I help pastors, churches & ministries get UNSTUCK by applying neuroscience insight to spiritual leadership. I coach pastors, consult with churches, speak, train and write about leadership, church ministry, and the neuroscience application to leadership to help Christian leaders achieve their fullest kingdom potential.
Teams that don’t feel valued often simply go through the motions which dampens motivation and decreases productivity. Great leaders pay keen attention to how valued their teams feel. Poor leaders seldom even think about it. Evaluate your leadership against these five behaviors great leaders show.
Great leaders regularly tell and show their team members that they value them.
Thank your team members often. Tell them how valuable their contributions are even though their jobs may not be viewed as important as other ones. Use tangible expressions of appreciation. Discover what uniquely gives them a sense of value and communicate thanks in that way. The highest performing teams receive a ratio of six positive comments to one negative one.
High performing teams receive a ratio of 6 positive comments to 1 negative one Click To Tweet
However, praise should focus on effort such as hard work rather than attributes such as intelligence. Praise for effort keeps your team open to grow whereas praise for attributes can sometimes cause the person to become static in order to protect those attributes.
Great leaders help their team members make progress in their work.
Support your team members so that they feel they are making headway. In one study, over 600 managers recorded at the end of each day the experiences that satisfied them the most. Progress on their goals and tasks satisfied the most, even more than receiving praise or recognition from their boss.
Great leaders teach their teams about healthy and unhealthy comparison.
Most people tend to naturally compare their efforts against others. Often such comparison leads to either pride or diminishes that person’s sense of accomplishment. Talk to your team members about the downsides of comparison and help them learn to recognize it when they begin to compare themselves with others. Teach that good comparison is comparing their personal efforts against their own efforts and goals.
Great leaders provide their new team members with a thorough orientation process.
Whether your teams are paid or volunteer, a good orientation process will help new team members feel valued, right from the get-go and help create a sense from them that you really care.
Great leaders value the insight and input from their teams.
Help your team realize that we naturally default to believing others see things as we ourselves do. It’s called the false consensus effect. Foster a healthy, open atmosphere so that everybody on the team feels free to share his or her views. Foster an atmosphere that not only gives everyone a chance to share his opinions, but welcomes his opinions as well. When you do, everybody can get a boost of the neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which helps build trust.
Every great organization shares common values unique to them. Whether it’s a church, a para-church organization, or a business, prevailing teams know and breathe their values, their shared assumptions about how they do things. I’m new at my church in Canada, having served in U.S. churches for over 30 years. Yet one of the first things I did was to share the 10 core values I wanted our team to embrace. I call them ‘permission to play’ values. In other words, if you want to play in our sandbox, here’s how we play. You may already have a great set of values that work for you, but if you don’t, this list I’ve developed over the past several years might provide a starting point for yours. Both Bill Hybel’s and Rick Warren’s lists have influenced mine. Here they are.
We value . . .
Is. 32.8 But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands. (NIV)
A positive, coachable attitude.
Phil. 4.8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (NIV)
We work for them; they don’t work for us.
Body, soul, and spirit care.
Luke 2.52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)
Simple is best.
We are in private what people see in public.
Authenticy means that you are in private what people see in public. Click To Tweet
Teamwork and trust.
We keep short accounts with each other and subordinate our personal agendas to the church’s agenda.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is often associated with negative effects that prolonged stress puts on our bodies. Those effects include weight gain, anxiety, heart disease, depressed immune system, digestive problems, sleep impairment, and even effects on memory. But could churches be negatively affected by cortisol as well? That is, if the leaders and culture of that church are constantly stressed, and flooded with cortisol themselves, could it affect the church negatively? I think it can and does in many churches. Consider these 9 tell-tale signs of a church flooded with cortisol.
Your leadership team seems to always be uptight, tired, and sick a lot.
Little trust between staff, elders, and the people in general exists.
The leaders incessantly push bigger and better programs and ministries. They often switch from one great idea to the next.
Your staff experiences lots of turn-over.
An atmosphere of suspicion and “the wary eye” seems to pervade the church and your teams.
