Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Nehemiah: Finishing Well

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2010 at 7:20 am



Cross it off your list.


The bigger the project the more satisfying it is to complete it. Nehemiah completed building the wall (6:15) but his project was not quite finished. He had to set things up so that the people could sustain themselves. He set up doors, gatekeepers and guard posts, reinstated the priests, and installed a governor over Jerusalem. In his mind, if this wasn’t done then the project was a failure.

It’s tempting to say you are finished when the majority of the work is done. You pushed hard to complete 95% and that feels “good enough” but that 5% will not complete itself, it needs the same effort. This is one of the differences between work done and work done well. It’s easily overcome with good planning done upfront. Have a clear definition of what will make your project successful and work towards that.

As I write this I’m thinking about all of the projects I have outstanding. It’s a long, embarrassing list. I will write about overcoming this tomorrow.


Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 3

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

There are two more discussions on distractions that Nehemiah faced. Both distractions we have already looked at were external to the project. Now Nehemiah was facing a distraction caused by those on his own team. Morale was being threatened because the workers and their families were starving, losing their homes and their land, and being sold into slavery, all by their own people! This was indirectly affecting his work towards the goal (get the wall built) so Nehemiah confronted it.


It is going to happen at some point in your project. Someone is going to need to be confronted for something he is or isn’t doing. Letting it pass by will only cause bigger problems in the end. When Nehemiah learned of the unjust way the rich were treating the poor he didn’t hold back anything, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” The people admitted to the wrong they were doing and pledged to stop it and make amends.

Nehemiah did not have to convince people, there was no argument. Sometimes confrontation just needs to happen. The issue on everyone’s minds just needs to be aired and immediately the mood changes. Sometimes it just takes a few words, rightly spoken, to make folks realize they need to change what they are doing.

What I also love about this story is that no one could accuse Nehemiah of acting in a similar way. In verses 5:14-19 it describes Nehemiah’s lifestyle while he was governor. He refused to take the governor’s food allowance, which was considerably large. He refused the free land offered to him but made his household work for their food. Best of all, he cut taxes. Confrontation goes a long way when the confronter isn’t a hypocrite.

Can you think of any areas where you are shrinking back from confrontation at the expense of your goals?

Nehemiah: Leading By Encouragement

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Facing down an army of people who want you dead is never easy. I say this not from experience but simply from being human; no one wants to be killed. When Nehemiah set up his plan for defending his followers he looked out over the people and said:

Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. 4:14

I think Nehemiah saw fear in the people and sought out a way to encourage them to fight. We don’t know if he gave a longer speech than this single recorded verse. My guess is that he didn’t since they were not all gathered in the same place but were spread out in various locations in the city. I think he probably traveled from place to place repeating his encouragement. If you were going to war what more would you want to hear than:

  • Remember the Lord – remember his promise to you and remember his power to fulfill it
  • The Lord is great and awesome – he is for you and not against you
  • Fight for your brothers, sons, daughters, wives – we are most motivated when we know our cause is bigger than ourselves
  • Fight for your homes – this is your land, your very life, fight for it!

I think this is a great way of encouraging the people who are following you. Leaders should always point their people back to God and appeal to the selflessness of doing something for the ones you love. Nehemiah gave them a plan and the tools they needed and now they are encouraged to carry it out.

Is your plan struggling to gain momentum? Could be that your people are discouraged or fearful of the possible outcomes. How can you encourage them in what they are doing?

Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 2

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Most distractions can be ignored (see part 1); others must be dealt with.

Know When To Fight

The first distraction was simply verbal so Nehemiah reaffirmed and restated his goal (get the wall built) and moved on. The second directly threatened the goal. An army was assembled to fight against the workers. This one had to be dealt with or else work would have stopped.

Nehemiah did not change his goal though, he did not direct all of his energy towards fighting off an army. He kept the work going but reduced the load. The workers carried less so that they could carry a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. By the way, this is where C. H. Spurgeon got the idea for his publication. Nehemiah also set up guards to keep watch, this took the pressure off the workers and also let the opposition know he was well defended. Finally, trumpeters were placed at each work location so that if they were attacked they could call for help.

There is something in common with all three of Nehemiah’s defenses: they focus on the work and not the problem. The workers were given weapons so they could fight if necessary but they didn’t have to concern themselves with it, they could focus on their job. Guards were set up so that the workers weren’t worried all the time about a surprise attack. Communication was put in place so that everyone would know that they were supported and not left on their own.

You can count on distractions coming up in your projects. Knowing which ones will keep you from completing your goal and which ones won’t is a very good skill to have. To really refine that skill you need to add the ability to deal with true distractions in a way that keeps the emphasis on the goal and the people working towards that goal.

Nehemiah: Recognize People’s Efforts

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Nehemiah 3 chronicles all of the people who helped reach the goal: get the wall built. Why bother to write down and publish a list of all of the names of the people and families that worked on the wall though? Because that is relational managing. It lets people know that they are a part of something. That they are accomplishing a great work.

By keeping a record of who is doing what you are acknowledging people’s efforts and making them feel human. We want relational work, not cheap efforts. We want work that grows people, not just products. It reminds me of a great post on Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership from Michael Hyatt. Michael says one way MLK Jr. lead well was by acknowledging the sacrifice of his followers.

There are plenty of ways to do this other than writing their name down in a book. Most of them only take a few minutes to do but the effects will be dramatic. Make sure it is public and includes details. Think of a few right now and make it a point to act on them soon.

Nehemiah: Planning, Part 2

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 at 7:03 am

Read through Part 1.

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem with his entourage but for three days he kept his goal (get the wall built) to himself. His entourage was clueless and so were the people he’d need to enlist to do the physical labor. Then, in the middle of the night, he snuck off to go inspect the wall in detail. Every inch of it.

Why did he keep this a secret from everyone?

Do You Have All The Details Yet?

Morale drops when someone asks the leader a question about the project and the leader has no answer. We start to lose trust in leadership. Nehemiah didn’t let this happen. Before he announced that he was going to rebuild the wall he made sure he had everything mapped out.

When Nehemiah told the people that God was with him and that they would rebuild the wall there was no discussion about it. The people simply answered, “let us rise up and build.” If you want this kind of response to your project give people a reason to respond this way. Give people details before they ask.

Here are the details of Nehemiah’s plan, he knew:

  • God was with them
  • the goal, the point where he could say it was finished
  • how long the rebuilding would take
  • what supplies were necessary
  • how many workers were needed
  • where each family would work

Imagine your response if someone comes to you and asks for help and lays out all these details before you. Will questions immediately start forming in your head that will cause doubt? Won’t happen. Isn’t it great when someone removes the hurdles before they are formed?

It is exciting for people to be part of something you have given them a detailed vision of. Go create your detailed plan and develop this kind of trust.