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“Self-starter” is an identity that up-and-coming leaders seek. It means that you take initiative and responsibility without being asked or coerced. You see a problem and you jump on it. No one ever has to tell you what to do. You put on your Nikes and just do it.

But there can be a dark side to self-starters, which is when their interest in beginning new projects and their disinterest in finishing projects are equal.

You can be a self-starter without being a self-finisher

It’s when you get close to the finish line that the real work begins. At that point, do you press through to the end, or do you get distracted by new ideas that sound more fun? Maybe your supervisor, board, or spouse don’t have to nag you to get going on projects or come up with ideas for new ministries or tackle chores around the house, but do they have to nag you to finish them?

“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth” (Prov. 26:15).

Consider all the steps this person has taken in order to put this meal on the table: he worked to earn money, he took his money to the market and bought food, he prepared the food, he set the table, and, finally, he grasped the food in his hand. He’s just one step away from finishing! Yet he fails to finish.

Self-starters look productive, but if they don’t finish the job, as this verse points out, they are actually lazy. They are always getting things done, but never getting things done, if you get what I mean.

Finishing is rarely easy. Usually the last 20% of a project or goal is the hardest part. Just last week I was playing a round of golf with my brother who was in town for a visit. I was just 20 yards off the green after two shots on a par five. Par, in my mind, was as good as on the scorecard, but maybe I could pitch it close and go for a birdie four. But I shanked my pitch (nearly into a hazard), left that chip short, finally got the ball on the green, and then two putted for a double bogey seven. I started well, but I didn’t finish.

It’s when you get close to the finish line that the real work begins. I often find myself at the end of a project and I think there are just a couple more actions to take, when really there are a dozen niggling details that I need to attend to until it is complete.

Why it’s important to be a self-finisher

It’s important to finish what you start because finishing is what really allows you to advance the organization, church, or ministry that you are leading. Back to the golf example: even if you’ve moved the ball 460 yards, you don’t get to go to the next hole until you get the ball into the bottom of the cup. You’ve come a long way, yes, but you haven’t advanced yet. Finishing off projects, goals, and initiatives is what really enables you to move forward.

Finishing also gives you credibility. It builds trust in your supervisor, because he or she knows they don’t have to pester you to complete what you’ve committed to do. It builds trust among your church members, too, since churches are notorious for coming up with good ideas and then never executing them (or taking forever to do so). I get proud of the team I work with when members of our church comment to me that things actually get done around here.

Finishing your goals or projects is also where you grow as a leader. We don’t grow unless we face resistance, and since the resistance is often highest toward the end of a goal, that is where we not only get things done, but also where we develop as a leader.

We often ask each other, so what are you working on these days? Perhaps a better question is, what did you finish last week?



Eric McKiddie is a husband, father of three, and one of the pastors at College Church in Wheaton, IL. You can follow Eric on Twitter (@ericmckiddie).

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