Here’s an encouragement to keep praying — and to wait for God’s response. Plus, I include a few tips on praying more effectively.
Sermon from 7.12.15
I am an introvert. Some people can question whether they are or not. I don’t. I’m certified in Myers Briggs, so I know the language well. I’ve studied the concept. It didn’t require much study though for me. I’m in the camp.
It means Sundays I’m more tired when I go home. It means I avoid certain crowds unless I have a clear purpose for being there. It means I run alone…and I’m okay with that. It means I’m probably harder to get to know that some people. I get all that. I own it. It’s me.
I’ve written before about the struggles of introversion in ministry (read that HERE) and ways I work to overcome those limitations (read that HERE). What surprises me is how misunderstood introverts are sometimes. There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted.
I’m shy – That may be your word, but it’s not mine. I prefer purposeful for me. Others may call it something else. I talk when there’s a purpose. I’m not even afraid to do so. Three year olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That’s not me.
I need more courage – Why I oughta… (You’ll get that if you are a Moe Howard…Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I “ain’t chicken” when I choose not to speak. I’m just being comfortable.
I’ve got nothing to say – Actually I have lots to say. Did you notice I blog almost every day? Do you see how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have bunches to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t express it, but many times how I choose to communicate will be different than how others choose to communicate.
I’m ignorant – Yea, in a lot of ways I am. But, in some ways I’m smarter than the guy who never quits talking. You know the one. I am less likely to say the thing I wish I hadn’t said, because I didn’t think before I talked. It happens, but not as often as it might for some.
I am arrogant or don’t like you – Honestly, I love everyone. Or at least my Biblical commitment and personal goal is to do so. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determination of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak. Maybe.
I need you to talk for me – Ummm — actually I’d rather you not. Now that said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She’s good at it too. But, if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I’ll speak for myself. Or regret later than I didn’t. But, either way, please don’t try to be my voice.
I need to change, mature, grow as a person or leader – There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just quieter than some leaders you know — or your immediate perception of a leader. Actually, there are lots of things wrong with me. Introversion isn’t one of them.
Those are some of the false assumptions that have been made of this introvert.
Introverts, what misunderstandings have been made about you?
Let’s be honest! Criticism hurts. No one enjoys hearing something negative about themselves or finding out that something you did wasn’t perceived as well by others as you hoped it would be.
Criticism, however, is a part of leadership. It comes with the territory. And, if handled correctly, it doesn’t have to be a bad part of leadership — or at least not as bad as we make it.
The truth is there is usually something to be learned from all criticism. Allowing criticism to work for you rather than against you is a key to maturing as a leader.
Recently I posted 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism. This is the companion post.
Listen to everyone
You may not respond to everyone the same way, but everyone deserves a voice and everyone should be treated with respect. This doesn’t necessarily include anonymous criticism. It’s hard to give respect to someone you don’t know. I listen to some if it, especially if it appears valid, because I’ve often learned from that too. Plus, I always wonder if something in my leadership prompted an anonymous response. At the same time, I never “criticize” leaders who don’t listen to anonymous criticism. I don’t, however, weight unidentified criticism as heavily as I would criticism assigned to a person. (Feel free to leave a comment about anonymous criticism and how you respond.) But, the point here is to at least listen to criticism when people are willingly to put their name behind it.
Consider the source
In a stakeholder sense, how much influence and investment does this person have in the organization? This might not change your answer to the criticism but may change the amount of energy you invest in your answer. Years ago our church met in two schools, for example, so if the Director of Schools had criticism for me I would invest more time responding than if it’s a random person complaining about our music who never intended to attend our church again.
Analyze for validity
Is the criticism true? This is where maturity as a leader becomes more important. You have to check your ego, because there is often an element of truth even to criticism you don’t agree with completely. Don’t dismiss the criticism until you’ve considered what’s true and what isn’t true. Mature leaders are willing to admit fault and recognize areas of needed improvement.
