Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership, Teamwork

We Are Better Together

My early years as a Christian, I was discipled in a church that emphasized the power of the Word of God. What God said in His Word could be trusted with absolute certainty. If He made a promise in Scripture I could claim it as my own. However, while I memorized God’s Word and learned to rely on it as Truth, I also developed an attitude of independence.

This is God’s Word spoken to me.

This is God’s promise I am standing on.

Unfortunately this line of thinking cultivated a strong framework of individuality that affected every area of my life.

I don’t really need anyone. God and me—that’s more than enough.

Sadly I missed out on the beauty and synergy of “we.”

From the earliest days of creation, the Lord emphasized relationships. He formed the first man in His own image. In the perfection of the Garden, He walked personally with Adam in the cool of the evening. Adam enjoyed God’s very presence, and God still said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Today I am convinced that the Lord intended His Word to be much more than My Book of personal, individualized promises. Yes, He created me with special gifts and a specific personality. Yes, I enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And yes, He does speak His Word to my heart. But, the Lord’s intentions go far beyond a personalized faith. His Word is spoken to His people in the context of community.

For instance Romans 12:4-5 says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Each member belongs to all the others. That sounds like community.

Reading the Scriptures through the lens of community sheds new light. Everything becomes more about “we” and less about “me.”

As leaders, we are called to influence people in a common mission, to work together toward a compelling vision. We must not sit at the top of a hierarchy and issue commands, expecting others to do the work. Our role requires a collective effort. We cannot do what God has asked with an independent spirit. We are created for community. And we are better together.

Do you struggle as a leader to include others?

Identify an area that you will begin to invite others to be a part.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I believe you have called me with a purpose as part of something bigger. Help me to rely on You and invite others along for the journey. May I desire to live and lead in the context of community, so that Your Kingdom is built and You are glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Advertisements
Posted in Personal Development, Teamwork, Vision & Goal Setting

Pivot Leadership…My Thoughts (A Book Review)

I am a leadership geek. My bookshelves are filled with books on leadership. My Masters degree is in Organizational Leadership. I am intrigued by both the science and art involved in leading a thriving organization, and drink in as much information as possible at seminars, online, and through conversations.

When Angela Craig asked me to read a draft of her book before it went to press, I eagerly agreed. To be honest, I said “yes” more because I respect Angela as a leader and appreciate her friendship. I really wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the content.

Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change pleasantly surprised me. Whether you are just starting on the leadership road or already have a wealth of experience, it is a wonderful resource to add to your library. But don’t leave it there to collect dust. It is designed to be interactive.

The thought of becoming a strong leader can seem overwhelming. However, strong leadership is created through taking small steps. Small steps set a direction that results in big change. Pivot Leadership looks at three areas and how to experience vitality in each of them.

Part One deals with the life of the leader. Before you can lead a community to greatness, you need to successfully lead yourself. Be a leader that people respect and trust. Part Two delves into ways to build a community of purpose through building a diverse team, communicating effectively, and creating a culture of camaraderie and collaboration. Part Three looks at leading into the future, doing what you were designed for and refusing to give up.

The beauty of Pivot Leadership is found in the Action Activities at the end of each chapter. Every activity guides you through the process of personalizing the content and to identify the small steps you will take. I used one of the activities in the chapter about workplace communication in a recent staff meeting. It was well received and my team immediately began identifying obstacles to understanding others in the middle of their own conversations.

Pivot Leadership is a book for leaders in any season of life. Use a separate journal to answer the questions. You can review the chapters every so often as a refresher. Most likely your answers will be different each time.

If you are serious about growing as a leader, Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change is the book for you. I highly recommend it as a tool to move forward and do the great things God has call you to do.

Click here to order Pivot Leadership at Amazon.com

Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant (Luke 22:26, NLT).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I desire to be the best leader I can be for You. Teach me how to lead with integrity, to genuinely love others, and to make wise decisions. Show me the small steps I can take that will make a big change. Empower me to take those steps, so that You will be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Teamwork

The Gift of Others

“Honey, can you help me find my glasses? I don’t see them anywhere.”

I had been searching for my eyeglasses for 15 minutes, and I decided to enlist the assistance of my husband. One minute later he walked out of our bedroom, grinning from ear to ear and triumphantly holding up my glasses.

“Where we they?” I asked in surprise.

“On the dresser where you usually put them.”

I had checked my dresser three different times and they weren’t there. How could I have missed them?

Although I felt sheepish, I was truly grateful for my husband. He was able to provide perspective that I didn’t have and his perspective solved my problem

As we live and lead, being in community with others is incredibly valuable. For some people this is easier to do than for others. Our independent society esteems the “self made” man and woman. Somehow we feel inferior or deficient if we ask for someone else’s perspective. But there really is nothing like a second pair of eyes. Or to have a trusted person look at a situation from a different frame of reference.

