How to Create Practical Checklists

by George Ambler


Photo by Marcin Wichary

The humble checklist has been used for may years as a memory aid. Checklists help to ensure tasks are completed to the right quality and standards. The best example of a checklist is the daily “to do” list, a reminder of what needs to be accomplished this day. In some cases checklists are a literally a matter of life and death. The article “Checklist Reduces Deaths in Surgery” highlights the power of well designed checklists being used in hospitals with surprising results…

“’Surgical complications are a considerable cause of death and disability around the world,’ the researchers wrote in the online edition of The New England Journal of Medicine. ‘They are devastating to patients, costly to health care systems and often preventable.’

But a year after surgical teams at eight hospitals adopted a 19-item checklist, the average patient death rate fell more than 40 percent and the rate of complications fell by about a third, the researchers reported.”

Checklists turn out to be powerful leadership tools. Consider John Kotter’s widely used “checklist” for managing organisational change taken from his best seller Leading Change:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency, leading to a shared need.
  2. Create a guiding coalition, leading to accountability.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy, leading to hope.
  4. Communicate the change vision and strategy, leading to commitment.
  5. Clear the way for broad-based action, leading to alignment.
  6. Generate and recognizing small wins, leading to momentum.
  7. Consolidate the small wins, leading to early successes.
  8. Anchor the new approaches in the culture and systems, leading to sustainable change.

This checklist contains the most important aspects that you need to consider when introducing change.

 Creating a Great Checklist

Some advice to guide you in the creating your own practical checklists.

To read the rest of the article go to and get some great advice on creating your own practical checklists.  I have created some practical check lists based on David Allen’s ideas in Getting Things Done for my own life and have found them really valuable and excellent time savers. 

Leadership Selection

Leadership Selection

“There is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.”  ~ Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was a master change-agent. Wherever he served in government (in very diverse roles) he quickly assessed the situation and developed an ambitious agenda for change. As Home Secretary he led major reform with regard to police and prisoners. This included recreation, entertainment, and education for the prison population. He wanted them to have every opportunity to better themselves while paying for their crimes. His motives were buried in this statement: “There is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.” Churchill believed that prisoners should not be written off and that efforts must be made to go beyond punitive to redemptive measures in dealing with them.
Of course as Christians, we believe the treasure in the heart of every man is the image of God in which we were created. It flows from that to a life that has intrinsic value simply because a person exists – not because of what they do. But I believe there is an important lesson related to leadership selection in this statement.

Mining for Leadership Treasure

As leaders pursue the development of future leaders they must begin by selecting those worthy of investment. When you are dealing with young leaders, finding the leadership treasure (which of course is not in every man) can be challenging. One of the most common criticisms of contemporary leadership models is that leadership selection has been reduced to some sort of popularity contest. You skim the cream off the top of the milk by taking the young leaders who are likeable, outgoing, and popular-ignoring everyone else, and in doing so, missing some buried leadership treasure worthy of being mined.

I’m not just speaking hypothetically here. Several of us at Top Flight Leadership have been approached by leaders of other ministries accusing us of this style of leadership selection. In some cases it was a gentle exhortation, in others it was a bit more confrontational.

“The quiet kid in the corner may well
be the best future leader in the group.”

This is where Churchill’s statement helps me. I really do believe there is a treasure in the heart of every man and woman. In some cases that treasure chest of God’s imprint includes leadership; in some cases it doesn’t. And it is easy to fall into the trap of superficial mining practices and missing some valuable nuggets. So what’s the key to this process? I’d like to give you a few simple cautions when it comes to mining for leadership treasure – especially with young leaders.

*Be careful not to mislabel personality as leadership giftedness. We all know that leaders come in all personality types. So don’t let the people who aren’t so easily noticed slip through your mining pan. The quiet kid in the corner may well be the best future leader in the group.

*Be careful not to mislabel persistence as stubbornness. The young leader who keeps doing the same stupid thing over and over again my just be demonstrating a misguided persistence that will serve him or her well later on. It’s easy to brand someone as foolhardy or stubborn when really the treasure inside is a persistence that won’t give in so easily when the going gets tough. (Take Peter, for example)

*Be careful not to mislabel problem solving as rebellion
. The person who always challenges the idea, always asks why, always wants to push for another option, may not be in need of a smack on the side of the head. (Of course some of them need two.) it may be what you are seeing is the very beginning trace of a deep vein of problem-solving leadership treasure that is hiding underneath a pile of immature dirt and rock. If so, be willing to out your pickax and shovel. Then dig.

