Watching someone spin a plate is pretty cool. It’s not too much different from spinning a basketball on your finger tip. It’s an impressive trick. I went to a Harlem Globetrotters game once and saw this trick first hand, no pun intended, well maybe it was. In any case, it was awesome. At one point in the game they did this awesome crowd trick I am sure you have seen in some form or fashion yourself. The Globetrotters brought several people from the audience down to the floor, for all to see. Then he started spinning basketballs on his index finger…oh, Ah, the crowd roars. after a few tricks and some behind the back stuff we were all ready for more.


That’s when he started grabbing the finger of his trusty volunteers on the basket ball floor, volunteers who had likely never spun a ball on their finger before. He would get the ball spinning on his finger, then holding their index finger firmly he transitioned the ball to their finger and just did the spinning. More ooohs & ahhhs came. And one VERY excited volunteer was doing something they never thought possible.


At this point, the only way to ratchet up the cool factor was to get more volunteers, transfer more spinning balls to more fingers. Oooohs & ahhhs continued and more cheering. Trouble is, that Globetrotter was now no longer and impressive practitioner or skilled basketball player, he was now merely a comedian. How so you ask? Well, as more volunteers had balls spinning the attention was no longer on the spinning balls, or even the new expert ball spinner from the crowd, now it was just laughter as we all watched him run from ball to ball and back again trying to keep it all going. As expected he kept adding balls until the whole thing came crashing down and the whole place erupted into laughter at the way it all looked so good for a while and then all of a sudden came crashing down.


A very funny scene at a Harlem Globetrotters performance.

Tragic in a leadership or life setting.


The reality often is this: we as leaders love the cheers, the oooohhs and ahhhs of the watching crowd. And we REALLY love seeing new people get involved doing things they’ve never done before, succeeding at that once believed to be ‘the impossible.’ The problem is, it’s just not a sustainable reality, and it will never give the results you really want as a true leader.


The answer you ask? I suggest we all start throwing more freebees instead of spinning plates (or basketballs).


But let me caution you. This is not that cool to watch. There will be few cheers from the general audience. -Well unless one of you is a cocker spaniel. –But that’s a whole different article, right?


The great part to Frisbee though is this: You can play Frisbee with several people at the same time and with people of various skill levels, all playing together. And as the person on the other end grows more and more skilled you can back  up, catch between your legs or even bend the Frisbee for that all-impressive “tough grab.”


Practically Speaking

1.  Work Towards Leadership that is Lower Maintenance not Higher

Spinning a ball requires LOTS of attention and hands-on involvement from the spinner, and lots of “hey I need you’s” from the holder, whereas frisbee is fluid and you can anticipate when you need to catch and throw. Fewer emergencies equals lower stress.

So, Plan meetings with those you lead and as they come to you increasingly with “quick questions” ask, “Can it wait till our meeting?” Chances are good they will find the answer from someone else or find it was not as emergent as they once thought and will wait till you meet again. This will give you a freedom you forgot could exist as a leader.


2.  Create a Culture of Sustainable Bandwidth

Spinning a ball is not sustainable. You can only run from ball to ball before something drops. But as your Frisbee circle gets bigger people just start throwing to each other, cross pollination becomes key.

So, as the questions come to you, work increasingly to get your team to talk to one another to find answers. Get them to build their own sub-teams to advise them. This gets more people playing Frisbee and you cease to be the central character in the tragic comedy. Plus you will all have freedom to move around the circle and interface with others when more attention is needed without messing up the whole system of support.


3.  Cover More Ground

I mean at the end of the day our mission as church leaders is to spread God’s fame. To cover more ground. To leave an impact more places with more people and bigger dreams. If you are spinning basketballs you are all crammed into a tight space because the spinner has to cover all the ground while the holders remain comfortably stationary. Great for them, not so much for you.


So, work towards creating a culture where you are not the center of all activity. Be just another person on the field of play who is

catching and throwing freebees, maybe you catch and throw more and likely catch and throw with greater accuracy, but you remain just another player. Then every now and again you can step out of the web of throwing and catching and the whole thing will not fall apart.

To read more LEADING THOUGHTS from Stu click here or find the link on our “Info” page.