Staff meetings are conflict filled or staff simply don’t say much in meetings for fear they will get reprimanded.
A heavy spirit seems to linger over the office and even the church itself.
Tension and conflict fill elder and/or deacon meetings.
You seem to focus most on problems rather than victories or stories of how God is working.
How many of these did you check? Granted, spiritual forces are at work here as well. It’s not just a biological thing. But if more than two of these are true of your church, you might need to take a good look at your church’s stress level. Your church may be flooded with cortisol.
How might a church dial down a cortisol culture? Consider these potential antidotes.
Create a ‘do not do’ list for your church. Pare down what you do so that leaders and volunteers don’t feel run ragged. Do a few things well.
Teach your leaders how to build trust. Here’s a recent blog on building trust. When we build trust, we help activate the trust neurotransmitter oxytocin in our brains that creates a feeling of safety and belonging. Here’s a video of a recent talk I gave on building trust.
Build fun experiences into your staff calendar. Don’t make every encounter revolve around pressing ministry issues.
If you are the main leader, dial down your own intensity. Take breaks during the day. Deal with your own stress. Take your day off. Disconnect from technology 24 hours each week.
Begin your staff and elder/deacon meetings with praises and victories.
Share stories in your services that point to God’s blessings and changed lives.
Over-communicate with your church. When people sense they know what’s happening, they will tend less to assume the worst. When we assume the worst we become anxious and cortisol ratchets up.
Smile a lot. Our brain has what are called mirror neurons (brain cells) that prompts us to mimic the intentional, goal directed actions of others. Model give body language to others that you want them to imitate. And, make it positive.
Do you think churches can be affected by cortisol in leaders? Why or why not?
Do your best and leave the results to God. That phrase may seem a bit worn and trite, but it’s well worth heeding. So, just how do we do that?
In Christ’s parable of the talents, the master, representing God, gave responsibility to the servants based on individual ability. (Matt 25) The story implies that some pastors have greater competencies than others.
Similarly, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as He sees fit. (1 Cor 12)
It’s obvious that the Spirit gives some pastors extra preaching or leading gifts, evidenced in the size and impact of their ministries. It’s easy to become discouraged when we do our best yet don’t see our church grow like others to which we may compare ourselves. When we wrap our identities around numerical results and the numbers don’t increase, the discouragement can overwhelm us. This is especially true for older pastors who realize they may never achieve the dreams they had for ministry.
David Goetz, a marketer and author of Death by Suburb, wrote,
I often sat in the studies of both small-church pastors and mega-church pastors, listening to their stories, their hopes, their plans for significance. I deduced, albeit unscientifically, that often clergymen in midlife had worse crises of limits than did other professionals. Religious professionals went into the ministry for the significance, to make an impact, called by God to make a difference with their lives. But when you are fifty-three and serving a congregation of 250, you know, finally, you’ll never achieve the large-church immortality symbol, the glory that was promised to you. That can be a dark moment-or a dark couple of years. (Goetz, p 43)
However, noted theologian Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers fame, recalled an experience he had when attending seminary. He wanted to hear a variety of preachers, so for a time he visited a different church each Sunday. One week he experienced “the most poorly crafted sermon [he] had ever heard.” A friend had accompanied him, and when he turned to her, he found her in tears. She said, “It was exactly what I needed to hear.”
Rogers then told his audience, “That’s when I realized that the space between someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her, and as it turned out, for me too.” (www.christianitytoday.com/tc/1999/sepoct/ 9r5035. html?start=1)
Although the results from our best efforts may look feeble to some, they can touch a heart and change a life when we least expect it. This side of heaven we will never know the people we impacted through our faithful service.
My dad loves putting jigsaw puzzles together. I don’t. And I especially dislike doing them when you get to the end and find that a piece is missing. A missing jigsaw puzzle pictures the elusive something that leaders sometimes feel that we believe if we had ‘it’ we could truly be content. For a pastor it might be a larger church. For an entrepreneur it might be that winning business idea. For the CEO or president of a company it might be reaching that next sale’s milestone. It’s different for us all. Unfortunately, we often think if we attain ‘it,’ all will be well. That’s simply not true. One of the world’s greatest leaders, the Apostle Paul, gives us us keen insight on this perplexing issue of contentment.
