Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

The Failure to Communicate

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Eliza stared at her cell phone in disbelief, and read again the text she had just received.

“I’ve had concerns about our friendship for a while and have been praying about it. I need you to give me some space. I hope you understand.”

Eliza blinked back the tears and replied. “Of course, take all the time you need.”

Surely she would be able to work this out with her friend. But the message was so confusing. There had been no indication of problems in their relationship. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but Eliza thought their conversations about beliefs and ideals were engaging.

Nagging doubts raced through Eliza’s mind. What had she done? Why did her friend need space? How had she offended a friend so dear to her and how could she have missed it? With a heavy heart, Eliza resigned herself to waiting until her friend was ready to talk about it.

Moments later though, Eliza discovered her friend had cut all social media ties. She had been un-followed, un-friended, un-everything…without a word of explanation.

What we’ve got here, friends, is failure to communicate.

Communication is one of the main tasks of leaders. Without communication our team members won’t understand the vision, they won’t know how to get there, and they won’t be able to work out the kinks along the way. Communication is essential to keeping morale high and developing healthy relationships. As leaders we need to guard against the enemies that sabotage good communication.

Over-spiritualizing. The Lord may have spoken an idea or direction to your heart, but it’s your job to communicate it. You have probably spent hours prayerfully mulling over the concept, but nobody else has been in your mental space or heard your prayers. Take the thoughts downloaded to you. Write it down. Talk about it. Present it in different formats. Share it with your followers. Share it again. And again. Keep sharing until they see the picture the Lord has imparted to you.

Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run” (Habakkuk 2:2).

Assumptions. Making assumptions is one of the biggest obstacles of effective communication. We interpret the words we hear and behaviors we see to mean something without clarifying it. Often times our assumptions lead to offense. Misunderstandings can be avoided if we take the time to graciously ask, “What do you mean by…” or “What was going on when…” A popular statement among churches today is “Speak the truth in love.” However, if you ask different people what that looks like to them, you will get very different answers. Don’t assume you’re on the same page without talking about it.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Fear. The presence of fear holds us back from walking in love. We are afraid to bring up difficult issues, because we want to be liked or we don’t want to upset others (which often has its roots in wanting to be liked). We find it easier to talk to others about our concerns (to get their perspective and ask for prayer, of course) rather than go directly to the person. Or we may avoid talking at all until we feel it’s time to terminate a relationship. Leadership requires courage to do what is beneficial to our followers even if it means experiencing personal discomfort. There may be times when someone isn’t willing to communicate or refuses to address important issues, but don’t cross that bridge until you get there. When you do, God will give you grace and wisdom for the situation.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Avoid the pit falls so common in communication. Love your followers (and colleagues) enough to communicate effectively. Take risks to communicate honestly and well with those you care about. It may seem to take a lot of effort and energy, but in the long run a failure to communicate takes much more time to fix.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me communicate in ways that please You and bless others. Give me courage to move beyond fear and address important issues. Thank you for guiding me to be an effective leader in each of the areas you have placed me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Mixed race businesswoman jumping over gap between cliffs

When you think of change what comes to your mind? For most people, change has a negative connotation. As a young woman I was passionately in love with Jesus. He rescued me from a life of misery and destruction, and opened my eyes to see true meaning in Him. The Lord changed my life dramatically and I couldn’t wait to share His amazing love with others. Change was a great thing, and I wanted nothing more than to become more like Jesus.

Then I would look at older believers, especially those middle age and above. They seemed so set in their ways and quite comfortable to stay there. I was bewildered to see pillars of the faith settle for a predictable and safe relationship with God. They were good people. They were there every time the church doors were open. They financially supported their church, as well as other ministries. They sang the old hymns declaring that Jesus grows sweeter as the days go by. However to an outsider looking in, they seemed satisfied with the status quo.

I confess that, as a youngster, I judged many of the old timers harshly. Today as someone approaching 50, a follower of Jesus for 35 years, married for 30 years, and new to the empty nest season, I have a much greater understanding of where those dear folks were coming from.

I can only speak for myself here (although I think it can apply to others’ experiences). It’s not that I’m satisfied with the status quo. I have found ways of doing things, through trial and error, that work for me. I have developed good habits and efficient systems. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Plus, I don’t have as much energy as I used to. I try to choose my battles wisely. If it’s not a non-negotiable, should I really address it?

There can be a fine line between contentment and complacency. I am committed to change. Whether personally or on the job, I believe it is important to continually improve and grow. I try to keep an open heart to the Lord, willing for the Holy Spirit to reveal attitudes and actions He desires to transform. If you work with me for very long, you will quickly notice that I like to look for more productive ways to do things, to streamline operations, or to serve people better.

At the same time, I battle with initiating change. It is painful to examine issues of the soul. When it comes to leading, I know that people generally resist change. Any successful change effort requires lots of time, patience, and on-going communication. I don’t want to wade into the unknown and look like a poor leader if it fails.

