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.