Leadership Voices

Recently I sat in two different team meetings with two different leaders. Though the content of the meetings was similar, the meetings themselves left me with distinctly different feelings about the goals and direction, the organization, and the leaders themselves.

I have wrestled over the last few days as to why these two meetings resulted in such a different set of emotions from me, and I suspect different emotions from the other team members as well.  What was unique about each meeting that garnered such different results?

After pondering this for some time I think I have boiled it down to this:

Leadership Voices.

Let me state the obvious: how each respective leader conducted the meeting made all of the difference as to how the content of the meeting was received. By “conducted” I do not mean the mechanics of the meeting.  In other words, it wasn’t that one leader had a well-planned agenda and the other didn’t. It wasn’t that one leader kept the team on task and the other didn’t.  It wasn’t starting on time, ending on time, the time of day, or whether snacks were provided. It wasn’t that one used a white board and the other a power point presentation. And by “leadership voices” I certainly don’t mean that one leader was a baritone while the other was a soprano.

No, it was something entirely different.  Something about the voice of the Leader set the tone for the meeting.

If I could narrow it down even more, the tone, the pace, and results of the meeting really boiled down to one simple phrase that the leader repeated throughout each respective meeting. One simple phrase changed everything else.

One leader said, “You need to …” or “We need to …”

The other leader asked “What do you think …?”

One was directive.  One was collaborative.

One shut others down. One opened others up.

One phrase resulted in a quick and neatly packaged meeting. One was a little sloppy, involving discussion, debate, and even disagreement.

One communicated value in team members. One de-valued the contributions of team members.

One phrase expressed confidence in the team.  One phrase expressed lack of confidence.

One phrase built trust.  One phrase undermined trust.

One phrase garnered engagement. One garnered dis-engagement.

One left people feeling encouraged. The other left them feeling discouraged.

One made the team feel important and appreciated.  The other left them feeling … merely employed.

One effected ownership of the decision by the team. One effected mere obedience.

One garnered cooperation and cohesion.  The other, though on the surface appeared unified, actually brought disunity. Even the attendees that didn’t agree quickly got behind one voice.  While, attendees of the other meeting didn’t express their opinions until they were behind closed doors and outside of the hearing of the leader, and only with members they knew would agree with them.

One voice communicated, “I think I’m the smartest guy in the room.” The other voice communicated, “We are in this together.”

The reality is that

One voice communicated humility.

The other voice communicated arrogance.

 

I know some leaders reading this are probably thinking, “this isn’t a democracy. We don’t need to take a vote.  I’m the leader, they should just do what I say.”

It’s interesting that in neither meeting was the position or authority of the leader in question.  But, the posture they took, their voice, had a definite impact on the well-being of the entire team.

I have to ask, is mere obedience the only thing you want from your team? Is that the end game?  Don’t you want their creativity? Don’t you want their innovation? Don’t you want their engagement. Don’t you want them to want to come to work?

Don’t you want their hearts?

The leader’s voice is really about posture. The leader’s voice is about their view of themselves and their view of their team.

One simple phrase can make all of the difference.

Leaders, have you listened to your own voice lately? Have you ever played back the tapes in your head of conversations you’ve had with your team? Have you ever really …listened …to yourself?  Have you considered what unintentional messages you are communicating to your team? Have you ever thought through how to really value, engage, and encourage your team? Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to get the best from your team?

Getting their best might not be a result of awards, raises, or even promotions.

Your influence might primarily be  … in your voice.

“Fools have no interest in understanding;
    they only want to air their own opinions.”

Proverbs 18:2

 

Content but not Satisfied

“It’s just a number,” they said.  Yeah, but, it’s a BIG number.

“You’re only as old as you feel,” they said.  EXACTLY!  Maybe I feel even older!

50.  I’m not gonna lie. I’m having a bit of a hard time swallowing the fact that I am now half of a century old. Why is this such an issue? Lots of people have passed this way before me. And truthfully, I’m the last in my family to do so.  Yet, somehow, they all survived. And some of all those people who have passed this way before me actually seem happy. So, what’s my issue?

It’s not the number so much. It’s the dark realization that, well, my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be. Part of the problem is, I’m not quite sure where I thought it would be at this point. I just didn’t think I’d be … here. 50. Really?

My wife asked me last Saturday if I wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday – 3 days early.  I said, unequivocally, “No. No I do not. I am not ready.”

The way I saw it, I still had 3 days left of clinging to the idea that “I’m still in my 40’s.”

I told her I had 3 days to …. Lose 30 pounds.

3 days to … get in better shape.

3 days to …. choose a career path I actually want.

