By Todd Adkins
I want to talk to you about your posture or mindset in relation to this current crisis. Do you have the posture of a victim, a neutralizer, or a transformer? And maybe more importantly, what is the posture of your team?
In the book, A Beautiful Constraint, the authors found that those who refuse to scale back their ambition in the face of constraint seem to be the ones most likely to find a way to make the constraint beautiful. They also found that the leaders who reduce their ambition are more likely to find the constraint strangling out their ability to accomplish their mission.
For the first group, ambition was the dominating force of mindset. And although it may not have been clear in the beginning how to make this constraint work to their advantage, they leverage the tension between the scale of their ambition and the nature of their constraint to fuel the search for a solution and, ultimately, persevere. There was no stopping them, they simply had to make it work.
For the less ambitious, the opposite was the case. Constraint was the dominating dynamic. The greater the severity of the constraint, the greater limitations that they put on themselves and settled for what they deemed to be reasonable given the circumstances.
The author’s hypothesis at the beginning of the book was there are really three kinds of people: a victim – someone who lowers their ambition when faced with constraint, a neutralizer – someone who doesn’t lower their ambition but finds a different reasonable way to deliver their ambition instead, and, finally, the transformer – someone who finds a way to use a constraint as an opportunity to possibly even increase their ambition along the way. The authors soon discovered, however, that the postures weren’t locked in to specific individuals or specific organizations, they could also be stages that build on one another. Let’s take a deeper look at each stage.
The foundational premise in the victim mentality is that this constraint will inhibit our ability to realize our mission. The two types of strategies they employ? Avoidance strategies, like denial of these constraints, or reduction strategies, as they reduce their level of ambition to fit their conceived impact of the constraint. In this crisis, for example, they may just raise their hands and say, “It is what it is. All I can do is stream my service on Facebook and maybe have a Zoom prayer gathering and just wait for this all to blow over.”
The foundational premise for the neutralizer stage is something different. It is that our mission is far too important to allow this crisis to inhibit it. Neutralizers typically use work around strategies to try to neutralize the affect of the constraint by finding another way around it that’s acceptable given the circumstances.
There are really two levels within the transformer stage. The first is the responsive transformer who starts with the foundational premise that this constraint is something that we must respond to and it could actually spark a ministry breakthrough that’s better than a solution that we had before. If they are really, really forward thinking they are moving to the proactive transformer stage. They go a step forward because they start out asking the question: “What constraints should we impose on ourselves to stimulate better thinking about new possibilities?” In both instances, the transformer employs a strategy that is by definition transformational. They use the constraints to prompt a different, potentially breakthrough, new approaches for solutions to ministry.
As a leader, or a ministry team as a whole, moves from victim to neutralizer to responsive transformer this is a great thing because they begin to meet the needs of the current crisis by realigning their resources and restructuring their ministries to meet these current needs as they look toward reopening. Once that is up and humming, if they really want to shift to proactive transformation, they may begin having conversations around what they might do or how they might respond if there is a second wave of COVID later this year. That is the forward thinking transformer.
If you want to unlock the potential of constraint, you must dial up your ambition to meet it head on and relate that to the constraint. Do not decrease it at all. Tension that builds there provides the energy that becomes the catalyst for change and growth.
Having defined the different stages, we will know explore the first part of actually moving forward where we are moving out of mindset and we are going to get toward movement and why we need to frame this challenge for ourselves not purely in terms of this crisis. When we link this crisis to our bold ambition, we will run directly into the face of the behaviors and practices that actually prevent us from seeing this as an opportunity.
Check out our FREE course A Complete COVID-19 Guide: Lead Your Church Toward a New Normal on Ministry Grid for a a step-by-step process to help your church realign, restructure, and reopen. Click here for more info.