Monthly Archives: December 2011

It Doesn’t Go Without Saying

I’ve adopted a new mantra this latter part of 2011: It doesn’t go without saying.

How did this come to be a mantra of mine you ask? Let me give you a few examples from my life (and surely yours as well):

“I just thought that went without saying.”

“I thought that’s what I was implying…”

“I assumed that was a given.”

“I thought you knew.”

Me: “AGH!!!! YOU THOUGHT WRONG!”

My experience is hardly unique in any of this, but it’s the only experience I’ve got, so that’s what you’re getting.

I am an external processor. I need a sounding board. I love brainstorming. I prefer dialogical communication. Q&A is like candy to me. It is far more unsettling to think about what a person might have on their mind and isn’t sharing vs. anything that might come out of their mouth. (Thus, it makes all the sense in the world why I not only started a blog, but also felt the need to write about talking! How much more external could my processing be?!)

I am fully aware of this mantra’s limits and am definitely not advocating verbalizing every thought that enters one’s mind. It is true that you cannot retract words spoken. Self-control is crucial. We all need to be discerning enough to know when to listen, when to choose words carefully, when to bite our tongues. But we also need to be discerning enough to know when regret or confusion or resentment or sin or all of the above will be the direct result of keeping quiet.

Logistically, I nearly lose my mind when something falls through the cracks or gets royally fumbled when it’s 100% preventable and due to a lack of communication. I’m not interested in watching the buck get passed or blame shifted. I want people to talk a thing through before it happens. YES, this can get painstakingly laborious. YES, this can border on nagging at times. YES, we all have different personalities. (Some prefer all the details in an Excel spreadsheet with a timeline attached and others pass out at the mere sight of bullet points.) However, when doing anything collaboratively, there is no getting around my mantra. Well, there is, but it’s not pretty!

Sometimes we severely underestimate what our thoughts mean to others. The voice, the perspective, the wisdom, the concern, the love within you needs to be heard more than you might realize. And it’s not always a hard conversation with a co-worker or an angsty 2 hour phone call with your sister. It’s not just a heart-to-heart with your spouse or your friend. The mantra is multi-purpose!! Everyone needs affirmation. Everyone is moved when told that their gifts are appreciated and that their work doesn’t go unnoticed. There are people around you that you admire and respect who have no idea. Who continually impresses you and would be floored to hear you say so? Who makes your life a little easier and how would they know the impact they make? Then, for the love, say so!

Say what you need to say.
(Go ahead, queue John Mayer. It’s ok. It’s a good song and is quite appropriate for this post!)

Because saying (rightly) what needs to be said is a good way to live.

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Great Unmet Expectations

DISCLAIMER: To avoid a few potential unmet expectations about this post, let me say that these are thoughts I have largely regarding interpersonal communication in leadership. While I hope all this translates beyond the context I put it in, this is not so much about expectations you have of the Lord or even those that you have of yourself. For either of those 2 categories, I would much rather direct you to Pastor Jonathan Martin’s blog and/or podcasts!

Us leaders, we can get really frustrated (quite frequently) when those on our teams, whom we love and have invested a great deal of time, energy, prayer and resource into, seem to be falling short on a regular basis. Maybe it’s in the same areas, maybe not. Maybe it’s the same people, maybe not. Maybe it’s just not a “good fit” for them. Maybe you are hitting some spiritual resistance. Maybe they need more discipline or accountability or maturity. Maybe.

But maybe YOU, leader, are the problem. Or at least, part of it.

Because in my experience (and in Scripture, I should add) a good leader is always self-reflecting and looking for the conspicuous plank before becoming consumed with the irritating speck. When I do that, take a look at what I could do differently to facilitate change or growth in someone, 1 of 2 things is more often than not the case for me:

1. Either the expectation given wasn’t clear or wasn’t clearly communicated in ways that he or she could receive it.

OR

2. The expectation was unrealistic to begin with.

Either way, adjustment is required and must start with the leader.

When my husband, Nathan, and I were doing our pre-marital counseling 8+ years ago, our pastor at the time taught us the invaluable practice of repeating back to each other what we heard the other say. The point of the practice is to reveal discrepancies in what is actually being said versus what is being received. Doing this can be quite an enlightening experience! Even to this day we do this from time to time and it quickly clarifies the conversation. In leading people, we have to be sure that how & what we are communicating is actually computing the way we need it to! We ensure accuracy of the reception by speaking as plainly and directly as possible, by providing concrete examples, by giving written feedback and not relying solely on your verbal communication. We give plenty of room for dialogue and question asking. We define the “win” for them so they know what success looks like and how they know when they are moving toward it. We keep the expectation always in sight and revisit it from time to time.

But sometimes, no matter how clear a thing can be, it’s just not realistic. Clarity is no longer in question. It happens to all of us from time to time. We misjudge people’s abilities, underestimate the time & energy that is required to execute a particular assignment, or oversimplify the scope of a project. And in those times, we have to lead honestly enough to know when the disappointment or frustration we’re experiencing is of our own making.

