What if 2023 was the year you took a significant step forward in your leadership? Maybe that’s already part of your personal goal setting or strategic planning for your ministry. If it’s not, maybe it should be!
The concept of developing as a leader is so broad and potentially intangible – it can be hard to know where to start.
So, here’s a basic 3 step plan that might be a useful stepping off point. And it centers around just one idea – one area of focus.
I listen to lots of productivity and personal development experts, leading thinkers and researchers in the fields of time management, habits and goals – as well as tracking leaders whose insights I value because they exemplify ongoing growth in their own leadership and ministry. So these three steps are a hybrid of what I am understanding to be best practice.
1. Choose an area of focus
Just one! Think of an aspect of your personal life or leadership engagement that, were you to improve in that area, it could make a significant overall difference.
It could be in relation to your physical health – poor sleep, eating or exercise patterns can have dramatic impact on how you show up. It could be in public speaking or team leadership, in spiritual disciplines like rhythms of prayer or retreat, or managing conflict or in relation to feedback or being better at responding to failure or criticism. It could be many things but what’s the one thing in your personal or professional life that if you made some advancements in that area if could have the greatest impact on your broader life and leadership?
Choose just one thing.
2. Choose one action
What’s one action step you could take toward the goal of improvement in your chosen area?
Again, just one thing. Be specific.
“Get healthy” is not going to cut it. It’s not measurable or practical enough to get you mobilised. But maybe go to bed 30 minutes earlier or ride to work one day a week would be more accessible, achievable and subsequently more likely to happen.
It could be to read or listen to books or podcasts on emotional intelligence, or dealing with conflict. It could be to approach someone to invite into a regular practice of intentional feedback.
Again, just one thing. We’re putting the cookies on the bottom shelf so we are most able and likely to access them (unless your goal is around disciplined eating – put something else on the bottom shelf!).
In your one are of desired growth and improvement what is one practical step you could take to head you in your preferred direction?
3. Put it in your calendar!
How can you manage your time this year, the rhythm of work and life flow, and the challenge of competing demands for your focus and energy to make space for your intentional growth step?
If it can’t be calendarised it probably won’t happen. So now, at the start of a new year is the perfect time to carve out intentional space in your weeks or months to make room for this investment in your own development.
If you’re digital, you could set a recurring alarm to remind you to do what you need to. You could put appointment times in your calendar as space you’ll guard to give attention to your commitment. You might need to contact someone and sync some calendar times to meet with them.
Our best intentions often fall victim to the encroaching of … well … life! into our discretionary spaces. So they must be given planning priority if they are going to be engaged in with the regularity, consistency and energy needed for them to have the desired impact on our growth.
Choose one thing – how are you needing or hoping to grow as a leader?
Choose one action – what’s one achievable, measurable step you could take towards growth in that area?
Calendarise it! Plan it into the scope of your year. Prioritise it so that it doesn’t get relegated by all the things that would compete for the resource of your time, attention and energy.
And a bonus tip – tell someone about it! Say it out loud – put it in print and give someone permission to hold you accountable to what you want to do because of who you want to be.
It may seem like you don’t have time to invest in your own development and growth but the reality is that you don’t have time not to. Your ministry and teams will benefit from any strengthening of your ability and capacity to lead in ways that will multiply the effectiveness of your time and efforts.
Don’t keep putting it off. Don’t de-list it as a priority. This could just be your year!
As our perpetual state of lockdown, locked out and varying levels of restrictions drag on – the constant refrain we are hearing is how people are “so sick of Zoom“!
I put it to you that people aren’t sick of Zoom, they’re sick of bad Zoom.
I recently attended an online, 80’s themed, Murder Mystery party for a friend’s birthday! It was such a clever night and a great way to celebrate our friend while still in lockdown! We all had a character and most of us dressed up (costumes are easier online because they don’t need to be transportable and they only need to be from the waist up! No pants or shoes to match your costume? No worries!! PJ pants and ugg boots it is then!!). Each household had readied snacks and drinks. No one was complaining about being on Zoom! Saturday night at 8pm for a couple of hours and Zoom was our best friend.
People aren’t sick of Zoom, they’re sick of bad Zoom!
So what makes Zoom good or bad? Bearable or intolerable? Fulfilling and productive or life-sucking and downright depressing? Here are a few of my observations and thoughts.
