Raise your hand if you’ve been here… it’s Friday morning and your team leader (pastor, programming director, superior, etc…) has an idea for Sunday. Several thoughts fly through your mind. Some of them are less spiritual than others: What are they thinking? Are they crazy? Why does this always happen? He’s killing me!
If this has happened to you more than two or three times it’s time to explore an alternative reaction. What if you approached this differently? What if you began to own some of the responsibility for how your leader operated? Now wait a second. You’re busy. You already have enough on your plate without attempting to think for your leader as well. But, an investment of time and energy like this could revolutionize your working environment. Think about it, a different approach could actually increase your productivity and enjoyment at work. That’s a worthy goal! If you want to make your work environment better, then you’re going to need to make your leader better. Here are eight ideas.
1. Lead Yourself
You will make everyone around you better if you discipline yourself to work on the first things first. Founder and former CEO of Visa, Dee Hock, says, “Those of you looking to lead should invest at least 40 percent of your time managing yourself- your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30 percent managing those with authority over you, and 15 percent managing your peers. Use the remainder to induce those you “work for” to understand and practice the theory… Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.”
2. Lead Up
Leading up is simple: find out what your pastor needs and provide it! Easier said than done. Every situation is different. Your context will determine specifics but here are two general areas to work on. First of all, your pastor needs you to understand that while you have the luxury of being focused in a particular area, he has to lead an entire organization. You get to be myopic. He doesn’t. So, be strong enough to share your ideas but flexible enough for him to learn he can trust you. Strong but flexible, compelling but patient. Secondly, he needs you to be prepared. Again, he’s got fourteen different unresolved issues going on in his mind. You get to be focused on only one or two so, focus on those one or two. Anticipate all resolutions and his potential responses to those resolutions. Sometimes you know the blind spots better than he does. Invest time to consider the pros and cons before a meeting.
3. Utilize Active Feedback
Verbally recap what you hear your boss saying. For example, if there appears to be confusion you can recap by saying, “What I hear you saying is you have no idea what you are doing.” Just kidding. This would not be a good strategy. Simply feed bite-sized chunks of conversation back to your boss and you’ll be amazed at what a big leap forward effective communication will take. Initially it will sound basic and you’ll feel it’s too simple. But it works. After years of being frustrated with miscommunication here’s another simple but effective discipline: follow many relatively important conversations up with a written email or text recapping the major points. This provides something in writing in case accountability is needed. Additionally, it affords the superior the opportunity to double-check accuracy and expectations. If they see that you have recapped something erroneously they can initiate further discussion.
4. Pray for your Leader
1 Timothy 2:1-2 – “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Compare how many times a day you pray for your leader and how many times you complain about him? What’s the ratio? Do you think there’s a correlation to your effectiveness or contentment?
5. Accept Responsibility
If you want to stand out, if you want to get your pastor’s attention, take responsibility for your problems. Own your faults. You see, most people try to own what can never be owned (i.e. material stuff, image management, etc…) but avoid what should be owned (i.e. their issues). An added benefit of being a person who accepts responsibility is that you become a model. Others will pattern themselves after you. John Maxwell often says, “You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are.”
To adapt Franz Kafka’s famous quote, “A book can be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Reading conditions you to be open to new ideas. It plants seeds of creativity that can potentially be harvested in a difficult session with colleagues or superiors. The compounding interest of an investment like reading will pay important dividends.
7. Learn to React, Respond or Initiate
When someone reacts to medication, it’s generally a bad thing. But, when someone responds to treatment, it’s generally a positive thing. Reacting to your leader is not healthy. Responding might be. But, the best option is to initiate. Proactive initiating dramatically reduces knee jerk reactions. Take inventory of the time you spend with your boss. How much of that time is spent reacting, responding or initiating? If you want a better boss, learn how to make initiating a rule and not an exception. (By the way, reacting is almost never appropriate – unless you’re in a fire – then it’s very appropriate.)
8. Work hard
Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” The saying goes something like, “overnight success usually takes about 10 years.” The challenge is to avoid the temptation of the overnight success story. Figure out what the effective, consistent, day-to-day routine looks like, and emulate. There is an inherent pattern in how people work… when there is a crisis, most people step up their game. It is not uncommon for an employee to give an extra effort during a difficult time. What is uncommon is for an employee to consistently work hard during a normal time. Oswald Chambers said, “It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people – and this is not learned in five minutes.” ·
Jonathan Foster has led worship and technical teams in micro and mega churches. He is a pastor and poet living in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, Johnna, and three children. He blogs regularly at www.theproblemwithreligion.com