Getting-It-Done Leadership

Welcome to our on-going Bloggers Book Study! If you missed the first installment, you can catch up here!

CHAPTER 3 (pages 51-72)
This chapter tells the story of how Willow turned vision into action.

It Takes More Than Another Pep Talk – Some leaders believe that if they just keep talking about the dream, the vision will automatically be accomplished. Getting-it-done leadership is entirely different. People need a step-by-step plan to move from vision to reality.

Refining Vision With a Strategic Plan – In the mid-nineties they decided at Willow to formally draft a strategic plan.

In refining the vision, they highlighted three key areas of emphasis for the next five years: evangelism, spiritual maturity of believers, and outreach (with focus on caring for the poor) .

Setting Goals With Balance In Mind – It is quite interesting that, for the first twenty years of Willow, they never had formalized specific goals. As Hybels worked with his leaders to refine the vision, he decided it was time for specific goals for each of the areas of emphasis. Clear goals would allow them to maintain the balance between all three.

The leadership circles at Willow prayed, wrestled and thought about which specific goals to set. Borrowing from Jim Collins’ book, Built to Last, they looked for goals that would be BHAGs: big, hairy, audacious goals, that humans could not accomplish without God’s supernatural activity.

Finding ChampionsHybels announced the numeric goals publicly. The leaders were anxious and challenged. Hybels realized he had to find “goal champions” – leaders willing to to lead out in achieving each of the goals. This created an atmosphere of renewed excitement and adventure!

In 1996, Hybels presented the refined vision to a very receptive congregation. There was great excitement! They started tracking progress. Many areas were growing, but not all. Though there was an energetic and dynamic environment, Bill Hybels asked himself, what more could they do?

One Thing Missing – He started feeling very uneasy. He persisted in asking questions and looking for answers to the uneasiness, even when it made others uncomfortable.

He discovered that his daughter had college friends that had felt very connected with the Student Impact ministries at Willow, but not with Willow itself. This was a revelation. He says, “Without my being consciously aware of it, Willow had evolved from a close-knit, single-identity, biblically functioning community into a decentralized, multi-identity, loosely connected federation of sub-ministries.”
How to rectify this? The executive leadership team now had the challenge of connecting every staff member directly to the strategic plan.

Church Basics: Alignment – So began the process of aligning the staff with the vision. Willow persisted in the alignment process, carrying out months of meetings to help everybody see that the church could not be a federation of sub-ministries. While many leaders were receptive, Hybels encountered difficulties with some.

It was most definitely a long, bumpy road. Eventually, Hybels felt he had to give the resistant members of staff an ultimatum of sorts. “I’m not asking for your begrudging participation in this alignment,” he told them. “It’s one-hundred-percent time. If you can’t give it, or won’t give it, it’s time for you to go.”

As Bill describes it, this was one of the most taxing leadership challenges they have ever experienced at Willow. But he has no regrets. Leaders from each department now present both their progress and their plans twice a year. Every staff member is a stakeholder in the overall vision.

A Modern Day Tragedy – Why is it that some people and some churches settle for having little or no impact in their communities? The great tragedy is that only a fraction of pastors worldwide are actually exercising their spiritual gift of leadership. The consequences of this neglect are far-reaching. The gift of leadership is the gift that catalyzes all others.

All leaders in the Kingdom should commit to fully developing their leadership potential. Leaders have to decide: will you simply give pep talks and dream, or will you manage for results?

Bill addressed this question at Harvard Business School, when he was challenged as to why a church would want to use best practice – shouldn’t they stick to “spiritual” matters? His answer? If we really believe the church is the hope of the world, then we must lead in such a way that there are results.

Was Jesus LaissezFaire? (In other words, did he just sit back and not interfere?) No, not one bit. He was passionate about building his Father’s kingdom, and he expects church leaders to build prevailing churches. He promised to walk alongside each leader, empowering them. Hybels concludes, “It’s time for church leaders to really lead. It’s time for us to be about our Father’s business with diligence, dependence and get-it-done leadership.”