While awaiting trial in a prison in Rome, Paul wrote a letter to the church in the city of Phillipi. Although life was not going well, he wrote these amazing words.
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4.10-13, NIV)
From this short passage, three insights about contentment stand out.
Insight 1. This side of heaven, perfect contentment will always elude us.
The apostle Paul had given up a cushy life as a rising Jewish leader after his dramatic conversion. After his conversion, life didn’t go well much of the time. Likewise, when we trust Christ, He does not promise us an eternal spring. Paul even points to a nagging sense of “something-just-isn’t-quite-right” in 2 Corinthians 5.1-3
1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. 4 Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. (NLT)
Because earth this is not a believer’s real home, we will groan and sigh and long for a better place. Because heaven is our home, we will never find perfect contentment here. This world cannot meet our deepest needs and longings. More money will not meet our deepest needs. Bigger and better stuff will not take all our heart longings and aches away. A a bigger church or a banner sales year won’t cut it either. This side of heaven, we will always deal with a linger sense of discontentment.
As Martin Luther said,
“Next to faith, this is the highest art: to be content in the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet.” (“Martin Luther–The Early Years,” Christian History, no. 34.
Contentment often means we must deal with the tension of feeling content in our circumstances yet not feeling content because we long for something better. God designed us that way.
Insight 2. In the meantime, don’t waste your discontentment
In verse 11 Paul writes that he had to learn to be content. His learning suggests three implications.
1. The measure of contentment we can experience is a choice we make.
2. Contentment doesn’t come instinctively. We don’t mysteriously drift into it.
Contentment doesn’t come instinctively. We don’t mysteriously drift into it. Click To Tweet
3. Developing contentment is not a passive experience. To learn implies we must engage and direct our minds toward something.
I believe we learn to be content when circumstances bring our discontentment to the surface and then as we yield that discontentment to God, He brings us to a new state of contentment, until the next new challenge surfaces discontentment. Then we repeat the process of learning once again.
We don’t learn contentment from a book or a blog. We learn it through life’s experiences.
We don’t learn contentment from a book or a blog. We learn it through life’s experiences. Click To Tweet
Even when Paul was in prison, he was learning contentment. In the short book of Philippeans he even used the word ‘joy’ 16 times.
Insight 3. Tend to your soul.
He mentions learn again in verse 12 but it’s a different word. The Greeks used this word to describe being instructed or initiated into a secret society. Through his learning he had been initiated into this secret of contentment. In this case the initiation rites were the lessons taught by both trial and prosperity. Through that process, he discovered by experience the secret of being content. He then writes in verse 12, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Verse 12 doesn’t mean, for example, that I as a pastor of a church of 700 will see my church grow to 7,000 next year because “I can do everything.” Rather, He promises us that true contentment in any circumstance only comes through Himself. And as we tend to matters of our heart, our relationship with Him, He can bring a measure of contentment to us in the middle of difficult or disappointing circumstances.
Jesus doesn’t promise never ending ministry success, every year a banner year, or freedom from difficulty. Neither does he promise cheery emotions every day. Rather He will give us what we need to face any circumstance that could keep us discontented.
So, as leaders lead, we must live in a world of discontentment and at the same time ever growing contentment.
What has helped you learn to be more contented as a leader?
Some leaders last. Some don’t. Why? Did God endow certain leaders with extra leadership moxie? Did they inherit the leadership gene? Were they in the right place at the right time? Was their ability to last due to good parents? Perhaps all these factors do play a part. However, I believe that one factor in particular determines how well leaders last. Perhaps you will agree. (adapted with permission from People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership).
I believe the key for prevailing leaders lies in clarity of and commitment to their core values.
Do this exercise right now. Quickly, without thinking much, answer this question.
What core values and convictions guide your life and ministry? If you haven’t memorized them, go to the document on your computer or in a file where you’ve listed them.
