are you happy to see me?

My dog Mandy loves me. She wags her whole body as soon as she sees me. She dances a little jig, and if I would let her, she would joyfully do a five foot vertical leap to kiss me smack on the lips. Sometimes I forget to feed her on time, sometimes her water dish goes dry, sometimes I don’t give her any attention all day… It doesn’t matter; I don’t deserve it, but she is always happy to see me. 

People aren’t like that.

Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni and others state that one of the most important elements in relationships is trust… and I have to deserve it; I have to build it; I have to earn it. I have learned a lot about trust from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.

  • The first way that I earn trust is by connecting authentically with others. People feel like I connect with them if I listen for understanding – really hear them, with empathy and validation for their concerns. Connection happens when the people I work with feel that I truly value them, that I care, that I invest in them. I will not always do what they suggest, but they know I will hear them out, consider their ideas, and never discount how I affect them with my actions.
  • Trust is also built by looking out for other’s interests. Cloud calls this “extending favor”. In other words, I am “watching their back”, and I am on their side. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals or performance standards, but it means that I will do all I can to help, train, encourage or provide resources so that others are successful. If I have built trust, they can be confident that I will always speak well of them, and I will always speak up for them. They never have to worry that they might “get on my bad side” or that I might turn on them.
  • I also build trust by balancing power and vulnerability. Others can trust me when they see that I make things happen and get things down. I earn trust when I am competent and responsible, and when I follow through with what I said I would do. On the flip side, I also need to acknowledge my mistakes and faults at times. When I am authentic about my own challenges, others gain courage to face their own. When I am honest about my weaknesses and needs, others can identity; they are often willing to help, and we build more trust in the process.

Since trust is the basis of relationships, I need be constantly evaluating how I am doing in my relationships at work and at home. Am I connecting? Do they know I care? Do they know that I am “for” them?  Can they depend on me to get things done? Have I been real with them?

Are they happy to see me?

How do you build trust? How have others earned your trust?

(** If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “how’s my wake?” – more from Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity.)

teamwork magic #2 – working together

Once you have formed your dream team, now the magic begins, right? Not exactly… In the real world, working effectively together always requires commitment and work. Here are a few tips I have learned from the “hard knocks” of experience…

Pray together: Do not neglect the power of prayer to build relationships and provide wisdom for the job. Share personal requests and pray fervently for the issues you face together in the ministry.

Develop as a team: Be committed to learning and growing together. No one on the team already knows everything there is to know about each other, about teamwork, or about the challenges you face on the job.  A healthy team will set aside some time in every meeting to discuss a book they are reading together, listen to a podcast, or visit with a mentor.  If possible, get away once or twice a year for a more in-depth time of development; take the Birkman as a team, process a 360 evaluation, or attend a conference together.

Destroy Silos: Watch out for team members who can not or will not focus on the good of the team. They may feel passionate for or overwhelmed by their own responsibilities; but mature team players learn to “wear more than one hat” and to prioritize the overall well-being of the organization. Help each team member to be successful in their area, but do not allow a team member to give preferential treatment to their staff only.

Improve Communication Skills: Prepare a team pact and team norms… and review and apply them diligently. Discuss together how you will ensure that everyone is heard during meetings.  How will you draw in the introverts and control the extroverts?  Learn new brainstorming and creative thinking tools. Decide together what kind of issues will come to the table for team discussion and which issues can be dealt with by empowered individuals or task forces. Use visuals and share meeting facilitation and presentations so that all can improve their skills.

Practice Biblical Conflict Resolution: Do not allow passive-aggressive behaviors: procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or gossip.  Be super-committed to protecting each other in word and deed.  Do not allow a member to condescend to a decision in the meeting and then sabotage the implementation later. Deal with conflict quickly and directly; use love, tact, and grace. Follow up on agreed upon necessary changes. Never settle for cordial artificial peace with teammates; true respect and unity is so much better.

Implement Decision Making Processes: Different processes are appropriate for different decisions depending on scope and complexity.  Sometimes a team member decides, sometimes the director determines, sometimes the majority rules, sometimes consensus is the best option… If you use consensus, watch out for team members who consistently stall every important decision. When you find that you cannot make progress in important areas, it is probably time to use a different process.

