5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Mature man cupping hand behind ear

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.


Wow! Time has proven this repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful! If the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. (Duh!)

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead people who are different from you – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

I’m just being candid here – frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we – but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input.

This probably should have come first, but this is – honestly – more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep soft drinks in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns. I used to keep candy, but then health insurance became tricky.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

5 Questions When Attempting Life Change

Sadly, people end each year no better than they end any other year, because they continue to repeat the same mistakes and live out the same bad patterns and habits they have always lived.

If you want to make genuine, sustaining changes, consider your answers to the following five questions. For best results, write your answers to these questions on paper. There is a certain finality of purpose when you invest time and energy recording them.

Is my life headed in the right direction? If you continue living your life the way you have been living it, will you eventually achieve the dreams and plans you have for your life? If not, then move to question number two.

Am I willing to make changes? You will never make change that lasts if your heart is not into making them. Be honest.

What are a few changes I can make that could have the greatest impact? Don’t try to change too much at one time. It could be in your finances, health, relationships or church attendance, but usually a few changes, whether major or minor, will have significant impact. If you are overwhelmed with the changes needed, read THIS POST.

What disciplines are needed to realize these changes in my life? You may need to get up 15 minutes early each day. Perhaps you need to read one chapter of a book each night. Maybe you want to start taking your lunch to work to save money. Think through some practical ways you can discipline yourself to stay on track.

Who can hold me accountable? Recruit someone to help you achieve your objectives. Give them the changes you want to implement and allow them the freedom to question your progress periodically. Ultimately your success is dependent on you, but knowing you will be asked often keeps you moving in the right direction.

Many of the outcomes the of your life will be greatly determined by your willingness to allow positive changes in your life. Let me encourage you to make wise choices for a positive and productive life.

One important closing thought. It is my firm belief that the only way to experience real life, the way we were intended to live it, is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you do not have that relationship or it is not as strong as it should be, start there.

What changes are you making in your life these days?

If you need help writing a life plan, consider THIS POST.

7 Ways to Get Young People to Serve

young people

I hear frequently that it’s hard to get the younger generation to serve in the church. That may be true, especially under some of our current church structures. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to serve, however. I think we may simply need to reconsider the circumstances under which they are willing to serve or the structure that works to attract them to serve.

After working with a younger age group in church planting and the more established churches, I’ve made some observations that appear true in both.

Here are 7 ways to get young people to serve:

Don’t just talk about it…do it. They truly want to be active. They want to be doers of the word…not just hearers.

Reward progress…not people. Humble service is a valued character trait to the current younger generation. That’s why they love teams so much.

Think people impact…not project completion. They want to help others…make a difference in someone’s life…and add value to the world around them.

Make meetings social events. Boring meetings won’t work anymore, but they’ll get together for pizza…and organize a cause in the process.

Use teams more than committees. They tend to rebel against bureaucracy and embrace working together through fellowship.

Give ownership more than assignments. They want a seat at the table. They want to do something of importance now. They want to help shape their own future. Make them feel welcome.

Be inclusive, not exclusive. They aren’t looking for the country club environment, as much as a collaboration of differences.

None of these mean we have to lessen our values to work with the younger generation, but our values should be Biblical, and clearly identified. This newer generation is more tolerant. It’s not a buzzword for them…it’s in their DNA. The good news is they are more willing to work with others, even if they don’t completely agree with them. If they know people are being transparent with them and others, and are working to address a concern in which they believe needs addressing, they are eager to serve.

What have you learned about getting a younger generation to serve?