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| Bob Bumgarner | ,

5 Shifts That Will Improve Your Leadership

Rome was not built in a day and your team won’t be either. But you can see progress in less than 365 days if you make it a priority and create a strategy. A simple strategy is to change the kind of conversations you have with those you lead.

Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like water in a deep well, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Wise leaders learn how to draw out the wisdom resident in those closest to them.

Five conversation shifts you can make this year to draw out the wisdom of those on your team.

Shift #1: Move from telling to listening
Telling: Puts you in the position of being the answer giver. If you do this long enough people begin to see you as a know-it-all and they disengage because their opinion doesn’t seem to matter. You end up spending too much time explaining why you are right. If you are a teller you often use phrases like you should, if I were you, or if you were smart you would.

  • Listening: Puts you in the position of being a question asker and a learner. As you practice listening you will talk less and talk last. Listeners learn to ask better questions. Questions that move beyond simplistic yes and no answers. They learn to ask powerful questions that draw out the critical thinking of their team through key discussions.

Shift #2: Move from your story to their story
Your Story: If all the accepted wisdom comes from your experience you are teaching your team to spend all their time trying to guess what your answer is for every circumstance.

You depend too much on your story if you find yourself saying, this is how I did it or when I was your age I… How you did it in the past or in a different context is not as helpful as you might hope. Focusing on your story keeps them dependent on you for answers.

  • Their Story: When you tap into their story you are saying to them, you know things I don’t, and I need to learn from you. You are important. When people feel valued their buy in and engagement goes up. When you minimize their story or leave it untold you are diminishing their value in their eyes and the eyes of the team.

Shift#3: Move from guiding to exploring
Guiding: Guiding leaders often see themselves as the provider of the way forward. They can even feel the pressure of having to generate all the new ideas needed to pursue opportunities and solve problems. If you automatically think your ideas are the best you will spend most of your time defending them or convincing the team to embrace them instead of exploring all the possible options.

  • Exploring: Leaders who explore have what I call an experiencing God mentality. They believe God is already at work in their church and community (John 5:17,19b). Exploring leaders consistently work with those around them to look for God’s activity. Their favorite question is, where is God at work and how can we join him?

Shift #4: Move from pouring in to drawing out
Pour In: If you are the leader, you probably have skills. You might even have more skills than anyone else on the team. Pouring in certainly is a part of what a leader does to help others grow. But if you want those on your team to get better you have to let them be smart too.

  • Draw Out: There is no quicker way to move from me to we than to believe that others have important knowledge, skills and aptitude deep within them and begin to draw it out. You draw it out when you ask their opinion, give them responsibility and hold them accountable for accomplishing big things.

Shift #5: Move from correcting to constructing
Correcting: Correcting leaders are overly concerned about preventing mistakes. They have a backward lean that is interpreted as fear or pride by those on the team. The unintended message of a correcting conversation is I wish you would do it my way. Correcting conversations are filled with phrases like, why didn’t youyou should have…. Whose fault is it?

  • Constructing: The goal of a constructing conversation is to build trust, understanding, perspective, options, solutions and actions. The goal of constructing is not validation of your leadership position. It is a restatement of your responsibility to help others get better at what they do.

A church’s deadliest enemies are internal. How we treat each other while we face external challenges establishes our ability to win. We’re better together, only if we learn to get better together.

Self-inflicted limitations will be our demise if we won’t adapt to the needs of the members of our team. Leaders who are in danger want to change circumstances rather than change themselves. Leaders who make these shifts in thinking, attitude, behavior, and responsibility will find this time next year they are leading a better team.

  • What shifts would you add to this list?
    • What shifting experiences would you add that might be helpful?

Adapted from The Coach Model for Christian Leaders by Keith Webb

Lead Missional Strategist

Bob Bumgarner