3 Steps to Using Conflict for Good

We’ve all been in that situation.  A relationship that is so far gone that you’d have to perform reconstructive surgery in order to repair it.  It’s messy, uncomfortable and stressful – like there’s a cloud of anxiety hanging over you every time you see that person.  Doesn’t feel so great, does it?  But what people tend to miss is that that big, uncomfortable thunderhead was once a small cloud off in the horizon.  What happened?

Here are a couple Guiding Questions:  How did that relationship become so damaged?  And what can be done to prevent it from happening again? 

At some point in the relationship, there was a situation that caused conflict for at least one person.  Something was said or done that planted a seed of distrust or bitterness.  While most people let it slide (or are unaware of what is even going on), that “seed” needs to be uprooted as quickly as possible, otherwise a weed will grow and choke out anything that is healthy in the relationship.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

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“Watch out…”  That means you need to be on the look-out for any type of problems that could grow and choke out a relationship.

I once had a team member make a tiny “humph” at a meeting in response to something I said (I’m pretty sure no one else even heard it), and the next day I was in his office asking about it.  And I recently read something in an email that made me think, “I wonder if he’s implying something there,” so that afternoon I was asking that co-worker if we were okay.  Why are conversations like this so difficult for people?  In one word… fear.  A fear of some type of repercussion, of starting a problem, or even needing to address a flaw within themselves.

But in reality, not addressing a small conflict now only leads to bigger conflict in the future. 

What to do?  Here are your 3 steps:

1) BE AWARE.  Watch body language, what is being said and how it’s said, how an email is worded or a change in a persons’ demeanor or attitude.  It’s like being a detective into the emotions and experiences of others.

2) ADDRESS IT!  Gather your thoughts (even write them down to ensure you address everything).  Think about what might be the root issue that is causing the conflict and why that person feel the way they do.  Start out with respectful statements like, “When ___ happened, I saw that you___.  Is there something going on that I can help with?” or, “When I noticed ___, I felt like you ___.”  (People can’t argue with your feelings.)  My favorite content on navigating difficult conversations is from the company VitalSmarts, particularly their book Crucial Conversations.

3) ENJOY THE REWARDS.  Wait, what?  There are rewards?!?  Absolutely!  Addressing conflict early on deepens the relationship, makes you feel like you’re on the same team instead of opposing teams, and opens up the opportunity for future, positive dialogue.  So in the end, IT’S WORTH IT!

Do you have a difficult conversation that you need to have soon?  Let me know, and I’d love to help you navigate through it.

When Change Becomes a Game of Topple

You know what game I’m talking about, right?  The one with the platform on a stand where you need to stack pieces up on different levels ranging from inside (close to the stand) to the outside (away from the middle stand).  Each time that a piece is put on the platform, it becomes more and more unsteady.  The goal is to figure out how to balance all of the pieces until… TOPPLE… everything crashes down.

topple2I’m an observer and an analyzer.  As I’ve consulted in the past and as I lead my current teams, I’ve loved watching for patterns and discovering how teams and individuals adapt every time they encounter a change.  Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • Large or small, each change requires people to make similar adjustments emotionally.  So a small change always FEELS much larger than it really is.
  • A large change, planned out in advance, FEELS smaller than it really is.
  • Any size, last-minute change feels HUGE.

I like to think of it like that game of Topple.

  • Each change requires you to put a piece on the Topple platform.
  • The more advance warning about the change, the closer you put the pieces to the center of the platform so that it’s easier to “balance” everything.
  • Quick and large changes are placed on the outer edge of the platform, requiring adjustments to be made or it will tilt too far in one direction.
  • Each time that the pieces topple over (a team member gets too frustrated, overloaded or even quits), it takes time to stop the game, pick up the pieces, and start all over again.

How can a TOPPLE on your team be prevented?  Be proactive!

1) Slow down.  Is the change necessary?  Have a filter in place to determine if the size and timing of the change will actually be helpful or detrimental.  “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” -Ellen Glasgow

2) Communicate change as far in advance as possible.  That way, when unplanned but necessary change happens, it’s easier to adjust without throwing everything overboard.