Look for common themes
If you keep receiving the same criticism, perhaps there is a problem even if you still think there isn’t. It may not be a vision problem or a problem with your strategy or programming, but it may be a communication problem. You can usually learn something from criticism if you are willing to look for the trends.
Give an answer
I believe criticism is like asking a question. It deserves an answer even if the answer is you don’t have an answer. You may even have to agree to disagree with the person offering criticism. By the way, especially during seasons of change, I save answers to common criticism received because I know I’ll likely be answering the same criticism again.
The picture with this post is from one of my favorite movies “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In this scene, George Bailey responds to criticism the Bailey Building and Loan is going to collapse. I love how he takes the criticism serious, considers the importance of the critics, responds as necessary, attempts to calm their fears, and refocuses on the vision. What a great leadership example during times of stress!
Obviously, this is an extreme and dramatic example, but it points to a reality that happens everyday in an organization. And, some times it is extreme and dramatic. Many times people simply don’t understand so they complain — they criticize. The way a leader responds is critical in that moment.
What would you add to my list? Where do you disagree with me here? I’ll try to take the criticism the “right” way!
Criticism accompanies leadership.
Every leader knows this. Make any decision and some will agree and some won’t.
The only way to avoid criticism as a leader is to do nothing.
If a leader is taking an organization somewhere, and really even if he or she isn’t, someone will criticize his or her efforts.
That said, the way a leader responds to criticism says much about the maturity of the leader and the quality of his or her leadership.
Finding fault with the critic
Instead of admitting there might be validity to the criticism, many leaders immediately attempt to discredit the person offering it. Granted, there may be fault — and some people are terrible complainers (some are just mean), but it’s never helpful to start there.
Many leaders realize the criticism may be valid, but they aren’t willing to accept personal responsibility, so they pass it along to others. This is dangerous on so many levels and is truly poor leadership.
Often a leader will receive criticism and instead of analyzing whether there is validity or not, the leader begins to criticize other organizations or leaders. It’s a very immature response. In elementary school it went like this — “I know I am, but what are you?”
Ignoring an opportunity to learn
This is a big one, because criticism can be a great teaching tool. It needs a filter. The person and circumstances need to be taken into consideration, but with every criticism rests an opportunity to learn something positive for the organization or about the leader.
Many leaders are so fearful of conflict they attempt to satisfy all critics, even if they never intend to follow through or make changes because of the criticism. They say what the critic wants to hear. If there is no merit to criticism then don’t act like there is merit. Be kind, but not accommodating.
I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Awareness is half the battle. Identifying the wrong ways to respond to criticism and working to correct this in your leadership is part of growing as a leader.
In my next post I’ll share some right ways to respond to criticism.
What else would you add as a wrong way to respond to criticism?
I have been blessed to witness what I consider extremely fast growth in several churches since entering full-time vocational ministry. In church planting and church revitalization we have seen hundreds come to faith in Christ or reconnect with the church creating churches which have grown faster than we could anticipate. It’s been an amazing journey — a miracle of God — filled with lots of excitement.
One thing I have learned along the way is growth impacts every ministry in the church. When explosive growth is occurring it is felt by every staff member — every stretched staff member.
I have also learned there are dangers with fast growth in any organization. The fact is growth can cover over a multitude of problems. Being aware of these is critical to sustaining health — and ultimately growth — in the future.
Masks real problems – Growth gets the attention. Everyone is excited. Momentum is high. Problems within a team or organization won’t show up immediately — but they will eventually.
Leadership poor – Not “poor leadership”. Leadership poor. When the organization is growing fast, you can never seem to afford adequate staff or train volunteers quick enough. In time you jeopardize future success because there aren’t leaders to take you to the next level.
Inadequate Systems – When current systems do not support the rate of growth you often spend too much time playing catch-up to implement adequate systems. Eventually you can become distracted from the things which helped you grow.
People feel scattered/left behind – With the rate of growth, communication is more important than ever, but people are stretched — pulled in many different directions. This often producing holes in the communication process. People forget to communicate, they make too many assumptions or there just is more information than can be easily absorbed.