A MEETING THAT SHOULD BE AN EMAIL IN PERSON SHOULD STILL BE AN EMAIL IN ZOOM-LAND
Don’t assume that a team’s desire to be together will override the frustration we all feel at being in a meeting that should have been an email. Endless recitation of facts, details, calendar items and reading through text heavy PowerPoint slides is not what meetings are designed for and are not a good spend of your Zoom-credits. Meetings exist for relationship building, collaboration, learning, vision casting and role assigning. Send the details ahead of time or circulate them for reading afterwards. Too much information sharing translates to a monologue that is hard to sustain in a physical room let alone a virtual one.
ZOOM TIME IS DIFFERENT THAN REAL TIME
There have been multiple studies and papers released about the realities of Zoom-fatigue. It takes greater effort to remain focused due to audio differences and the reality that our computer’s other open tabs and notifications beckon. We are more self-conscious and aware because we are more visible to ourselves and others than we would be in a physical meeting space – we consequently expend energy managing our appearance, body language, facial expressions etc more than is necessary in real life. There’s less “collective effervescence” – the experience of laughing together, rapidly exchanging ideas and energising creative interactions – because of the clinical need to take turns to speak and the inevitable annoyance that comes when audio intersects and gates. We are more sedentary – less likely to adjust our sitting posture. And a multiplicity of other factors that mean an hour on zoom costs us more than an hour in real life.
If you would normally meet for an hour, meet for 45mins. Normally present for 30 mins? Try 20.
Clearly communicating (and adhering to) the proposed timeline of a meeting will also help participants pace themselves and increase their capacity to remain engaged for the entirety of your time together.
ZOOM MEETINGS REQUIRE STRONG LEADERSHIP
Even more than in real life, whoever is hosting the meeting must work actively to maintain control of the meeting. Establishing and communicating expectations about how this meeting will function is important. Having a clear sense of flow – minimising down time between segments or presenters, reducing talk aboutthe mechanics of the meeting, and making definitive statements about transitions between topics or modes – will help a meeting feel more in control and purposeful. In real life, we can use body language, non-verbal clues, physical actions, facial expressions and other means to demonstrate we are wanting to move on. This doesn’t translate so easily to Zoom and so it takes more effort to keep tight reign of oversharing or meandering contributions. But it is essential for maintaining the engagement of the entire group.
The size of your group will determine what degree of “free-flow” is manageable and helpful – whether microphones should be muted or open (for example). Leaders should feel the liberty to request participants to make changes for visual or sound quality purposes (Turn the radio off. Tilt your screen up a little. Close the curtain behind you.). Who is in your group will determine how much ‘power’ you give participants and how much you restrict to host privileges. The more interruptions that come because of mismanagement of the meeting dynamic the more frustrated and fatigued participants will become.
ZOOM SKILLS & ZOOM BUDDIES
Zoom has customised their platform to have multiple functions that can make meetings more dynamic and a more accurate replica of in-person gatherings. Whiteboard, breakout rooms, chat function, screen sharing, split screen viewing, emoji responses and other options are great for changing up the presentation mode and inviting interaction. However, they can be hard to navigate while maintaining a helpful dialogue.
“And the o….therrrrrr … thiinnnnn …ggggg … I’ll just share my scre … oh, nope, …not that .. and yes, the other thing is … ”
You’ve all done or heard a version of this. The more practiced you are in the engagement of these tools and the more advanced preparation you do, the smoother these things will flow. But if it is at all possible, I recommend traveling in pairs! A co-host who can mute the person whose dog has started barking in the background, or rearrange breakout rooms to accommodate people who’ve joined the meeting late, or interject with appropriate questions or comments participants have made in the chat allows the presenter to keep full focus on what they are communicating or on listening fully to the contributions of a participant.
VIDEO ON OR OFF?
Research indicates that having the video muted increases the energy and longevity of participation for group members, but it reduces the feeling of engagement for the presenter or leader of the meeting. It can also impact the feeling of shared experience if not all members are visible on the call. What are they doing? Are they fully engaged? Have they gone to the bathroom? Are they doing other work?
This can be detrimental to the accountability and commitment of team or group environments. If there is disparity between perceived engagement in a group it will be hard to reach consensus or for participants to conclude a meeting feeling it was effective or productive. This can quickly diminish engagement from participants – why should I have my camera on when others don’t?
A quick statement of expectation from the meeting leader is helpful to establish expectations. “It’s fine for your cameras to be off for this next segment …” or “Can I have all cameras on just while we sort out our decision on this?”
