The One Competency That Hard Core Ministry Leaders Need Most

So you walk into a co-worker’s office to open up about something that’s bothering you.

Two minutes into the conversation all you start hearing from your colleague are phrases like:

  • It’s not that bad
  • Why don’t you just try X?
  • Compared to what Josh is going through, that’s nothing.
  • You shouldn’t feel that way.
  • Want to hear about my problem?

Question: when you walk out of his office, how do you feel?

If you’re like me, you wish you never had brought it up. Wrong person to talk to, I’d say to myself on the way out.

And yet, if I don’t watch myself, that’s exactly what I do to other people all the time.

In fact, you might too. Almost every A type, driven leader will do that.

What’s lacking in that equation? Empathy.

Empathy is a critical leadership skill many driven people naturally lack. But the good news is, it’s learnable.

What’s Empathy Again?

If you’re a naturally empathetic person, you probably think this is a ridiculous question. But if you’re a driven type person (like me), you realize some of us just don’t know.

Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work, defines empathy as feeling with people.

She says empathy consists of four things:

  • Perspective taking. The ability to understand someone else’s perspective.
  • Staying out of judgment. Not offering your editorial comment on someone else’s woes.
  • Recognizing emotion in other people. The ability to perceive how others are feeling.
  • Communicating that. Letting them know you see what they’re experiencing.

If you want more, this video short by Dr. Brene Brown is a super sharp three-minute primer on the difference between empathy and the much-less-helpful sympathy.

BreneBrownEmpathy

Click on the image to play video

The good news is empathy, like almost all things related to emotional intelligence, is a skill that can be learned. And it should be a skill in every leader’s tool kit.

  • Being empathetic as a leader can help you
  • Understand how others in the organization or community are actually feeling
  • Discern how your leadership positively or negatively impacts other people
  • Pray better for others
  • Become a far more approachable (and even likeable) leader
  • Create a much better team culture

And that’s just scratching the surface.

5 Reasons Leaders Lack the Critical Skill of Empathy

So why is empathy so difficult to come by for some leaders? This is significant because understanding why you might naturally miss empathy is the first step toward learning that skill.

Here are 5 reasons leaders often lack the critical skill of empathy:

1. You’re a Fixer

Many leaders are fixers. I am by nature. Bring me a problem and it will take me approximately .3 seconds to start coming up with solutions.

Except that’s exactly the opposite of what many people need when they are trying to explain to you how they feel.

How do you overcome this? Listen…just listen (for far longer than you would naturally). And then ask the person whether they see any solutions. Chances are they do, and if they come up with the solution, they’ll own it better anyway. And if it’s too emotional in that first meeting, book a second meeting to come back to the subject again.

 

2. You’re All About the Mission

Again, this is a good thing. You should be all about the mission. You’re a leader.

But there are seasons where being all about the mission is actually an impediment to accomplishing it.

While you might gravitate toward helping someone get over the problem so you can get on with the task at hand, you might actually alienate them enough to lose them to the cause.

By waiting, listening, affirming and then moving through a situation more slowly, you give them time to move through their issue.

 

3. You’re Defensive

I hate to admit this, but as a young leader, I saw every problem as a threat to progress. I was so zealous to accomplish our mission (see above) that I didn’t have time for any problems.

It made me defensive. Far too defensive. In fact, any time I smelled conflict, issues or a potential roadblock, I would get defensive.

I remember a moment years ago where an elder pulled me aside and said “Whatever you do in this meeting, don’t be defensive.” That was a moment in time I’ll never forget. I sat there while we worked through a problem and didn’t try to defend myself or our mission.

And while I wasn’t empathetic to the person with the problem, I was at least neutral.

I was amazed at the difference it made. When I didn’t fight for myself or the mission, other people did. Funny what happens when you sit back and relax.

Just because someone has a problem doesn’t mean they’re opposed to your mission.

 

4. You Speak More Than You Listen

Empathy takes time. It just does.

Listening is key. And listening is far more difficult than speaking. Especially when you are driven by tasks and a sense of urgency.

If you listen 2-5 times more than you speak when you meet with people, you will be a far better leader.

Just try it.

5. You’re Reluctant to Affirm a Negative Emotion

Many driven leaders are afraid to affirm anything that stands in the way of the mission. I get that.

