By Allen Haynes April 15, 2024

Listen to the episode.

Andy Stanley (00:05):

Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast from the vault. Before we get into today’s content, I want to tell you about a resource that our friends at BELAY created to help leaders focus on their priorities and make a clear plan to maximize productivity, which is what is most important to most of us, right? Anyway. Being in charge of really any organization, large or small, requires time, your valuable time, and your energy. And if you’re not intentional, I mean, if we’re not intentional with setting a work routine and finding our productivity rhythm, our schedules easily get filled up with meetings, miscellaneous tasks that prevent us from doing what only we can do as a leader. And this is where belay can help with exceptional US-based virtual assistance accounting professionals and social media managers. Belays Flexible Staffing Solutions will free you up to focus on what matters most.


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Lane Jones (01:37):

Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, a conversation designed to help leaders go further faster. On today’s podcast, we’re going to explore how to respond to the increased demands on a leader’s time. Andy, we first talked about this topic on the podcast a little over a year ago, but it’s so important. We felt like it warranted more discussion.

Andy Stanley (01:57):

Yeah, I’m not sure we could ever talk about this too much. The harsh reality of leadership is that the more successful we are, the less accessible we become. The more successful we are, the less accessible we become. And the truth is, for most leaders, we want to be more accessible because there are more people to be accessible to, but it doesn’t work that way.

Lane Jones (02:16):
So Andy accessibility really is a casualty of a growing ministry or organization,

Andy Stanley (02:21):

And the truth is it should be as things grow and as more people are involved, a leader can’t be equally accessible to all people. And so then we were faced with the dilemma of who gets my time and who doesn’t? When do they get it, and how much of it do they get?

Lane Jones (02:34):
So it’s kind of like having engine trouble in a Ferrari.

Andy Stanley (02:37):

Yeah, exactly. It’s a successful person’s problem. It’s only the person in a growing organization where there’s ministry or a business that has the problem of, wow, there are too many people I need to be with. There’s too many people I need to give my time to.

Lane Jones (02:49):

Well, what are the, I guess, common reactions you see when a leader faces this for the first time?

Andy Stanley (02:54):

Well, there’s two things. I think initially, we all try to be all things to all people. We all try to continue to be as accessible to everyone as we always have been. And one of the most difficult transitions I made in our organization was several years ago when I had to reorg our entire leadership team. And again, like most leaders, I thought, oh, I can figure this out. I’m constantly giving advice in this area. So I just sat down with my list and I decided I would figure out the reorg and I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. And the reason I couldn’t do it, I did not want to become less accessible to people. I had been very accessible to, in some cases for years and in some cases from the beginning. And so I had five or six people, you being one of them, who had been here from the beginning.


I didn’t want to become less accessible. At the same time, I had new members of the management team that I needed to be accessible to. And I finally gave up and hired a consultant and brought them in and said, I can’t figure this out. And the bottom line was the exercise was too emotional for me. And so that’s not unique to me. I think a lot of leaders face that. So actually he came in and took me through several exercises that helped me bring some objectivity to the process. But then I had to sit down with people I’d been very accessible to and say, well, you’re no longer going to be a direct report, which means I’m not going to be as accessible to you. But that was the only way to grow this organization. So this is a constant struggle. There’s a lot of angst around this.


So again, one of the ways people respond to this is they refuse to deal with the reality. I can’t be as accessible. The other extreme is to decide, well, since I can’t be accessible to everyone, I will be inaccessible to everyone. I won’t be accessible to anyone. And as time goes by, and as people become more and more successful, the temptation, I think probably among men more than women, is to become so autonomous that I don’t want to commit my time to anyone. And that’s a problem as well. So on one extreme year, a person is so thin they can’t get things done. On the other hand, they become so inaccessible because they can’t be as accessible as they used to be, that it creates a different kind of problems. So somewhere in the middle, leaders have to manage through this constant tension. It does not go away. This is one of those problems that is never solved. It is attention to manage trying to decide who gets my time and how much of the time do they get.

Lane Jones (05:16):
Andy, when I’ve heard you talk about this, I’ve heard you address that part of this is really an awareness issue.

