A few days ago, we arrived in South Africa to spend two weeks getting to know a bit about the people we will soon be living and working with. We recognize that the most essential communication skill, and one we will have to use extensively, is the skill of good listening. Listening is indispensable to good leadership. People who are genuinely listened to will feel valued, respected, and heard. And nearly always, people will trust you when they know you are truly listening to them.
A popular trend with churches is to conduct off-site meetings with their staff. This is usually a time when the staff gathers somewhere away from the physical location of where they work to focus on long-term planning, review how current plans are going, and give attention to mission, vision, strategy and team building.
The question is, how effective are these off-site meetings? Does the team come away motivated, challenged, and clear on what they are doing, why they are doing it and who is doing what? If at the end of the time away all that happened was meeting after meeting with some socializing in between, then the off-site was not a success.
Warning signs are everywhere: on medication bottles, road signs, plastic wrapping and cartons. We find them on electrical appliances, and coffee cups from convenience stores and fast food joints. Warning signs are all around, and if we ignore them the consequences can be great. We may recover from some consequences; but others allow no recovery.
For example, if you ignore the warning sign of the stop light and go when it is not your turn, you may end up in a simple fender bender with repairs easily made. Or, you might end up with serious bodily injuries from which you never fully recover. Worse yet, life may be lost by ignoring the stop light.
The sad reality is that many of us ignore warning signs until it’s too late. This does not have to be the case. We can pay better attention.
In the world of organizational performance in which organizations measure themselves by results, the Church stands apart in a significant way from all other groups. At the same time, the Church continues to incorporate organizational skills used by secular organizations, many of which have been helpful in assisting the Church to do great things in spreading the good news of the Gospel.
Many larger churches have taken on the management structure of corporations with the lead pastor and numerous supporting staff mirroring corporate CEOs and managers or vice presidents. Organizational structures which help churches operate effectively reflect good stewardship of resources.
How many times have you said, “I wish I was as talented as, or as good with something as so and so”? We have all said it at one time or another. It is part of the human challenge of always comparing ourselves with others.
We compare ourselves to our parents, our siblings, friends, co-workers, teammates, spouse, classmates, etc. We go through life comparing ourselves. We compare for dozens of reasons such as, wealth, health, job, appearance, race, religion and gender to name only a few.
In the relationship between leader and follower, the banking principle of deposit and withdrawal is constantly at work. When something positive is said or given to a follower, a deposit is made. When something difficult has to be said, such as talking to someone about poor job performance or consistent tardiness, a withdrawal is made. Things can go very wrong if the withdrawal turns out to be larger than previous deposits.
Where do you go to be completely honest with what you are feeling, thinking and going through without being judged? Who hears your heart with all its fears, joys and concerns? Who do you have to be straight up in your face honest with you, to let you hear the hard truth even when you do not want to hear it? Many of us, especially leaders, do not have such honesty and accountability in our lives. And for many, the consequences have been tragic.
I have come to learn that such honesty and accountability is essential for us as leaders. It helps to avoid the disillusionment of self-sufficiency. I have heard many people, myself included, say, “I know if I had a place to be honest and be held accountable, I would not have made many of the mistakes I made.”
In Acts 6, when the first century church was growing by the thousands and social needs were growing as well, a problem developed which the Apostles were asked to resolve.
One group complained that their people in need were not being served. The Apostles listened, then explained why they could not be the answer to the problem: they could not leave what they were called to do in order to do something others were called to do.
The same saying applies to leaders. Some leaders command an audience by their eloquence and forceful presence. But these are quickly lost when the leader’s talk does not match the walk. Leaders must tell people what is important and then live it out in their own words.
When conflict exists in a relationship and all you do is try to avoid it, you are only allowing it to get worse. The longer you wait to resolve it when you don’t know what to do, also makes it worse.