My grammar skills are excellent, and I love to proofread for other writers. Without effort my eyes go straight to the typos on a page. Nevertheless, I always ask at least one other person to read my writing before submitting it. I know what I intended to write, so I see things the way they’re supposed to be rather than what is really there. Someone else can help me by seeing what is actually there and pointing out what I may have overlooked.

At times, like my glasses, I don’t see what is right in front of me. Perhaps I’m too close to a problem. Perhaps I have been involved in an organization for a long time. The more engaged I am in a situation, the less I can see the answers. Other people can generate dynamic ideas and solutions when I feel stuck.

God has given us the gift of others. Don’t do this thing called life alone.

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22, NLT).

“So don’t wage war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6).

Who is in your circle of advisers? Who in your life offers valuable perspective?

Inviting the input of others isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. And wisdom. Be willing to live and lead in partnership with others.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for including me as a member of the Body of Christ. Help me live and lead in community with others, and to reject the notion that I can do it alone. May I be open to the perspective of others and be willing to share my insights with them. As we help one another, be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Teamwork

Beware of Division!

It starts small and grows quietly, hidden from view, but eventually infects others. Insidious and sinister, it threatens to dismantle God’s work. Whether you are a leader or a follower, it’s important to be on guard for this dangerous foe. People, beware of division!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1 NIV)

Unity can be described as oneness of mind or objective among a group of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement (dictionary.com). Unity creates synergy as different people with different gifts and talents work together to achieve a common goal. Division stands in opposition to unity. Division is threatening because it can be subtle and hard to detect, especially in the beginning stages. Eventually it affects the organization like yeast in a batch of dough. As division grows it becomes increasingly destructive.

Dag Heward-Mills describes seven stages of disloyalty, which are manifested in various degrees of division. Awareness of these stages helps us to identify when division begins, and then make adjustments in ourselves and guide others away from it.

Independent Spirit—This is an attitude that begins to question the set up of the group. While dissenters still actively participate, they do what they want in spite of contrary instructions. They may think, “This meeting isn’t valuable; I’m not going to attend” or “I don’t agree with the way things are done; I’m going to do it my own way.”

Offense—No matter where you go, there is no such thing as a perfect church or company. We can hurt each other without meaning to. This hurt, when not dealt with appropriately, can easily turn to offense. When people harbor offense in their lives, it colors the way they view others and the ones with whom we work and serve. Unresolved hurts and offenses can push them down the path of division.

Passivity—When offense grows and is left to its devices, people become passive. They disengage, becoming indifferent and uninvolved. Rather than speaking with those who offended them to resolve difficulties, they shut down and keep it to themselves.

Critical Spirit—There is a small step from passivity to being critical. People with a critical spirit see more and more negativity around them. They scrutinize others for faults, and they only see the imperfections of others.

Political Spirit—People who are politically motivated seek to involve others in their beliefs and ideas. They want to gather a following of supporters to address what they believe to be problems, or to sympathize with their offenses. Some political statements might be:

I love (insert name), BUT (insert an offense). Please pray with me about this.
or
How did you like the service today? I didn’t really get anything out of it.
or
A lot of people are saying “such and such.”

A political spirit creates an environment of discontent.

Deception—At this stage, people have become blind to their own faults and believe they could do the job much better than those currently leading when given the chance. They may despise their mentors and teachers, or become deceived by personal success. The greatest deception occurs when divisive people fight the authorities that have been set over them, those who have been a blessing to them.

Rebellion—If allowed to continue, deception evolves into rebellion. It seeks to replace and take over rightful authority, to betray and turn against its own leader. This is the ultimate disloyalty.

Do you see yourself described in any of these stages of division? What corrective action do you need to take?

Friends, beware of division. It is a tool of the enemy to dismantle the work of the Lord. God does not support a rebellious spirit in any way. Pray for discernment, and keep yourself walking in loyalty and unity for Kingdom causes.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NLT).

Source:

Dag Heward-Mills, Loyalty & Disloyalty: Dealing With Unspoken Divisions in the Church (TN: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013).

Posted in Servant Leadership, Teamwork

The Healing Power of Vulnerability

“How do you do it?” my staff member asked. As I turned toward her to give my full attention, she continued. “How do you work full time and get everything done at home? I work part time and struggle to do what I need to do.” Her body tensed at the thought of her heavy load.

With her eyes fixed upon me, I had a decision to make. How would I approach this opportunity?

  • I could give her pointers on effective time management.
  • I could share my strategy for setting priorities.
  • I could instruct her about the importance of cultivating a relationship with Jesus as a powerful way to deal with the stressors of life.

In that split second, however, I sensed the question was really revealing something deeper. The dear woman standing before me was opening up and being vulnerable. The best thing to do would be to share myself, to be vulnerable in return.

Vulnerability requires trust and a willingness to be authentic.

I can trust because I am secure in the Lord and where He has placed me. My desire is to build God’s Kingdom not my own. He is my Protector, so I can safely offer myself to others. Because I know that an effective team is founded on trust, I extend trust to my teammates.

