Monday, March 10, 2014

renovations and leadership

We spent the weekend painting the kitchen. It’s a long weekend here in Adelaide, so it seemed a good time to enter into the chaos that painting a kitchen induces – meals, snacks, drinks – the countless reasons a kitchen remains indispensable. That in itself got me thinking, about timing, about doing things at moments of convenience for those around you.

In a 45 minute burst on Sunday afternoon, the kitchen was transformed. It is that moment when the first top coat goes on and boom – there is instant change. The colour you’ve picked is suddenly all over the walls. The old has gone, the new has come.

It got me thinking about leadership. I’ve met people who live for that “boom”, who seem to spent their entire lives seeking that 45 minute burst, that big signature, instant burst of colour change. It’s an adrenaline rush and a pretty exciting moment to be part of.

The reality is however, when it comes to the renovation, that it has taken over two years to get to that 45 minute transformation. First the big picture preparation – the large holes in the walls that needed to be filled, the lighting that needed to be changed, the pantry that needed to be built, the window that needed to be replaced. This is large scale project management, a time line of organising.

Second the small picture preparation – the plastering, again and again, the sanding, the spot undercoating. This is the painstaking part. Ironically, it is the preparation that will make or break what makes the paint job. Every blemish is magnified under lights, every poorly sanded surface is magnified in the right (wrong?) light.

Having finished, first the two years of preparation and second, the 45 minute “boom”, our work was hardly done. Much still stretched in front of us. Not just a final top coat but also the finishing touches. In this case, the skirtings and beading. It is these small changes that bring completion.

So, a number of leadership lessons tied up in the weekend renovation. There are times to prep – often years, often dirty, often painstaking. There are times to “boom” and bring large scale, sweeping momentum, a new grand gesture. There are times to attend to finish, to pay attention to detail, to take the final moments of care.

All of this comes down to a mix of planning and discernment, to preparation and timing.

Posted by steve at 07:58 PM


  1. This is good Steve, a reflection of a journey. As I finish up my time in one placement I am thinking even longer term about leadership. Sometimes we are called to do the preparation tasks and never see the top coat, other times we may come into a garden that is just itching to burst forth into life. In my field placement I spent the best part of a year patiently building relationships and laying the ground work for a sporting activity (in conjunction with a university department) as a chaplain. When I asked my successor how life as a university chaplain was going, he told me what an easy job it was as all he had to do was turn up with the oranges and people would share their lives with him. Some sow, others reap, but we all work together and pray for the harvest.

    Comment by David Ferguson — March 11, 2014 @ 9:19 am

  2. Good stuff David. A longitudinal take


    Comment by Steve — March 11, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

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