Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where I Point My Arrows

I think a lot about my job. Sometimes I think more about my job, it seems, than I actually do my job.

But part of my job is to think about my job; strategically envisioning the future, contemplating growth, developing leaders, anticipating the next thing, planning for three or six or twelve months from now...a lot of my time is spent on what I visualize as a topographical road map in my brain. There's a thin, squiggly red line - that's the pathway - and it zigs and zags all over the place; there are mountain ranges and valleys and many rivers to cross and then there's me, a little dot in the middle of it all. Smiling and waving and hoping that everybody still likes me.

Honestly, sometimes that's how it feels.

I have had much good advice and much time and effort invested in me over the past six years. People like Brian Hughes and Dennis Green have gone out of their way to push me and prod me, ask me hard questions and sometimes tell me things about myself that I couldn't see - and sometimes didn't want to hear. The end result - or at least the result at this point in time, which I HOPE is not the end! - is that I've started to intuitively do some things that are relatively effective when it comes to leadership. There's much I have to learn, and much I don't do well; but today, I had two specific opportunities to reflect on the dynamics of what I do and why I do it. In both cases, answering specific questions led to an entire day of reflection and examination.

And now my head hurts and I'm tired.

But, in short, here's something I thought about a lot today; and something I also talked about in two very different conversations, occasions when two very separate people asked, for two very different reasons, "How do you do what you do?" I think that these are two guiding principles that I have learned from leaders like Brian and Dennis, things that have become the baseline for whether or not I feel like I am fulfilling my role as a pastor / leader as effectively as I should. If I do these things right, everybody wins.

  1. Listen well. Brian says repeatedly, "People just want to be heard." In situations that are conversational, pastoral, coaching or simply dialogue, I try to remember that the most important thing is to hear. Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand; then to be understood." Without even realizing it, years of hearing that around the office and seeing it applied (especially when I have been given the gift of being understood!) has forged that principle deep in my soul. I think the greatest gift we can give anyone is to hear their story. I try to listen well, to keep my body language focused, to be more about the person across from me that I am about what brilliant thing I might have to say. This is very humbling, but it has become true in almost every situation: Other people are infinitely more interesting than I am. When I act on that truth, it helps me to live out one of the most powerful pieces of Biblical text: "In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Making good listening a priority reminds me of what really matters. Plus I learn a lot.
  2. Build trust. I was part of a conference call as the recipient of several questions regarding how and why we do what we do in the Creative Arts department at PCC.  "Tell me about your planning process" is like opening a fire hydrant for me; I had to quickly think about what would be most helpful and filter out what would just be me happily rambling on and on about the incredible things we get to do around here. Over the course of the question and answer exchange, I realized that these folks were looking to build a strong team, one that encouraged all the members to "play nice", which - apparently - is not always the case (with any team, anywhere). As our time drew to a close, I spent a few moments emphasizing the importance of trust; and even as I said it, the realization became stronger in me. Without trust, nobody wins. We have invested a lot of time and tears in building trust at PCC; learning how to have conflict with one another, holding each other accountable, believing the best, going to the hard places together. I am convinced that this is a foundational and important part of any organization - but especially a church staff: you must trust one another. I know that living in an environment that emphasizes the importance of trust  had impacted my spiritual growth; after all, trusting God is a cornerstone of our faith and our spiritual formation. We're learning to live it in the messiness of our humanity; there's no question that it powerfully impacts who we are. For any team to succeed, trust is essential; and it takes time and continued investment to maintain. It's worth it.
I don't get either of these things right all of the time, but they help form the foundation for where I'm pointing my arrows.

And that's where I've been today, both inside and outside of my head.

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