Tag: Listening (page 1 of 2)

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

When People Frustrate Us

You’re frustrated. The conversation goes horribly. Tardiness becomes the norm. A person nitpicks our actions. You and I have a list of what frustrates us.

Frustration raises the levels of our emotions and defenses. In the heat of the moment, some of us want to retaliate. Others of us avoid the situation while slowly seething with anger. Some of us utilize passive aggressiveness.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” The key to overcoming frustration is seeing the big picture. Patience invites us to realize the grace God has given us and therefore have the wisdom to respond well to the other person.

Today, you might get frustrated with a person. Ask yourself these four questions before you take any actions:

1. What’s my preference vs. problem?

It’s important to categorize our frustration. Preferences emphasize opinions. Problems deal in terms of facts and guidelines. When our preferences get mixed up with problems, we focus on how we want to change the person to fit our needs rather than helping them mature.

2. What’s my role vs. theirs?

Often, our frustration comes from a lack of communication. We have not shared our expectations. Frustration causes us to assign motivation to a person with them filling in the blanks. Deciphering our roles helps us honestly assess the situation clearly.

3. Where are they on their journey of growth?

Our frustration with people can cause us to forget their growth. A person may have come a long way on an issue, but they have triggered us to forget. Subjective grace overlooks issues that do not bother us, but can magnify the ones that do. The conflicts we have with people may not adequately understand their journey.

4. How ready is the person to hear what I have to say?

We play over and over in our mind the conversation we would love to have. You could have the perfect argument to the person in their place. If our frustration causes us to confront, then the person may miss what we have to say. Ultimately, this has to do with trust. Can the person see that you are invested in the well-being of their lives to hear you?

When you get frustrated with a person, take a moment to pause and see the situation. Asking one of these questions could make the difference in how you approach the person. What other insights have helped you when you get frustrated with others?

Photo credit by Josue Bieri.

Just a Little More

“Don’t wear your cleats to practice. Bring your running shoes.” Coach Jamie, my high school soccer coach, would announce these dreaded words. It signified what he lovingly termed, “Conditioning Practice.” As opposed to a regular practice, these practices meant running and sprinting. Followed by more running and sprinting. A few ab workouts and pushups rounded out our session in the humid August weather of Upstate New York.

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We loathed these practices. Coach would press us to compete against ourselves, putting in just a little more effort and energy every drill. By the end of practice, each of us had experienced a small degree of satisfaction in making it through this conditioning. When the humid August sun turned into the cool October breeze, our team could run with any opponent we face.

Grace reminds me of conditioning practice. The moment we think we have sufficiently exercised grace, we find ourselves in relationships and circumstances that need just a little more than we thought.

Consider what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:41, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” It’s as if Jesus says, “Just when you thought you gave enough, double it.” Not necessarily the Bible verse we stitch onto pillows or make into bumper stickers.

Jesus calls to exercise an unnatural amount of grace. We do not extend it by sheer willpower or gritty determination. It comes from experiencing the forgiveness and acceptance that He has given us. The more we realize the grace we have received through Christ, the more we can come to extend it to others, even when it’s a little more than we think.

So today, you might encounter opportunities to offer a little more grace…
Listening to a person who needs five more minutes in a conversation.
Answering ten more additional questions.
Waiting fifteen more minutes than you would like.
Perhaps, even walking a literal extra mile.

Grace like conditioning practice prepares us to offer more each opportunity with the realization that Christ has given us infinitely more than we can ever think or imagine.

Who will you extend a little more grace today?

Photo credit by Christian Widell.

When Conflicts Turn

Gridlock materializes in conflict when two parties cannot find common ground. People stubbornly stand in their spot or even move farther apart. Often, seemingly unassuming issues become enormous challenges because people cannot make progress towards each other in a disagreement.

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As I look back at the conflicts in my life, I notice a reoccurring theme. Conflicts turned the moment I moved from rationalizing my rightness of position to moving towards understanding the other person. It took stepping into their perspective and relinquishing a need to defend my point of view.

90% of conflict is understanding the other person, and 10% is about being right and wrong.

