You Cannot Be Changed and Comfortable at the Same Time

All people everywhere possess a natural, inherent bias in favor of status quo. We resist change, and prefer keeping things just as they are because change involves risk and stress (even good change, or change from worse to better), and we are naturally wired to reduce risk and stress wherever and whenever we can.

The problem with this natural bias, of course, is that all true learning and discovery, all personal development and growth, and every experience of authentic transformation, happens ~ and can only happen ~ outside that protective “status quo” bubble.

Simply put, you cannot be changed and be comfortable at the same time.

Authentic transformation happens outside your comfort zone. Risk and stress are intrinsic aspects of all true personal growth and transformation. There is no way around this fact: To be changed, you must first be uncomfortable, and you must remain in that uncomfortableness for as long as it takes for the change to become, in essence, the “new normal.”

It’s one thing to study Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). It’s quite another to actually surrender all our money to God, or (for many of us) to surrender even a tithe.

Yet it’s through just such transformational experiences that all meaningful change and growth happens.

In fact, recent studies in neuroscience have revealed that in order for any learning experience to be truly transformational (i.e. life-changing), it must include these four elements:

1. It must be interruptive & immersive ~ The experience must take people out of their established routines and immerse them in something novel and different. For example, relocating a group from its regular gathering place to someplace different or unexpected, such as a riverbank or downtown coffee shop.

2. It must be emotionally compelling ~ The experience must matter to people on an emotional level. This can be accomplished in several ways ~ for example, by engaging their compassion (as in feeding or clothing the homeless in your community), by challenging their fear (as in spending the night in prayer alone in the wilderness), or by appealing to their sense of adventure (as in inviting them to join a mission team to an exotic location)…to name a few.

3. It must be kinesthetic ~ Counter to the practice followed by public school for many decades, we learn best when our bodies are actively involved. This could be as simple as taking a class on a walk as you teach a lesson. The best experiences, though, engage the body in ways that mirror or amplify the primary lesson of the experience, such as taking a trust walk or a wilderness hike as a study on what it means to walk with God.

4. It must include an “anchor memory” ~ When people experience significant change, they almost always point to a specific moment or memory when “everything changed.” In the same way, transformational experiences must include a ritual, shared experience, or other kind “crossing the threshold” moment people can later use as their “anchor memory” ~ the defining moment they identify as the turning point when everything changed.

Now, consider all the educational programming pieces currently in play in your church or faith-based organization. This includes any Sunday morning program (if you’re a church), or any leadership development or training programs you have in place.

Based on the elements listed above, which of your programs are the most authentically transformational? Which are the least transformational? I encourage you to make a list, from most to least, then for each explore this question:

How could we redesign this to make it more authentically transformational?

>> Interruptive, emotionally compelling, kinesthetic, and memorable ~ 4 key ingredients for designing learning experiences that are not only “accurate,” but life changing.

Read more from Michael here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Warden

Michael is a leadership coach and team dynamics expert who partners with Christian leaders to help them become better leaders and help them change the world.

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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

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The Danger of Outranking Your Team

I was enjoying a meal with a well-known Christian leader a few weeks ago. He is a brilliant man who leads a large team of great people. We were discussing a particularly entrenched dynamic on his team that he didn’t understand and didn’t like. It seemed every time he wanted the team to wrestle with a difficult challenge their organization was facing, the team would always haltingly poke around for the “right answer”–the solution that the team believed their leader had already thought of. To them, it wasn’t a discussion so much as a test to see if they could or would come up with the same answer the leader had already decided on.

Only, this really wasn’t the leader’s intent. He really did want them to wrestle together to find solutions to creative challenges, and he really didn’t already have an answer in mind. But no matter how often he would say that, the team didn’t seem to believe him. They would keep trying to uncover the “right answer” as he saw it rather than offering their own unvarnished opinions and ideas. All of this was doubly frustrating because this happened to be a team full of creative powerhouses!

So what was really going on here?