Its never a fun thing to realize when you’ve set the bar too high or set it so ambiguously that you’re the only one who could see it. But remember that it’s certainly frustrating being the one trying to clear said bar and coming up short at every attempt. No one likes failing.

Do yourself and your team a favor by doing your part in limiting the potential for unmet expectations. For some of us that starts with committing not to create them in the first place!

Oh, and do me a favor and remind me of this post the next time you see me banging my head against the wall!

2011: The Year of the Executive Pastor

It’s been a big year for Renovatus.  Little did I know as 2011 came rolling in what a big year it’d be for me.

I won’t forget Pastor Jonathan calling me in to his office at the beginning of the year and telling me of his need for an Executive Pastor, of which we were all very aware.  The church had grown in complexity and he was being inundated with matters that hindered him from focusing on the things God had called him to do.  (And a good leader knows that delegating the things that others can do enables the leader to do the things that only he or she can do.  But more on that another day!) What I didn’t anticipate was his suggestion (and by suggestion I mean edict) that I become his Executive Pastor.  I anticipated I might be asked to assist the new Executive Pastor or help somehow in this new staff transition.  I wasn’t expecting to BE the transition.

Don’t get me wrong- I know an awful lot about Renovatus and how she runs!  I’ve worked at the church nearly since it’s inception over 5 years ago. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere, actually.  The first fours years I assisted Pastor Jonathan and managed the office, which is to say I did a little bit of everything except the preaching!  I have a solid grasp on Pastor’s vision and am completely committed to the mission we are on to join God in renovating lives.  In those ways I was more than qualified to be his XO (I’m an army brat…that’s military speak for Executive Officer- the guy that the guy counts on).  However, prior to that moment if you had asked me to describe an Executive Pastor, my honest descriptors would have been along these lines:

A middle-aged man with 10+ years experience in a corporate work environment, perhaps as a CFO or Vice President of Human Resources. Or maybe Director of Development at a national non-profit or something else with an equally as impressive title.  Oh, and holds two post-graduate degrees (MBA & MDiv preferably).

On paper, if I were the one recruiting for the position, that’s who I would’ve been looking for.  Fortunately for me, that wasn’t who Pastor was looking for and I wasn’t asked to find the next Executive Pastor, just to become her!  Needless to say, it has been quite an adventurous year.

And a good part of the adventure is in the sharing of it with others.  So, here are 4 of the many things I’ve picked up on along the way this year:

1.  The Lead Pastor determines the role & scope of the Executive Pastor.  What I mean to say is that the job is largely subjective.  It is contingent upon the strengths, needs, personality and preferences of the Lead Pastor.  It is a dynamic relationship with a number of variables and as such, the position will not look, but in fact be, very different from church to church.  Because of that, I want to work really hard to understand on every level what my Lead Pastor expects of me and how he defines what success looks like in my position at Renovatus.

2.  Executive Pastors Execute.  This is not one that I’ve had to learn, honestly.  I place a high premium on followership naturally, but I think is a very important point and can’t be overstated.  It is not uncommon to hear of power struggles between the Lead Pastor and his or her second in command.  This is almost always because of competing visions.   Scripture is very clear about respecting and submitting to those in authority.  The Lead Pastor is accountable before the Lord for the church, and as such, it is only appropriate that the vision he has be the one that is carried out.  If you cannot support that vision you will end up creating your own, even if only internally, and it will cause divisiveness in your life, and ultimately, in your church.  Trust God’s lordship over your pastor.  Loyally follow him as he follows Christ.

3.  Be Fiercely Protective.  In this position you are privy to a great deal of “scoop.”  For some reason, church people love to have the scoop, which means you are a walking target.  Discretion, tactfulness, propriety, and self-control are crucial.  Always speak honorably of others, specifically of your pastor and the staff.  The churches who battle the least with gossip and slander are the ones whose leadership has made it a non-negotiable to protect unity within the body.

4.  Be Intentional.  My first few weeks and months in the job were spent largely responding- to emails, to event details, to conflicts, to situations.  There will always be some measure of responding in any position.  However, I quickly learned that I would have to actively choose intentionality and then fight to keep it amidst the day to day chaos!  The position was new to the church and we were figuring out what it needed to look like and what areas needed my attention the most.  I couldn’t wait until things settled a bit, until the church calendar was a little lighter.  That day wouldn’t come. It would always be the default option to let the circumstances & crises of the day dictate my priorities.  That’s no way to lead.  Plan the work, work the plan and guard it like crazy unless the Lord or the Lead Pastor tells you to do otherwise!

There you have it.  4 of 5769+ things I’ve learned in 2011, my freshman year in executive leadership at Renovatus.  Here’s to 2012 being our best year yet.