Ron Clark is the founder of Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and the author of the new book on leadership teams, Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life. Serving in the field of Christian education in the context of a local church, I enjoy his books and was thrilled that this one shared some specifics about serving on a team with clear organizational goals.
His lays out the book in a parable speaking of five characters who make up every type of organization aka your bus:
Runners come early, stay late, never complain, provide a positive spirit, have a strong work ethic, are driven to take the initiative to work, not for personal reward, but toward the good of the whole organization and tackle tasks with an attitude of It has to be done, let’s knock it out, let’s do it. Runners are the first to fearlessly volunteer and want to include the whole team in problem solving and celebration.
Joggers are steady, dependable, fairly punctual and conscientious about following the rules. ‘They don’t slow the bus down, but they don’t make it fly either.’ They dress appropriately, often rise to meet expectations, but ‘aren’t going to blow your mind, day in and day out.’ They can switch into high gear when called upon, but can’t sustain such energy for the long haul primarily because they lack the confidence to go full throttle.
Walkers point out everything they see is wrong in the organization, deflect blame, want attention, complain the Runners make them look bad, and shouldn’t be expected to go beyond their job descriptions. Walkers pull people down to their speed and see no need to accelerate on a regular basis, thereby frustrating Runners and Joggers. Clark warns that Walkers target new hires quickly ‘to recruit new walkers.’
Riders aren’t interested in organizational success or even personal success. They greatly frustrate the Runners and Joggers since they get the most attention from the Driver of the Bus who desperately tries to motivate the Riders and Walkers to move the organization further. Riders don’t want to lose their jobs/paychecks, so their main goal is to do just enough to avoid termination. They’ll even keep track of the slights of other staff members just in case they are held to a higher standard than the very bare minimum.
Drivers drive the bus and have the entire organization on their shoulders. In the local church, this should be the senior pastor. Due to gifts and graces, the driver of a particular local church may be a lay person or a staff member. Due to personalities, the driver of a particular local church may appear to be a lay person or a staff member. Due to the lack of a driver, a Runner may assume the role of a driver for a season. It’s not a Runner’s role, but it’s what a Runner does. Thinking of a school bus driver, they are constantly looking in the side and rear mirrors for hindrances, they constantly check the bus (the organization) that it is safe, ready, and prepared for the ride. Drivers know the starting place, the destination, and the healthy stops along the way.
The remainder of the book shares how the Driver can accelerate success, most effectively free the Runners, encourage the Joggers to become Runners, and continue to move the bus toward the goal. It reminded me of a Disney Institute tour taken many years ago. The focus of Disney’s leadership is on the top 1/3 of the team. The thought process is to make the top tier more effective, thereby making the organization more effective. In essence, it’s better for the organization to move a team member from an 8 to a 10 rather than spend all your energy trying to move a 3 to a 5.
As a family of faith, we are commissioned to love everyone. The warning is not to forget, ignore, or even fire the Riders and Walkers, but rather not worry about being ‘fair’ (ex: Jesus didn’t heal everyone, just the one, at the pool of Bethesda found in John 5), look at the good of the whole, and keep the bus moving toward the organizational goals. Several of the ‘accelerants’ that resonated with me in the local church setting…
1. Sit with the Runners – We are more apt to BE who we sit with, fostering collaboration, and improving ourselves when we spend time with those who are doing it well. This is why I don’t miss a networking lunch with others who minister with children, engage in conversation, and ask a ton of questions. John Maxwell’s new book speaks of great leaders asking lots of questions when in the company of Runners. What is my question-to-statement ratio?
2. Clean the Windshield – If we are not the Runners on a particular project we should volunteer to take on the menial tasks so the Runner can be the Runner. Asking “What can I do to help?” or helping others on the team do their jobs well for the greater good of the organization. My responsibility may not be ‘worship’, but am I helping that team of Runners? It is safe to say that the majority of a congregation’s only connection to the Body of Christ happens in worship. Even if it’s not in my bucket, what can I do to ‘clean the windshield’ every week? And not just worship…what can I do to ‘clean the windshield’ for the other staff? Empty the trash, be one of the last to walk out, be one of the first to arrive, bring a bottle of water to the tech ninja, bring Altoids and sugarless gum to the youth director taking kids on a retreat…
3. Allow Runners to Reap the Rewards – As the Body of Christ, we must we willing to be happy for and willing to support the Runners who carry the lion’s share of the work. It’s not a competition, it’s a family.
4. Say Hello – Greeting people with a smile or a ‘Good morning’ spreads good energy and ‘good energy will come back to you.’ Anybody else ever said, “Good Morning,” even in the afternoon or at a night event at church? Guilty! I recall listening to a sermon series and hearing that a cheerful greeting done in the first 5 seconds relates interest, care, and love like nothing else. Even if you get nothing but a grunt from a young person (like the one I gave birth to during his middle school years,) my greeting can set up an environment of joy, compassion, and empathy. That’s my idea of great decorating! That young man now kisses me on the cheek when he arrives and leaves the room. He learned that greeting matters. (Heart melting!)
The goal of a local church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s as clear as it gets. I would think that everyone would want to be a Runner when it comes to Kingdom-building. It’s not a personality thing, but rather a drive and/or momentum thing.
I was especially moved by the 23rd chapter. “If you ask your Runners to hide their success or to do their important work under cover, you make them feel unappreciated and that can cause them to decelerate – or even to hop aboard another bus that is moving at the speed of light.” Clark goes on to share, “I’ve been to schools where there really aren’t any Runners, but there are a lot of Joggers who consider themselves to be top performers. If a true Runner comes onboard in an environment like that, she will very likely be perceived as a threat….When you only have one Runner in your organization, you have to work hard to protect that individual because she is in a very vulnerable position.” Whew! The job of the Driver.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I especially enjoyed being reminded that I am called to be a Runner for Christ and I should be doing all that goes with that in the area where He has called me to serve. Serving as a professional Christian educator and as a staff member of a local church, I am in bus ministry. What will you do this week to move your bus?
Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore, let us MOVE (emphasis mine) beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”
“A movement exists only when people choose to work together in one direction. The leader’s job is to inspire the people to move.” – Simon Sinek