Direct statements

We all have things we wish we could come right out and say, but often don’t for our own rea­sons. We may want to pre­serve a rela­tion­ship, not hurt some­one’s feel­ings, or reveal what we tru­ly think. We beat around the bush hop­ing that they might pick up what we’re try­ing to say. Usu­al­ly, this strat­e­gy does not work.

The prob­lem is that we want to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing but we have fear or uncer­tain­ty in our head or heart. We feel a sense of pause and we don’t say what we wish we could. So we either say noth­ing at all, aka silence, or say a bunch of stuff to light­en the blow.

Adopting a shared language

One of the tools that can help us grow as lead­ers and with our teams is adopt­ing a shared lan­guage. What’s cool about work­ing with a small group is that you can set rules for that spe­cif­ic set of peo­ple. While you can’t con­trol every­thing in your life, orga­ni­za­tion, or larg­er struc­ture, you can con­trol your direct cir­cle of influ­ence. An easy way to do that is to devel­op a shared lan­guage that your group under­stands and can use when need­ed.

No one is going to assign you the task to “devel­op a shared lan­guage.” This is some­thing that you must take own­er­ship of and make hap­pen the next time you gath­er. It’s kind of like a more seri­ous ver­sion of an inside joke. Your group gets what you’re say­ing, but if you weren’t a part of that group, you might be a lit­tle con­fused. Of course, as your group grows, it’s impor­tant to share the shared lan­guage, just like a nice friend will explain the inside joke to you.

Shared language solutions

Brene Brown has a phrase in Dare to Lead that goes like this: “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” This is kind of a mantra or anthem to say that unclar­i­ty is not going to be tol­er­at­ed. By beat­ing around the bush, you may think you are being kind, when in real­i­ty, your lack of clar­i­ty is dam­ag­ing the group. Bet­ter to be clear about what you think than bury your true thoughts deep down inside you.

Hen­ry Cloud in Bound­aries for Lead­ers notes that a For­tune 500 busi­ness uses the phrase “just give me the 10%.” This is a way of say­ing, “can you please skip the BS?” In a sit­u­a­tion where some­one is obvi­ous­ly hedg­ing around an issue, you can give them the free­dom to be clear and kind by ask­ing them to give you the 10%, or what is real­ly on their mind.

The David Allen Com­pa­ny used to say “Silence means we are OK with what’s going on.” Silence can be a ter­ri­ble thing to deal with in lead­er­ship and in rela­tion­ships. But who said silence has to be mis­er­able? Declar­ing that every­one is going to agree on what silence means helps every­one. This comes with an implic­it expec­ta­tion that peo­ple WILL speak up if they have an issue. Oth­er­wise, the silence com­mu­ni­cates approval and sup­port. The trick is to prac­tice this and to ask peo­ple to speak up, oth­er­wise, their silence com­mu­ni­ties they are OK with what’s hap­pen­ing.

How the way we end conversations leads to confusion or action

Have you ever worked with some­one who uses con­fu­sion and com­plex­i­ty and avoids action? Instead of fig­ur­ing out the next thing to do, they talk about how big a prob­lem is. Instead of tak­ing action, they freeze.

I had a work col­league that used this tac­tic. In crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions, she would talk at length about many dif­fer­ent angles of an issue. We would dis­cuss the ten­sions that caused a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem but rarely reached a solu­tion. She would con­clude these unpro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tions with a sig­na­ture phrase “yeah, isn’t this com­pli­cat­ed?”

Yeah, isn’t this com­pli­cat­ed” is a way of say­ing, this sit­u­a­tion is over­whelm­ing, I don’t know what to do. It’s a way of say­ing, “the work we are doing takes effort, but I don’t want to do any­thing.”. Instead of fig­ur­ing out an action plan and doing stuff, yeah, it’s com­pli­cat­ed was a way of avoid­ing move­ment.

Avoiding movement

Avoid move­ment is safe. No action buys us time. We don’t have to face ten­sions with peo­ple and do the dif­fi­cult emo­tion­al work of decid­ing.