 

It’s difficult to unravel dynamics like this without first understanding the notion of “rank” on a team. Rank is a way of describing a person’s level of authority on the team within a particular arena. Every member of a team has some form of rank. The kind of rank we’re most familiar with is positional rank. The leader in this story, for example, is the boss over everyone on his team. So he has the highest positional rank.

But there are many other kinds of rank that exist on a team, and these often carry more weight than positional rank. For example:

  • intellectual rank (who’s the one that the team holds as the smartest among them?),
  • emotional rank (which team member’s emotional state matters most to the team?),
  • spiritual rank (who is seen as the wisest spiritually?),
  • social rank (who is the one who holds the group together as a relational community?)

…and so on.

There are as many types of rank as there are arenas of authority. Having a particular kind of rank in a team is not the same thing as playing a particular role; in fact, sometimes there can seem to be little connection between a person’s rank and their role on the team. The person taking the notes (a role) may be the one with the greatest emotional rank on the team (i.e. when he’s happy, everyone’s happy; when he’s upset, the group stops everything to “make it better” for him). Or the person with the lowest paid job may have the highest social rank (i.e. she’s the one who has the power to either include or exclude anyone on the team from the social community within the team or the organization).

So back to this leader’s story. His problem was that he was carrying too much rank in too many arenas within the team, and that was effectively shutting down the team’s capacity to function creatively. Besides having positional rank on the team, he also had the highest intellectual rank, and the highest emotional rank. He was the boss. He was seen as smarter than anyone else in the room. And everyone on the team was bent on keeping him emotionally happy. No wonder the team couldn’t have open creative discussions!

Now that he knows about his rank (most people are unaware of the rank they hold within a team), he is able to intentionally “give it away” it to others on the team. For example, he’s shifting the organizational structure so that others on the team have more positional authority. He’s also begun to consciously defer to the team’s collective intelligence in many key decisions as a way of transferring his own intellectual rank to others on the team. Finally, he’s learning to better manage his emotions to avoid inadvertently hijacking the team’s creative process when he feels frustrated or sad.

What about your team (or teams)? How do you notice “rank” impacting your team?

Read more from Michael here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Warden

Michael is a leadership coach and team dynamics expert who partners with Christian leaders to help them become better leaders and help them change the world.

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COMMENTS

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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.

Reactive vs. Creative Leadership

“Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

In my free ebook Leadership That Changes the World (if you don’t have a copy yet, you can download it here), one of the things I talk about is the difference between a Reactive Leader and a Creative Leader. A Reactive Leader is one that habitually focuses on the many problems, obstacles and other forms of resistance that regularly show up in leadership. They are drawn to see what’s not working, what’s broken, what’s missing, and so on, and spend the bulk of their energy attacking these issues. They are the leaders who say (even proudly) that leadership is problem solving, and if you aren’t solving problems, you aren’t a leader. While there is certainly some truth to that statement, I think it’s a particularly weak and narrow view of what leadership is and can be.

Conversely, while a Creative Leader certainly does address problems and obstacles that arise in leadership, that isn’t her primary focus. Rather, the Creative Leader is laser-focused on the vision she wants to create. She’s fueled by the inspiration of positive action toward a compelling dream of what could (and what she would say, must) be. Instead of spending her energy moving away from what she doesn’t want (i.e. fending off unwanted obstacles and problems that arise on the path), she focuses the bulk of her passion on moving toward what she does want ~ her compelling vision made real.

I really enjoy snowboarding, though I confess I’m no shredder. Still, I do love a challenging run. I especially enjoy boarding through the trees. The challenge and art of weaving my way through a dense patch of giant conifers is both exhilarating and strangely peaceful to me. But on my first attempt at boarding through a forest, I couldn’t slide more than five feet before crashing into a trunk. Same thing happened on my second attempt, and my third, and my eighth, and my tenth. It was like these trees had some extra gravity or something; no matter what tactic I tried, they kept sucking me in. It was not only frustrating; it was exhausting!

Finally, I humbled myself and asked a buddy of mine (who boarded effortlessly through even the darkest of dark woods) to take a run with me and watch me to see if he could diagnose what I was doing wrong. We didn’t have to go more than two crashes in for him to see exactly what the problem was.

“You’re looking at the trees,” he said.

“Of course I’m looking at the trees,” I said, a little incredulous. “I’m trying to avoid the trees.”

“That’s the problem. You’ll go where you’re looking. To ski through the forest, don’t look at the trees. Keep your focus on the spaces between the trees.

On my next run, I made it all the way through the woods without a single crash.

That’s the essential difference between a Reactive and a Creative leader. The Reactive Leader keeps a vigilant watch on the trees, and so keeps slamming into them. The Creative Leader knows the trees are there, but keeps his focus on the spaces between them, on where he wants to go (not where he wants to avoid going). When you do this, the trees can actually become part of what makes the journey fun.

I think this is part of the lesson Jesus was trying to teach Peter when he walked on the water.Get obsessed with the waves, and you’ll lose heart and start to sink. Keep your focus on the compelling vision in front of you, and miracles happen.

So, if you’ve been stuck in a reactive leadership paradigm, how can you make the shift? Here are a few tips I often suggest to my clients:

  • Make Your Vision Truly Compelling. And by “compelling,” I mean it sucks you in, gets you excited, awakens your courage and sense of wonder, strikes you as beautiful, and genuinely compels you to action. If your vision doesn’t do that, it isn’t compelling enough to hold your attention when obstacles and problems appear to distract you off focus.
  • Leverage Your Vision to Solve Problems. When challenges arise, instead of putting your full focus on them, keep one eye trained on your compelling vision. Imagine what your team will be like once your reach your goal. Imagine the way they’ll interact, the confidence they will stand in knowing that the vision has been made real. What would that “future team” do to resolve this problem? How would they handle it? The more you can lead your team (and yourself) to stand in that future reality, the more creatively you will deal with problems and the more quickly  you will reach your goal.
  • Reframe Problems as Possibilities. When problems arise, do some personal wisdom sleuthing. Ask yourself: What’s the opportunity this problem opens up for us? What’s the gift here? How can this problem be leveraged to create something beautiful/powerful/in service of our vision?
  • Stop Resisting Problems as Things That Shouldn’t Be Happening.Problems, obstacles and resistance are a normal, healthy part of any change process. In a way, problems in an organization are analogous to pain signals in an athlete’s body. When problems arise, it’s a pain signal pointing to a danger that something isn’t working the way it needs to work to reach the goal. It isn’t evil or unfair; it’s a natural and expected part of growth. Accepting this can go a long way toward reducing your fear when problems show up.
  • Hold Daily Personal Strategy Sessions. As a part of your daily devotional time, take a few minutes to look at your schedule for the day ahead and ask yourself: What do I want to create today? What attitude do I want to inspire in my team? What blessing do I want to leave in my wake? How can I remind my people of our compelling vision today? Based on your responses, choose one or two actions you will take each day to train yourself to lead from a creative rather than reactive stance.

 

The bottom line is this: To be a Creative Leader, don’t focus on what you’re trying to avoid. Instead, look at what you want to create, and lead from there.

Read more from Michael here.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Warden

Michael is a leadership coach and team dynamics expert who partners with Christian leaders to help them become better leaders and help them change the world.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

VRcurator — 12/04/13 12:34 pm

Thanks Rosalie! Great personal applications everyone can learn from.

Rosalie — 12/04/13 11:45 am

I'm not a leader or church employee, but I love the concept. Same with bowling--don't look at the pin, aim for the space between the pins and you'll be more likely to score better because you'll knock more out. I'm going to do this on a personal level: "as part of your daily devotional time, take a few minutes to look at your schedule for the day ahead and ask yourself: What do I want to create today? What attitude do I want to inspire in my [environment]. What blessing do I want to leave in my wake?" I'll try to relate it to physical, spiritual, environmental, relational, financial, and paid work areas.

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.