The Power of the First Move
by Dan Reiland
It was Thursday afternoon, and I was on my way to a local bakery to pick up a box of goodies for a family I would visit that night. And, yes, I got one of their huge and unbelievably delicious chocolate chip cookies. There was light rain off and on, which was a nice break from the heat of our Georgia summer. Not enough to get you all wet, but just enough to make things slippery.
I was second in line in the right-hand lane of a four-lane road. It was a large and busy intersection—not the kind of road you would cross on foot. The light turned green for those making a left turn in front of us. One of those people had a pick-up load of about fifty or sixty 1 1/2 in. x 4 in. x 20 ft. pieces of lumber—it was a load of wood!—but his tailgate was down and the wood wasn't tied in well.
In a second, as he was making the left turn, the wood sprayed across our side of the road. Everyone stopped and stared. The guy pulled over and ran out to start picking it up. Only a few, maybe thirty, seconds passed, but it seemed like slow motion. Everything in me said, get out of your car and help. But I was second in line, and couldn't move my car.
A few cars in the lane next to mine drove slowly around or over the wood and carried on with their agendas. Then it happened—the passenger door of the car in front of me opened, and a boy in his late teens jumped out. His dad pulled the car over and got out with him. That's all it took.
Then I pulled up and over and jumped out to pick up lumber. What took place next was so cool. Within ten seconds, another seven guys jumped out of their cars and started lifting and moving lumber off to the side of the road and back into this guy's truck. No one knew each other but everyone knew exactly what to do. Two of the guys directed traffic. The lumber was heavy, so the guys worked in sets of two to lift the wet slippery wood.
Now, admittedly, this next part is a guy thing—no one ever said a word! There was a lot of eye contact and tremendous connection. When the wood was cleared and back in the truck (3 or 4 minutes, tops) everyone got back in their cars and drove off—silent, but tremendously satisfied and with plenty of testosterone pumping.
The power of the first move is incredible. We've all seen it in action, but I think leaders can forget to be intentional about making the first move.
Those life-changing moments in a small group often come from someone making the first move. It might be a personal confession of sin or maybe a married couple gets honest about the condition of their relationship. Then the whole group opens up and God does his work.
We see the results of the first move in a worship service. Someone is stirred by the Holy Spirit and they stand during worship. This often releases other hearts to do the same.
In a capital stewardship campaign we know that when the leaders make their financial pledges first, the rest of the congregation is encouraged and inspired to participate in the vision.
Right down to personal relationships, the power of the first move is staggering. Many marriages have been saved because a husband or wife (or sometimes a friend) had the courage to say something.
My objective in this article is to re-fire your leadership heart about the value and power of the first move. Before I cover a few practical thoughts with you, I want to say that the impact of the first move isn't always positive or productive. The first move needs to be the right move for the value to be realized. Just because you go first doesn't make you right nor does it make you a good leader.
Going first only has power when you make the right move. "Well, duh!" you say. This is a simple idea, but my observations reveal that many church leaders wait, hesitate, or just never make that move at all. And if you fall into that category, you need to know you are losing ground as a leader.
When others sense the right move and make it first on a repeated basis, over a period of time they become the leader. Sometimes this is the right thing—for example, with church staff or a volunteer small group leader. You want them to make the first move in their ministry area. This represents good empowerment.
I'm talking about the things that are clearly your responsibility. For example, let's say you are the associate pastor and you oversee the student and children's staff. You have the responsibility to hire and fire, and someone needs to be hired or fired, but you hesitate. In fact, you hesitate so long that the senior pastor or a board member makes the first move. If this is a one-time occurrence, it's not a problem—it's teamwork. If this is your pattern, you are losing influence as a leader.
If you are a leader who holds back, hesitates, and waits too long to make the first move, I encourage you to ask yourself why. Is it that you don't know what to do? Are you fearful of making a mistake? Have you gone though something similar that was a bad experience? Your answer will help you understand why you hold back and help you break through to making effective and productive first moves.
Making the first move isn't about ego and being in charge. It's about being the catalyst to move people. To put it bluntly, you can't lead if you can't make the first move. You don't have to make the first move all the time, but you do have to make the first move at the right times.
There are three simple components that release me to make the first move. First, I've prayed about the issue. Second, I have thought it through and sought wise counsel when needed. And, finally, I have the conviction to make the move (be it a decision or conversation or whatever) on my own. Now there is no reason to wait. These three steps will cover the process needed to keep you out of trouble most of the time.
There are situations when you don't have time to do anything in advance. You are in the moment, and you either lead or you don't. These times are critical. In these moments, I follow the slightly tongue-in-cheek saying, "When in doubt, do something." Trust your instincts and go with them.
I was leading a men's leadership development group (Joshua's Men) when things got heated between two of the guys. The room went as cold as ice. Nobody moved and nobody said anything for several seconds. The atmosphere begged for somebody to make the first move. I was the leader of the group, so I jumped in and brought things back to order and guided the men back to a place not of agreement, but of reconciliation.
So, how are you doing when it comes to making the first move? Do you pick up the phone and make things happen, or do you wait for it to ring? Do you set the meetings and agendas, or do you let others make the first move? How about your leadership at home? Do you take the initiative and make the first moves that keep your home happy and loving, or do you hold back, hoping someone else will get things going?
Make the first move.
This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter The Pastor's Coach available at www.INJOY.com
Copyright 2005, INJOY 4725 River Green Pkwy, Duluth, GA 30096
Prepared for the Pneuma Foundation website by Todd H.