Chapter 4 at tomorrow

Bloggers Bookstudy? What is THAT?

Do you have hours on end to read all those books on your wish list?
I didn’t think so!! I never do. That is why I am so excited to be a part of this innovative new venture – the Bloggers Book Study. Actually, perhaps we should call it a books study!

This is our online collaborative effort to collectively review six books in the next nine weeks. Twelve bloggers, six books, one daily post. See the schedule of posts and blogs here and participate with your thoughts, comments and questions.

I guarantee this is going to be enriching. Please join me on this summer journey!

The first book is Courageous Leadership, by Bill Hybels. My good friend Heredes Ribeiro is first up to bat today, recapping and discussing chapters 1&2 at Tomorrow it is my turn, recapping and reviewing chapter 3.

What do you think? Are you in? So let’s head over to our first stop, right here!

A Lesson on Criticism!

The most encouraging? funny? cute? thing just happened!

Peter and I have been reading The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, together. It’s a good book.

One of Babauta’s challenges is to form a new habit over a one month period. The author gives some useful tips:

  • Choose only one habit at a time.
  • Make the goal simple, so that it is doable.
  • Have a trigger for it – i.e. do it at the same time every day, after something else that you already do every day, such as brushing your teeth.
  • Do it every day for 30 days.

We each chose a habit to form for the month of June. Peter and I chose to exercise, as we need more consistency in that area. Our 20 year old daughter chose her own goal. Ben (10) chose to practice his guitar. Faith (9) chose to write (she loves to write).

Tonight I got home quite late from a meeting. The kids decided to do their goals, even though it was late.

Ben went off to practice his guitar. Faith chose to read her work in progress to her sister. She argued that was practicing her habit, because, “That’s part of the production, because you get criticism. Getting criticism is part of the production! I read it to Ben, and he gave me criticism.”

I’m sitting here trying to figure out where she learned that! I am part of an evaluation team that gives feedback on programs and messages at church. Does she even know I do that? Maybe not. Did she learn it at school?

I don’t have a clue, but I am encouraged… she is learning a skill which some of us never master. It’s two-fold: to collaborate with others so that your gift can be maximized, and to slow your spirit down to assess and listen.

My children really are my teachers.

What lessons are you learning from the children in your life? We’d love to hear!

The Wire Ring

[PB&J 9]

As an all volunteer crew, we lived on support. Everyone raised a certain amount of money, based on nationality, and it all went into a common fund. We were given our toiletries, medical care, etc. Our clothes came from “Charlie” (aka Charles of the Ritz), a room full of donated second hand clothes which we picked through when we needed something “new.” We each received US$15 per month for spending money.

Peter and I had dates memorable for their simplicity! He would buy us each a drink, and a chocolate bar to share. We could meet once a week for about an hour, in a leader’s office with the door cracked open… Peter would set up a little boom box, and we’d sit and talk. That is how we started to learn about each other.

I.T. continued. We had to keep things on the “downlow.” As we neared the end of the leadership training, our team went for a week long assignment in a town called Middelfart (I kid you not!) in Denmark.

One day, one of the men on the team asked Peter to take a walk with him. There was something pressing on his mind. He confided in Peter as his leader that he was interested in a gal on the team… (yours truly). Awkward! Secret or no secret, it was time to tell the team about our relationship.

We returned to the ship. The leadership training had ended. The full blown I.T. program now began. Our SP was made public. In fact, it was published in the bulletin! “Frank Dietz has granted social permission to Barby Zuniga and Peter Ward.” I wanted to dive under the table when my brother thanked God for it over the loudspeaker at dinner, as he prayed for the food!

Our relationship went through its own intensive training. Peter and I saw each other every day, starting at 5:30 in the morning to jog by the quayside, on to many other group activities, until late at night. We were in all kinds of pressurized situations together. There was also some opposition to our relationship, stemming from the situation in South Africa. I had leaders take me aside and express doubts about us as a couple, mostly because my ministry was more public, and Peter’s seemed to be more behind the scenes. Ridiculous now, but then we had to listen to, and consider, all the input.