But what if affirming someone’s opposing emotion might actually be a key to accomplishing your mission.

Here’s an example. Someone stops you to complain about how loud the music was Sunday.  Instead of saying “Well our decibel level is never beyond 95db and that’s acceptable in almost every other forum”, try this:

Oh, I’m sorry you found it so loud. You’re not alone. What part was the hardest for you?

It hurts my ears.

I would be upset if it hurt my ears too. I can see that.

Well…uh…thanks.

We have a reason for playing at the level we do. If you’d like to talk about it sometime I’d love that. But thank you for sharing that with me. I appreciate it. And I’m sorry it hurt your ears today.

How do you think that person feels after the conversation?

How do you feel?

Better. 

While you may not have solved the issue, you’ve at least listened, empathized and tried to show that you care. And chances are in practicing the skill of empathy, you felt a genuine connection with the person who was complaining. Nobody loses in a situation like that.

And you’ve paved the way for the next conversation. Maybe you should turn the volume down or the audio was hotter than it normally is. Or maybe the answer is to hand out free ear plugs or direct people to seats where the music is quietest (sound is different in different parts of every room).

That’s a short primer on what I’ve learned and am still learning on empathy.

What are you learning? What’s tough for you to overcome if you’re not naturally empathetic?

And naturally empathetic people, what would you add to this conversation?

Read more from Carey here.

 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Growing Leaders Crave Silence and Solitude

When was the last time you had meaningful time alone?

No meetings, no appointments. No phone buzzing. No music in your ear buds. No distractions.

Just stillness. Solitude.

My guess is for many of us the answer is it’s been a while.

What if I told you that your effectiveness and maybe even your longevity as a leader depended directly on finding and establishing regular periods of solitude? 

Ever notice that:

> Jesus prepared for 30 years and taught for three? That’s a 10 to 1 ratio of preparation to execution. We do the opposite.

> Even when Jesus was teaching, he would just disappear to pray or to be alone?

I think Jesus modeled the truth that solitude is essential for impact.

As a driven leader who for many years was an extrovert (I’m a little more introverted now), I used to resist solitude.

I saw downtime as unproductive time and was uncomfortable if I sat still for more than 10 minutes. I would actually invent something to do just to break the silence.

But, thankfully, over the years I’ve learned to make peace with silence.

Since that truce happened, I’ve learned so much more about myself and about what God wants to do in my heart and my life.

Now I crave silence and solitude.

In fact, I think the most effective leaders seek it out and see it as essential to tuning up the most important aspects of leadership.

 

8 Things Solitude Can Do For You as a Leader

1. Reveal how you’re really doing. The quiet outside will reveal the quiet or disquiet within you.

2. Help you discover what is most meaningful and important. The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates).

3. Give you insight into your character. Silence and prayer have a way of revealing the truth about who you are. And as I outlined in this post, that’s critically important because ultimately, character, not competency, determines your capacity.

4. Give you energy. Like exercise, practicing the discipline of solitude gives you energy.

5. Let you actually hear from God. You can only really hear from God when you’ve slowed down enough to listen. For me, when I do my slowest readings of scripture, I hear from God the most clearly.

6. Renew intimacy. Intimacy isn’t possible in a rush. True intimacy (with people or with God) only happens when no one’s in a hurry.

7. Establish priorities. Solitude accelerates clarity.

8. Restore your soul. If you’ve lost your soul, solitude will help you find it. If it’s out of balance, solitude can help you restore it.

 

5 Do-able Ways to Find Solitude

While the pattern of solitude might look slightly different for all of us, here are 5 doable ways for busy leaders to carve out solitude in the rhythm of every day life:

1. Get up earlier. Even if it’s just 15 minutes earlier than you get up now, starting your day earlier allows you stillness than will otherwise elude you for the rest of the day. I get up every day between 4:45-5:30 a.m. so I have solitude before anything else begins. Not a morning person?  Michael Hyatt’s free podcast on how to become a morning person is classic. (If you just don’t want to become a morning person, then stay up later to find solitude.)

2. Calendar solitude. I intentionally book very few meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My perfect week has none. That’s because I bring the highest value as a leader when I’m working on the ministry I lead, not in it. You can get so lost in the details of managing a ministry that you stop leading it. When you book free days (start with just one if you have to), you give yourself time to pray, think, reflect, imagine, dream, poke, kick and rethink.