In the heat of the argument, we want validation of our correctness. Two immovable people in the midst of a disagreement trying to find a resolution results in gridlock. Both vying to win the debate as opposed to finding common ground.

How can we turn conflict from being right and wrong to understanding each other? Here are a few ideas to consider.

1. Listen without Interruptions.

Nothing raises the level of contention than not letting a person finish their thought. You can see the escalation of frustrations like presidential candidates raising their voices for airtime in a debate. Listening can calm a situation. It allows a person to speak their mind. Then they can sense the value of you attempting to understand.

2. Play it back.

A phrase I often hear from my wife and appreciate her saying is, “So what I think I hear you saying is…” That means you have not only listened to the information, but you have processed what a person said into understanding. You have attempted to play back what they have told you.

3. Stop using “But.”

The word “but” negates. You can play back everything to a person, then using “but” signals your view is coming. We know the feeling of hearing an apology with, “I’m sorry, but…” Instead, wait to interject your perspective until the person has felt heard.

4. Use patience.

We want to resolve conflict quickly, but it may take more time than you think. In understanding the person, you may want to take the time to respond with your perspective. A person just sharing their frustration might not be ready to hear the other side. Pray with each other asking for God’s help. Then set up a follow-up time.

The way we handle conflict reveals to how we understand the Gospel in our lives and grace of Jesus. Consider 1 Peter 3:8-9:

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

How have you learned to turn conflict by understanding the other person? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Tomohiko Nogi.

Chosenness and Love

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day as a child? You may have had a mailbox where you received the delivery cards and candy. Notes got passed with the checkbox for the question, “Do you like me?” Schools would allow students to fundraise by selling roses and secret singing grams. A classroom anxiously anticipated the blushing, excitement, and embarrassment of classmates receiving these gifts.

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We learned at an early age about the joy and disappointment of Valentine’s Day. Some of us get the note with the checkbox “yes.” Others of us waited for the flower or love letter that never came. We might have taken courageous steps to show another our interest met with approval or rejection.

The week leading up to Valentine’s Day amplifies the human desire for acceptance, being chosen, and finding love. It can be an exhilarating celebration the loved ones around us. On the other hand, many struggle with the reality of pain. This day represents a hope for what could be, but a present that does not reflect that.

Learning to experience grace in following Jesus calls us to enter the darkness. Not necessarily for easy answers to our questions, but an even deeper recognition of Christ in us. Identifying the hurt and brokenness, while seeing the beauty in the midst of the reality.

Henri Nouwen in the Life of the Beloved makes a powerful statement finding the truth of God’s love in the midst of a world full of rejection, darkness, doubt, insecurity, and self-interest. He calls us to reclaim our chosenness from God:

The great spiritual battle begins – and never ends – with the reclaiming of our chosenness. Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God, who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love. Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clock-time – our brief chronological existence – but by the One, who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity.

The world around us this week will give us various definitions and expectations about experiencing love. Let us find the truth of our chosenness and acceptance from the One that loved us first. And in experiencing that love, we can then love the people around us. The Gospel time and time again reminds us that the truth of God’s love trumps the lies the world around us has told us.

Many of you have wanted to forget this week for various reason. I hope you have you can find your acceptance in a God who loves you and a friend with a listening ear that does not speak clichés or trite, simple answers.

Christ calls us out of our brokenness and in the healing we can become aware of the pain in others. Becoming aware of our pain leads us to help others to find healing in Christ.

May all of us communicate God’s chosenness and love to each other. In the midst of a highly commercialized holiday with seemingly fluctuating messages about love, I hope we speak the truth God’s love in us before anyone else loved us.

Photo credit by Hello Goodbye.

Surprise People

Prepare for the worst. You and I can think of scenarios where this applies. The moment you get the email saying, “Can I meet with you to discuss something?” It happens in the meeting where you have to pitch the idea. Some of us shiver with fear walking up to a podium for public speaking. You open the door of the house anticipating loads of laundry, dishes in the sink, and the rest of the house in shambles.

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Think of the relief when the worst does not happen. Rather than telling you the bad news, someone wants to sit down and tell you the good news. You hear more encouragement than criticism in the pitch or presentation. Someone has anticipated your exhaustion and cleaned the house. People can surprise us.