Our being together was so right! Besides, never in my life had I seen anyone as bright-eyed and energetic at five o’clock in the morning as Peter. That was enough for me. God had dropped this fellow from another continent into my life. He was arranging things, just as I had asked…

We met in Chile, Peter asked for social permission in Germany, it was made public in Norway…

Now we were on another land team, this time at a ministry center in Sweden, which helped persecuted Christians in the Soviet Union. He proposed. Just like with the initial SP, I told him I’d pray about it, and tell him Yes on Monday. Monday came, it was Yes.

What to do about a ring? We had very limited funds. And I didn’t know my ring size. After getting kicked out of a jewelry store in Holland when they realized we weren’t going to buy anything (just trying to find out my ring size!), Peter made a little wire ring, sized it to fit me, taped it to a letter, and mailed it to his mother in South Africa. She would buy us a ring, and mail it to us.

Next stop was Southampton, England. Our first “alone” date was a trip to London. Guess what movie we saw at Piccadilly? The Killing Fields. Yikes.

The days passed. When would the ring arrive?? Our stay in England was drawing to a close. Southampton was the last port before Portugal, and we had very little hope of the ring surviving customs in Portugal! Time to pray hard.

The day of departure arrived, the ring did not. It seemed the prayers hadn’t worked. The ring was lost. We sailed away, quite disappointed. As the horizon was fading from view, we were sitting despondently in one of the lounges.

The Chief Purser walked by. “Peter, can you come by my office? I have something for you.”

Peter rushed to the office. The Purser he held out a little package. “Can I guess what this is?” he asked, smiling.

Peter was overcome with thankfulness. The Purser expressed his amazement at what had happened. He told this story: the local Pilot had steered the ship out. When the Pilot’s boat came to take him back to shore, it brought an unexpected, very last minute mail delivery! God had come through for us.

Now we could get officially engaged. It was April. The ship’s Director gave us $50 for dinner, a local family offered their vehicle, and we drove out to a beautiful restaurant by the ocean in Porto, Portugal…

We had a superb dinner, then walked out alone onto the rocky beach, under a shiny soothing moon, water shimmering, breeze blowing… He placed the ring on my finger, and we became fiances.

The Irony

[PB&J 8]

Peter had been invited back to the ship by the Training Director, to restart a training program called the Intensive Training (I.T.). This was a boot camp type program modeled after the Outward Bound courses.

Participants in the I.T. had to go running every morning at 5:30 a.m., read a certain amount of books, listen to a certain amount of message tapes (now it would be podcasts), attend classes, be on call 24/7 to unload cargo containers or for any other job required – and keep a log of everything. The I.T. tested every area: physical, emotional and spiritual. (Side note – It was an amazing program and many alumni have gone on to be true world changers and influencers.)

And so, Peter set about relaunching the I.T. To do that he would need two male and two female team leaders. The department heads gave him a list of candidates. I was on it.

Enter, once again, that dread Pirate Roberts. I mean, that dread Social Policy.

You see, generally speaking, the SP applies only to your first year with OM – unless you’re in the I.T.! So, though my first year was up, and Peter was beginning his third, he still could not be forthcoming with his feelings…

[Dramatic pause]

Well, when he saw my name on the list, he wrestled with it, and decided to be open with his leader. To his surprise, his leader encouraged him to approach the Ship’s Director (who also happened to be my “ship father” as we were assigned to families).

The Director gave him permission to share his feelings with me… He also expressed serious doubts about what my response would be!

Peter was undaunted.

[Meanwhile, I had sensed he’d be making his move, so I had written my mother telling her about him. Back then, OM asked that, for cross-cultural relationships, you have your parents and pastor’s blessings. I found out later that when Peter had been home in South Africa he’d shown his parents a picture of me and given them a heads up on what might happen.]

