Growth is expensive! Whether it’s personal, organizational, church, business – you name it – growth comes with a price tag. When we stop paying the price, growth is replaced by stagnation and decline, or worse, death. So what is the actual cost of growth? While “cost” could be measured a hundred different ways, I’d like to pinpoint ten common price tags of growth that usually surface personally and organizationally.
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1. Higher Pain Threshold
In his book, Leadership Pain, coach and consultant Sam Chand observes that anytime leadership doesn’t produce pain, you’re likely in a season of “unusual blessing,” or you’re really not making a difference. Chand notes:
Growth = Change
Change = Loss
Loss = Pain
Growth = Pain
Leadership is a pain magnet. It’s the price you pay to keep growing. Your inability to handle higher doses of pain will be the ceiling to your personal and organizational growth. Your pain threshold must increase concurrently with your organization’s growth. As Chand notes, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.”
The problem is that too many leaders are searching for problem-free solutions. They don’t exist. Anywhere! When you choose a solution, you simultaneously choose the pain and problems that accompany that solution.
When I decided to improve my writing skills, I had to endure the pain of a professional editor. After I received my first book’s manuscript back from my editor, I anxiously opened the file to look at his comments. What I found was disheartening to say the least. It looked like he bled over every square inch of my manuscript. But I had to make a decision: do I want to grow, or do I want to write content that nobody reads?
The same principle applies spiritually too. The biggest breakthroughs require the greatest battles. Jesus clearly articulated the price tag of a higher pain threshold in prayer and fasting as the key to winning the biggest battles (Matthew 17:21).
2. Intensive Coaching
Conferences are great at inspiring us to make changes, but they are horrible at actually producing those changes. That’s not their purpose. Events inspire change, process creates change, and habits sustain change. While an event might inspire us to do something new or different, a process of growth must follow the event so that change can ultimately become a new habit in our lives.
This type of change is often experienced through one-on-one coaching and mentoring. These intensive growth relationships help us gain wider perspective, identify better solutions, and make wiser decisions. Always remember that a good coach will help you take A.I.M. at your potential. They will provide Assessment, Insight, and Motivation.
I recently secured a one-on-one mentoring relationship with a high capacity leader to help me grow personally and as a pastor. Once per month I’ll meet with this leader, bring the agenda, and ask questions for two hours. The intensive nature of this coaching will offer fresh wisdom and perspective that I’ve been looking for.
Part of the price tag with one-on-one coaching and mentoring is the accountability to actually do what I learn. The goal isn’t to simply acquire more knowledge. That knowledge has to be translated into action. Otherwise, I’m wasting my time and my mentor’s time. Another part of this price tag is money…and that brings us to our third price tag.
3. Increased Investment
I’ve discovered something about growth: the more you grow, the harder it is to find coaches to help you go to a new level. Eventually, you have to own up to a simple but sobering fact: high capacity coaching costs money.
Several years ago I joined a one-year training center for small group pastors. It literally cost one-third of my entire ministry budget that year. Everything inside of me said, “You can’t afford to do this.”
But guess what? Four months after joining this training cohort, our small group ministry doubled in size. I was going to spend that money on something, but I’m convinced it wouldn’t have delivered the same results.
When you hear the words, “price tag,” you undoubtedly think of money. The same is true of personal and organizational growth. It requires an increased financial investment. While technology has made it easier – and cheaper – than ever to access information, tools, and best practices, there comes a time when you have to shell out cash to move from “here” to “there.”
Jesus described the price tag of increased investment like this: “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Luke 14:28-30, NLT).
4. Stronger Accountability
Certain barriers, especially in areas of personal growth, are difficult to overcome. I have found this to be true in the areas where I have the least intrinsic motivation to grow. To break through these barriers, I have to seek out stronger accountability.
When we have somebody to hold our feet to the fire, we’re able to fortify our efforts to see change. The price tag of accountability is rarely pleasant. It exposes our weaknesses and makes us feel vulnerable. But this price tag is what closes the gap between aspirations and reality.
5. Unfamiliar Environments
Leaders often suffer from the disease of “mindless mingling.” Mindless mingling occurs when the thinking life of a leader experiences a deficit of knowledge capital or a relational network. In other words, how I think is limited by what I know, who I know, or who I listen to. I become “mind-less” because I “mingle” with the same people and draw from the same pool of knowledge. Simply put, my growth inputs are clogged with larger quantities of old ideas from the same sources. Author and pastor Andy Stanley captured the essence of mindless mingling when he said:
“If you are surrounded long enough by people who think like you think, you will become more and more certain that’s the best way to think.”
The price tag of “unfamiliar environments” is the remedy to mindless mingling. It’s uncomfortable. It feels strange, even unnatural. When we love to be in a room where everybody knows us – or even admires us – it’s hard to intentionally pursue environments where we’re suddenly thrust into anonymity. But these “unfamiliar environments” hold the gold you’ve been trying to mine in your current environments, yet consistently come up empty-handed.
The most strategic and impactful growth of my life has taken place in unfamiliar environments. Are you willing to pay this price? Are you willing to learn from others who don’t think like you or believe like you? Are you willing to read books outside of your field or industry? Are you willing to attend events sponsored by organizations outside of your business, denomination, or comfort zone? The keys to unseen growth are often found in unfamiliar environments.
6. Uncomfortable Risks
Author Larry Osborne once said, “Highly successful leaders ignore conventional wisdom and take chances. Their stories inevitably include a defining moment or key decision when they took a significant risk and thereby experienced a breakthrough.”
