5 Statements that Help Leaders Define Reality

I began serving as a lead pastor in Canada almost five years ago. When I arrived I had to adjust not only to a new church and a new staff but to a new culture as well. Fortunately I prepared myself for the transition by reading several books about on-boarding, the process of adjusting to a new job. One book, You’re in Charge, Now What suggested a process to help a new leader define reality with his or her new staff. Whether you are new to a ministry or business leadership role or not, consider using this process with your staff to learn fresh insight about your work setting.

Within the first month I asked one of the longest tenured staff members lead a discussion with the entire staff during a staff meeting. I gave the team instructions and then stepped out for about 45 minutes. He lead them to complete these statements in a candid sharing time. Here are the statements.

  1. We expect this from you…
  2. You need you to know this about us… (including what we believe we do well and where we need to improve as a staff)
  3. We want to know this about you and here are our concerns…
  4. Here are the burning issues now facing the church…
  5. Here are the major obstacles now facing the church...

After I left he recorded everyone’s responses on our conference room’s white board. When I returned, I read through each one and asked questions for further clarification. Here’s what I learned.

  • They wanted me to show that I cared for them through prayer, feedback, and truth telling.
  • They expected consistency and integrity.
  • They wanted to be taught, trained, and challenged.
  • They wanted to know what they could do better.
  • They wanted clear communication and clarity about their respective roles.
  • They wanted me to know that they worked hard and supported each other.
  • They wanted to know what was important to me, my boundaries, my personal struggles, and whether I wanted them to reply to every email I sent. 🙂
  • They wanted me to know that the church at the time faced financial challenges and trust issues.
  • They wanted me to know that I might face resistance to bringing change in the church.

This simple process provided an invaluable, honest, and simple way to help me define reality through the eyes of our staff. This experience helped me craft appropriate action plans to bring essential change for staff development and to the church at large.

My first eight months have been a joy and we’ve made great progress. This unique listening session helped set me up for success.

What tools have helped you define reality in your setting?

Related posts:

A Unique and Fresh Approach to Bible Reading

A few years ago author and discipleship expert Bill Hull introduced me to a fresh approach to Bible reading through one of his books. He explained an ancient yet growing Christian devotional practice called lectio divina, which includes four phases: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I took those four concepts and created my own acronym to make it more easily remembered: RIPE. RIPE stands for Read, Immerse, Pray, and Execute. Try reading your Bible in this way and see how it can freshen your experience. It’s also helpful to record insights you learn in a journal.

First, pick a section of Scripture of reasonable length, say 10-20 verses. Then read that section four times and apply each part of RIPE each time you read the passage. Here’s how to do it.

R: Read

Slowly read the passage, both silently and out loud. Make yourself aware of cultural, theological, or other biases you may be bringing to the passage. Read it without allowing those biases to cloud your reading. Read it first from the viewpoint of a child who knows nothing about the cultural and theological underpinnings of the passage. After you do this first, then bring into your thinking the background or theological insights you already know about the passage.

Take 2-3 minutes on this exercise.

I: Immerse

As you read it a second time, immerse yourself in the scripture and ponder it by imagining yourself as one of the original hearers of this passage, physically present in the time and place in which the scripture was spoken, written, or read. Use all five senses to re-create the context and setting in your mind. Enter into the hearer’s world. Center your thoughts on how the passage relates to Jesus.

Take 2-3 minutes on this exercise.

P: Pray

Pray over the scripture and actually ‘pray’ the scripture by personalizing it for yourself. Allow the Lord to search your heart as you ponder it. Let Him speak to your heart and reveal His will to you. Choose a learner’s posture as you ask the Lord about what He wants to stop, start, change, develop, or grow in you.

Take 2-3 minutes on this exercise.

E: Execute

Now, as you read it one last time ask yourself what you learned as you immersed yourself in the reading, and what you felt God impress upon you to do. Commit to the Lord that you will carry out today what He has impressed upon you to do, be, or change. Write down what you will do. Be specific in your commitment.

Take 2-3 minutes on this exercise.

What Bible reading methods have helped you keep Scripture reading fresh?

