Give Them a Roadmap
I am, by nature, an Idea Person. I see the whole world through the lens of possibilities. The way I view people, organizations, and opportunities all revolves around the potential to do something better. Nothing feels too big or too impossible. In my world, every problem is something that can be fixed if we are innovative and persistent. I live with the constant sense that problems are just challenges to be welcomed, and that almost all of them can be overcome. My mind is constantly exploring uncharted territory.
I’ve always been this way. Even as a child, I remember wanting to create new things out of building blocks, and coloring outside the lines in my coloring books because I felt like I could add something the picture was missing. I can’t help myself! That’s just how I think.
Often, people who gravitate towards leadership (especially in ministry) are Visionaries, who see the future and think in big ideas. As leaders, it’s crucial that we communicate clearly about our ministry—where we’re going, what needs to be done, and why we’re even doing it. We love talking about our dreams for the future, and we especially want to share our passion with our staff…but so many times we communicate in terms designed for ourselves.
The thing is, we aren’t working with ourselves.
We see the world differently from people who participate in the organization, who are responsible for executing the ideas, who are tasked with managing others, and who sort through details we can’t stand. We need these people to make the vision real, and we need to learn to communicate in a way that helps them. We can’t do it without them.
For the people actualizing our big ideas, just talking about the end goal is not enough. I had to learn the hard way that my focus on the abstract can be overwhelming and even confusing. It can make it difficult for my team to interpret whether I’m just thinking out loud or giving them instructions. When are they supposed to act? What needs to get done? What is the priority? And a lot of times, because the conversation made perfect sense to me, I move on with my day never realizing I created a problem. To be an effective leader, I need to be able to talk about the journey, not just the destination.
Chronic miscommunication can cause hurt, frustration, and even bitterness. And it definitely does not help your mission become reality. I want to love my staff well, as I’m guessing a lot of you do too. The last thing I want is for their days to be full of frustration.
Here are some things I’ve learned over the years in my quest to be more clear.
I had to just realize that priority information for me, is not priority information for everyone. When you have a new big idea to share with your team, take some time to do homework first. Be ready to give some concrete information alongside your dream. Back up what you have to say with some data, and think through a few practical examples of what your idea might look like in real life.
Ask people if you are being clear. This seems overly simple, but it is so helpful to pause mid-conversation and ask people for feedback. Often people are uncomfortable interrupting you to say they don’t understand or that you aren’t making sense. Take the initiative to ask for their thoughts. Acknowledging you aren’t perfect in communication and giving your team a platform to ask questions goes a long way in showing them value and in earning their respect.
Seek to Understand Them Too
Take some time to study behavior and personality types. This might seem unnecessary as well, but you would be surprised how much insight can be gleaned from learning about the different ways people perceive the world and process information. Knowing things about yourself can also give you grant insight into how you might be perceived. There are a number of helpful tools. The enneagram is popular, and the DISC profile, Strength Finders, Myers-Briggs, and Predictive Index all provide great insight into understanding yourself and others. If you’re working with a team, these types of tools can be invaluable.
Praise God that He’s equipped your ministry with different strengths. Without your gift to dream up ideas and envision the future, there would be no destination. And without teammates gifted to organize and sift through nitty-gritty details, there would be no road to get there.