Were you able to easily recall them? Were they fuzzy or hard to locate? Or was this the first time you’ve even considered what they were? When I say values, I don’t mean the essential values every follower of Jesus should embrace, like keeping the Ten Commandments, obeying the Golden Rule or living out Jesus’ great command and Great Commission.
Rather I’m speaking about more nuanced ones that capture the essence of the real you.
Such values so infuse our soul that nothing external can cause us to compromise them. Granted, they might be aspirational, ones not yet fully developed. Nevertheless, they describe the authentic, Christ-honoring you to which you aspire.
It’s like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north—unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. Even a small magnet can cause a compass to give wrong directions. A magnet external to it affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet makes it compromise. For some so-called values, all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise. However, a gyrocompass is a device used on ships that is a compass “plus” so that a magnet can’t cause it to give a false reading.
Samson was a leader with simple “compass” values. As a Nazarite, he had made a vow (swore to a list of “values”) to avoid certain behaviors. Usually in that day a person’s joy and a desire to set himself apart for God prompted such a vow. In his case, however, it was prophesied that he would be a Nazarite from birth (Judg 13: 5). But from the very beginning Samson found it difficult to live up to those values. He became involved with three different Philistine women, one ultimately leading to his downfall.
Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima write,
“Samson had a deep need to please others. It was very hard for him to disappoint anyone. In fact it was nearly impossible for him to say ‘No’ even when saying yes was in his best interest and ultimately was self-destructive.” (McIntosh and Samuel Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007, Kindle ebook, loc. 1176.
When something (or someone) exerted pressure on his values, his compass didn’t keep him fixed on his true north.
Our true inner values, our gyrocompass values, play a very significant role in how well we last in our leadership.
If a leader wants to lead well and successfully, he or she must build trust with those around him or her. Without trust, teams won’t thrive or even survive. I believe we leaders must prioritize building trust with and among those we lead and serve. Consider these 10 ways to build trust with your teams.
Speak truth, but always in love.
Eph. 4.15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Don’t spin and don’t flatter. Tell the truth, but don’t use a bat to do it. Jim Carrey starred in a movie several years ago called Liar Liar. He always spoke the truth but with no love, consideration or respect.
One of the most successful ways to deplete people’s trust accounts is to send angry emails. Don’t do that. See my blog here about misusing email.
Golden rule trust.
The golden rule says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matt. 7.12)
In other words, give trust to others and they will give it to you. If you don’t trust others, don’t expect them to trust you. Trust gets reciprocated. You want trust, you have to extend it to others
Biblically rooted trust does not mean blind trust. Stephen M. R. Covey calls it smart trust. There must be some credibility and history before you give full trust. I recommend his book Smart Trust.
Smart trust means that you have a propensity to trust and that you extend and inspire trust in others.
People don’t trust what they don’t see. Trust requires humility in that you give part of yourself to others so that you actually give the power to them to potentially hurt or disappoint you. Banish hidden agendas. Don’t make things appear what they are not. Be willing to admit your failures and struggles.
Go the extra mile to right wrongs.
Don’t cover up. Don’t make excuses. Own your own failures. You will build trust in others when you admit it when you were wrong.
Practice Matthew 18 by dealing with conflict 1-1 first. Don’t let others con you into their conflict when they aren’t willing to apply Matthew 18.
God gives more opportunity and responsibility to those who have proved themselves trustworthy.
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ (Luke 19.17)
Hold yourself accountable and responsible. Don’t blame others when you should take responsibility.
Do what say you will do.
Behave in ways that builds trust in others. Show up the same way every day. Don’t be mad at everybody one day and happy as the lark the next day. Be consistent.
… those who fear the LORD…keeps his oath even when it hurts… (Ps 15.4)
… show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2.10)
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Cor. 4.2)
Practice authentic empathy.
Empathy is the ability to step inside the shoes of another, feel his emotions, and see life from his perspective. When you seek to truly empathize, it creates safety.