Likewise, narration from participants can bring understanding and build (rather than erode) trust. “I need to have my camera off right now because my child is doing something in the space I’m in” or “my internet is lagging so I’m switching off my camera to hopefully see yours better”.
Some notes for you, the presenter, it’s important that participants see your face well lit and well positioned (not up your nose!) in camera. And research also indicates that seeing your hands is helpful for trust and engagement from participants. If nothing else, the movement you generate on your screen will help re-engage and keep engaged those watching you. Be sure to toggle quickly between shared screen and your video screen to maximise involvement.
EMBRACE THE ZOOM!
As much as it is a distant second place to real life gatherings, Zoom has afforded us a level of relational connection and ministry/work functionality that we would not otherwise have been able to experience during these last 18 months. I would go so far as to say I LOVE Zoom because it allows me to replicate my work contexts and output in a way that means I’m still employable (!) and I am still actively engaging my gifts, skills and passions.
It is what it is and where it is for the foreseeable future. We would do well to embrace that reality and work to maximise its offerings rather than perpetuating the frustration of both attitude and experience.
In my world, Zoom has opened up opportunities that would not have existed for me in real life. Participation in multiple overseas conferences, workshops and forums. Learning from ministry leaders and key thought leaders of a status and location that would be otherwise inaccessible. Maintaining relational connection with family and friends through shared meals, celebrations and online experiences. I love Zoom!
**THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT**
Make sure you laugh! Do what you need to in order to elicit laughter from the group. Even if you can’t hear it or they can’t hear each other – psychologically we know that our brains associate laughter with comfort. We are more likely to recall a meeting positively if we have laughed at some point – even if the meeting itself was weighty or long. Laughter releases happy hormones that increase wellbeing and shift attitude. Do what you gotta do!!! It can take an inordinate amount of effort. It can seem frivolous or time wasting. It might be uncomfortable to deal with the silence (or the sound of your solitary chuckling!). But it is well worth it. Make laughter a goal of every gathering you are part of.
How about you? What steps might you take to Make Zoom Great Again and maximise it as a resource to us while we navigate these strange and challenging times?
A culture of feedback is one that nurtures a healthy level of trust, self-awareness and continuous growth. Groups and teams where feedback is asked for and given with clarity and in grace will thrive togetherwhile supporting individual flourishing. The final piece of the picture addresses the posture of those receiving feedback.
Don’t be defensive!
The first (and potentially most important) consideration when receiving feedback is to regulate our natural response to defend ourselves. In our words, our posture or our facial expressions (especially for those who, like me, have a particularly ‘loud’ face!) we can communicate a reactivity or negative response that will derail the effectiveness of the process and potentially cause that person to hesitate to give feedback in the future.
Look for what is helpful (even if it’s delivered badly).
Our tendency is to hone in on the points of feedback that are incorrect or communicated poorly. When a reviewer uses exaggeration (such as always or everyone), when they are aggressive or dismissive in their language and tone, or when they make comments that you know to be completely untrue we have a choice in how we respond. The most productive option will always be to find what is true and helpful in what they’ve said and allow that to teach us. There will always be fault to find in the delivery but your choice to overlook that for the purposes of the growth potentially contained in what is being shared will firstly, nurture that healthy feedback culture and secondly, lay a stronger foundation for addressing any changes you might suggest to their mode or method at a later time.
Clarify and identify.
Ask questions to be sure you’ve understood what the reviewer is meaning to convey. “When you say that the presentation was hard to follow are you referring to the structure of the notes, the order of the content or another aspect?” Don’t walk away with disclarity. It essentially means the feedback has been wasted. You don’t know what you can do differently in future (to course-correct or continue to improve) and the reviewer’s time has been without purpose.
Be sure to quickly identify points of the review that you can agree with or acknowledge fault in. Apologise for anything that was missed or that had implications for others. (Eg, “I’m sorry I forgot to mention …” “I’m sorry my disorganisation impacted other things.”)
Say ‘thank you’!
Even if the feedback has been difficult to receive, thank your reviewer for giving it. Thank them for the risk they’ve taken to share, for the time they’ve taken to articulate their perspective and for the part they’re playing in your ongoing development. Expressing appreciation will keep them on the journey with you.
You don’t have to implement every bit of feedback you receive. Some of it can be readily discarded; some will need to be verified and validated by others. When you do take some feedback on board be sure to let the reviewer know that you are (eg “After your comments I’ve started doing that a different way.) and what the implications were (eg “My team have noticed a real difference”).