3. Find a hobby you do alone. For me, it’s cycling. 80% of the time, I ride alone. No one interrupts me. The movement in my body kick-starts movement in my mind. Some of my best ideas have come when I’m cycling. Other leaders I know choose photography, running, kayaking, hiking or other hobbies. Even if you start with an hour a week, it will clear your mind.

4. Take a personal retreat. I haven’t done this often, but at critical times I’ve borrowed a cottage (lake house), rented a suite or just gotten away to clear my mind. Even a day can do wonders.

 5. Take a mid-day break. Turn the music off, turn off your phone and go sit somewhere. Even for ten minutes. Find a park bench. Sit by yourself at Starbucks. Sit in the shade in your car. When you are still, you will know that God is God.

What’s your relationship with solitude like? Do you find it valuable? And how do you make time for it?

Read more from Carey here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Does Your Onstage Performance Reflect Your Backstage Practices?

News stories tend to focus on destructive and tragic events in our culture. Like most major metropolitan areas, the Chicago evening news fills the first ten minutes with murders, fires, accidents and natural disasters. Kind of a “bad news, then good news” approach, with emphasis on the bad news (like some preaching we hear!).

When it comes to leaders, we like to point out where they got it wrong. Politicians behaving badly, pastors talking arrogantly, athletes living shamefully – all these provide journalists with more than ample fodder for “BREAKING NEWS” at almost any moment of the day.

Because so many of us have a stake in a leader’s failure, we tend to overlook the leadership successes around us. After all, when a notable leader stumbles, it makes us feel better about ourselves, gives us someone to blame for our apathy and ignorance, or provides interesting lunch conversation for our otherwise boring and meaningless lives.

But when leaders get it right (and many do!), a lot of good stuff happens. We need to tell their stories – to our teams, our friends and ourselves!

Because when a leader gets it right

  • Energy flows to creating solutions and rather than making accusations
  • Team members feel empowered rather than overpowered
  • A compelling shared vision replaces a crippling ego-driven “visionary”
  • Conversations are truthful and gracious, instead of ruthless and tasteless
  • Tough decisions are boldly faced and, not cautiously feared
  • Movement is fostered by a mission, not forced through manipulation
  • Justice is rightly pursued not wrongly ignored
  • People feel honored and valued, not shamed and used
  • Success measures how people are treated, not just how profits are made
  • Workers are promoted by quality performance, not a deal-making cronyism

We need more of leaders who get it right, and we need to ferret out the real ones from the posers, the platform personalities who talk the leader game at conferences and conventions, but who play by a different set of rules behind closed doors. Lance Witt, writing in his book Replenish, describes this difference by comparing the leader you see on the front stage versus what is going on “back stage” where character, the soul and the real personality are seen.

We need real leaders whose performance “backstage” – off camera, away from the excitement and spotlights – is congruent with we see up front. Some are pressured to perform even thought their souls are damaged, and they cover their broken parts. Others are just mean “Jekyll and Hyde” types who present well publicly but are awful to work with, toxic to their staff and self-centered ego-driven tyrants.

Ask people who work with these leaders about the “back stage” persona – is it the same person you see “up front” in public settings? Are they as funny, winsome, easy going, and likable after their scripted, “front stage” persona is set aside and the back stage personality – the real person – emerges in the darkness?

Maybe that is why we give the media so much material to work with. But if we can become leaders with increasing integrity and healthier souls, admitting we are not the center of the universe, not letting the front stage make us posers, we will get it right.

And when leaders get it right…great stuff happens. It really is amazing. And the stories … oh, the stories are grand. They won’t make the evening news—they’ll just make the world a better place.

And that’s the real story.

Read more from Bill here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

11 Disciplines that Deliver Energy to Your Team

I completely agree with Bill Hybels.

The best thing you can bring to your team as a leader is your energy.

This is true not just for your team, but for your family for your friends…for life.

Great leaders seems to have a reservoir of emotional, spiritual and relational energy that’s contagious.

And yet, if you’re like me, you struggle with your energy level on a regular basis.

I think everyone does. I’m not sure there are exceptions.

So how do you become one of those leaders who has energy on more days than you don’t?