Flip the scenario around. You notice another person preparing for the worst. They worry just like you about the reactions to the presentation and the pitch. They anticipate the mess as they open the door to the house.

We know what would like in those circumstances, but how often do we think about others? Better yet, do we respond others in helpful ways?

Experiencing Christ’s grace moves us to recognize the needs of others. The Gospel meets us in everyday life. It’s reflected in our acts of service. It comes through in the moments when people expect the worst.

James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Community makes this observation about Jesus’ example:

His (Jesus) example becomes our example. Not merely because we want to imitate him and perhaps earn his favor. Being a servant of others is the highest way to live. Wanting and needing to be served by others is not life-producing but soul-destroying, Jesus showed us by example. Jesus the Creator of the universe, the King of all things, comes to serve. He washes the feet of the disciples. He lives to serve.

He not only taught it, he lived it. He gave his life for the good of others, including you and me. We who follow him as teacher are called on to do the same, to shift our focus away from ourselves and onto others.

Serving in Jesus’ name has less do with action and more to do with an attitude. Grace causes us to see what He has done for us; thus, we extend that same grace to others. The Gospel causes us to see the needs of others and respond to them in ways that they can recognize Christ.

In a world full of busyness and self-focus, we surprise people when we offer them grace. They have thought the worst about a circumstance and we have offered them the contrary.

We surprise people when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on them. It’s the kind word of encouragement when they expected the criticism. It’s doing the mundane chores without being asked. It’s the moment you listen to someone and comment later.

Serving others becomes a tangible expression of living the Gospel in everyday life.

What can you do to surprise someone today? How can you serve them so they can experience grace?

Photo credit by Kelley Bozrarth.

Reads of the Week | 01/30/2016

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

When the Coffee Machine is Just a Human by Andrew Pilsch

Pilsch shares about the qualitative difference of coffee made by humans as opposed to the instant pod one cup. I agree, coffee made by humans tastes better.

Re(de)fining Purpose by Carlie Galla

Carlie calls readers to look beyond goals, careers, and dreams to start as the question of character. Many of us need a little more focus on who we are becoming as opposed to where we are going.

Tuesday Reflection: Who Knows How to Listen? by Seth Haines

Last week, I read Haines’ book Coming Clean, and I highly recommend it. His short reflection invites to experience silence so that we can hear from God.

One Day I Stepped into a Puddle and Disappeared by Becky Martin 

Becky just started blogging, and her first posts have been fantastic. She wrote a remarkable post about motherhood and finding her identity in Christ.

Our Prayer Instincts are Backwards by Andrew Wilson

Wilson makes a phenomenal observation on prayer:

The topsy-turvy order of the Lord’s Prayer is one reason it is so remarkable. Jesus’ disciples knew the Scriptures, so they probably already knew how to ask for rescue, forgiveness, necessities, and God’s action in the world. What they didn’t know, and what Jesus wanted to make sure they never forgot, is that prayer is not intended to move from action to relationship.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Roman Mager.

Unmet Expectations

Words seem cheap. When we experience a “No” from God, we grasp for the platitudes and pillow stitched verses. People in their kindness attempt to provide hope. The simple clichés never speak to the angst and the amount of effort we have asked God to intervene. You and I petition God for the healing, removal of the pain and struggle, and He answers us with a “No.”

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If each of us had the opportunity to share of unmet expectations in prayer, we would recall the painful situations. Some of us would reflect on the beauty from the ashes. Others of us would still interrogate God on the question of “Why?” The pain of a broken world does not exempt us from unmet expectations, especially in our prayers.

Isolation becomes the lie we believe in these circumstances. God says “Yes” to everyone else. People reticently amplify the good news of answered prayers. Perhaps, we have lost the ability to weep with those who weep. In the all good news, does anyone want to tell the truth of the bad news? Disappointment happens to all of us.

I wonder if we need to hear more stories. Not for advice, but to experience the “me too” of life. Debunking the lie of isolation falls flat when we encounter someone in a similar situation.

Seth Haines in Coming Clean courageously and eloquently shares about his journey. The book outlines the ninety days of recovery from alcohol while his young child Titus fights for his life in a hospital with a rare disease.