Have fun: Healthy teams enjoy being together – at work and at play. Celebrate accomplishments, goals reached, and personal achievements. Use music, color, food, humor and venue change to keep the “magic” in your times together.

What do you think adds the “magic” to teamwork?

is there magic in teams?

Aside

Sometimes we act as if we can put a few random people together, call them a team, and we will automatically obtain magical results. All of a sudden, miraculously people will be happier, progress will be faster, productivity will be greater.

I love working on teams.
I have had incredibly positive experiences working on highly effective teams. I have also had horrendously miserable experiences working on dysfunctional teams. I can tell you… there is nothing magical about a team! Healthy, effective, highly productive teams require work – preliminary work in forming the team… and continual effort working together as a team.

From my experience, these are some of the most important errors to avoid when building a leadership team: 

  • If you are going to have a team leader – have a good one.

Do not pick a leader just because he is a “nice guy”. Do not pick a leader who has no vision for the team or who isn’t willing to work hard to turn the vision into reality. On the other hand, do not pick a leader who is a control-freak or who is hesitant or incapable of building and developing the people around them. If you are considering someone who has a track record of feeble results or a history of working alone… don’t do it!

If at all possible, pick a leader who has a proven track record as a visionary who also makes things happen by working together well with others. If that person doesn’t exist at the time, it might be better to create a “peer team” and share the leadership responsibilities. Consider term limits – you don’t want to place someone in leadership who won’t step aside so others can lead in the future.

  • Consider the emotional and spiritual maturity of each potential team member. 

Do not invite team members who constantly criticize (very different from critical thinkers) and complain. Do not accept people who take all the credit for themselves when there is success and then act as victims or blame others when challenges come. Steer clear of anyone who evades honest evaluation and direct communication. Unhealthy people = unhealthy teams.

You are not looking for perfect people, but rather people who are learning and growing – if possible, those with a track record of healthy relationships with others… those who know they aren’t perfect and openly recognize their need for others, and those who walk humbly with their God and give grace to others. Choose those who actively pursue community and accountability in their life… who have a good attitude and encourage others.

  • Don’t just yell desperately for “help” and take anyone who comes running.

(Been there. Done that. Paid the consequences.) Sometimes the people who respond to a crisis actually like crisis… and continue to create them in order to stay busy helping to fix them. This is not a good person for your team. Do not choose people simply because of seniority. Do not choose people just to fill the gap.

In the long run, it is better to learn a position empty, than to fill it with the wrong person. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your present team members – if you have one. Have an idea of where you want to go, and then recruit intentionally – more admin, more vision, more HR, more Ops, more crazy, more fun… depending on the need. Choose people who bring skill, experience, and excellence in their area of expertise. Add diversity (age/gender/nationality/etc) whenever possible.

Now ask yourself… do I work well with others, dream visions and get things done? Am I humble and growing? Do I bring value and excellence to our team?  

Would others want me on their team? Would I add to the “magic”?

Let’s learn together… What has been your experience with forming a team?

(In the next blog, I will write about working together as a team.)

moving towards advocacy

This past semester I learned a lot about cross-cultural leadership, and I gained greater appreciation for the benefit and blessing of diversity in ministry and teams. Our experience in Mexico has confirmed that multi-“cultural” teams (culture = age, gender, nationality, stage-of-life, experience, etc) are the most fruitful, both in terms of ministry goals and for personal character and emotional/spiritual growth.

I believe that the prayer needed, grace extended, and ego submission necessary for unity greatly outweighs the misunderstandings and time challenges involved in these “mixed” teams.  I believe that God blesses our efforts to overcome “cultural” barriers and work together for His glory.

This is especially true in the gender area – maybe because unity in this area is such a personal challenge, especially for families and husbands and wives. My professor encouraged me to further study the many issues surrounding women in leadership… and, although I was hesitant at first, I learned a lot. I am grateful for his “push”.  I do not want to enter a theological or cultural “battleground”, but I do want to actively pursue willingness to hear from God in this area.

I am convinced that our perspective and treatment of women has huge ramifications for our personal relationships, our fruitfulness as a ministry, and our participation in the battle against violence and human trafficking.  The chart below is a summary of some of my study. I offer it as a resource for prayerful consideration of your personal or organizational view of women.