Andy Stanley (05:21):

Yeah, it is. Especially for those of us in ministry. In the old days, we just weren’t aware of what was happening. In every country in the world, every natural disaster, every heart attack, every person who finds out they have cancer, every family crisis for people in ministry who are listening, I mean, we are so bombarded with tragedy and so bombarded with hurt, then we open up our web browsers and read CNN or Fox News or whatever about every abused child. It just goes on and on and on. And so we’re so bombarded with information, we’re so bombarded with need, and there’s something in all of us or most of us that wants to fix things or wants to meet all those needs, and it’s absolutely impossible. So again, I’m either going to be stretched so thin that I’m no use to anyone, or I’m just going to retreat and say, well, since I can’t fix all of it, I’m not even going to try to be involved in any of it.

Lane Jones (06:11):

Landy, that’s obviously true in our case, but that’s true in the marketplace

Andy Stanley (06:14):

As well. Absolutely. I mean, marketplace leaders that think about this, they’re aware of what’s going on in every market all over the world, 24 7, how it impacts their industry, how it might impact their industry. Suddenly you have to give your attention to not three or four things, but to a dozen things. What’s going on with your competitors, which that’s helpful information, but it also brings complexity to the decision- making model. And again, we get stretched so thin that at some point we have to back up and ask ourselves not only the question of who am I going to be accessible to, but what sources of information do I want to remain accessible to? Otherwise, again, we’ll just retreat and hibernate or we’ll be stretched so thin that we’re really of very little use to anyone. So

Lane Jones (06:57):
Andy, as I hear you talking about this, it seems that we’re faced with one of two extremes. We can either shut it all out or we can just take it all on.

Andy Stanley (07:05):

And neither one of those works. If you take it all on, again, you’re going to be of very little use to anyone. But at the same time, if you were going to stay engaged in our organizations, stay engaged in the decision making, we can’t afford to shut it all out.

Lane Jones (07:17):
And Andy finding a way to manage that tension led you to a phrase that’s become part of our culture here at NorthPoint. And that’s do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.

Andy Stanley (07:26):

Yeah, we say that around here all the time. I can’t afford to disengage, but I can’t afford to be engaged with everyone. So do for one when you can, what you wish you could do for everyone. It’s symbolic leadership and it’s very, very powerful. And as we’ve seen and as we’ve talked about a year ago, it trickles down through the whole organization.

Lane Jones (07:42):
Andy, one of the reasons you say that so many of us avoid this is leaders is this tension we feel to be fair.

Andy Stanley (07:49):

Yeah, fairness is such a difficult thing. I don’t even try to be fair anymore. And that may sound terrible coming from a pastor, but we tell our kids all the time, life isn’t fair. And I found not only is life not fair, trying to be fair generally leads me to be disengaged. Growing up, we heard this all the time, if I do this for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone. And I think we’ve adopted that into our adult world. And so consequently, if we can’t do for everyone, we do for no one. But even as kids, we knew that there was a fallacy because adults or parents would say, well, if I give you a cookie, I have to give everybody a cookie. And we were thinking, no, you don’t. You can just give me a cookie. I won’t tell. You won’t tell.

Everything’s good. So I think we should just abandon that whole way of thinking that it should never be,

well, since I can’t do for everyone, I’m going to do for no one. We should actually turn it around and say, well, I’m going to do for one what I wish I could do for everyone. And is that fair? No, it’s not fair. But it forces me and it allows me to stay engaged with someone even if I can’t be engaged with everyone. So it keeps us from retreating to the I’m not going to do anything. And it keeps us from feeling like we have to do for everyone since we did for one. So it’s do for one what you wish you could do for don’t try to be fair, just make sure you’re engaged.

Lane Jones (08:58):
So Andy, how does that look in your world?

Andy Stanley (09:00):

Yeah, this is hard for pastors especially because as pastors, we’re supposed to be all things to all people. And we don’t like to tell people no. And we don’t like to tell people we can’t meet with you ever. And so when it comes to typical pastoral responsibilities, I can’t do every wedding. I can’t do every funeral. I can’t baptize everyone’s child. I can’t baptize everybody that wants to be baptized. So I can decide, well, I’m not going to baptize anybody. I’m not going to do any weddings. I’m not going to do any funerals. Well, that’s to totally disengaged. So I tell our staff all the time, just make sure you’re engaged in ministry. Don’t feel like you have to do all the premarital counseling, but hey, every once in a while, take on a couple and do their premarital counseling. You can’t do every funeral, but don’t disengage from funerals.


