I was recently challenged in a way I didn’t expect. I had a meeting scheduled with a person on my team to discuss programing and communication flow on Sundays. As we went through the nuts and bolts of those things I sensed a frustration level in this persons demeanor. This led me to think that this guy wasn’t fully bought into the vision of our church and I began to question him – strongly – on his buy in level. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I would be helping this person see their giftedness and realize that for it to be fully utilized they may need to exercise it somewhere else. I really wanted this person to follow their dream and I thought they’d see I was doing them a favor.
I was so wrong… both in my discernment for this person’s demeanor and where they hoped to go in their ministry.
Instead of being met with a grateful heart and a relieved spirit, I was met with a fire and passion I had not recognized before. As anyone who knows me would guess, I combated fire with fire for a bit because I always drift to a “might is right” mentality. Somewhere in the midst of the heat something was said that God used to really get my attention.
Him: “I need this!”
Me: “… huh??? You need what?”
“I need this type of access to you so I can see your passion and hear the fire in your voice and know you are fighting for me.” … Oh, here we go, I thought. You see, the person I was talking to didn’t report directly to me. Our organizational structure was such that this person’s leader reported to me so it would be rare that direction would be coming directly from me. So, my instant reaction was that this person was angling to get around their leader.
Again, I was wrong.
This person was simply trying to express the occasional need that he and his peers have to receive vision cast and questions answered from someone who is closer to the epicenter of the vision. The guy explained that his leader was doing a great job, but he felt that as information was past down the chain of command something was lost. After much discussion the thing that was being lost was not correct information and it wasn’t vision dilution. It was simply access to the thoughts, heart and passion of his leader’s leader. Not direct access all the time, but occasional access to feel the temperature of the fire that was burning in me.
Wow! That conversation flattened me. I thought I was doing everything right as a leader. I followed the chain of command and avoided cutting the leadership legs out from under the guys that report to me and I casted clear vision and direction so that they were equipped to lead their teams. All those things I had apparently done well, but I was falling short in noticing the importance of this type of access that would increase the health of our organization.
As I processed all of this I realized that I should have caught onto this concept much earlier. You see, my leader, Perry Noble sets a great example in this area. I don’t know if he would call what he does providing access, but he leads a monthly all staff meeting where his passion and vision are clearly seen and heard by everyone on our staff. Also, almost every week he takes a group from our staff to lunch to ask and answer questions. He even builds time into his busy schedule each week to simply walk around the office and to talk with as many people as he can. He creates avenues of access for his extended team (the whole staff) and at the same time is able to learn from those who are involved in the specific ministries of our church.
Why wouldn’t that principle apply to me? Why wouldn’t I make it a point to have monthly meetings with my extended team and be more intentional about lunches and striking up conversations around the office?
One reason I think that I haven’t seen this need is that I sit as close as is possible to the epicenter of our vision. I have lost sight of how I might feel if I was removed from my current position. Just as this person understood, I would not expect Perry to be available to me all the time. I would understand the need for an organizational hierarchy and the efficiency it creates. But, I would also have a need to feel like I have voice and that I am a part of the bigger team… not just someone who carries out a necessary function.
So, I owe a major thank you to someone who was willing to “lead up” and remind me that as a leader, I need to be sensitive to everyone’s need for access. Not access that circumvents the structure or the vision… but access that clears up communication gaps, clarifies vision, gives everyone’s voice a place to be heard and makes me a better leader.