3 days to … become financially stable.

3 days to … start a ministry that will impact people and have significance.

The truth is, I’m not … unhappy. In fact, most days I am quite happy.

I enjoy my life. I have a beautiful, amazing, wife of over 30 years who is full of life and joy and most days we still like each other. I have a great family that I am very proud of. I enjoy my friends. I have a good job and work with some really good people. I have a decent home. I’m not hungry, naked, or lacking shelter. In many respects, we have it really, really good. And, just for icing on the cake, every now and then I get to be involved in some directed ministry opportunities.

But, I’m not where I want to be either. And it has nothing to do with my age. It has everything to do with my choices. I just hate feeling … behind, like I’m constantly playing catch-up.

And I think that’s where the disappointment comes in. I’m a little disappointed with where life has brought me to. In truth, I’m disappointed with … myself.

But here’s the thing: Yes, I’d like to be 30 pounds lighter. But that’s not really it. Yes, I’d like to be in much better shape. But that’s not really it. Sure I’d like to have a better paying job that doesn’t make me feel …stuck. But, that’s not really it either. Yes I’d like to have more money in the bank. But that’s not really the challenge. Yes I think my kids have grown up way too fast, but that’s not the issue either.

I’ve found myself pondering the end of life a lot lately. I want my life to have meaning. I want my life to have had an impact. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I don’t want people wondering what to say at my funeral. Especially my family.

There is an innate desire for … something more.  For … significance.

There, I said it.

Some days I feel like my life has had significance. Some days I feel like my life and my influence has had an impact for good. But some days, not so much.

I used to have a great desire for a large pulpit ministry. But as life has thrown so many curve balls my way I’ve had to adjust my definition of “success” or “ministry.” I think my definition is much healthier now.  But, sometimes it just feels like an excuse or a justification for where I’ve landed.

Some days I’m really good at focusing my heart and my attention on those He has put in front of me.  Loving them. Caring for them. And I know deep within my heart that this is what He has called me to. But …

Some days I long for something bigger. Something more.

I don’t think this is the end game. I don’t think this is all there is.

And as I ponder and pray, I think this is exactly what God has called us to.  I think this is the great tension in scripture. Let me explain.

Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be … content. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11-12).

The challenge many people have is that they are always striving for an elusive, idealistic picture. Constantly chasing after an illusion. Pushing, pressing, stretching for something that cannot be obtained. Why? Because it is human nature that every time we reach a milestone or a goal, rather than being satisfied with our achievement, we almost instantly move the goal posts. We got that raise and are making “X” amount of money.  Great! But now we need the NEXT promotion. We reached that sales goal.  Great! Well, since we can do that then we should be able to do even more. Lost “x” amount of weight. Excellent! But now we need to win the competition. In one sense there is nothing wrong with this. But, for many this is precisely why no matter how much they have or achieve, they are never truly happy. Sometimes people are surrounded by so many blessings but don’t recognize them because they are constantly focused on wanting more. They have so much but don’t see it because all they can see is what they don’t have.

And it’s even worse for many believers. Many believers wrongly assume that as soon as they decided to live their lives for Christ that everything was going to suddenly be sunshine and roses. But it’s just not true.

The problem is, when you seek after riches you end up living in the fear of lack. When you seek after beauty you end up living in the fear of being ugly.  When you seek after power, you end up living in fear of being weak. When you seek performance, you end up living in fear of being insufficient. When you seek security, you end up living your life in insecurity.

But, when you live your life pursuing GOD, you end up feeling loved and accepted.

Paul said, I have learned to be content – no matter what state I find myself in. My internal compass is not determined by external challenges. My internal joy is not determined by external circumstances. My internal peace is not determined by external issues.  I have learned to be content.

But, just a few verses earlier he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).

It is clear that Paul knew there was something more: things that still needed to be done, work that needed to be accomplished. He could have focused on all the things he had done wrong, or all the things he didn’t do that he should have. He could have let bad choices or circumstances derail him from purpose.  But he didn’t. Paul intentionally chose to let go of the past. He wasn’t going to let mistakes, failures, life’s troubles, or anything else stop him from giving his life in pursuit of what God had in store for him. Paul didn’t pull up the rocking chair of life and settle in.

Yes, he had learned to be content … but, he was not satisfied.

Paul found himself somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Here’s the truth: Life is good. I am content. I choose to not focus on regret. I choose to appreciate, to love, to enjoy what is right before me.

But, I’m not satisfied either. I know there is something more.  And even though I’m half a century old, I am not done.

I am somewhere between.  I choose contentment with the “already.”  But, I am striving toward the “not yet.”