Empathy is the ability to step inside the shoes of another Click To Tweet
One of the Old Testament words for trust (batach) has a meaning of “careless.” When you trust your spouse or someone else, you feel so safe that you are careless—or free of concern—with him or her. You don’t have to hide who you are or be self-protective (from Focus on the Family).
Seek understanding before being understood. In other words learn to truly listen.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…. (James 1.19)
The more we know each other and truly listen, the more we can understand why others do what they do.
Listen to understand, not build your case, not to reply, not to find loopholes in the other person’s argument or viewpoint, not to correct them, but listen to first understand.
In Miss Pickens’s third-grade class at Glen Oaks Elementary School in Fairfield, Alabama, I performed the first of many science experiments. As a full-fledged geek, I looked forward to those experiment days. One day Miss Pickens gave each of us a small, rectangular magnet about the size of a stick of gum, a sheet of white paper and a small container filled with metal filings. She told us to place the magnet on our wooden desks and then place the paper over it. Then she instructed us to slowly pour the metal filings on the paper. Magically, the metal filings clumped into semi-circular shapes at each end of the magnet. She then explained that those filings aligned themselves with the unseen magnetic force fields radiating from each end of the magnet. Thus I learned about the concept of force fields. In the same way every leader and pastor carries with him or her their own emotional force fields.
You’ve probably met people that carry around a magnetic, attracting one. My wife does. She loves people, and people immediately sense that. They feel drawn to her because her personality and caring persona invite interaction. One the other hand, I’ve known people that carry around an emotional field that pushes people away. It doesn’t take much interaction for me to feel uncomfortable or even repelled by such people.
Neuroscience describes a process called theory of mind that enables us, to some extent, to intuit the emotional and mental state of somebody else. When we notice someone’s body language and eye movements, we subconsciously can sense his emotional state and whether he is for or against us. Although not foolproof, this ability helps us pick up on subtle cues from others and “read” their emotional force field, whether it draws us to them or pushes us away.
An episode in the book of Ruth illustrates the idea of force fields.
When the women in Bethlehem first saw Naomi years after she had left with her husband, they were shocked at what they sensed in her. Her name, which meant “pleasant,” no longer described her countenance. Instead, her losses in the previous decade had led left their mark, and the women immediately sensed it. No longer “pleasant,” she asked them to call her Mara, which means “bitterness” (Ruth 1: 19-20).
In a similar fashion, I would often sense the mode of a leader in a former church (I’ll call him Jake), simply by looking at him. He would sometimes come into a meeting with an emotional field that screamed, “I’m in a bad mood, and I’m going to resist everything you say.” His entire persona telegraphed his adversarial mood.
In contrast, I recall another leader in a former church that always carried an emotional field that said, “Charles, I am for you and with you. I support you.”
When we step into another’s emotional field, it does affect us. We often function in unhealthy ways in response to these fields. When I sensed the adversarial leader’s mood (Jake), I would often subconsciously tense up. My anxiety level would rise, and I would put myself on guard for fear of being hurt in some way. As a result, I could not think as clearly and would easily become defensive.
On the other hand, when I sensed the other leader’s affirmative mood, I felt safe. I could be myself, listen and be fully present for her.
This experience parallels how the poles of magnets either repel or attract each other. Difficult church conditions often give rise to repelling emotional fields that can cause conflict, personality clashes and distance. When we find ourselves in these adversarial fields, we must draw deeply from our spiritual resources, as Nehemiah did that we see in the book named after him.
Instead of disconnecting, powering up or reacting, we must stay calmly connected to that person. Our responses significantly affect the emotional fields of others in a positive or a negative way. When we keep our cool in the face of conflict, we think more clearly and can actually moderate the person’s or the group’s overall anxiety.
Consider Canada geese, for example. When I lived in Chicago, I’d often jog in the fall near a field packed with resting geese. When I ran near them, inevitably one would crane its neck, look at me and stand up, which caused the rest of the flock to do the same in a ripple effect. The one goose’s “anxiety” fed the others’. But after I ran by (unless for fun I ran at them), that initial goose would lower its neck and sit down, which cued the rest of the flock to follow. Its anxiety, or lack of it, affected the entire flock.
