About a year ago I was enjoying a day of yard work while listening to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Yes, I must have been the last person on earth in leadership to read the book! I wish I would have read it sooner. While not a Christian book, there sure were some principles that God used to grab my heart. One principle, in particular, has grown to be particularly meaningful and sadly difficult.

“You can be efficient with things but not people. With people you must be effective.”

Efficiency – ef·fi·cient/iˈfiSHənt/

  1. (esp. of a system or machine) Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.
  2. (of a person) Working in a well-organized and competent way.

I have always considered myself an efficient person. I even take pride in it sometimes. I get up early, work hard, get a lot done, stay focused, etc.  If you have read Strengths Finder, my strengths are “Focus” and “Achiever.”

Focus people always ask “Where am I headed today?” and they need a clear sense of direction and meaningful work. Achiever people start each day at zero and need to accomplish something every day to feel successful. This may explain why the first thing I do each day is make the bed (sick, I know!).

I’m thankful for the way God made me and do no despise my strengths, but I recognize that with each strength there are inherent weaknesses. When I heard Stephen Covey’s words, “You can be efficient with things but not people. With people you must be effective.” I knew I had a problem. Namely, my strengths do not work with people.

Effectiveness – ef·fec·tive/iˈfektiv/

Successful in producing a desired or intended result.

People have a different “desired result” than my weekly to-do list. The desired result of my to-do list is to check it off… and as fast as possible. Relationships, however, cannot be hurried and can never be checked off. Developing leaders is never efficient. It can’t be.

So I find myself in a difficult spot. As our movement is growing, and I find myself in a new position. I am no longer the focused achiever behind the scenes making things work at the University of Texas. Our staff team is growing, we have an internship program, I am training staff of other campuses, and we’re about to launch a nationwide network that will help us coach even more campuses.

As a result, the bulk of my “efficient” work is being given to others who may be less “efficient” than me. I am being handed the “effective” work which I sometimes feel completely inadequate to accomplish. Oops! There I go again with the word “accomplish.”

Ha! Maybe I can use my Focus and Achiever to make this my “clear and meaningful goal” and start each day with “zero” with people. I have a feeling that won’t work either.

Help me

Are you better at efficiency or effectiveness? With projects or with people?  How have you wrestled with this difference? Help me grow!


Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.