3) Put systems in place to facilitate the flow of communication.  How will your team find out about a change as soon as it happens?  How will they give you feedback before, during, and after the change is implemented?

Change is a good thing and it’s absolutely necessary, but change needs to be managed effectively in order for it to make an impact.  The right amount of change at the right time can propel your team forward toward even bigger goals and dreams, instead of requiring them to scramble in order to keep up.

What have you found to be helpful in managing change?  Do you have a “communication system” in place when it comes to change?

 

 

 

How Do You Lead? It’s Time to Check Yourself

OK, so you’ve settled on the fact that leadership is important and that you are, in fact, a leader.  Now what?

Start with the Key Question: “What type of leader do I want to be?”

I personally struggled with this question for several years.  As my effectiveness as a leader grew, I became more confident in my leadership skills.  But I would wonder if my confidence was actually pride or arrogance.  I’m sure it was at times.  I even had a leader who I admire call me “cocky”.  I accepted it as a compliment – as it was intended.  The problem I would come back to, however, was that I never had a way to define the difference between pride and confidence.

At a recent meeting for local church and business leaders, I was handed the book, “Lead Like Jesus” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.  The section that really stood out to me was the one that defined the difference between leading out of pride and fear vs. confidence and humility.

Finally, I had clarity… It is possible to lead with confidence AND humility (and not be cocky)!

scale Here’s where it’s time to do a self-check:

Confident humility in leadership is: (Lead Like Jesus, p. 64)

  • A Kingdom perspective of cause and effect
  • Resting assured in God’s nature, goodness, purpose, plan, process, and provision
  • Transparency and effectiveness
  • Proceeding in faith one step at a time

BUT, leading out of pride and fear looks like this: (Lead Like Jesus, p. 49)

  • Boasting
  • Taking all of the credit
  • Doing all the talking
  • Hoarding control and revenues
  • Discouraging honest feedback

Where are you at?  What set of characteristics do you lean toward?  If you don’t know, then ask those around you.  (Scary, I know!)  Remember, it’s difficult to see in yourself the point where you cross over from confidence to pride or arrogance.  The people that spend days and weeks with you are able to see it much better, and have already identified those characteristics in you.  Trust them to speak truthfully into your life, and also trust God to help you move from leading out of fearful pride to leading out of confident humility.

Leaders Don’t Go Bowling… A Note to Self

Dear Liza,

I know that it’s hard.  You’re passionate, you get excited about ideas, and you want things to move quickly.  But when you’re passionate, excited and quick-moving, something happens.  You go bowling.  (I know you really don’t like bowling, so this is the perfect analogy for you.)

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You don’t go bowling for pins, but for people.  Not every day and not intentionally, but when it does happen, the effect is still the same:

  • People are talking, and you cut them off because you’re so excited about getting your thought out.
  • You settle on an idea before getting everyone’s input. (If they felt strongly enough about what they’re thinking, they’d speak up, right?)
  • Acquaintances are interested in getting to know you better, but you’re so deep in thought that you walk right by them. (Truth – because, in that moment, what you’re thinking about is more important to you than they are.)
  • You have such a clear picture in your head about what the outcome of a project needs to be, that when someone else steers it another direction, it’s hard for you to accept.

 

Liza, when you’re around, things get done and they get done well.  BUT, during those times when you go bowling, other things are happening too:

  • People feel like all you care about is your opinion on something.
  • They don’t feel like you value their ideas.
  • You miss out on building deeper relationships — relationships that could help you “go further, faster“.
  • You don’t allow people to fully own a project or even to fail and learn from their mistakes because you want it done your way; otherwise, it’s not “perfect”.

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What to do?  Hit the pause button!  Put the bowling ball down.  Look around you at the incredible people that God has placed among you.  Gather in all information, and THEN push forward.