He spoke with me on a Friday. I told him I’d pray about it for three days (come on! you can’t make it easy, gals) and tell him Yes on Monday! Monday came, and it was a Yes.

And so, a brave new chapter had begun.
We now had Secret Social Permission, for the duration of the I.T.

And we were studying openness and transparency with our teams.

The irony.


[Just re-read the story thus far… I sound like I’m having fun re-telling it, and I am. But please don’t mistake my lightheartedness for anything other than absolute wonder at the mercy of God that He has kept us thus far! Without God’s grace I would have messed the entire thing up irreparably! Actually, in one or two more entries you’ll agree with me on that.]

The Hunter Returns

[PB&J 7]

I returned to the ship in Spain. God gave me great new friends, most of whom were older than me. I did notice that they tended to be preoccupied with if and when they would ever get married!

That disturbed me. For one thing, I had never been particularly good at choosing guys. I had tended to favor communists, (thanks to my radical bent and concern for social justice)… But their atheist philosophy was not exactly compatible with my Christian worldview!

So, to avoid spending the next few years of my life pining for a husband, I decided to ask God to arrange my marriage. Didn’t know exactly how an invisible heavenly Father would go about doing that, but said the prayer and left it there.

The weeks passed, my job changed, and instead of the pantry I was now on the Evangelism Team. We did just about every form of outreach – I learned to preach on the streets of Europe, do street drama, engage in coffee house discussions, teach evangelism workshops, work with street urchins and emcee all kinds of meetings.

More weeks passed, and the job rotation took me to head up Cleaning and Accommodation on the ship. Now that was an entirely new kind of leadership challenge! First learning the job by cleaning public restrooms, cabins, etc. (I almost gassed myself one day by mixing two powerful cleaners in a toilet!! Quite the chemical cloud.) So now I was assigning cabins, handling guest relations, and overseeing the department.

I had a desk in the lobby of the ship. I sitting there one day when the Chief Steward, my boss, called me. “By the way, Barby, Peter Ward is coming back tomorrow. He’ll be needing a cabin.”


Tomorrow arrived, and so did Peter. I heard my name paged over the PA system. I had an odd, unsettled feeling. I headed up the steps to greet him and get him logged in.

“How long are you here for?” I asked innocently.

“Oh I don’t know,” he said, somehow loading his words with extra meaning. “Maybe I’ll come for a year, get a wife, go home and get married and then come back.”

My unsettled feeling grew. I suddenly felt a vague suspicion that a hunt was on… and perhaps I was the huntee!

Did I mention that this was around the time when my first year on board was up?

And so we said Goodbye

[PB&J 6]

Very well, let me introduce you to The Policy. OM at that time had the policy (I don’t know if it has evolved) that – for the first year you serve with them – you agree to have no “special relationship” with a member of the opposite sex.

With over 300 very eager, very committed idealistic young people from over 40 countries, it was inevitable that there should be all kinds of attractions, especially among opposites! Given that we were a floating book exhibition, and sailors from the ships at quayside next to us assumed we were the Love Boat, we had to be especially careful.

Please bear with me! I recognize that in this day and age this process seems crazy.
Here it is:

Once you had been with OM a year, the interested fellow would speak with the Men’s Leader, who would then speak with the Women’s Leader, who would then communicate said interest to the woman in question! If the gal felt a corresponding emotion, then “secret social permission” was granted. That meant you could meet weekly for a couple of hours, in an office with the door cracked open, to get to know one another.

It was actually a very good setup. Because the ship family was a close one, rumours spread quickly. Secret social permission gave you a chance to privately discover if in fact there was affinity, before subjecting you to the pressure of the whole ship community.

After several weeks of this, if both people decided they wanted to move ahead and be a couple (date) then they were granted “public social permission.” If they felt they really were not very interested in each other, then it would end there, quietly.

When I joined the ship, Peter was finishing his two year commitment. I was just beginning mine… so social permission was not an option.

Our time at the conference had been enjoyable. There was definitely chemistry, unspoken. But he was going home to South Africa.

And so we said Goodbye.