Tag: Coworkers

Four Tips for Young Leaders

Young leaders live with tension. We have the pulse of the community around us, but sometimes lack the wisdom of life experience. We can see with fresh eyes the unhealthy patterns in an organization, but sometimes we focus on change that’s not the highest priority. We can have a vision for hope for the future, but that can come across as a slam to the success of the past.

It’s not easy being labeled a young leader. As I look back at the opportunities afforded to me, I have many instances that I would label “handle that differently.”

Perhaps you have felt the same way. God has placed you in a role in the marketplace, church, or school. The people around you see your desire to lead and change a community for the better. On one hand, people love your insight and ingenuity; on the other hand, you may feel that people have put you in the box stamped young.

Last week, I was sitting with my mentor, Mike. We were discussing the tensions of young leadership. He gave me four practical tips in that conversation that I thought would be important to share with you:

1. Ask good questions

One of the frustrations people have of young leaders is that they have an answer for everything. Many of us have a lot to say, but the question is, are people ready for it? When we begin by asking good questions, it helps us create a bridge of understanding. It can also lead to better responding to the feedback that we desire to give. Asking good questions slows us down and communicates that we want to listen. Wait to talk.

2. Wait to talk.

Have you been in a meeting when the same person responds first to every question? That can be off-putting and the constant talking can render a voice ignored. I confess that at times I have failed here. Why should we wait? Because it gives other people a chance to respond. Another person might give the same insight, which would allow you the opportunity to agree with them. Instead of speaking, take a moment to write your thoughts down. And be patient.

3. Compliment specifically.

In talking with older leaders, I often hear how they feel young leaders critique more than affirm. One way to lose influence is to be the person that points out more problems than solutions. When something goes well, compliment specifically with an email, text, or note pointing it out. It tells people you are listening, watching, and observing.

4. Say YES as much as you can.

Many leadership books talk about the importance of saying “NO” to things that don’t fit the vision of the organization. At times, we need to narrow our focus.  As young leaders, a “YES” can be an opportunity to build a bridge. A lot of times when we say “NO” it has less to do with vision and more to do with convenience. That’s not always a bad thing, but if you become the person who constantly says “NO” then people might stop asking you. Look at ways you can support the people around you. That’s what saying “YES” can do.

Whether you’re a young leader or not, I hope these tips help you in your role. What other tips might you offer to young leaders? Share them in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Štefan Štefančík

Disagreeing, Debating, and Distractions

A friend turned to me, “You’re so disagreeable.” If I had any sense at that moment, I would have thought about how to respond. You cannot win by responding to that statement. I retorted quickly by saying, “No, I am not.” My response only proved his point causing my other friends to laugh.

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Some of us relish the role of devil’s advocate. The lively debate energizes us. To a certain extent having these discussions reflects a healthy community. On the other hand, disagreeing and debating can distract us. It can keep us from finding common ground and discussing what matters. Instead of a healthy exchange, the fight spirals into gridlock. No one changes along the way. Frustration forms in a relationship and hurt develops with each other.

I will never forget this conversation. It surfaces in my mind at moments when I want to disagree or look for a debate. Those moments when my mouth gets ahead of my thoughts. People hear us louder when we disagree with them. Often, others desire us to listen rather than go toe to toe on an issue. Wisdom asks this question; is it worth it?

Thomas à Kempis in the 1400s dealt with the distractions of debating and disagreeing. He said this in the Imitation of Christ:

If we were as diligent in uprooting vices and planting virtues as we are in debating abstruse questions, there would not be so many evils or scandals among us nor such laxity in monastic communities. Certainly, when Judgment Day comes we shall not be asked what books we have read, but what deeds we have done; we shall not be asked how well we have debated, but how devoutly we have lived.

Disagreeing and debating reflects on us. They distract us from looking into our lives. We can point other’s flaws or misunderstandings while not taking into consideration our own. Thomas à Kempis hints at the Gospel at work in our lives. Not looking to assert our pride or knowledge, but attempting to understand a person and what they need from us in a conversation. Learning to see others and situations from Jesus’ perspective.

Grace moves us to look into our hearts and motivations. Here are a few questions for us to ask ourselves when we want to disagree or debate:
Do people consider me a disagreeable person?
What’s at stake by me playing devil’s advocate?
Will this person hear my intent to help them?
Why am I looking for this debate?
How is disagreeing distracting me from own issues?
How can I join this person rather than stifle them?

Perhaps, our family, friends, and coworkers could use a little less of our disagreeing and debating. We have the opportunity to extend them grace from God by listening and encouraging them today. Lastly, let’s take the opportunity reflect on areas of our hearts where God would call us to grow, rather than giving into the distractions.

Photo credit by Martin Kníže.

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