Most of the 18 years I spent working at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (the BGEA) was under the leadership of Dr. John Corts who served as President. John was one of three or four individuals that have shaped my thinking on godly leadership. I still practice several of the simple but effective management and leadership concepts Dr. Corts taught BGEA leaders.
Dr. Corts was extremely effective at keeping his team focused on their specific mission, goals and tasks. One of the very effective management principles John used was to constantly restate the goals. He had us write them down, we were evaluated based on progress against those stated goals, they were part of the business plan and our travel, activity and the budget had to support those goals. When I wandered a little too far from my specific mission John found more creative ways of restating the principle i.e. “What part of the single stringed instrument I have been playing about World Wide Pictures goals do you not understand?” Dr. Corts mentoring in this area has shaped my own leadership and my team stated fairly bluntly that an article on “The Constant restatement of goals” needed to be one of the special articles that became part of this website. (John, if you ever read this article – I got the message, still have my pencil that has your name beside the phrase “Write it down” and I thank you for the counsel!)
The Bible has numerous examples that give the value of constantly restating the goals. One example is found in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a Jewish man who served King Artaxerxes of Persia as a cupbearer. Nehemiah’s assignment from God was to go to Jerusalem in Judah and bring renewal to the people’s relationship with God, lead God’s people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, and re-establish a national unity and pride as God’s people.
The value system and code of conduct of the Jews living in Judah during Nehemiah’s time found its basis in writings of Moses. The Jews believed God gave Moses the instructions directly and Moses wrote them down for all future generations to live by. These writings are so profound that most of the laws of the United States yet today find their roots in them. Nehemiah’s leadership challenge was to insure the laws were not just words in a few books stored in the temple but a living code of conduct applied in daily life.
Nehemiah sensed God wanted him to bring spiritual renewal to the people – Read Nehemiah 1:8-9.
Nehemiah clearly knew the task after returning to Jerusalem – Read Nehemiah 2:4-5.
Nehemiah introduced the plan to the priests and other officials – Read Nehemiah 2:16-18.
A few things leaders can learn from Nehemiah’s action to help the people learn and remember God’s code of conduct:
- Even though Nehemiah was God’s central leadership figure during the construction of the wall, he had the leadership savvy to delegate the task of educating the people to the experts in the law, namely the religious leaders, Ezra the priest and the Levites that served in the temple. Wise leaders utilize delegation, using the proper members of the team so the goals are clearly presented. Read Nehemiah 8:1-3.
- Nehemiah and Ezra knew it was critical that every individual old enough to understand be educated in Moses’ writings, however, they started by teaching the leaders. Nehemiah made sure the leaders understood the code of conduct so they too could help restate the goals of a godly life to the team. According to 8:13, “Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priest and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.” Read Nehemiah 8:2 & 13.
- The process of understanding did not come overnight. According 8:18, “Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.” Nehemiah did not rush the teaching process – thus the “constant restatement of goals.” Gaining understanding takes time, learning is a process and life application of learning takes constant reinforcement of the facts and constant restatement reminding everyone of the goals.
Wise leaders make sure their team understands the organization’s short and long term goals, the approved processes to complete the goal, and why the goals are important. The constant restatement of goals may seem like overkill at times but it is at those moments that many members of the team are finally starting to understand. Never underestimate the power of repetition.