In one of the most remarkable sections, Haines speaks of unmet expectations. He reminds us that David received a “No” in losing a son in 2 Samuel 12 and so did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked not to suffer. If you and I receive a “No”, we’re in good company. I would encourage you to read the whole book, but Haines sums up this section by saying this about prayer and unmet expectations:

The invitation to make our will known to God, to beg for his intervention, is an invitation to act like the blood-sweating Jesus in the garden. Bending the will, though, requires the Christlike willingness to endure the cup of unmet expectation. Bending the will requires Christlike faith, a faith that says, “Father knows best.” Bending requires Christlike knowledge that even in the shadow of every valley, God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) pg. 158

A perspective like this does not negate the agony of unmet expectations. Rather, we need the reminders of faith. Many of walked through these dark valleys and that includes Jesus. It moves us from faith in circumstances to one directed towards God.

I look back at my prayers that resulted in unmet expectations. In the bending of my will, I learned to know Him in a different way. His promises met me in surprising ways. In my disappointments after the weeping, I began to realize that Jesus walked into the same dark places. Our Savior hears our prayers as someone who sympathizes and emphasizes.

Today, you might be in the midst of hearing a “No” from God. My prayer for you today is that you sense Christ in the dark places and that you could find the hope of joy in the morning. May you feel the prayers of the saints and may their presence encourage you to sense God’s presence.

Photo credit by Elliott Engelman.

Reads of the Week | 12/05/2015

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These five reads from this past week challenged, encouraged, and provided perspective for me. Check them out for yourself.

Thanks to the Internet, Everyone is a Storyteller by Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff gives three ideas of using the internet to connect with your kids. Part of the genius of this article is your children can learn a little bit about your childhood and connect with you.

7 Habits of Leaders Who Inspire Loyalty by Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf provides seven habits of awareness of others. Inspire loyalty within teams means genuinely listening and taking time for others in our homes and workplaces.

The Legacy of George F. Johnson and the Square Deal by Guy Raz

I’m giving a little homage to my hometown, Endicott, NY. This article and radio story share about George F. Johnson, who brought business to my hometown.

Were you lonely when you were a freshman? by Brian Doyle

Doyle recounts his freshman year of college. His authentic reflection reminds us of the loneliness around us.

Always Advent and Never Christmas by Andie Roeder Moody

A call to recapture the celebration of Advent. Moody gives insight into the context of this season and provides practical thoughts on making the most of the season.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

The Question Behind the Question

Questions rarely come out of nowhere. Think of when your child asked a deep or meaningful question about life. Perhaps, a friend sitting with you at coffee paused and then reluctantly posed one to you. You might have received a text message that you could not respond to another text.

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You might have heard it said, “Don’t answer my question with a question.” True, this adage makes sense for direct and “yes” or “no” questions. At other times, a question is an invitation to a significant aspect of another’s life. When we answer too quickly, we can run the risk of not understanding.

The most meaningful questions people ask result from a deeper place and even hours of processing it in their mind. They might have a story to tell. Maybe, they care far less about your answer and just want you to listen. To immediately reply, misses the “why” of the ask in the first place.

So the next time someone asks you a deeper question, here’s a few steps to understand what might lie behind it:

1. Pause

Sometimes, we talk too soon. Let the silence settle. Take the time to digest what the person has asked of you. They might even have more to say. You could miss that if you immediately talk.

2. Affirm

Consider when you ask a significant question. It requires courage and authenticity. Identify those characteristics in others. Value their journey and process, then share what you affirm in them.

3. Understand

Don’t miss the opportunity. Just ask them, “Can you help me understand what’s behind that question?” Let them tell you more. Providing the space of listening allows them to process and for you to have context.

4. Respond

Not every question needs an answer. Often, we find people need space to share. Consider what they have said to you and offer perspective. If you don’t have a answer, don’t offer one. On the other hand, if you have insight look to connect with them.

It’s a gift when someone asks you a meaningful question. Let’s not miss the opportunity to build the relationship. Discover the question behind the question.

Photo credit by Vadim Sherbakov.

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