Reactive rather than proactive – In a fast growing organization, “just keeping up” will be a prevailing emotion among leadership. You’ll often find yourself “making it up as you go”. With the speed of life in the organization, there never seems to be time to get ahead of the growth curve.
Well, those are some of the problems with explosive growth — which only produces a question.
Be aware – Realize that everything may not be as seems. If momentum slows, the real problems will be revealed, but the sooner you can identify these areas of weakness the less damage it will cause in creating sustainable growth. Ask lots of questions. Stay grounded in your faith. Continue to work on team development — even though it seems you don’t have time.
Recruit – It’s even more important in fast growth situations you be constantly looking for new and developing leadership. There must be an intentional effort in every area to empower people and train volunteers for leadership positions. Again, you may not feel you can pick your head up from the “real work” to recruit — but you must. Make sure someone has this as one of their key roles on the team, but it should be the responsibility of everyone.
Systematize – As much as possible, you should add structure to the organization along the way. You may never catch up with growth, but as problems are discovered it will often be a systems problem. Again, the more ahead of this issue you can be the better. Continually think strategically of what is needed to ensure you can continue to grow at the current rate. This is another area it helps to have someone specifically designated — someone who is wired to think systematically — to specialize in this vital area.
Communicate – The faster you are growing the better your communication must become. Communication is always a struggle in any organization, but healthy organizations continually analyze their approach and attempt to improve. In stressful times, communication must receive even more attention.
Planning – It’s important, even during explosive growth — maybe especially — to discipline yourself enough to plan for the future. Leaders need to be visionary enough to look for what’s coming next and attempt to get some forward-thinking goals and objectives in place. In spite of the constant demand due to growth, leaders must take time away from doing the work to evaluate and ensure operations are improved to maintain growth and momentum.
Sometimes God brings supernatural growth and during those seasons leaders should be especially aware of potential dangers. (Can you imagine the first century church adding 3,000 to their numbers in a single day?)
Have you ever been in an organization with explosive growth? What would you add to my list?
I know numerous leaders with great potential. They have all the appearance of being a good leader. But they lack one thing — or two.
In my experience, some of this self-learned the hard way, there are a few killers of good leadership.
I decided to compile a list of some of the most potent killers I’ve observed. Any one of these can squelch good leadership. It’s like a wrecking ball of potential. If not addressed, they may even prove to be fatal.
It’s not that the person can’t continue to lead, but to grow as a leader — to be successful at a higher level or for the long-term — they must address these killers.
Defensiveness – Good leaders don’t wear their feelings on their shoulders. They know other’s opinions matter and aren’t afraid to be challenged. They are confident enough to absorb the wounds intended to help them grow.
Jealousy – A good leader enjoys watching others on the team excel — even willing to help them.
Revenge – The leader that succeeds for the long-term must be forgiving; graceful — knowing that “getting even” only comes back to harm them and the organization.
Fearfulness – A good leader remains committed when no one else is and takes risks no one else will. Others will follow. It is what leaders do.
Favoritism – Good leaders don’t have favorites on the team. They reward for results not partiality.
Ungratefulness – Good leaders value people — genuinely — knowing they cannot attain success without others.
Small-mindedness – Good leaders think bigger than today. They are dreamers and idea people.
Pridefulness – Pride comes before the fall. Good leaders remain humbled by the position of authority entrusted to them.
Rigidity – There are some things to be rigid about, such as values and vision, but for most issues, the leader must be open to change. Good leaders are welcome new ideas, realizing that most everything can be improved.
Laziness – One can’t be a good leader and not be willing to work hard. In fact, the leader should be willing to be the hardest worker on the team.
Unresponsiveness – Good leaders don’t lead from behind closed doors. They are responsive to the needs and desires of those they attempt to lead. They respond to concerns and questions. They collaborate more than control. Leaders who close themselves off from those they lead will limit the places where others will follow.
Dishonesty – Since character counts highest, a good leader must be above reproach. When a leader fails, he or she must admit their mistake and work towards restoration.
