How Leaders Can Prime the Pump for Action (Re-Posted)

A Blog Post by Brian Miller

Leaders in the volunteer world are becoming very frustrated because:

  • Nobody is stepping up.
  • Nobody is pulling their weight.
  • Nobody seems to care anymore.

Leaders are ready to quit, or at least, coast. They become less willing to have tough conversations. They become complainers rather than inspirers.

As a coach, I’m here to remind them it’s part of a leader’s job to create an environment where followers can easily take action. Leaders not only need followers, but they need followers who take action. Most of the leaders I coach work in the volunteer world, but even leaders who pay their followers will get more from their followers if they prime the pump.

Design a Jig

A jig isn’t a dance, at least in this case, it is a tool that helps you make reproducible items. My dad made bunk beds for my kids, and I remember him saying, “I know a guy who has a jig for this.” When you have a jig, the measurements are automatic. You don’t have to think about where to drill a hole or hammer in a nail. You don’t have to do any figuring. You just have to do the work.

Will Mancini provided a jig for getting clarity on your God given purpose.

I exist to honor God and help people by ______________ing ____________.

This is still hard work but now each follower can at least take a stab at this. And later, as a leader/coach, you can call them to dig a little deeper. What’s a more descriptive verb for what you do?

If for example, the follower wrote, “helping people,” you as the leader/coach can ask, “Be more specific about who it is you help.”

Ken Davis provided a jig for organizing a talk.

Every _______________ can __________________ by ________________.

Using Ken’s jig ensures that you call the people to take action. It puts an end to sermons that cause you to ask, “So what?”

Give an Example

I’m on a search committee, and I was taught a while back, “The past predicts the future.” So when you’re looking for a new leader, you should ask questions that reference their personal experience. You can’t trust answers given to hypothetical questions.

Don’t ask, “What do you plan to do if we hire you?”

Instead ask, “Tell us about plans you developed in previous leadership positions.”

Don’t ask, “Do you value discipleship?”

Instead ask, “Tell us about someone you’ve discipled.”

Now the follower won’t worry so much about wasting their time or feeling unsure. They can step into the requested action with confidence.

Reward Good Effort

“Reward what you want repeated.”

My learning on this is that the reward doesn’t always have to be public. Not everyone appreciates being put in the spotlight. That is counter to what I was taught. But everybody likes a “Thank you.” A personal hand-written note is like gold and chocolate combined these days. Too few people get to experience this goodness.

Frank Blake, former CEO of Home Depot, was known to write up to 200 hand written thank you notes to top-performing employees every week! (Great interview of Frank Blake by Andy Stanley.) He credits this action with changing the entire culture of Home Depot.

Give Your Followers the First Step

Getting started is often the hardest part.

As an example, we are asking my search committee to come up with questions to ask our candidates in a face to face interview. We can give them a first step by asking them to consider what it is we want our new hire to do.  They should make a list. I can give examples.

  • We want the new hire to develop leaders and working teams.
  • We want the new hire to build trust.
  • We want the new hire to inspire people to work together.

Now, using the jig, the follower can flow right into action.

Inspire Action

John Kotter talks about a Sense of Urgency being the most important element of change. Why is the task I’m asking you to do crucial to the movement of our organization?

Stadia, a church planting organization, says “Till Every Child Has a Church.”

World Vision says, “Sponsor a child because joy travels both ways.”

For my search committee, maybe it is “Consider the power of churches working together!”

Since Kotter says this is the most important element, leaders should really give this a ton of thought. This is a coaching session in itself.

Tie the Request to the Greater Vision

Everybody is familiar with busy work. I’ve been given tasks to develop stuff that was never used. My small task matters much more to me when I can clearly see how it helps a much larger goal get reached.

When our Regional church leadership gathered last fall and landed on three visionary goals, I found myself much more willing to lean in and sacrifice my time and do the hard work.

  1. Provide reproducible discipleship to the leaders of our region and empower them to begin to disciple others.
  2. Create opportunities for multiple churches to work together on cross-cultural projects.
  3. Develop a local leadership training for pastors and their leaders to help them impact their local communities.

There are many other things we ought to do but I found myself getting excited when we landed on a solid three goals. To my surprise, I can still easily name these three goals six months later.

As for my search committee, we don’t just want to hire a leader. We want to hire a leader who can make these goals become reality! All of a sudden, the questions we need to ask just got a lot more important.


As a coach, we don’t give our clients solutions. But we can give our clients a framework to build their own solution. This is a framework you could present to a leader/client. You would let them choose where to start and then to build the details out of their own experience.

I can hear the frustration levels lowering as you now turn to help your leaders be more productive!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

One thought on “How Leaders Can Prime the Pump for Action (Re-Posted)

  1. Hi Brian Miller!

    What a great blog! Really liked Ken Davis’ framework approach that can help call us, our volunteers, and our clients to action. The examples you provide us in this read are so visual and helpful. I also noticed how clear, purposeful, and concise each vision statement was. I think this can only happen when we give ourselves and our clients the time to process and really dig deep. When we do this, we own our own solutions that much more. They carry more weight and more meaning for us which means, there’s more of a chance that we and our clients will follow through with action. I can’t wait to find opportunities where I too can use Ken Davis’ Jig Coaching approaching.

    Thanks CAM!

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