*Be careful not to mislabel adventure or risk taking as a fringe behavior. There is a difference between a serious “notice me, acknowledge me” syndrome and a natural bent to be a different, try new things, and take risks. Sometimes real leadership potential is overlooked because people are branded as freaks on the fringe and never really given a change to blaze the right kind of trail.

*Be careful not to mislead honest filtering as erratic behavior.
One of the common threads for young leaders is an instinctive desire to test the motives of those who show an interest in developing them. They often have suspicion of organizational leadership and can sterotype you as someone with a hidden agenda. The problem is the way they go about filtering your motives may well include using an expletive in conversation or sharing a sin pattern that you may have struggled with bot won’t even confess out loud to God. Give them your best Mount Rushmore imitation and move on. You’ll have time to work on the issues later.

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list but I think you can begin to see how important it is to dig beneath the surface when developing young leaders. Become a miner of leadership treasure.

Jesus, the Master Miner

Jesus modeled a willingness to get beyond the surface in selecting leaders. Some of those who attack the emphasis on developing leaders suggest the disciples were not leaders at all. I reject that assertion out of hand. They were effective leaders – but some of them had rough edges that may have obscured the leadership treasure for those unwilling to get their hands dirty as a miner of human potential and divine destiny. Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t so easily misled.

This article is reprinted from the book Leadership Insights, with permission from Steve Moore and Top Flight Leadership. To purchase Leadership Insights or subscribe to Leadership Insights Online, contact Top Flight Leadership at or call 866-9LEADER.

The Power of Accountability

Do you have someone keeping you accountable in certain areas of your life? Are there others in your life that you keep accountable?

I am up at 10:48 after the busiest week of my year and a really long day to boot because of the power of accountability. A couple of weeks ago I had to tell a coach of mine that I hadn’t met my goals of putting up content on the site and then letting people know about it.

My goal for this month was a post every other day. I created the posts before I left for spring break that would go up automatically while I was gone. Then I thought I would have some time today to post. As it always seems to do, life didn’t go exactly as planned. I could have headed to bed like my body wanted to do right when I got home but then I would be telling my accountability partner/coach in a week that I almost but didn’t quite meet my goal. I don’t know about your personality type, but for me that’s something that I don’t want to do ever again and especially not in consecutive meetings, so here I am typing as my eyes are starting to close like a heavy garage door once it’s passed the tipping point and gravity takes over causing the door to slam to the cement of the garage floor.

I started off asking if you had someone keeping you accountable for things.

Currently I have my friend/coach/accountability partner who is keeping me accountable for content on this site.

I have Ray who is keeping me accountable to some areas of leadership in leading my team and my ministry here.

I meet with Ron and Mark each week who keep me accountable to memorizing scripture and loving my wife well.

How many of us would do taxes without the accountability of the IRS?

Accountability is often great when we need a little extra push to get something one. Perhaps you have the desire to do something but you lack the self discipline. Bower it from an accountability partner or a coach until it becomes internal or innate in you to do whatever task you currently don’t want to do.

I have a friend that was struggling with porn so he gave me his laptop for a season then installed a filter that sends me an update each week of what he has been doing online and that has kept him from pursuing pleasure outside of the ways that God intended.

My favorite discipleship tools is based on accountability. In fact, we call them Mutual and Accountability and Discipleship groups. MADgroups for short. You can go tot he download page and download the brochure if you are interested in starting one. There is accountability built in to flee from sin and pursue righteousness. There is accountability to be reading the word of God because if you don’t read at all your friend has to read again as well as you. There is also accountability to be praying for your lost friends to come to know Jesus as Lord and savior.

Accountability is strong. You need to have it to help you in those areas where you lack the discipline to stick to the path of becoming who you want to be and who God wants you to be. If there is an area where you aren’t all you can be right now, look for a friend that can’t help to keep you accountable to a higher standard.