Moving toward action: how to end conversations with helpful phrases

Instead of leav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion con­fused, we should seek clar­i­ty. I like Bre­nee Brown’s phrase: “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” We must define and cre­ate projects, not com­plain about prob­lems. We can orga­nize our projects by decid­ing who owns it, decid­ing who is going to take the next step, and by when. It takes a lit­tle more effort, but the end result is a much.

Here are some helpful questions that may help you end conversations toward clarity:

  1. Who owns this?
  2. How will we know if this is a suc­cess?
  3. What does suc­cess look like to you?
  4. How can I help?
  5. What do you want me to do?

Dealing with Resistance

Any­time we do impor­tant work, we WILL face Resis­tance

It is pret­ty much a guar­an­tee. 

Peo­ple won’t like what we’re doing. They may even let us know (to our face). They’ll cheap­en our hard efforts and make us feel bad. And a com­mon ten­den­cy would be to com­pro­mise — to give in and give up. Some of us may even take those com­ments per­son­al­ly.

Some­times Resis­tance is loud. Peo­ple will tell us they don’t like what we’re doing and ask a mil­lion ques­tions about our motives. They may hold some kind of cam­paign and protest. Or they’ll sug­gest that what we’re doing isn’t impor­tant. 

Oth­er times (maybe more often?), Resis­tance is qui­et and pas­sive. Noth­ing spe­cif­ic is said, but there’s a lack of involve­ment or excite­ment that shows us they don’t like what we’re doing. Resis­tance can even take place in our own mind.

SO... what do we do about it?

Before I offer a pow­er­ful tool to keep us on track, here are 4 steps for deal­ing with Resis­tance:

1. Rec­og­nize Resis­tance is inevitable. It will show up. It’s not going to go away. Ever. That means what we are doing is start­ing to work and it’s being noticed. 

2. Embrace your team and com­mu­ni­ty. You have a group of peo­ple right here in this thread who wants to help you suc­ceed. If you’re tak­ing some­thing per­son­al­ly, LET US KNOW. You are not alone! We are here for you! If you face resis­tance, we can be pray­ing for you, and help you lead.

3. Greet Resis­tance when it shows up. The worst thing we can do is ignore the Resis­tance. Begin by say­ing “hel­lo Resis­tance!” when it shows up in what­ev­er form it takes. And in your head, just whis­per to your­self “I think I’m fac­ing Resis­tance right now.” This sim­ple phrase acti­vates the part of your brain that is more delib­er­ate and thought­ful rather than fast and thought­less. 

4. Stay focused on our end game. Specif­i­cal­ly on Sun­day morn­ing’s our end game is that peo­ple would think “I’m com­ing back next week.” We must stay focused on this and remind our­selves and our team mem­bers that every Sun­day is some­one’s first Sun­day and we want to even­tu­al­ly bring them into a grow­ing rela­tion­ship with Christ. 

A pow­er­ful tool for stay­ing on track... 

Clarify the win. 

Anoth­er way to deal with Resis­tance is to clar­i­fy the win. Every­one wants to win. When we are clear on what it looks like to win, peo­ple can bet­ter eval­u­ate what we’re doing. Most peo­ple are already eval­u­at­ing what we are doing based on their own inner-defined win. Some­times this is what there’s Resis­tance — what we’re doing does­n’t match THEIR win.

Your role: Restate the win fre­quent­ly. It may feel like we are a bro­ken record at times, but this just means what we are say­ing is start­ing to spread. We must remind peo­ple why we are so fanat­ic about mak­ing the Sun­day expe­ri­ence “irre­sistible” so we can let God do the work only he can do. 

QUESTION: Have you expe­ri­ence Resis­tance in your role as a leader? 

QUESTION: Are you pre­pared to greet Resis­tance this week and next? (And the week after that?) 

QUESTION: How do you deal with Resis­tance when it shows up?