I can be authentic, because I don’t need to make a good impression by acting all put together. “The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge” (Proverbs 12:23). I can share with humility, seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit, aware that I am still in the process of becoming more like Jesus.

I firmly believe that as a leader I have been granted position by the Lord. This gives me great responsibility and holds me to a high standard. This means I must use my position as a means to serve others, encouraging and equipping them to grow and thrive in what God has called them to do.

So how did I respond to the question?

I smiled and admitted, “You probably would be surprised by my home. I really don’t do much there. My husband is a lot of help. He gets home earlier than I do, and cooks most of the meals and takes care of the dishes. And I don’t have children at home who need me much any more. I honestly don’t think I could do this job without my husband’s support and if my kids were younger.”

She nodded and sighed with understanding, relieved and a bit more relaxed.

“The words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12:18). I pray my words have that effect.

Posted in Teamwork, Vision & Goal Setting

The Benefits of Seeking Advice

My husband and I pray regularly for God to open and close doors in our lives. We ask Him to open the doors He desires us to pursue, and to close the doors we should avoid. Imagine my surprise and delight when I received a job offer for a position for which I had not even applied. I was flattered to be sought out. It seemed to be a good fit in terms of skill and experience and had a great potential for advancement. I could only see the advantages, and there were lots of them. However, I also felt a sense of uneasiness that I could not pinpoint.

As I shared about the opportunity with those closest to me, they expressed support. My uneasiness increased. Only one friend shared reservations which led me to seek the opinion of a trusted authority outside my immediate circle. He asked me questions and pointed out the difficulties with accepting the position. I was shocked at my inability to see the things so readily apparent to him, and I felt grateful for his insights.

As nice as it is to be an independent thinker, there are times when I am simply shortsighted. I need the perspective of others to develop a fuller understanding of the issues at hand.

God’s Word says it like this…

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).

It is harsh to be called a fool. I certainly don’t want to be one. However if I believe that I do not need the input of others and that I can figure things out all by myself, that’s exactly what I am. A wise person listens to advice from trusted advisers.

And again…

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22 ESV).

I may be gifted at strategic thinking and skilled at developing plans, but my insight alone is limited. Multiple ideas from various angles come from well-rounded teams. Plans succeed with many godly, wise advisers.

What are other benefits of seeking advice?

Objectivity. It is hard to see clearly when we are deeply invested in the situation. Emotions can cloud judgment. Effective advisers stand back to help us see the things we miss.

Feedback. We are not the best gauge of our progress. Advisers instruct us, pointing out areas needing correction. We learn from others as we listen to them.

Encouragement. Even with a good plan, sometimes it is difficult to move it forward. Advisers see where we are and exhort us to keep going. They remind us that there is value in what we desire to achieve.

As a young woman, I thought it was a sign of wisdom and strength to make decisions on my own. Now I firmly believe the opposite is true. Seeking advice is a sign of great wisdom and strength.

Are there areas in your life and leadership where advice would be beneficial? Who do you consider to be your wise, trustworthy advisers?

Posted in Communication Skills, Teamwork

Five Ways to Approach Conflict

How do you approach conflict? Are you a shark? Are you a turtle? Are you a fox, teddy bear, or owl?

While de-cluttering my church office, I came across some materials I had prepared for a conflict resolution seminar. The seminar was designed to teach families healthy ways to communicate during conflict, but can easily be applied to leadership and team building.1

There are five ways to approach conflict.

The shark takes charge of the situation. He relies on his position of power and exercises his authority for quick action. Dialogue is limited or non-existent. “This is the way it will be. No questions asked.”

The turtle avoids conflict, often at a high price. He views conflict as negative rather than an opportunity to develop understanding. Even when he has a strong opinion on an issue or can offer valuable contributions, he will not speak up. “No matter what, don’t rock the boat.”

The fox looks for a compromise. He values relationships on the team and seeks to meet in the middle. He believes everyone must give up something; no one can be completely satisfied. “Let’s find a solution by splitting the difference.”

The teddy bear gives in and accepts the other position. After engaging in dialogue, he understands both sides and believes he was wrong, or he decides he cares more about the person than the issue. “It’s okay, have it your way.”

The owl engages in problem solving. He believes it is possible to work something out that satisfies both sides. He takes the time necessary to explore the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of involved parties. “Let’s find a win-win solution.”

Depending on the situation, some ways of approaching conflict are more productive than others. There are times when acting as the shark is appropriate, such as in the midst of an emergency when quick action needs to be taken. However, the shark is damaging in a culture where open dialogue is being developed. Imagine acting as the fox when compromise involves accepting an unethical position. Not a good approach. Imagine acting as a turtle when the viewpoint being withheld is crucial to avoiding a costly mistake. Once again, not a good approach. Generally speaking, approaches that value and invest in relationships promote stronger and healthier teams and environments.

…We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:25, NLT).

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18, NIV).

Which ways do you typically approach conflict? How can you more actively value and invest in your relationships?

 
1 Seminar adapted from “Ways to Approach Conflict,” by Anne Meyer Byler, 1995.