That’s how it works in churches and organizations. It travels from person to person in groups. If a pastor or leader brings his anxiety into a staff meeting (or a church service), it likely causes everybody else’s anxiety to rise as well. Likewise, if he relates to others with calm instead of anxiousness, they mirror his calmness. As Margaret Marcuson writes,
“When a leader is clear, calm, and confident, people find their own confidence increased, and they are more likely to follow.” (Leaders Who Last, Kindle loc. 815)
Calmly connecting does not mean we never get emotional or show passion. Nor does it imply we should become best friends with our critics. Roberta Gilbert explains it this way:
“If the leader can make a more frequent contact with difficult people (notwithstanding the fact that we all want to distance from them) they will often settle down. These contacts don’t have to be large amounts of time, they simply need to take place. And, sometimes, they don’t need to be about issues. Contact simply needs to be made.” (Extraordinary Leadership: Thinking Systems Make a Difference, Falls Church, VA: Leading Systems Press, 2009, p. 136)
So managing our emotional force fields is key to leading well.
How has your emotional force field, whether positive or negative, affected those you lead?
Sometimes a book comes across my desk that catches my attention with a unique angle on leadership. My friend, Tom Harper, just wrote one. It’s called Through Colored Glasses–how great leaders reveal reality. It’s written as a leadership fable and quite insightful. I highly recommend it. I asked Tom if I could ask him some questions about the book and here are his answers.
What prompted you to write Through Colored Glasses?
Anyone who’s been a leader has observed how people misunderstand each other, withhold information, and manipulate others to get ahead. There’s a widespread lack of honesty in workplaces (including churches).
I wrote this book to give leaders a tool to fight this trend. The story’s main lessons center on how to wield the power of truth in the office – not just by being honest and transparent, but by utilizing concepts and techniques found in the Bible to pull truth out of people.
I believe if you understand and apply the biblical principles this story teaches, you’ll reveal reality all around you, every day. As a result, you’ll be a much more effective leader.
Explain the essence of the book reflected in the title.
You’ve probably heard the saying “he wears rose-colored glasses,” describing a person that’s always optimistic, even to the point of naiveté. It’s as if they ignore reality.
Through Colored Glasses describes how most of us see the world – through lenses that are anything but rosy. We’ve got a cloud of emotions, moods and thoughts coloring our views.
When we look at each other through those off-color lenses, what do we see? We tend to interpret each other’s words and actions according to our own biases, rather than trying to understand the other person from their point of view.
Why did you choose to use a fable as the core of the book?
For me, story has always been an effective teacher, whether it’s through leadership fables by Patrick Lencioni and Ken Blanchard, biographies, true-life dramas or even novels. Plus, I’m always intrigued when a conference speaker tells his or her personal story, sharing the hard lessons they’ve learned.
As I strategized this book project, I realized the most poignant and memorable way for me to teach what I’ve learned would be through a story that brings the concepts to life.
Many nonfiction books today could be half as lengthy, without losing any meat. With this in mind, I kept this book to 100 or so pages. You can read it on a plane trip. I tried to make it fast-moving all the way to the climax, where the main lessons come into focus.
You mention filters and facades we deal with. How does a leader discover unfiltered reality in the heart of another, and in himself or herself?
One way to improve our ability to understand what someone’s thinking is to get to know the person. As leaders, though, we can’t intimately know everyone under our care.
To remedy this, we can tap the Bible’s great wisdom for understanding the motivations behind people’s words and actions. It gives us cues to watch for. I’ll give you two examples.
First, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Simply assessing someone’s countenance can alert us there’s something significant going on behind the scenes, urging us to move forward with sensitivity.
Another example is listening for verbal signals. Two of my favorite verses on this are also from Proverbs:
“The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin” (Prov. 10:8).
“The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly” (Prov. 12:23).
In other words, you can gauge a person’s overall wisdom by how much they respect authority and use word economy. If someone constantly announces what they think, their overall judgment is questionable. Giving them greater responsibility probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
We can apply these verses to ourselves, of course. Listen to yourself in your next few conversations. At any point are you defensive, impatient or unusually verbose? At that moment, assess what’s going on in your heart.