How your Brain Impacts Your Leadership

Our three-pound, tofu textured body part shaped like a crinkly walnut, the brain, profoundly affects how well we do or don’t lead. Leaders who excel in today’s ministry or marketplace constantly seek to add new insights to their leadership toolbox and neuroscience insight should be in every leader’s toolbox. Interest and knowledge of how our brain works is exploding today, even among Christians. The headline of a Leadership Journal edition read NeuroMinistry, How Brain Science Informs Discipleship. You can read my article on brain based communication in that issue here. Dr. Carolyn Leaf , a neuroscientist, was a keynote speaker at a Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. And, some of today’s best sellers explain how brain insight can improving our lives. Smart leaders stay on the cutting edge of brain based insight.

 Consider how these three brain networks can positively influence how you lead.

Three significant brain networks impact leadership effectiveness:

  1. Our threat system influenced by two almond shaped clusters of neurons (brain cells) called the amygdalae. The brain chemicals called norepinephrine and cortisol are released when we’re under stress or feel fear or threat. This system puts us in a survival state to either fight, flee, or freeze (what a pastor might feel when he’s being criticized).
    • This system works to our advantage when we need to solve problems.
  2. Our achievement system influenced by the nucleus accumbens, our pleasure center. When we accomplish something (like putting the finishing touches on a sermon), the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine that makes us feel good.
    • This system helps motivate us to set and achieve goals and repeat good leadership behavior.
  3. Our friend and befriend system influenced by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin, another hormone/neurotransmitter often called the trust hormone, gets released when we feel safe around others.
    • This system helps us build an atmosphere that creates healthy and productive teams.

When we understand how these three systems influence leadership, we can become better leaders. Consider these ideas that can help us engage these systems in a positive way.

Our threat system:

  1. Avoid creating a working environment that puts staff or volunteers on edge or on the defensive. They will pay it safe and not perform at their peak to avoid getting slapped on the wrist.
  2. When something unpleasant or disappointing happens to you, control your reactions. When a leader reacts or gets angry, he influences others to do the same. It’s called emotional contagion. Others will mimic a leader’s emotional state, whether good and bad.
  3. Create a healthy working environment that challenges people to step outside their comfort zone to try new things. Healthy stress helps us perform better.

Our achievement system:

  1. Help your team set stretch goals.
  2. Notice and celebrate successes often.
  3. Guard against getting addicted to dopamine. See my blog here about dopamine addiction.

Our friend and befriend system:

  1. Provide formal and informal times for your staff to interact to strengthen relationships.
  2. Have your team read Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. His book offers great advice on building healthy teams.
  3. Guard against letting the threat system or the achievement system dominate this system. Fear and drivenness, if allowed, will usually trump relational health among your team. When that happens, performance will suffer.

Scripture tells us that God created each of us as His masterpiece. As we understand a significant part of that masterpiece, our brain, and apply brain insight to leadership, we will lead at our best.

Psa. 139.14  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (NIV)

What brain insights have helped you lead better?

Related posts:

How to be a Likable Leader

Great leaders lead by influence. Their character, competencies, and relational skills or lack there of, can determine their leadership effectiveness. And as a pastor, perhaps my relational skills influence my leadership impact the most. Integral to relational skills is the vibe others feel from us. If someone feels like you like him or her, they’re more likely to respond positively to your leadership. If they don’t, and enough people feel the same way, your leadership will suffer. Consider these simple ways to become a likable leader.

Several times the Bible characterizes an individual or group as having a refreshing spirit.

1Cor. 16.18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. 
2Cor. 7.13 By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 
2Tim. 1.16   May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 
Philem. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

You’ve probably met people like that. Even after a short conversation with such a person, you walk away feeling special, encouraged, and refreshed. My wife is one of those people who naturally does that. She has the gift of giving others soul refreshment.

So, how can we become more likable and thus refresh the spirits of others?

1. Be fully present with others.

It’s easy as a pastor, or as anyone who deals with people in public, to skim conversations in order to make connections with the maximum number of people. However, when we don’t look people in the eye and our eyes wander to the person just behind or beside them, it conveys a wrong message. Appearing distracted also conveys the wrong message. I suggest focusing on the quality of public interactions rather than on quantity which requires our being fully present.