This can be the most effective culture shaping step in the process. When individuals feel the benefit for themselves and when teams and organisations notice the impact collectively, there will be a natural drive to repeat the process. The culture of feedback becomes self-perpetuating once people recognise that, without it, they will be missing opportunities for greatest productivity, excellence, development and impact.
We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” – but there can sometimes be a lot of “I” in leadership! (And I mean more than just the little one that is the second last letter!)
Of course, leadership by definition is often an individual or solo task. It’s the act of being ‘out in front’; the front bird in the geese formation, the pointy end of the arrow, the cutting edge, the trailblazer, the pioneer – all of these aspects of leadership are true and right. But more often than not, we find that our leadership plays out in teams and groups. There’s limited value in being the trailblazer if no one is actually then walking on that trail – and if you’re flying out the front of the geese formation and there’s no one else in the geese formation? You know what that makes you? That’s right, a goose!
The purpose of leadership is to take others somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. It’s to see things that are not yet and paint a picture in the imagination of others to inspire them towards future possibilities. It’s to champion gifts, skills and capacity in people that they might otherwise not have known they possessed and to lead them into actions, thought and influence that they might otherwise not have explored or experienced.
How we speak as leaders shapes the culture of our teams and contexts.
Here are some things that can happen when we use “we” instead of “I“.
We draw people in to realising their part in a broader movement; a greater purpose. We reinforce a culture of collaboration and team work. We allow others to feel part of activity and outcomes that they may not have even had direct involvement in. It generates energy and excitement around the bigger picture and grander vision.
We indicate that we’ve included other voices in our thought processes and decision making. It may be our spouse, parent or friend (as opposed to someone within our organisation or team) but it demonstrates a willingness to listen to other opinions and allow accountability to external input to refine and shape our actions.
We demonstrate the humility to share successes (that might actually be wholly ours) with our team. The idea might have been ours, the hours of preparation might have been ours, dealing with the obstacles and opposition might have been ours, but the win is the team’s. We also communicate an expectation of humility in others.
We create a culture that handles failure in healthy ways. When we communicate a loss in the language of ‘we’, we show our teams that they can explore, innovate and experiment with confidence because we will all share in the loss. They don’t need to fear public correction or embarrassment. Review and recovery will be handled in a shared and sensitive way.
We keep a separation between policy, processes and decisions, and people and emotions. The language of ‘we’ draws on a corporate code; our agreed methods of working and interacting. It reminds others of the decisions we’ve made as an organisation that are guiding our choices rather than making it about personality.
We reduce the need for personal defensiveness – from ourselves and the team member. This is not me against you. No one is fighting for themselves in this conflict, process or project – we are on the same team.
It’s really important to note – this is not about deflecting personal responsibility when the responsibility is ours. It’s not an ‘out’ for taking ownership of decisions that are difficult for others to process or avoiding ownership of personal mistakes and shortfall. “I” is also necessary sometimes. But our tendency towards that language first can be unnecessarily distancing, hierarchical, and contrary to building healthy team culture.
Kids Ministry is an exciting and exhausting place to serve. Those who do it well will absolutely love it and give their all to it – but that doesn’t mean they are immune to feelings of doubt or fatigue.
Here are 5 very simple yet super effective ways you can make your Kids Min Team better – building them up in their sense of purpose and energy to continue to invest in our kids and community.
1. Thank them
Give them a high five at sign in. Tell them you appreciate their commitment to your children. Help them understand the impact their serving has on you and your family. Remind them of the important part they play in your church community. Drop them a note, give them a FaceBook shout out, or speak it out loud.
2. Know their names
Make the effort to learn and remember their names. Get to know them. Find out what year they’re doing at school, what they’re studying at Uni or where they work. Try and discover what they do for fun, what their favourite chocolate is, what music they listen to or what sport they follow. Your effort will communicate such high value to them.
3. Bring them coffee
Because Sunday mornings are hard y’all!! Surprise them with coffee or breakfast donuts and fruit. Buy the night team a pizza for supper or bring slurpees on a hot day.
4. Give them feedback
When your kids remember something they learned at Kids Min or when they tell a story about something their leader did – pass it on. Help them understand how their influence reaches beyond the scheduled ministry times. Encourage them to know the impact they are having in your kids’ lives.
5. Serve with them
Join the team – Kids Min teams ALWAYS need more members – and multiply their ministry effectiveness by adding your own gifts and skills. If you can’t be part of the scheduled ministry times, find ways to serve from home or during the week.