My husband and I just returned from celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, for a three day get away. We agreed before hand that this would be an adventure and that we would try new things. The idea sounded good until it was time to actually practice it. I became acutely aware of three types of fear that are obstacles to change and doing new things.

Fear of failure. We booked tickets with a passenger ferry from Seattle. Without a car, we would see the sites of the city on foot. We charted out the places of interest. While boarding the vessel and fighting off the initial feelings of motion sickness I started to dread our new approach. What if I get too tired walking? What if I can’t walk to the places my husband wanted to go? I hate being wimpy, and he is much stronger than I. I certainly don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to be the reason we’re stuck in our hotel our entire stay. The desire to succeed can be paralyzing.

Fear of the unknown. Our first evening we had dinner at an upscale restaurant. My husband and I both noticed that escargot was listed as an appetizer. Many times over the years (when not at a restaurant) we had commented that we had never eaten escargot but wanted to try it. Now here was our chance. And we both hesitated. Would it look noticeably like a snail in its shell? Could we get past that? What would it taste like? What if it was chewy and slimy and we couldn’t finish it? That would be embarrassing. When we step into the unknown we face our assumptions, many of which may be wrong.

Fear of being discovered. The afternoon high tea was one of our last activities in Victoria. We eagerly made reservations. As we walked into the beautiful historic mansion, I was struck with anxiety. I may carry myself with confidence, but I am not well versed in the proper etiquette for a British tea ceremony. What am I doing here? I am so out of place! Everyone will see that I am an impostor. Amid the dainty china and petite sandwiches and pastries, people would see the “real” me.

What is the Lord asking you to change? Is fear holding you back?

Be assured that if Jesus asks you to step out and do something differently, He is faithful to walk with you. Our Lord specializes in the transformation process and making things new. His perfect love is greater than any fear.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for your calling me as your child. Thank you for loving me and changing me from the inside out. Help me to walk in the confidence based on who I am in Christ. May I resist fear and step out in trust, as I follow You and do Your will. Don’t let fear hold me back. I believe that absolutely nothing is impossible for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

What Courage Really Looks Like

WonderWoman

When you think of someone that is courageous, who comes to mind? As a little girl I idolized Wonder Woman. Not only was she beautiful and possessed super human strength, she wasn’t afraid of anything. She could stop bullets aimed her direction. In the midst of calamity, she stood with confidence, her hands placed firmly on her hips. Wonder Woman was invincible. (Actually, I learned that the inventor did give her one weakness, but that was changed many years later.)

This super hero was so appealing to me because she represented everything I was not. Fear was one of my companions in childhood and continues to visit me as an adult. I never climbed a tree because I was afraid of falling. I hated being in the dark. I was easily spooked. I avoided any situation that seemed to have any kind of risk associated with it. I also was paranoid of getting sick. When I felt the slightest pain or discomfort, I worried that it would become life threatening. Wonder Woman and I were clearly opposites.

Last week I attended a seminar for Executive Directors. The consultant mentioned some of the attributes of effective upper level leaders. Skills can be learned but, according to her, these traits were innate. As she listed them, I checked them off with a sense of relief. And then she got to the trait fearless.

My thoughts immediately started to race. “Oh no, not fearless!” “What am I even doing in this room?” “What am I doing as an Executive Director in the first place?”

I took control of my thoughts, and reminded myself of an important principle.

Courage isn’t about what you feel like on the inside. Courage is about what you do on the outside despite what you feel on the inside.

As a vocal performer and public speaker, I have had lots of experience with anxiety. When I first started singing, I would get physically sick and make multiple bathroom runs before going on stage. Thankfully I learned to ask the Lord for His strength and peace, to help me harness the power of fear and use it as energy to fuel my performance. Nobody had a clue what was going on inside me. All they could see was someone exuding confidence and completely engaged with the audience.

It is similar with leadership. There are plenty of occasions to feel anxiety, fear, or a looming sense of inadequacy. It’s what we do in the midst of these feelings that counts.

Here are some of the external actions that characterize courage.

Courage perseveres. You do what it takes to cross the finish line. You keep following God’s direction and plan for your life, and don’t allow difficulties to deter you.

Courage evaluates. You are willing to take a hard look at the current realities and not sugar coat the facts. You look for feedback from others to accurately assess situations.

Courage changes. You may not like change, but you understand how important it is in order to move forward. Creativity and innovation are necessary in shaking up the status quo.

Courage confesses. You readily admit when you are wrong or when you don’t have the answers. Authenticity is more important than looking good.

Courage prays. You draw your strength and inspiration from Jesus. When challenges arise, you call out to the Lord in prayer and seek His wisdom.

Courage includes. You ask others to help in the areas of their strengths and skills. You know it takes a well balanced team to get the job done.

Remember, you don’t have to feel brave to be brave.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my shield. When I am afraid, help me trust in You. Thank You for empowering me with everything I need to accomplish Your will. May I walk in confidence, knowing You are with me. In Jesus’ name.