(Inspired by Steven Press­field­’s The War of Art and Andy Stan­ley’s 7 Prac­tices)

Behavior: getting from pointless to purposeful

Point­less­ness. I hate it. Don’t you?

I bet that you, just like me, have had point­less expe­ri­ences. Point­less meet­ings. Point­less texts. Point­less phone calls. Point­less con­ver­sa­tions.

We can be tempt­ed to say, “yeah, but even thru the point­less expe­ri­ences, you can find mean­ing!” Or we might say, “even when things seem POINTLESS, there’s a big­ger thing that’s always going on.” Or, “Rela­tion­ships are valu­able. Deal­ing with point­less stuff is part of build­ing rela­tion­al cap­i­tal!” And, I’d agree. But for a moment, think with me...

Point­less expe­ri­ences (meet­ings, con­ver­sa­tions, phone calls, emails, doc­u­ments, text mes­sages, etc.) are deemed “point­less” by you and I, the ones who think. We don’t sim­ply do things “just because,” but with a pur­pose. Pur­pose dri­ves every­thing we do. We hate when we are unclear on the objec­tive, can’t see the “why,” and don’t know our role in the larg­er pic­ture. We hate when behav­iors don’t align with how we like to oper­ate: with orga­ni­za­tion, clar­i­ty, agen­das, and mean­ing.

So here’s my idea: you and I must spread a pas­sion for pur­pose­ful behav­ior. We must talk about “how we behave” to our co-work­ers, boss­es, and col­leagues who typ­i­cal­ly facil­i­tate point­less expe­ri­ences. We must spread a pas­sion for think­ing things through and tak­ing the time to decide. We must find great mod­els and ways of doing things that can spread to oth­ers and not just be based on our own per­son­al pref­er­ences.

If we base our work sat­is­fac­tion on whether or not oth­ers “do things the way WE like them,” we will always be frus­trat­ed, annoyed, and bogged down. But if we learn to see oppor­tu­ni­ties to come along side oth­ers and sug­gest a mutu­al­ly BETTER way of doing things, we can expe­ri­ence growth, change, and progress.

The more you and I demon­strate what it looks like to give some­thing the atten­tion it deserves (a doc­u­ment, an email, a meet­ing agen­da), we will gain more cred­itabil­i­ty and influ­ence with those around us. It’s cred­itabil­i­ty and influ­ence that then gives you a seat at the table to bring about real change in how things are done.

I don’t know if you’re dis­cour­aged today by some­thing that hap­pened at work. Maybe you feel like your boss is an idiot... you’re putting in all this extra, valu­able effort . . . and it’s unno­ticed.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Make a list of the kinds of “key behav­iors” that you’d like to see more of
  2. Demon­strate the behav­ior you want to see more of
  3. Find an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about “how you behave” with your co-work­ers*
  4. Con­tin­ue to talk about the kind of behav­ior that best serves you & your work
  5. Reg­u­lar­ly make adjust­ments and per­form course-cor­rec­tion

* My sug­ges­tion for how to find an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about “behav­ior” is this (based on advice from Clay Scrog­gins): Find a moment when you are hav­ing a light/easy-going moment with your boss or co-work­er. Ask them their advice on how you can bring up things you dis­agree about in that moment — when the stakes are low­er and the air isn’t tense. Use this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty not to talk about the hard stuff but to learn the best way to bring up the hard stuff, the next time it does.

Some write, others talk

It can be easy to think that oth­er peo­ple in your life learn and process things the same way you do.

For some, writ­ing is a great way to fig­ure things out. It’s a process that allows a per­son to get their thoughts on a page, see if they agree with them, and make changes until it reflects what they actu­al­ly think.

For oth­ers, writ­ing is an awful way to fig­ure things out. They’re not real­ly sure what they think until they can have a few con­ver­sa­tions and debates until they under­stand what they think.

It does­n’t mat­ter how you fig­ure things out. It’s impor­tant you know which one best serves you. It will bet­ter serve oth­ers.