A leader may struggle with one or more of these, but the goal should be to lead “killer-free”. Leader, be honest, which of these wrecking balls do you struggle with most?
What would you add to my list?
Recently, I shared 7 questions every leader should use often. It also made me think there was a similar set of phrases leaders should consider using frequently. These are not questions, but statements.
One of the goals of a leader should be to encourage, strengthen and challenge a team to continually improve. Almost as a cheerleader rousing the crowd at a game, the leader uses his or her influence to bring out the best in others.
How do leaders do that?
One way is by the questions and statements we make as leaders. This post is an extension of that thought — this time some statements.
I believe in you.
Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. That’s not helpful. But, hopefully as a leader you are surrounding yourself with people in which you do believe. Tell them. Everyone needs to know this, but in my experience, this is even more important the newer the person is on the team.
You are an asset to this team.
Let them know they make a difference. One of the best ways to do this is by bragging on people when they do something well in front of the rest of the team. Even the most introverted person enjoys this kind of recognition.
I’ve got your back.
If you are an empowering leader — and you should be — then people are stepping out on their own, taking risks for the benefit of the organization. They need to know you support them — even when mistakes are made.
You did a great job.
If they did — tell them. Never miss an opportunity to give post-project encouragement. Celebrating wins encourages the team and more wins.
I want to help you reach your personal goals.
This could even mean the person would no longer be on your team if they did, but it protects their loyalty while they are and this type environment welcomes the highest caliber of leaders. They are willing to work with you because they know you won’t attempt to hold them back from their own goals — in fact, you will encourage them.
I respect you for _______.
Be specific. What is it that impresses you about this team member? What do they uniquely add to the team? Tell them. The power of this one is exponential.
I trust you.
This one requires more than words. You’ll have to prove it with your actions. But, when a team member feels trusted by the leader they are more willing to take risks. They will have more loyalty to the leader — trusting the leader in return. They will be more likely to overlook the days you aren’t leading quite as well.
You may not be able to use these phrases every day. You shouldn’t overuse them. They need to be genuine, heartfelt and honest. That may not even happen every week. But, as often as you can, slip a few of these into your memory bank and pull them out where appropriate. They will help you build a better team.
What phrases would you add?
Questions are a powerful tool for every leader. The greatest leaders I know ask lots of questions.
Whenever I consult with leaders, one of the first things I do is analyze what questions the leader is asking. You only get answers to questions you ask. The better the questions — the better the answers.
Questions can challenge. They encourage discussion. They can open the process towards discovery of solutions and better ways of doing things. Plus, questions allow other people to have an opinion other than the leader — adding huge value to organizational health.
I’ve learned over the years people often have opinions they won’t share until they are given a direct invitation to share them. I keep my door open all the time. I take pride in not being a “controlling leader”. But, it doesn’t guarantee people will share what’s on their mind. The forum has to be created for them most of the time.
How can we improve as a team?
This is a practical question which, in my experience, people will enjoy answering. It can make their life better. They may have thoughts on needing more meetings — or less meetings — or better meetings. That could be valuable insight you don’t see. Even if they’ve never thought about this question it opens their mind to ways to improve. Who doesn’t need that?
Will you help me?
Everyone wants to be wanted. They want their input to be needed. I’m not talking about dumping on people, but when a leader asks this question and genuinely invites the team into the decision-making process they feel empowered.
How can I help you?
Knowing a leader is willing to help is huge. Even if they don’t need your help they appreciate knowing they are truly part of a team. And, the leader is a team player.
Do you understand what I’m saying?
This is a valuable question to follow up with after you’ve said anything, but especially when you’ve delegated a task or given someone a responsibility. Because, again, they may not ask if you don’t. Not asking this question can lead to unnecessary confusion, miscommunication and frustration.
Do you have what you need?
Giving any assignment without asking this question leaves many people unprepared and doomed for failure. Good leaders make sure the team has adequate resources to do their work.
What do you think we should do?