Please let me know what you think. I have the sense that I am just scratching the surface of all that God would have me learn and do in this area. I’d love to learn from you also.

Moving Towards Advocacy-2What does God say to you as you review this chart?

What steps can you take to move towards advocacy?

what does a movement look like?

After reading my “be part of a movement!” blog, a friend asked for more details.  He wanted to know more about what the movements looked like… I would love to share that with you.

We define a movement as “God working through a team of like-hearted people who are winning, building and sending.”

 

A movement will include four elements:

  • Connecting lost people to Jesus
  • Life-changing discipleship
  • Multiplying leaders
  • Generation of local resources (vision, people, ideas, funding, systems, etc.)

In both movements, it was clear God was at work.  Personal and group prayer was common – sometimes programmed, often spontaneous – due to a deep sense of dependence on God.  We studied His Word and took steps of faith.  We trusted the Holy Spirit to control us and guide us.  I don’t know that our actions “caused” the movement – that was simply God’s choice, but we were deliberate in opening our hearts so that He could work in us.

Team was another key factor.  One movement team included several full-time staff and student leaders; the other had only one staff woman and a core group of committed adult volunteers.  In each case the team was passionate about reaching their audience for Christ. The team members were also committed to each other – growing in character, communicating, sharing responsibilities, learning and training, enjoying the work and life together.  The teams were not perfect – sometimes there were personality conflicts; sometimes members didn’t do their part; sometimes volunteers decided to get involved in something else… but the team provided strength and encouragement for the task.

In both movements, we were committed to evangelism – connecting people to Jesus. In the campus movement, we intentionally and strategically shared with any student who had come twice to a meeting. We trained our staff and students how to do evangelism and went sharing together often.  The women’s movement was also committed to training and sharing Christ during their book study; they often had opportunities to share one-on-one after a small group meeting.  Both movements also organized numerous special evangelistic events. Basically, evangelism was a priority – in heart and practice.

Incredible transformation happened through life-changing discipleship. In both cases, we saw an increased desire to know God’s Word and apply it to their lives. We taught basic follow-up, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and other Bible studies. Students chose not to lie or bribe professors for better grades. Women chose to forgive their husbands and strengthen their marriages. Dating couples chose to break off relationships instead of continuing in immorality.  Moms chose to reconcile with their children. Students chose to serve God in ministry after graduation.

Leaders multiplied.  In the student movement, we recorded discipleship chains out to four generations. In the women’s movement, we lost track of the generations! It became “normal” for everyone to invite friends to events, or take a few friends through follow-up, or lead a small group, or host a mom’s book club. Students and volunteers led in reaching areas of campus or running parts of the ministry (prayer/socials/followup) or arranging details for an event. Everyone found a place to serve.

There was no lack of resources.  The students quickly offered to bring the snacks. They began to support each other and/or work together to send each other to conferences and mission trips.  There were very few outside subsidies. The women hosted the studies in their homes, shared food for meals, and donated items and money for the evangelistic events so that they were always self-financed and often profitable. Creative ideas surfaced continually. New materials were created. Partnerships were formed. More people were recruited.

God blessed.  It became impossible to measure the impact as creativity flourished and initiative grew. Years later, the student ministry still produces laborers.  Many graduates share Christ at their workplace and lead their marriages and children to follow the Lord. The women’s ministry continues to work on projects that will expand to other cities in all of Mexico.

Connecting lost people to Jesus. Life-changing discipleship. Multiplying leaders. Generating local resources. That is what a movement looks like.

Which element of a movement is most exciting to you?

Which element is most challenging for you?

multicultural team or tension?

As our world becomes more connected globally, today’s organizations need an atmosphere that encourages a multicultural work environment. However it is a big mistake to simply put a group of international leaders on a team and expect them to achieve great results. There will be many differing values on an international team, and we need to help our leaders understand and appreciate each other in order to work together more effectively.

One great tool I have found is a book I am reading for my M.A. in Global Leadership  – When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, by Richard D. Lewis. A helpful explanation of general nationality differences divides the world’s cultures into three groups: Linear-Actives, Multi-Actives and Reactives.  

See if you recognize yourself and/or some of your co-workers or teammates in one these groups!