A few simple disciplines can turn the situation around for you quickly…starting today.

To really bring your best every day, try these 11 things:

1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night

Most of us need far more sleep than we’re getting. You will be tempted to sleep less because you have so much to do. Do the opposite. Get to bed on time, and you will wake up refreshed.

Something that would have taken you 3 hours to do in a dazed state might only take you an hour when you’re fully alert. You’ve actually saved time by sleeping more.

Not convinced? Michael Hyatt even makes an incredible case for the utility of naps in leadership here.

2. Exercise regularly

Yep. I fought this for years too. But not anymore.

The summer, I’m doing an average of 5-6 hours a week cycling. I realize that’s just over half a work day…cycling.

But it makes me a better thinker, and the ideas I generate on those rides are often far better than the ideas I generate watching a blinking cursor behind a screen. Since a big part of my job is generating content and thinking, I find exercise directly makes me a better leader.

Plus I’m down 30 pounds from 6 years ago. That alone makes me attack life with more vigour.

3. Eat better

I resisted this for years too, but I’ve made big changes in my diet.

For me and for many others, what I eat has a direct impact on my energy level.

I recently cut added sugar out of my diet and experienced a direct energy boost. No more sugar crashes. I’ve also cut out grains and other high glycemic carbs. (If you want to know what regimen I followed, it’s the Whole 30 plan.)

4. Start your day with God

Your first hour or two matters so much. I start my day with the Bible and prayer…and cultivate a closeness with God that is with me throughout the day.

When I miss it, I feel it.

I realize the night hawks will struggle with this, but to me starting a day with Christ anchors it in Christ. So personally, this is a real help.

5. Have some fun

Fun is work for me. It is for many leaders. But you need to pull yourself away from the keyboard or office and enjoy life.

Have a picnic. Hang out with great friends. Do something active. Cycling is fun for me, so is taking pictures, going for hikes, travel and being around family and other fun people.

You need to figure out what’s fun for you.

6. Develop a hobby

This is a close cousin of fun. Many people who lack energy lack a hobby. You need something to turn your attention away from work so you can go back to work refreshed.

I write this blog as a hobby and cycle.

7. Spend time with people who energize you

Be honest, some people energize you and some people drain you. The challenge with leadership (and especially ministry) is that you can end up around a lot of people whose needs leave you drained at the end of the day.

It’s a good idea to make even a short list of people who energize you and then make sure you get around them regularly, whether that’s for coffee, breakfast, or even a phone call.

Only spending time with people or issues that drain you leaves you feeling drained.

8. Schedule white space

I realize I write about creating white space a lot. White space is simply space on your calendar with nothing but time to think and work on your ministry, not in it.

But I write about it because so few leaders set aside time to think.

When I have white space, I can run back into the every day of leadership again with renewed energy and passion.

9. Confess your sins

Bet you didn’t expect to see this on the list. But it should be.

Often I can get upset with other people which interferes with my ability to relate to them. Often, I discover I was part of the problem (surprise). If I confess my sins regularly, I am more able to step into the day with a fresh, generous and open perspective.

Surprisingly, the bible makes a direct link between unconfessed sin and a lack of physical energy.

10. Do your most important work first

One of the reasons you get agitated later in the day is because people knock on your door needing something, and all you can think of is “but I have to get X project done”.

Well what if you did X project first thing in the morning?

If you get the most important tasks for the day done first, then the interruptions that come later will feel less like burdens and more like opportunities.

11. Take a quick break

Get up and walk around. Go for a quick ride at lunch. Go for a walk. Grab a coffee.

I find that when I have a day of meetings, breaks like this (even if they’re only 90 seconds or 5 minutes) allow me to tackle what’s next with renewed energy.

I’m still learning about how to bring my best energy, but I do know this: when these 11 things are present in my life, I bring much better energy to whatever I’m doing.

>>Here’s a challenge. Why not implement three changes starting today, and see if you notice a change within 48 hours. Maybe it’s just going to bed earlier, or ditching the soft drink, or getting out for a walk or getting up earlier to have some time with God.

But watch what happens to your energy as a result.

Go ahead. Pick three and try them out.

In the meantime, some of you have ideas too.

How about you?  What fuels your energy?

Read more from Carey here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.