Fire, Momentum, and Three Questions Leaders Should Ask

When we lived in Nashville, our favorite place to hang out as a family was the outdoor fireplace in our backyard. I loved gathering sticks and picking up firewood with my daughters. We often enjoyed the warmth of the fire on a cool evening and the conversations around the fire were rich. To maximize our enjoyment of the fire we would move logs around, add more logs, and occasionally remove a log that was just not catching fire.

For leaders, stewarding momentum is very similar to stewarding a fire. Dave Ramsey once said that momentum makes leaders and organizations look better than they are and a lack of momentum makes leaders look worse than they are. When it comes to stewarding the momentum of a team or an organization or ministry, here are three questions to consider (and three questions I have utilized with teams I lead):

1. Where do we need to add more wood?

Adding wood is pouring additional resources on that which is working well. In the book and study Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby encouraged believers to find where God is at work and join Him there. Leadership consultant Jim Collins once wrote “put your best people on the biggest opportunities not the biggest problems.” Those statements, written from different perspectives, both result in similar actions. Give more resources to the places where you see momentum. From a Christian perspective, the places where we see momentum are places where God is graciously moving – not because we are awesome but because He is.

2. Where do we need to move wood?

Moving wood is making some adjustments so something can be better positioned to benefit from and add to momentum. Often small tweaks can make a big difference. It is the reason experts in e-commerce will conduct A/B testing, as they have learned that the color, size, or position of images or text on a page can make a big difference. Often an overarching strategy is correct but some small tweaks can make a big difference.

3. Where do we need to replace wood?

There were times in our fireplace in Nashville where some wood would just not catch fire. Maybe it was wet, but we took that wood out the fire and put different wood in the fire. Replacing wood is what a leader must do when moving the wood has not worked. Sometimes a strategy has been tweaked and tweaked to no avail and it is clearly time to replace it. Wise leaders don’t continually work around wood that needs to be replaced; they replace the wood.

Adding wood is fun but requires commitment to resource more that which is working well. Moving wood only happens with strategic thinking and the discipline to graciously test and evaluate. Replacing wood takes courage and a reminder that we are simply stewards, as we can get really attached to wood we chose and put in the fire.