Growth is risky. You have to do things you’ve never done. You have to make hard decisions that feel like a roll of the dice. But is there really any other viable option? Leadership without risk isn’t leadership at all. It’s letting the tail wag the dog. It’s letting others dictate your vision.
I learned this at an entirely different level when we planted 7 City Church in 2012. Karen and I had talked about it, thought about it, and dreamed about it for years. But a day finally came when talking wasn’t enough. We had to put up or shut up. We had to take the risk or stop dreaming. Those were really our only two options. When we finally took the step, we discovered that the same God who was pushing us off the diving board was waiting for us in the water.
John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” If you’re unwilling to pay the price of uncomfortable risks, you’ll never know a future any better than your current reality. In fact, it will only decline.
Risk doesn’t mean unwise. It does mean courage. Anytime courage is required, the landscape is full of fears. Your job as a leader is to courageously lead into the unknown, and therefore, risk is inevitable.
All throughout Scripture you see pictures of uncomfortable risks that resulted in great impact for the Kingdom of God. Whether you call it “risk,” “faith,” “belief,” or “boldness,” it was instrumental in advancing the Gospel. Acts 15:26 says that Paul and Barnabas risked their lives for the name of Jesus Christ.
7. Candid Feedback
One of our internal operational values at 7 City Church is “Candor and Care.” We say, “We communicate with candor and care about our ideas and realities.” Every Monday morning I sit in a service design meeting where this value is enforced in all of it’s glory. It’s a very candid meeting. Painfully candid! But I know that the people sitting around that table love each other, and because of that trust, we can be completely honest.
As we evaluate our previous Sunday’s services during this meeting, nothing is off the table. If my message sucked, I hear it. If the worship didn’t engage people, our worship leader hears it. If the transitions were rocky, cues were missed, or something didn’t go well, we hear it. The candid feedback, coupled with a genuine care for one another, allows us to keep growing. As a result, the services get incrementally better and better. Perhaps most important, we stay focused on why we do what we do without letting sloppy behaviors get entrenched in our services.
I’ve seen too many organizations become paralyzed by bureaucratic red tape and a fear of conflict. In the end, the organization calcifies. It also happens personally. An unwillingness to hear the truth, face the brutal facts, and adjust our sails, leads to a personal plateau and eventual decline.
The price tag of candid feedback is crucial. Bill Hybels says, “Facts are our friends.” Even when those facts are difficult or depressing, they are the starting place for change. They define our reality. Welcome them! Embrace the price tag of candid feedback.
8. Relational Transitions
This one is tough. Sometimes we outgrow the people around us. Sometimes we reach a place that the people we serve alongside simply can’t go to. It’s not because they’re not good people. It’s not because they aren’t valuable, important, or worthy. It’s not necessarily an issue of character, competence, or chemistry, but rather capacity. They don’t have the capacity to grow to the place we need to go.
Next to “higher pain threshold,” this is the most emotional price tag. Whether personally or organizationally, there comes a time that you have to “move on.” It doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends (although this may be the case if the person is engaged in destructive behavior that is negatively impacting you). What it does mean is that it’s time for a transition to occur in what the relationship looks like.
The transition may go from “employee” to “non-employee,” from “close friend” to “friend,” or from “regular supporter” to “disgruntled customer.” Transitions can also go the other way. Sometimes they go from “friend” to “accountability partner,” from “associate” to “coach,” or from “acquaintance” to “close friend.”
Just know that relational transitions – good or bad – are a price tag of growth. They usually include a wide spectrum of emotion…from stress, to pain, to joy.
9. Relentless Focus
No person, or organization, can do it all. While we intuitively know that to be true, we look for every way possible to dodge it. Focus is a price tag. In fact, unclear vision is one of the inhibitors to progress. It always means giving something up so you can do something better. It requires a powerful blend of clarity and discipline.
Clarity helps you pick a certain vision, strategy, or model. Discipline helps you unequivocally commit to it every day. That means you’ll give up lots of ideas. You’ll have to differentiate between an opportunity and a distraction. But the result will be worth it.
When Nehemiah led the Israelites to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, he articulated a clear vision and let nothing sway him. Countless attempts were made to distract him and insult him, but Nehemiah knew he had heard from God. This dynamic duo – clarity and discipline – helped him stay true to what God had put in his heart. It’s a high price to pay, but the price of not paying it is always higher.
10. Patient Delays
I wish I didn’t have to include this price tag. Whether in line at the grocery store, at a traffic light during rush hour, or sitting in the airport as a storm blows through, we hate delays. As paradoxical as it sounds, waiting is the price of progress.
Please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we should be lazy or irresponsible. I’m not saying we should sit on our butt and watch the world pass us by. And I’m not suggesting that we lose our passion for our vision or mission.
What I am saying is that delays, setbacks, failures, and obstacles are part of the price you pay to grow. Even though we don’t enjoy them, we cannot speed past them. We have to patiently endure – and grow through – them.
With personal growth, this requires our willingness to cooperate with God as He shapes our lives, forms our character, and cultivates trust inside of us. On an organizational level, delays test our ability to remain focused, and to stick with what’s best for the health and growth of the organization. We have to resist the temptation to run organizational yellow lights.
For fast-paced leaders, patient delays feel like torture. The key with this price tag is to pay it with reflection and wisdom. Reflect on what is happening during these slow times. Dissect lessons in the delay. Resist the temptation to abandon your values, hop on the latest bandwagon, or completely jump ship. Choose your course carefully and wisely. This season will pass, so don’t short circuit what needs to happen in it. Your response now will set up what happens, or doesn’t happen, next.
Question: Which price tag are you dealing with right now? What other price tags have you had to pay?