What Are You Working on Big? A Guide To Help Leaders Keep Leading


Are you truly leading, or just managing day-to-day tasks? Discover why distinguishing between these roles is crucial for your success. What BIG thing are you working on to drive your leadership forward?

How Do You Know if You’re Leading (or Just Managing)? 

If you’re a leader, this is a critical question to answer.

I’ve blogged about leadership versus management a few times. I dedicated a chapter of my book, Big Shoes To Fill, to this topic. (Grap a bunch of free additional resources here). 

Leading and managing are not the same. Understanding the difference is critical to the success of the organization.

Buy my book if you want 3,500 words on the topic. Here’s a quick summary:

Leadership is about innovation, and management is about orchestration. Both are necessary. The problem is that management can too easily overwhelm and overtake leadership. Orchestrating what currently exists can become the purpose of the organization. When this happens at any level, innovation (leadership) suffers. Eventually, any organization without leadership (business, church, company) will go out of business.

Do This To Ensure You’re Always Leading

There is one fail-proof way to ensure leaders keep leading.

If you do this one thing, it keeps management in its place.

Doing this one thing keeps everyone in the organization looking forward.

Thinking about this one thing every day, if only for a few minutes, keeps you and your team from falling into the management-only trap.

What is this one thing?

It begins with an answer to one question…

What Are You Working On Big? 

Always having an answer to this question is how leaders keep leading.

If you persistently think and work on something that doesn’t yet exist but should, you’ll never drift into being a full-time manager.

I’ve kept this question front and center at every stop on my leadership journey.

Two Quick Examples:

1, DIRECT MAIL: When I led a direct marketing agency specializing in direct mail, there was a lot to manage! We were mailing custom postcards to unique carrier routes on behalf of over a thousand restaurants every month. The level of orchestration and detail was off the chart.

Most of this work wasn’t automated. My “What are you working on big?” was attempting to automate the work. That required meeting with many IT firms specializing in building this type of app, coordinating with multiple input agencies, etc.

It was big. I still orchestrated daily, but I had an answer to this critical question.

2, CHURCH LEADERSHIP: When I was the lead pastor at Woodstock City Church, I constantly tried to have an answer to this question. Every seven days, we had a significant event to orchestrate! The church averaged 7,000ish people every Sunday. We had hundreds of volunteers orchestrating each service. We used most of our week to plan to orchestrate each Sunday experience.

The church as an industry is a management-heavy endeavor.

Our leadership team constantly evaluated and innovated better solutions to combat this reality. However — and this is really crucial to understand — we didn’t only assess our execution and try to do it better next time. Yes, we did that, but we also evaluated our entire model and approach. If you only evaluate what exists, you’ll never create what doesn’t but needs to.

Evaluating our entire ministry model as a church is a leadership endeavor. Evaluating why the audio mix wasn’t great is management.

I’m Working On Something BIG Right Now!

If I don’t ask myself first, I’ll never ask you a question.

I’m working on something really BIG right now. I can’t give you the details yet, but it should launch on July 1.

Working on something big is never easy. It’s never urgent. But it’s insanely important. In my work, supporting all my coaching and consulting clients while interacting with new, potential clients is never-ending (in a good way). But I don’t want to be satisfied with what is. I’m content but not satisfied.

Three months ago, I decided to ask and reanswer my question again, and the answer will hopefully help thousands of additional pastors and churches. I love working with marketplace leaders, but my heart is for the church and those leading it.

So, I’m working on something BIG to help churches and church leaders.

What About You? 

If you’re a leader, what are you working on big?

If you cannot answer this question, commit to discovering an answer soon. Without an answer, it will be impossible to remain a leader. You can be an incredible manager but not a leader, as innovation and people development will struggle when management is the only organizational activity.

If you have an answer to this question, don’t keep it private for too long. Allow it to incubate for a bit, but not too long. If you have a team, bring them into the effort. If you lead an organization, spread the burden of the answer across divisions and departments. If your answer is big enough, it can affect everyone and everything.

So, what are you working on BIG?