You can’t do every wedding. So make sure every once in a while you allow somebody to schedule, put a wedding on your calendar. And again, as we’ve done that, it basically releases ministry. We continue to model what we want to model. We continue to practice what we preach, but it keeps us from becoming so thin that again, we can’t give a great deal of ourselves to anyone. And so that’s what I’ve tried to do, that’s what I’ve tried to model, and I found that it works as a leader. Every once in a while I’ll see a young leader in our organization. I think, wow, he or she has a lot of potential, but they’re not a direct report. They’re not in my division or in my department. So the temptation is, well, since they don’t report directly to me since they report to someone else, I hope they get developed and I hope it all works out.


And if I give them special time and attention, then I need to give a special time and attention to all the young leaders. And so again, you can disengage even from leadership development because of the same way of thinking. So I’ve just ignored all that. And when I see a young leader, I’ve developed a way to get them involved in a group. I don’t try to be fair. I have hurt people’s feelings. I have leaders ask me, Hey Andy, I would like to be in your group. And I just tell ’em, well, this isn’t a good time for that. Or I’ll even say, will I handpick those leaders? And I’m sorry, but again, which way do I go? Do I involve all of them and end up spending less time with more people? Or do I spend more time with fewer people? And great leadership development always happens when you spend more time with fewer people. And leaders are generally pretty good at picking out the leaders in the organization. So again, I would rather be engaged with the people I need to be engaged with than disengaged in an attempt to be fair or engaged with everyone and accomplish virtually very little. So there are huge ramifications for this principle. Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Don’t try to be fair. Just make sure you stay engaged.

Lane Jones (11:36):
Andy, you have three just very practical tips on what this looks like.

Andy Stanley (11:40):
Yeah, again, because do for one, what you wish you could do for everyone. What does that look like? So here’s three things to kind of give some direction. Number one, go deep rather than wide. Go deep rather than wide. And is what I was alluding to when I was talking about leadership development. Go deep rather than wide, says I’m going to pick a handful of people and I’m going to go deep with them rather than spread myself thin and just give a little bit of myself to a whole lot of people. Now, this has to do with subsets of leadership teams, subsets of management teams. I have 15 people on my leadership team, but there’s three or four of those individuals that I just go deeper with. I have a group of young leaders that I meet with every other Thursday morning that I just handpicked from throughout the organization.


You can’t sign up for it. It’s not a list I’m working through. I just handpicked them and I’m trying to go deep with these guys. And there are a lot of people who won’t ever be in that group. And it’s not fair, as I said, but I’m very, very engaged. So when possible go deep rather than why. The second one is to go long term rather than short term. I could spend 30 minutes with a hundred people and there’s nothing to show for that. There’s just not. And so giving more of my time to fewer people and going long-term. So again, my example with this group, I told this group of our next generation leaders, Hey, I want to meet for a year. This isn’t three times. We’re not going through a curriculum. I really want to go long-term rather than short-term. I say to our pastors, if you’re going to get involved with a couple that’s struggling in their marriage, commit a year.


Don’t just meet with them three times and pat yourself on the back and say, well, I did some marriage counseling. Come on. You don’t fix a marriage with three 30 minute or hour sessions if you’re going to help a couple grapple with the real issues of marriage or parenting. That’s a long-term commitment. And I can’t make a long-term commitment to eight couples, but I can make a long-term commitment to one couple. So again, there are multiple applications, but at the end of the day, go long-term rather than short- term. And then the third one is very context specific. And that is go time, not just money. It’s tempting to just write a check to a charity. It’s tempting to write a check to a couple in need or an individual in need. And I say, look, give your money wherever you want to give your money.


