I’m about to drop a bomb on your company, organization or ministry. In order to grow you may have to go nuclear. So, let’s begin by looking at how a nuclear bomb works. Hard to believe, isn’t it? That the secret to growth may be found in the Manhattan Project!
A nuclear bomb is a device that causes an implosion. I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Mr. I’m-about-to-drop-a-bomb! I’ve seen the films. A nuclear bomb causes a massive EXplosion NOT IMplosion!” What you’re seeing is the final phase. The bomb itself begins with an implosion. The fuel of the bomb is compressed. Once the density becomes high enough an intense amount of energy is released. So, the whole process begins with compression and only works if enough density is achieved.
This same principle of compression works in a business, organization or ministry. In order to become explosive one must compress effort. By that, I mean they do less, but with more vigor. All their intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual “mass” is compressed into less “space”—density increases! Only when there is high enough density does an explosion take place.
I’ve worked for two dying for-profit colleges. In the first one I was unaware it was dying. In the second one I knew it was doomed as soon as it started implementing certain policies. One crippling policy was a compression of the academic term. I know what you’re thinking, “Um, didn’t Mr. I’m-about-to-drop-a-bomb just say compression was good?” This is a different type of compression than previously mentioned. Both students and faculty weren’t doing less, but with more vigor. They were doing more, but with less vigor. Both colleges went to five ten-week academic terms a year. So, a stretch of six months without any break from class was common. Both schools also had a large population of students who were working full-time, raising families as well as going to school. All their energy was as diluted as a drop of food coloring in the ocean.
The fatheaded corporate suits, which had little understanding of education (or management for that matter), started to heap more and more responsibility on faculty. Their view of faculty was as a liability on a profit and loss statement, so they did what they were trained to do: cut liabilities when crisis hit. They were able to eek out short-term profits, but long-term the burnout of both students and faculty began to take its toll. The school became a revolving door of faculty and students. What they needed to do was hire more faculty while raising salaries and benefits. They also needed to do less academic terms, allowing students enough time to breathe in between semesters. In the short term this would hurt profits, but in the long term each faculty member would be able to teach less classes, but with more vigor. But, and this is a HUGE but, this strategy will only work if the compression is high enough to bring about an explosion—of energy, talent and creative vision in the classroom. Once that explosion happens the reputation of the school explodes and students are drawn towards a quality education delivered with the explosive dynamic of fervent instructors.
There are several glitches that happen that hinder growth. First, there is growth to a certain point. So, there is a prevailing belief that if it’s worked in the past it should work in the present and future. Usually this initial growth is centered around someone with vision and passion. This person attracts the human fuel to cause the explosion, but rather than compressing that fuel, continues what in the past has gathered fuel. It becomes a revolving door, because people want to see the explosion. They wait, wait, wait and then leave out of frustration.
Sometimes a highly toxic question is asked, “What do we need to do to grow?” I know what you’re thinking. “That doesn’t sound highly toxic! Why is a concern for growth toxic?” It’s how people interpret the question that is toxic. What people often hear is, “What ELSE do we need to do to grow?” Instead of compression this leads to dilution. People are doing more, but with less vigor. This interpretation also leads to a lack of examining what is currently being done. If the interpretation is, “what ELSE”, then the underlying assumption is that the things we’re doing are fine. After all, they’ve got us this far!
Things begin to stagnate. The leader, because of their vision and passion, draws new people. But, people eventually leave when they don’t see the leader’s vision explode. The organization gains a few, but then loses a few. There are periods of growth, but no explosion to take things to the next level. New programs and efforts are tried, fade and are replaced by a different set of programs and efforts. A business, organization or ministry can exist in this cycle for years or even decades. But, without the explosion things will eventually die.
If you’re a leader, this is where you need to consider a serious question concerning your business, organization or ministry. Do you always seem on the verge of an explosion, but it never seems to happen? If so, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is you’re a poor leader. You’re giving people hopes and dreams that are never fulfilled. You’re wasting people’s time and energy. You’re a key contributor to burn out and likely you aren’t even aware of it.
Here’s some more bad news. In order for you to do less, you’re going to have to allow other people to take over things you’re holding on to. You’re ego is going to have to take a bruising as you accept that in many areas, even areas where you have talent, there are those who can do it better. The good news is if you give it to them (not hover over them and try to control things) they often WILL do it better. You’re going to have to give up control in exchange for influence. It’s reciprocal—if you trust others, they are more likely to trust you. If you try to control everything, people around you are more likely to be controlling. A little more good news—influence is far more powerful than control!
The best news is there is a solution! For both yourself and your team you need to do less. Isn’t that a relief! You’re doing a hundred things when in reality you only need to do three. Isn’t that liberating! Of course, you’re going to have to figure out those few things you need to focus on. If you don’t know, just ask wise counsel. More than likely others see what you’re good at as well as the things you’re doing that are a waste of time. Be sure to ask those who have the spine to tell you the things you don’t want to hear! It’s time for you to do a few things, but to do them extremely well. Commit yourself to that task. If you don’t see the explosion, you’re still doing too much. Eventually, with enough compression, the explosion will occur.