This question is helpful, for example, whenever there is a problem to be solved which has never been addressed before. Most likely, when the question is answered it will impact others on the team. Inviting people to help solve the issue or come to a conclusion about it gives them ownership in the solution.
What’s next for us?
This is a great brainstorming question. It forces people to dialogue about creating something new or developing something existing. It fuels momentum.
It should be noted — these questions are most helpful on healthy teams and with healthy team members. If you have an overly negative team member, for example, I wouldn’t recommend asking these questions. Or, maybe ask the “How can I help you?” one. (Even if that needs to be transitioning to another place where they can be happy.)
What I would say, however, is questions can be a way to improve the health on a team. And, sometimes even improve an unhealthy team member. It’s all in picking the right questions. And, asking them.
What questions would you add?
I was in a hurry to get to a meeting across town and the traffic was horrible. I decided to take a shortcut. I had been the new way only one other time, but remembered it well enough to believe it would be faster. I turned several streets to navigate through a subdivision, back on to a main road, and then through another subdivision. Just as I was about to get to the road I needed to be on the road was permanently closed to through traffic. It had apparently been closed for some time. Had I checked before attempting to go this direction, probably even long enough for Google maps to pick up on it. I essentially had to completely backtrack and get into the same traffic jam again. Only this time I was even twenty minutes later.
So, much for my shortcut.
It reminded me, however, of something I’ve observed in leadership. There are roadblocks in good leadership too.
I’ve witnessed many leaders, including myself at times, become distracted from leading as well as we should.
Many times it’s a natural occurrence. We aren’t feeling well physically or emotionally. Life struggles distract us and our attention to our work isn’t what we would want it to be. There is a problem with someone else on the team which must be dealt with before you can move forward. They are usually seasonal and mostly unavoidable distractions — roadblocks — every leader faces.
Everyone faces roadblocks.
It’s the roadblocks in leadership which we can avoid that tend to be most damaging. They detract from growth and destroy organizational health.If they aren’t addressed, it can set a leader back months, years, even an entire career.
As leaders, we must avoid these roadblocks as much as possible.
Abusing power rather than extending power
Some leaders try to control every outcome, but end up wasting the valuable talent of others on the team. They limit the team’s possibilities to those the leader is capable of personally producing. As long as a leader refuses to release authority to others there will be a roadblock in the way of the ultimate potential of the organization.
Making excuses for a weakness
These leaders never admit a fault or mistake — for themselves or the organization — even though everyone around them sees it. They hide flaws, pretend everything is “awesome”, and try to make you believe life couldn’t be better. The underlying problems of the team are never addressed or corrected. Strengths aren’t fully maximized because more energy goes to covering up places which aren’t wonderful.
Favoring popularity over progress
I’ve seen leaders who care more about people liking them than about achieving the goals of the organization. When this is the roadblock complacency and mediocrity become standards instead of excellence. Compromise is chosen over collaboration. Conflict is avoided and people will hear what they want to hear — but everyone is disappointed with the results.
Holding grudges instead of building bridges
I once worked with a leader who would never accept a challenge. Whenever he felt threatened he “blackballed” you into compliance or worked to get rid of you. These type leaders are diligent about protecting their image or reputation, so if you appear to question them they pit others on the team against you. They make it very difficult for people to know whether the leader is pleased with their efforts. Their style creates turf wars among team members as people scramble to meet the leader’s approval. Sides are chosen and the team’s abilities to effectively work together is limited.
Waiting for the perfect conditions rather than taking a risk
These leaders refuse to take steps of faith. They demand every detail be answered before a project is launched. They seldom place faith in other people because it’s too risky. This roadblock results in bored cultures and teams, slow or no growth, and eventual declines. The opportunity cost with this distraction is exponential.
I’m certain there are others. This list is only intended to get you thinking. Be honest, have you been a leader with one of these roadblocks? Again, we all throw up roadblocks at times in our leadership. We must attempt to eliminate those which cause the greatest disruption to progress. Discovering them and tearing them down may be a key to providing good leadership.
What roadblock would you add to my list?