Fighting off Lions

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep.  When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from it’s mouth.  When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them…'”

1 Samuel 17: 32-36

Do you ever feel stuck?  Like maybe you were meant for more than where you currently are?  I bet David felt like that when he was out tending sheep.  All of his other brothers were back home with Dad, getting to meet Samuel (1 Samuel 16).  David was left out, with his shepherds crook in hand.

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The brilliance of what unfolds in 1 Samuel 17 is that God used David’s time in that field with his sheep as an intentional training field.  When all of the Israelite soldiers were cowering before Goliath, David saw him as just another lion to be tamed!

When I first became involved in leading a ministry, I was also working full time at a job where I felt I was making a difference in the lives of others, but I knew God had something more for me.  While I LOVED working with teams and brainstorming solutions for them, my job also required many hours of sitting in front of a computer, writing reports (blah) and creating materials for students with disabilities.  However, while I was typing away, I would listen over and over to Andy Stanley Leadership Podcasts.  I just sent one of those podcasts to a co-worker today, and realized that the first time I listened to it was five years ago, and my leadership paradigm was rocked when I heard it.  (The Most Powerful Person in the Room.)  If I hadn’t been “stuck” in front of a computer writing reports for four years, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to soak in the all of the information that I did, and then be able to apply it like I do today.

During that same period of time, I had a couple key people within ministry believe enough in me to invite me to church staff meetings and others who consistently poured into me.  This is where I learned about the heart and culture of the ministry where I have served for the past several years and am now employed.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  All this does not mean settling for the situation you’re in right now.  It does not mean to stop dreaming or to stop striving for something different that God may have for you.  It just means that when God has you ‘here’ in order to prepare you for ‘there’, take in everything you can.

My advise?  Don’t focus on that feeling of being stuck; look for the opportunity to soak in what God wants you to learn RIGHT NOW.  I believe that only then will God open up the doors for you.  And when He does, there will be a floodgate of provision and opportunity unlike anything you could imagine.  THAT is the time to press forward and lean in to what God has for you next.

Are you in an “intentional training field” right now?  What is God teaching you during this time?

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Jeremiah 29:11

Why Leadership?

Here’s my “Why”, and here’s how I see leadership: it’s absolutely essential in order to do what God is calling you to.  You WILL lead someone, and the most important person to lead is yourself.  For me, it’s not about position, power or success.  It’s about bringing out every ounce of skill that God has given to me and others so that HE can do HIS work.  I never want to look back and say that I wasn’t at my best or that I wasn’t leading someone to be their best – and that I hindered God’s work.  (Even though I know He can use even my worst leadership moments.)

MyWhy

I think where people get into a tough cycle is that when you do something of worth, people notice and praise you for it, so you assume that means you must be on the right track and you strive harder.  After so much positive feedback, it gets difficult to separate out the praise of man from the pleasure of God.

Here’s the Key Question: How does one get out or stay out of that cycle of praise–confidence–striving?

For me, it comes back to my life mission statement:

“With confident humility, I will stand where God wants me to stand, continually striving to make myself and others better.” 

Led to Start

I’ve always wondered… how does one get to the point to where they feel they have something to say that will be of worth to others?  Up until about six months ago, I never saw myself as the type of person who would start a blog.  I get passionate about sharing my ideas and analysis, my systems, my opinions (I am a teacher at heart), but I’ve always tried to do so in the context of relationships.  My pastor loves to say, “People don’t care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE,” and I strive to hold true to that.

But I also care about other things:

  • following God’s leading in the big things – even if it is something WAY outside my comfort zone, like starting a blog,
  • following God’s leading in the little things – like naming the blog something that I felt prompted to (Does God really care what I name my blog?!?), and
  • honoring God with the brains, guts and talents that I’ve been given.

All this ties in with my life mission statement which I developed recently…

“With confident humility, I will stand where God wants me to stand, continually striving to make myself and others better.” 

My prayer is that no matter the leadership position or spiritual “status” of each reader, what I share will bring value to them and those within their Sphere of Influence.