial resources.
A basic tenet within the world of WhiteSpaceis to only check one’s email at prescribed intervals. Technology is not making this discipline any easier. The old “Get Mail” feature has been replaced by the automatic, uncontrollable push of email on every device. Want to wait to see your new emails? You can’t anymore.
But there are ways to build this discipline… and we must. Without boundaries, email easily becomes a constant distraction, taking us away from deeper, more thoughtful work. When using email, we switch windows an average of 37 times per hour. When separated from email, we flip back-and-forth only 18 times in an hour.
In addition to improving concentration, scheduling checks at intervals also trains others not to expect a knee-jerk reply to every email, blissfully slowing down the email cadence all around you.
One Critical Omission
After years of telling folks only to check email at certain times, it became clear that many were missing a key definition upholding the entire practice. They did not understand the critical difference between checking and processing.
So let’s make that clear right now: Checking is when you walk out to your mailbox, collect the mail and rip it all open; processing is when you pour a cup of tea, grab your checkbook and work through the stack of mail before you.
Here are more literal definitions:
Checking Email:The action of collecting and opening new emails
Processing Email: Acting on and eliminating pre-existing email in your inbox
What you will quickly and sadly realize is that the processing part of the equation is the ugly stepsister at this ball.
Checking is a thrill, filled with possibility and that good old dopamine rush.
Processing is hard, tedious work, less exciting in every way than its sexy counterpart. There is a reason we tend to procrastinate with it. Dopamine, that happy chemical triggered when you complete a task, is sparked by the unpredictability and novelty of checking, not the humdrum cadence of processing.
A Counterintuitive Tip
So how can we check email only at certain times but still spend time in our inbox for processing? Like everything in the world of WhiteSpace, the perfect customized solution will be best designed by you—choosing from techniques that have been proven to help others.
The most core technique and the most counterintuitive, is to learn to pay less attention to bold emails at certain times. I know it seems crazy—almost impossible—but learning to control where we allow our attention to be directed can be a helpful technique.
Since we can’t eliminate push email, we must train ourselves to process through un-bold emails without getting pulled back into what’s new. It’s hard, but just play along with me.
Between times when you feel it would be strategic to check your emails, try to avert your eyes from new bold content. Scroll down to just below the line of the new bold emails and process away, clicking one by one through the un-bolded, older mail.
If something catches your eye and you feel like you must open it, go ahead. This is a very gentle practice, but over time you will see that by training your eyes away from the bolded section of your inbox, you reclaim quite a bit of control.
Remember that soon enough it will be check time, and then you can scratch that itch.
Between checks, it’s important to remove any unwanted pop-ups or notifications that will pull you back into new emails, moving toward zero notifications when possible.
Many times we are forced or purposefully choose to access new email between checks. Maybe you are interacting with your boss via email in a rhythm that can’t pause, or you are waiting for a conference.
At these times, simply open and use the search window of your email program. This way you can selectively access new emails for individual parties, while not getting pulled back into the entire barrage awaiting you. Some folks like to check for the names of their supervisors once per hour, just to relieve some concern, while staying away from the bulk of the new mail.
Processing email doesn’t have to feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill, but it takes time and discipline to develop and maintain those healthy, productive habits.
It may sound impossible, but I promise it’s doable, and it’s certainly worth trying. You’ll be amazed by how much hidden productivity you’ll find.
Juliet Funt (GLS 2017), a recognized consultant and speaker, founded WhiteSpace at Workwith a mission to unearth the potential of companies by unburdening their talent. A warrior against reactive busyness, Funt teaches a streamlined method for personal process improvement that reduces complexity in the workplace. Teams that incorporate WhiteSpace mindsets and skill sets increase creativity and engagement, reclaim lost capacity and execute at their finest.