Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

No More Mr. Nice Guy!

NoMore

Did you grow up hearing the words, “Just be nice!” from your parents, teachers, and other authority figures in your world? I sure did. In every social circle, the message was reinforced over and over again. “Just be nice!”

To me that meant to ignore your feelings no matter (especially anger) and smile. It meant to push aside all conflict and unpleasantness, and cooperate with others. Smooth things over at your own expense. And always, always be sure to display a cheerful attitude with your voice and face.

When I became a Christian, the message of being nice continued. Now there was a purpose to being nice—to be a light in the dark world. After all, how can others see Jesus in us unless we are nice?

While I agree with this sentiment, working with people for years has shifted my thinking. Being nice isn’t enough. In fact, too much niceness is damaging.

As Christ-followers we are called to be kind, not necessarily nice. But “What’s the difference?” you might ask.

Niceness is usually superficial. It is not authentic, because it does not address motivations of the heart. It disguises anger and frustration as acceptable words spoken in sarcastic tones or with double meanings. It talks around problems without ever dealing with the issues. It may even fuel a martyr complex. The root motivation of niceness is the desire to be liked.

Kindness flows from within. It is authentic, because it is based on God’s wonderful, gracious love, and true compassion for others. The Holy Spirit produces deep and genuine kindness that is unshaken by circumstances. It does not shrink back from having a difficult conversation, because the desire for the best possible outcome is in mind. The root motivation of kindness is immovable confidence in God’s love for you as His unique, precious Child.

It is possible to be nice without being kind.

Being nice infects ministry. Leaders tolerate gossip and division, and don’t talk directly with the offenders. People don’t bring up concerns or dare to openly disagree with others. Ugliness festers under the surface, but everyone is nice to each other. After all, we don’t want anyone to leave. Kindness grieves when things under the surface aren’t right and works to make them so. Sometimes the kindest action is to encourage people to leave, so that they can find a place that is a better fit, and those remaining can thrive.

Being nice damages businesses. I spoke with a friend recently about his frustration at work. The owner talks about serving the public with excellence, and yet she tolerates less-than-excellent performance from her employees. She gives warnings, but nobody has yet to be fired, even with absences and drug abuse. The reason? “I want to be nice. They have kids and really need this job.” Sometimes it is kindness that fires a person, as a challenge to rise to the expectations in the work place. This also allows the company to live up to its potential.

Being nice harms relationships. People go months, even years, without communicating honestly. They say and do things to avoid rocking the boat. At some point, they can no longer stuff their frustration and it all comes pouring out in words they later regret. Then they make a promise that they will try harder to be nice, because getting angry didn’t work. I speak from experience. My husband and I were married for 12 years before we had a real conversation about things that caused us frustration. It was scary and vulnerable, but we were better for it, and it opened up the door for more healthy conversations.

An organization—family, workplace, church, service group—is only as strong as its weakest link. It is kindness that confronts weakness and encourages others to develop their potential. It is kindness that provides a safe place for honest communication. It is kindness that establishes boundaries and consequences, and then follows through, always with a loving and forgiving approach.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be nice (unless it’s in a modern translation I don’t know about). But it does instruct us to be kind.

I urge you to spend time in prayer and self-examination. Where have you substituted being nice for kindness? Ask the Lord to help you grow in kindness in life and as a leader.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32, NLT).

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness that never fails. Teach me to be kind and not to shrink from tough issues. Show me how to speak the truth in love, and always seek to please You rather than people. May I lead with confidence and kindness, doing what is best for others instead of what seems easiest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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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 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.