To Lead People, You Have to Connect with Them. Here’s How.

After college, I worked third shift in a cheese factory. We would come into the factory at 10:00 p.m. and help run the machines that sliced, diced, and boxed several hundred thousand pounds of cheese each day. At the end of the night, we would stop the machines, tear them down, and clean them up. In the morning, we would put it all back together and get it all running again.

One good thing about working third shift is less bosses. The higher ups in the factory didn’t want to come in during the night. They would come in the following morning. Most of them said very little to us. I always felt like there was a pretty big separation between the managers and supervisors and those who worked on the floor.

Rob Sheloni, however, was different. He would take an interest in us. He would sit down in the break room and chat with us about our lives and the work. But the thing I remember most about him is that he would do something that pretty much nobody else would do. When we had a late night and had to turn things around quickly, he would pick up the high pressure hoses we used to clean the equipment, get wet, and help us get the job done on time.

Rob Sheloni could have asked me to do almost anything. I felt a connection with him, and I felt that he cared.

And if we want people to follow us, they have to feel like we have a connection with them. Continue reading “To Lead People, You Have to Connect with Them. Here’s How.”

You Have a Vision. Now Get Clarity on the Path.

“What’s the best way to get there?”

I don’t know. Where’s there? You might think.

In leadership, you have to have a destination in mind. You need a vision. If you are going to help others, you have to get clarity on where we would like them to be.

However, once you have clarity on the vision, you can find clarity on the path. When you know where you want to go, you can begin to plan how to get there. That’s the second part of the leadership process.

A friend of mine was concerned about the direction of the youth in her town. Her own family had been touched by the scourge of drugs, and she had known many of her kids’ friends who had experienced the same problems. But she also believed that things could be different.

So, what could she do? She had a vision of kids having hope that would lead them away from drugs and other destructive behavior, but she had to think about the means. How would she help them get from where they were to where they could and should be. She discovered the story of Joseph Rojas, the lead singer of the Christian rock band Seventh Day Slumber. Rojas had been deep into drugs but had found hope in Christ that led him out of the deep hole he was in. Continue reading “You Have a Vision. Now Get Clarity on the Path.”

Leading from Vision Rather Than Reaction

Leadership by Reaction
And now, Geometry. That was the new subject in my friend’s sixth grade class. His teacher, Mrs. Smith, walked slowly through the class. She stopped behind my friend and asked a geometry question, “What do you call two points on a line?”

Like myself and many of you, he responded, “I don’t know.”

Whack!!! Mrs. Smith took the paddle that she carried around with her and whacked him in the head with it.

Now did he know? Of course not. All he knew at that point was that he did not like Geometry or Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith’s method of leadership is ludicrous, but that’s often how we try to lead. People aren’t doing what we want them to and then, whack! We respond in a way that demands people change immediately. We react by by attacking, withdrawing, or complaining. It is leadership by reaction.

When we lead by reaction, our leadership helps people move forward with about as much efficacy as Mrs. Smith’s whack on the back of the head moved my friend to new knowledge. It’s good to want people to be in a better place, but leadership by reaction is often not based on thought or reality.

Everybody has people or communities that they want to see in a better place. The trouble is that so often we pursue it by simply reacting.

Is there a better way? Absolutely there is.

The Alternative: Leadership from Vision
It’s called leadership from vision. It begins with a vision of where people could and should be. This type of leader then chooses the path that will be the best route to help people get where they need to be. Then, the leader helps people walk that path through teaching, examples, steps, and encouragement.

Take the story of Mike Lanza. Lanza remembered kids playing outside together when he was young, and he thought this was a better place for kids to be than what he saw around him. Like many of us, he was concerned about the amount of time kids spent in front of screens. Continue reading “Leading from Vision Rather Than Reaction”

5 Reasons Churches Should Talk a Lot More About Leadership

Leadership is extremely important. Few things happen in this world without it. We all recognize this. For example, when our favorite sports team is not doing well, who do we blame? The coach. Then, the team ends up hiring a new coach. People are excited . . . or worried. Why? Because leadership matters.

So, if the church is concerned about making people better and making this world a better place to the glory of God, then it should teach on leadership. However, I’ve seen mixed reactions to instruction on leadership. Here are a few of the objections/comments I have received to teaching on leadership. I put my answer next to it and then the positive reason for teaching on leadership in the church.

Reason # 1: Leadership is an inescapable part of the human way of life created by God.

1. Objection: Leadership is a secular topic. Answer: I do not call secular that which belongs to normal human life. It is part of God’s created order. Just as work, marriage, and education are part of life, so leadership is part of life. All of these are part of God’s creation. Faith in God and His Word reorients our way of thinking about all of life, including leadership. If God exists and created this world in which leadership matters so much, then we would expect that He would have something to say about it.

Reason # 2: We all do have and should have people we want to lead to a better place.

2. Objection: I’m not a leader. Answer: people often think of leadership in terms of a leadership position such as a boss, teacher, or pastor. However, leadership is a broader concept than that. We are leading someone whenever we want to influence people to move to a place where they could and should be. Anytime we are concerned about people’s behavior or character and want to see it changed, this involves leadership. Anytime we are concerned about a community, group, or individual, this is an opportunity for leadership. In addition, we not only are already seeking to lead, but we ought to have concern about the people around us and want to see them in a better place. This is our just duty. Continue reading “5 Reasons Churches Should Talk a Lot More About Leadership”

5 Ways to Become a Better Counselor

Being a counselor is part of life. Whomever we meet and wherever we go, we will find people with problems. We will talk about those problems. We will often try to help them find solutions. There are some people who do this as a full-time job, but almost everyone will be engaged with counseling on some level.

Because of this fact, it is a good idea for us to think a little bit more about how we give counsel. What are the methods that are the most helpful? When should we speak and when should we just listen? How do we listen well? How do we get people to open up? These are things we need to learn and which we can study and practice over a lifetime.

In my profession as a pastor, I do a lot of informal counseling. I listen to people’s problems, pray with them, and help them find solutions that will improve their lives. Because of that, I’ve tried how to counsel people from those who have done a lot of it. Here’s 5 ways I try to be a better counselor.

1. Build connection with people. When people feel accepted, loved, and safe, they are more ready to talk about their own story and listen to yours. There are specific things that we can do to help us connect with people.

Counselor Alan Loy McGinness explained what he learned from years of counseling about how to connect with people in his book The Friendship Factor. I recommend this book and his simple but important insights. Here’s a few from his list:

  • He recommends that if we see something good in someone that we say it.
  • Share things about yourself as well as encouraging others to share about themselves.
  • Find out what people enjoy and find ways to connect with that passion.

Doing these things can help us build a connection that is a context for helping others (and ourselves!).

2. Help people tell their story. When people have been through difficult things, they often have a story to tell but have not told it to many people. They may not have reflected deeply upon it. It just sits there as a sort of open wound. Continue reading “5 Ways to Become a Better Counselor”