Thursday, May 02, 2013

Leadership: Lighting The Way

written by Jason Young, director of guest services of Buckhead Church in Atlanta
I have a small Ikea-style nightstand next to my bed that has a number of items on it – including an alarm clock, lamp, picture frame, books, a pen, and a flashlight. Strangely enough, I use one item more than the others, the flashlight. I started thinking about the use of light in my house. Both of my children use a nightlight. We have a motion sensor floodlight and garage light. We have lights in our refrigerator and freezer. You get the point. We use lights to illuminate our surroundings to help us navigate a specific space at a designated pace.
If you lead any size team of staff and volunteers, you understand the importance of illuminating their surroundings to help them navigate their role in the context of the local church. Some leaders do this well and others struggle everyday with the why, what, and how of making this happen. That leads me to one word: vision. This is often an overused word. I even sometimes find myself shying away from a leader when they begin to describe their vision. It’s often primarily beneficial only for them.
As I write this article, I’m in the middle of significant changes in my own area of responsibility. I recently shared a new vision with my staff and 800+ volunteers. Having been in situations like this before and now in this season again, there are five helpful elements I have used and continue to do so when communicating vision with staff and volunteer team members.


Have you ever been frustrated when you seem to understand what you are thinking about and saying, but those listening just aren’t “getting it”? We must remember that nobody thinks of our vision as much as we do. Knowing this, we must intentionally decide to slow down and communicate clearly. How? Approaching a person/team with empathy is critical to the initial engagement with people. Choose to talk in such a way that people feel like you understand where they are, even before they feel the need to make it known. Give the vision in such a way that it is succinct enough that people feel it is portable. When a vision is portable, the propensity for understanding and implementation is higher.


As leaders, we often depend on one preferred channel to communicate vision. The challenge arises when the recipient doesn’t connect with that medium. We can disregard their mindset or we can expand to reach different learning styles. I would even go one step further to say that we layer communication channels. Using digital avenues allows information to be sent out to a lot of people in little time. A simple phone call can be helpful. There is the face-to-face connection that still holds undeniable power. Your context, personal leadership style, and the vision itself should guide which channel is best.


I am not the most patient person and I have been guilty of rushing to implement a vision. What if we took some time to become aware of the season our church is in, the health of the current ministry that is about to see a new vision, our personal health, and the counsel of others? Timing is critical to the success of not only the revelation of your vision, but for the sustainment as well. Time your decision. Time your conversations. Time your responses.


What if you could discover a way to help your staff and volunteers remember the vision? There is a way, and it isn’t difficult. As leaders, we spend a great deal of time combing over content, less time on how we communicate, and even less on how we want the vision remembered. Take time to connect your vision with an emotional story and/or a visual. Why? When your staff/volunteer thinks about a story or visual, they connect it back to the vision.


You know as well as I do that some people will love the new vision, and others will give it their best effort to destroy whatever you say. Then there are people in the middle that are cool with the vision but struggle with the process of change. I think we sometimes expect different responses, but when they begin to roll in, we act surprised.
When God gives his leader a vision, He wants that vision shared with others. We must do our part to listen well, think strategically, and execute with excellence. Be great by choice. Choose to light the way for your staff and volunteers so they know where to walk and where to lead others along the way. You’ll be glad you did!

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