I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; I make New SCHOOL Year resolutions. I have never found New Year’s resolutions particularly helpful because my life revolves around the SCHOOL year, not the calendar year. This makes the summer an ideal time to pray and reflect on the past year and to plan for the next. Over the summer I reflect on and assess two areas: my leadership and my life-work balance.
Assessing my leadership: Fair but Rigorous
Fairness means that I don’t exaggerate my weaknesses and failures. Fairness means that I don’t expect perfection; I am merely human.
It also requires that I assess my leadership based on my God-given natural and spiritual gifts, not the gifts of others or gifts that I wish I possessed. For example, I am a mild introvert who must extrovert for a living. There is no profit in comparing my leadership style to that of extroverts. While I can glean helpful insights and profitably incorporate some of the practices of extroverted leaders, I will never be an extrovert. I must assess and adjust my leadership to maximize my leadership effectiveness based on how God has made me; not how he has made others.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins defines rigor as “consistently applying exacting standards at all times and at all levels, especially in upper management.” Upper management means you and me. We are to apply exacting standards at all times to our work and to our leadership. No excuses, no minimizing, no shifting responsibility. The proverbial “buck” stops at our desks.
Being rigorous with ourselves is painful but necessary for improvement. We cannot grow, nor will our schools improve, unless we are rigorous with ourselves. And, to be rigorous with others but not ourselves is hypocritical. We cannot, we must not, expect more of others than we expect of ourselves.
Assessing my life-work balance: Realistic and Honest
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” This proverb means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. I can easily fall into this trap. In fact, I have boasted about how hard I work. This is stupid and sinful. It is stupid because God did not make us to be mere “working machines.” It is sinful because bragging—even about good things like working hard—is a reflection of self-serving pride, which is always wrong. In a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review Blog titled: Why We Humblebrag About Being Busy, Greg McKeown writes:
We have a problem—and the odd thing is we not only know about it, we’re celebrating it. Just today, someone boasted to me that she was so busy she’s averaged four hours of sleep a night for the last two weeks. She wasn’t complaining; she was proud of the fact. She is not alone.
Why are typically rational people so irrational in their behavior? The answer, I believe, is that we’re in the midst of a bubble; one so vast that to be alive today in the developed world is to be affected, or infected, by it. It’s the bubble of bubbles: it not only mirrors the previous bubbles … it undergirds them all. I call it “The More Bubble … we have been sold a bill of goods: that success means being supermen and superwomen who can get it all done. Of course, we back-door-brag about being busy: it’s code for being successful and important.
I am sharing some, not all, of my resolutions with you with the hope that they will encourage you to take stock of your leadership and life-work balance. You will be better for it and so will your school.
• Spend more time cultivating personal and professional relationships with board members.
• Schedule monthly “Lunch and Learn” leadership training with my Executive Leadership Team.
• Cover each chapter of The Christian Mind: How Should Christians Think? during this year’s faculty devotions.
• For the sake of building relationships, incorporating the practice of “managing by walking around” and for good health, walk the campus every hour for 10 minutes. This will force me to “extrovert” when my tendency is to work non-stop in my office.
• To improve productivity, only respond to emails twice a day; when not responding to email, keep my email program closed.
• Turn off all notifications on my computer and mobile devices, e.g., emails, social media, etc.
• I will not “humblebrag.”
My Life-Work Balance
• Unless providentially hindered (for example a mandatory 6 or 6:30 am meeting), start every Monday through Friday with prayer and time in God’s word.
• At a specified time each evening turn off all electronic devices (unless I am monitoring weather for possible school closing or delay).
• With the exception of after hour meetings and school events, restrict work at home to no more than an hour/day and no more than two hours on Saturdays.
• Do no school related work (unless there is an emergency) on the Sabbath. Spend Sunday in worship, rest, reading, and enjoying the family.
• Read one new book per month.
• Exercise five to six days/week by running four miles on the treadmill each day.
• Spend time weekly on my photography hobby taking pictures and learning new skills.
Share Your Resolutions
Do you reflect upon your leadership and life during the summer in preparation for a new school year? If so, share some of your resolutions—perhaps they will help others to be better leaders and to live a more balanced, wholesome, God-honoring life.