But pick a charity, pick an organization, pick a family, and don’t just give ’em money. Give ’em your time. Again, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Don’t you wish everybody could volunteer there? Don’t you wish everybody could give time to a struggling family or a struggling kid or a young man or a young woman from a difficult has a difficult home life. So don’t just give time. Excuse me. Don’t just give money when it’s appropriate. When it’s possible, give time. And so when a leader models those three things, what we’ve seen here, it gives people permission to say no. It gives people permission to avoid disengaging or on the other extreme engaging with everyone. And as everyone in an organization embraces this value, the impact is phenomenal because again, it moves us away from fairness. It moves us into engagement, and it’s an engagement that change actually takes place.


And then it allows me going back to our introduction, this entire podcast, it allows me to decide who gets my time. And I don’t have to apologize for that. It allows me to say to people that used to get a lot of my time, you’re not going to get this much time anymore because I need to do, for one, what I wish I could do for everyone. And the landscape has changed, the organization has changed. And again, this becomes a value that so much a part of the conversation, so much a part of the culture in an organization that everyone benefits ultimately.

Lane Jones (15:18):
Andy, I know there’s a story from your dad’s life actually that illustrates this. Do for one idea, tell us that story.

Andy Stanley (15:24):

Oh, yeah. I love this. And I remember when my dad told me this years ago. This is one of those stories that every once in a while when I’m with a group, I’ll say, dad, tell ’em that story. This is one of those, my dad had just finished high school. He felt like that God wanted him to be a preacher. He felt called to preach. He had single mom. She worked in a textile mill. They had, when I say they had no money, they had no money. I mean, he grew up very, very poor. He delivered newspapers. That was where his money came from. And he took some of that money and helped he and his mom eat and live indoors. And so one evening he was standing outside of his church. He says underneath the streetlight, the way he paints the picture, you can see it.


And he was talking to a friend of his, a guy named Julian Phillips. And this was an adult. My dad had just graduated from high school or was about to, he’s talking to this man, Julian Phillips, and he was telling him that he felt called to preach and he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t have any money and he didn’t think he’d ever be able to go to college. And while they were talking, the pastor of the church walked out, walked across the street. My dad says his name was Reverend Hammock, he still remembers. Walked across the street. And this Julian guy called the pastor over and said, Reverend Hammock Charles, that’s my dad. Charles feels like maybe God’s calling him to preach and he wants to go to college. Do you think we could help him out? And so Reverend Hammock said, Hey Charles, I want you to come see me next week.


And so sure enough, my dad went in to see his pastor, and Reverend Hammock said, you know what? Tell me your story. So my dad said, I want to go to college. I feel like God’s calling me to ministry. And this Reverend Hammock said, well, lemme see what I can do. My dad leaves, time goes by. He graduates from high school. He’s headed into that summer between high school and college with no plans. He said, about two months went by and he got a call from Reverend Hammock and he said, Charles, I’ve worked it out for you to go to the University of Richmond on a four year scholarship. How does that sound? Well, my dad said this sounded wonderful. And my dad says, I think I showed up at college with like $27 in my pocket, and that was it. Now, the point of the story is how many scholarships could Reverend Hammock work out for guys that feel like they might feel called to ministry?


Not many. And it would’ve been so easy to say, well, I can’t send all of our high school graduates to college. I can’t send every kid who feels like God wants him to preach to college. I mean, I can’t do it for everyone, but here’s a guy who understood, you know what? I can’t do it for everyone, but I can do it for this one kid. And oh my gosh, truth is I probably wouldn’t have been born based on when my dad and mom met. I mean, think about the trajectory of his entire life was changed and the lives of untold numbers of people. Because one pastor decided, you know what? I’m going to go deep. I’m going to go long. I’m going to go time and I’m going to go money and do whatever I can to help this one high school graduate get into college.


Now, I imagine some of our podcast listeners, they’re thinking of their own story or their parents’ story. I mean, we see this multiplied over and over and over. So the challenge for us is not to get caught up in trying to be fair, not to get caught up in trying to do for everyone and not retreat to doing for no one. But to ask the question, Hey, what would our world look like? What would my organization look like if I did for one, what I wish I could do for everyone? And maybe this sounds a bit grandiose, but I think if everyone did for one, what they wish they could do for everyone, ultimately that could impact the entire world.

Lane Jones (18:54):

Andy, thanks so much for spending this time with us today. And thanks to all of our listeners for joining us.

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