When I listen to myself speak, I often hear internal struggles coming through. It reminds me to entrust my worries to God – he wants us to lean on him at all times, even as words are coming out of our mouths.
What is the biggest takeaway in your book for leaders?
After more than two decades of reading leadership books and holding them up to the Bible, I’m convinced that biblical principles undergird just about all the leadership best practices you’ll come across.
So, my #1 takeaway would simply be to read the Bible for yourself, and do what it says!
I recommend you add this book to your reading list. You can purchase it here on Amazon.
Brainstorming can often improve creativity when you need many possible ideas. Consider these 12 suggestions the next time your team needs to generate solutions to a problem.
Encourage debate, dissent, and healthy criticism of ideas. Healthy debate has shown to produce more ideas than the traditional, “don’t criticize any idea” mentality (Nemeth et al., 2004). Set these rules beforehand, though, to keep the debate healthy and the ideas coming.
Don’t personally attack people.
Use such phrases like, “I have a different view,” “I see things differently,” or “What about this?”
Reiterate the other’s person’s viewpoint before offering your own.
Clarify the other person’s viewpoint first.
Keep your creative teams diverse. Include new people and women and men.
Make sure the brainstorming leader is affirming and not overbearing and that he doesn’t unintentionally drive his personal agenda.
Create spaces in your office area that encourage frequent and spontaneous interactions.
Don’t allow one person to dominate brainstorming sessions. Sometimes a ‘know-it-all’ can shut down creativity.
Be observant of something called ‘social loafing,’ our tendency to feel less responsible for a project in a group than when doing a project alone. Some on your team may sit back and let the rest of the team generate the ideas. Guard against that. Studies with a rope tug-of-war showed that blindfolded people who believed they were pulling a rope alone pulled 18% harder than those who thought they were on a team (Karau & Hart, 1998). However, the more cohesive the group, the less social loafing.
When beginning a creative session, the leader should acknowledge that everyone is on equal footing and that she wants everyone to feel that they can contribute.
Before your brainstorming session, ask the team members to generate ideas on their own and to submit them in writing before the session.
Be wary of too much group harmony in creative sessions. Artificial harmony that fosters a ‘too nice’ atmosphere can stifle appraisal of alternatives.
When trying to solve a problem in a brainstorming session, challenge the group to present counterintuitive solutions (i.e., what’s obviously not the solution to the problem). This approach can foster even more creativity.
Provide an incubation period to let ideas simmer. If you give the team a brain break and encourage daydreaming, when they come back to the problem, solutions often arise (Sio & Ormerod, 2009). Sometimes ideas come to us while doing something moderately taxing and daydreaming at the same time (i.e., taking a shower or walking on a treadmill). It’s called unconscious thought theory, UTT, (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006) that proposes that solutions to complex problems often come when we are intentionally not trying to solve them.
When trying to solve problems, encourage your team to imagine themselves a year from now instead of imagining themselves tomorrow. Studies show that this time perspective fosters more creativity (Förster et al., 2004).
What has helped your brainstorming sessions be more productive?
Nemeth, C.J., Personnaz, B., Personnaz, M. & Goncalo, J.A. (2004) The liberating role of conflict in group creativity: A study in two countries. European Journal of Social Psychology, 34 (4), pp.365–374.
Karau, S.J. & Hart, J.W. (1998) Group cohesiveness and social loafing: Effects of a social interaction manipulation on individual motivation within groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2 (3), pp.185–191.
Sio, U.N. & Ormerod, T.C. (2009) Does incubation enhance problem solving? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135 (1), pp.94–120.
Dijksterhuis, A. & Nordgren, L.F. (2006) A Theory of Unconscious Thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1 (2), pp.95–109.
Förster, J., Friedman, R.S. & Liberman, N. (2004) Temporal Construal Effects on Abstract and Concrete Thinking: Consequences for Insight and Creative Cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87 (2), pp.177–189.