2. Show interest in a person’s personal life.

Remembering names has always challenged me. I still must work hard to remember them. Yet when I use a person’s name in a conversation, it means a lot to him or her. And when I remember something personal about another and ask about it, that simple act of remembering deposits lots of refreshment into his or her soul.

3. Watch your body language.

Sometimes I can appear hurried when I’m talking to someone. I’m often in the ‘ready’ position to move on. That’s a soul refreshment drainer. But, when I face someone, slightly lean forward, and empathetically listen, that person feels honored and truly listened to. A smiling countenance will also make a great deposit. Body language communicates as much or more than our words.

4. Be your authentic self.

To create a likable persona does not mean we become an extrovert when we are actually an introvert. Neither does it mean the opposite. It means that we relate to people with our true, authentic selves. People will sense a fake and they’ll sense when you are being you as well. However, being your authentic self does not mean we don’t practice and continue to grow in our relational skill set. Although I’m basically an introvert, I’ve learned much from my wife as she is an extrovert with great people skills. I’m still an introvert by nature, but by God’s grace, He continues to build into me important people skills.

What qualities have you seen in likable leaders?

Related posts:

Defeating the Demons of Discouragement

Somebody once said there are two things in life we can’t avoid, taxes and death. I’d like to add a third, discouragement. Church leader or not, you will face it. It’s an inevitable part of life. Several years ago I dealt with a bout of it. Here’s what happened and some suggestions on what to do when it hits you.

It all began Monday even after we had a good day at church the day prior. We had baptized a dozen people, another half dozen indicated they had trusted Christ, and we began Alpha with a bang.

But, when I got the stats back from Sunday’s service, I got bummed out. A not-so-good attendance and a very poor offering pushed me into discouragement. I’ve been doing well lately to not allow low Sunday statistics to affect me. This time, however, I didn’t do so well. It didn’t help that on that particular Thursday night my alma mater, GA Tech, got plastered by Miami on national TV.

I found, however, that three small choices helped me dig out of my funk. I take great comfort that King David lifted himself out of a serious bout of discouragement when he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” (1 Samuel 30.6). I believe that small choices that may not seem overtly spiritual can become ways we can encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Here are the three.

  • Break up your routine. One week my wife and my daughter were going to make a run to our local super Wal-Mart and they asked if I wanted to go. My first inclination was, ‘no.’ But after a moment’s reflection, I said, “sure.” Usually I’ll just sit at the man bench at the check-out line. You know, those benches or chairs where guys sit to be very bored while their wives shop … one of those. This time, however, I decided I’d go to the books area and browse. When I did, I picked up the Guinness Book of World Records and had few laughs. I saw, among other things, a picture of a guy who holds the world record in piercings (yuk) and a picture of another guy in India with the world’s longest ear hairs at 7 inches (gross). This little break, albeit odd, helped get my mind off my discouragement.
  • Pamper yourself. For a guy, I know this may sound odd. I don’t mean you have to get a pedicure (unless you like them). Here’s how I pampered myself. At the time I swam at a local indoor pool three times a week and usually went back home to grab some breakfast. I’m was on a very tight budget (as most pastors are) so I didn’t eat out much. But that morning, I decided I’d go through the drive-thru and get some breakfast at McDonalds to treat myself. I spent $2.10 for a sausage biscuit and an egg McMuffin (sans the egg). After I slathered each with grape jelly, I enjoyed this small treat. This small ‘self-care’ gesture encouraged me
  • Do something outrageously fun. At that time on Tuesday nights I’ve gone to my musical improv class. Yep, it’s like the old TV show, ‘Whose Line is it Anyway.” I had great fun in these classes. As a pastor I was a bit of a novelty to my classmates. Comedy turns blue so often, but when I put my clean twist on things, my classmate usually laughed. When I drove home that night, I feel like I’ve made a jumbo deposit into my soul.

So, the next time you face discouragement, give these ideas a try. Break your routine. Pamper yourself. Maybe even join an improv class.

____

Related posts: