Weapons of Mass Production, cont. :: Leadership Tools

Leadership Tools

Without a watch I can tell you—within about 3 minutes or so—when 1 hour has elapsed.

No really, I can.

I can do this little parlor trick because over the past 15 years of my life I have had to learn how to use 60 minutes of time in the most effective way possible.

I have learned this because, as a Pastor and a leader, one of the most valuable tools I have in my little bag of rusty tools is the one-on-one meeting with volunteers, and this usually happens (in my context at least) over lunch. I don’t have a staff that I can call into a conference room and work things out over a 3 hour meeting. Typically, I have 50-55 minutes to work with.

And I need to know (though God often intervenes and changes my agenda) what I’m doing.

As I was thinking about this, I approach my one-on-one meetings in four distinct ways. Sometimes they bleed into each other and overlap, but by and large these are the “buckets” I place meetings in.

  • The Directive Meeting.  Sometimes I—or my team—needs something done (or I need someone to stop doing something). These meetings are driven by a sense of strategic need and values. A directive meeting demands that you know—as precisely as possible—what it is you’re going to ask. Moreover, you should be able to communicate that somehow within one to three sentences. It’s also helpful to understand the why behind this directive: what is the value or need that is driving this request?
  • The Counseling or Pastoral Meeting. I’m not the best counsellor in the world, but nevertheless I recognize that this is a non-negotiable part of my job, so I try to do my best. The pastoral meeting is sometimes reactive (in other words, a response to a team member’s request to meet) and sometimes proactive or even confrontational (driven by an awareness or observation of a behavior). I tend to take the approach that people in these situations are hurting, even if they’re not aware of it. Therefore, I try to establish a warm, listening environment, and give plenty of space to talk. There may not be a firm “result” to these meetings, but my overall approach and paradigm is driven by something Brennan Manning wrote. “You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange.” That may be over-simplifiying things just a bit, but for me that works. That quote establishes the playing ground for me.
  • The Coaching Meeting. The coaching meeting is driven by a firm agenda and a specific approach. “Coaching” refers to a method of helping people achieve specific goals within a specific time period. Unlike the directive meeting, most of the time the individual—not me—establishes the goals that I’ll coach them through. In my context, it can be the desire to pray more, or to write more, or to practice more. Also in contrast to the directive meeting, coaching is built on the idea that the answers and solutions lie within the individual, not the coach. It’s my job to establish a framework and to provide some accountability. Lastly, it’s time-bound, meaning a coaching relationship is meant to only last for a specific amount of time and a specific project (if you want to know more about coaching, you can start exploring it here).
  • The “Being” Meeting. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give your team members is the gift of your presence. Without an agenda. Sometimes you need to put away the lists and set aside the values and simply value them as human beings. Not surprisingly, for many of us these meetings are the most difficult ones to schedule and execute, but they can also reap the heaviest benefit. People (including myself) have a need to know that they are valuable far beyond their gifts and talents, and eating a meal together with no agenda is a great way to cultivate that reality in their spirit.

These are my meeting “buckets”; again, sometimes the edges are fuzzy, and sometimes my agenda and plans get disrupted. But I still make an intentional decision on how I approach my time together with my people. It values their time and efforts, and provides a framework and environment within which God works. Maybe it goes without saying, but the last tool to use when it comes to one-on-one meetings is to know what kind of meeting you are going into. 

If you’re in leadership, do you have one-on-one “buckets” or categories that you use? Feel free to share them here.

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As We Come To It …

I won’t be posting on Christmas Day, and as we all get ready for the last push to get Christmas gatherings prepared, gifts bought, parties prepared for, here’s a note about peace from Brennan Manning…

When we are in right relationship with Jesus, we are in the peace of Christ. Except for grave, conscious, deliberate infidelity, which must be recognized and repented of, the present or absence of feelings of peace is the normal ebb and flow of the spiritual life. When things are plain and ordinary, when we live on the plateaus and in the valleys (which is where most of the Christian life takes place) and not on the mountaintops of peak religious experiences, this is no reason to blame ourselves, to think that our relationship with God is collapsing, or to echo Magdalene’s cry in the garden, ‘Where has beloved gone?’ Frustration, irritation, fatigue and so forth may temporarily unsettle us, but they cannot rob us of living in the peace of Christ Jesus. As the playwright Ionesco once declared in the middle of a depression: ‘Nothing discourages me, not even discouragement’ (from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas).

Peace—real peace—to all of you over these next few beautiful days.

 

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Wrong Question

Clarity.

I’ve been seeking it, praying for it, for months now. Years.

What’s next? Where should I be pouring my heart, my soul?

What am I waiting for? 

Sometimes “clarity” comes in hints, like the first hints of springtime warmth through March clouds, but oftentimes it evaporates just as quickly (if you live in Chicago in particular, you know how fast “springtime warmth” disappears in March). At any rate, I’ve hungered for it so much. I want my next steps to be clear, to be paving-stone solid in front of me.

All of that disappeared in the rumpled-up paper of a Brennan Manning book (water-logged by a friend, but it was a sacrifice that was well worth it)…

“Craving clarity,” he writes, “we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God.”

Ouch.

At what point does “clarity” begin to war against “faith”? At what point does our desire for certainty undermine our need for trust and obedience?

I think I need to revise my prayers…

My Reading Universe, Pt. 1: Eugene Peterson

The other night at church, someone asked, “Hey Eric, what are you reading?” This is always a very complicated question for me to answer, because I’m using churning through 6 or 7 books at a time, but I thought I’d take a few minutes here and outline the major “pillars” of my reading universe. These are the people that simultaneously, form, shake, and enhance my ministry, my world view, and my creative spirit. There are numerous other authors, of course, but these are my “mainstays”.

So over the next few days/weeks, I’ll outline who these folks are — to me, at least — and why they matter. In short, they are:

  • Eugene Peterson
  • NT Wright
  • Brennan Manning
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Cormac McCarthy

Let’s start with Eugene Peterson. He’s the guy who wrote The Message. When I began my vocational ministry “career” someone — quite randomly — threw his book called Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry at me, and I through myself into the book with the enthusiasm of someone who’d thought they had the whole world figured out (I was soon to find otherwise). I suppose the next thing I read by him was his translation/paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, then after that I devoured 5 or 6 more of his, including Five Smooth Stones and Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

I’ll be honest: sometimes, I have no idea what Peterson is trying to say, and even when I do “get” him, the result can at times be a bit, “meh.” But what sings through, much of the time, is the voice of a poet and pastor, who at times just nails the balance of rigorous intellectual pursuit with the gentle voice of an artist-pastor. Peterson was the guy who showed me that you did not have to be a “Type A”, CEO-type in order to be a leader in the contemporary USAmerican church. He also reminds me that “pastoring” comes from a long tradition, with deep wells. We don’t need to “invent” discipleship for people. In so many ways, the same words and disciplines that worked for people in the 13th century still work today.

Just So Everyone Knows…

There is a scene from Thornton Wilder’s play, The Angel That Troubled the Water.  A doctor comes to a healing pool every day wanting to be healed of his melancholy and his gloom and his sadness. Finally the angel appears. The doctor goes to step into the water but the angel blocks his path, saying, “No, step back, the healing is not for you.” The doctor pleads, “But I’ve got to get into the water. I can’t live this way.” The angel says, “No, this moment is not for you.” And he says, “But how can I live this way?”

The angel says to him, “Doctor, without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

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I don’t know why
The angel follows you from so far behind
You say it’s a surprise
Keeps you guessing all of the time

You made a mistake
I can see it written over you face
Tears sketching out the truth of your pain
But I say, it’s alright

You were so good to me
Even angels long to be
Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love

I saw your dress
Saw it hanging on the back of a chair
Oh baby, yeah, I was there
And I guess your virtue ain’t all that it was

You had a good time
Gave your heart to all the valentines
And now I know you might be disinclined to admit
But it felt pretty good

You were so good to me
Even angels long to be
Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love

All the stories in the lonely places
All the songs in the silences
We’re all strong in the broken places
Everybody’s broken on the wheels of love

Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love
Broken on the wheels of love