Linear-Actives Common characteristics of this group are affinity for schedules and plans, preference for objective data and information, task focus, less emotional and relational connections. Communication with Linear-Actives will be direct, to the point, and optimistic, often decorated with humor and idiomatic phrases.  They are quite linear in their view of time and appreciate punctuality.  Promotion at work is a result of hard work and productivity. They are known to do very well with small talk at dinner parties, but prefer all business during meetings. This group is the smallest of the three, with around 600 million members.

Multi-Actives  The Multi-Active group has over three billion members, making it the largest group. The Multi-Actives have an extroverted and loquacious manner, multitasking capabilities, and interdependent, net-working relationships. Conversation with a Multi-Active is passionate, animated, descriptive and personal. Schedule is subordinate to relationship and the event of the moment. Multi-Actives are stereotypically known for arriving late for appointments and for eating dinner late into the evening. Entry and advance in the workplace is often a result of family and/or other loyalty connections. Compassion and human understanding motivate Multi-Actives to action.

Reactives The third group that Lewis describes is the Reactive group. They have over one and one-half billion members around the world. This group is typically quiet and reserved, good listeners, respectful of others’ needs and desires, principle oriented and very concerned with saving face in relationships. They have a cyclical view of time. Communication will likely be more formal, polite, complimentary, with plenty of periods of silence. Reactives are known for their extravagant gift giving and their harmonious relationships.

Recognition of different national culture values is just one step toward understanding. There are many other cultural value differences that factor into team relationships: age, gender, personality, profession, etc.  Our authentic respect for each other and our sincere willingness to make adjustments to each other are key components to international team success. More about how to do that in a future blog…

With which group do you identify?

What has your experience been like in international settings?  

Please share a comment so that we can learn together!

be part of a movement!

My organization believes strongly in movements, but I rarely meet anyone who has ever actually seen one or been a part of one. I have had the privilege of being a part of two – one as a key player, in the other more of a mentor/coach. Those experiences were exciting, invigorating, fun, messy, fulfilling and a lot of hard work! They were dreams come true… and I’d love to help with many more. As I was doing reading for my MA, I read a chapter on movements in The Courage to Teach, by Parker J. Palmer.  It outlined four stages of movements that I recognized right away. I think understanding them might help us see many more movements in the years ahead.

Stage 1 – No more divided life

Movements start when someone decides, “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live a life externally that is so different from my heart convictions.” In ministry that means I will follow God’s heart and do whatever,  go wherever, it takes to win ______ (fill in the blank: women, students, professionals, students, athletes…) to Christ… because that is what He has called me to do. However that might look in my circumstance and with my gifting, I won’t let discouragement, fear, busyness, small children, organizational disinterest or criticism by others get in my way. I will not blame anyone else nor the organization for my lack – I will be true to myself! We will never see God build more spiritual movements, if we don’t individually get to this place in our heart.

Stage 2 – Support in community

The next step is to take our mustard seed of faith and conviction and share it with someone else; admit to another that I want to be and do something new. It is too easy for our enthusiasm to die away without encouragement from others. Community could be our family, our team, a few friends – any other like-minded cohorts. Our community gives us mutual reassurance (“No, you’re not crazy.”), a common vocabulary for our vision, and often skills and training necessary to make the dream a reality. Working together in a healthy, dynamic team is one of the most synergistic parts of a movement.

Stage 3 – Go public

A true movement doesn’t hide behind closed doors and manipulate its people in secret. A true movement shares its vision and resources with others, seeking feedback for improvement and partnership for impact. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to stay small and private, but then we would miss the opportunity to challenge and influence others, and we would miss the blessing of working with and learning from others. Receiving  feedback from others helps us to avoid self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency… and helps us become more Kingdom focused.

Stage 4 – There is nothing better

Once we actually begin to experience the fruit of spiritual movement, there is nothing more inspiring! The out-of-control multiplication, the true life transformation in our disciples, the character growth in ourselves – all bring a sense of satisfaction that says, “It is so worth it! There is no price I paid that was too great, no prize you can offer that would be worth more.”  I don’t want to invest in anything less.

Have you been a part of a movement? Please tell me about it! I’d love to learn from you…