Thursday, March 21, 2013

Go Deep

Resonant leaders are attuned to what motivates themselves and others

     One of the most helpful books I’ve read since my leadership journey began is Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Resonant leaders are aware of and attuned to the people around them. We can see a difference in their leadership approach. They inspire us with their passion for their work and the compassion they show to others. They know the people they work with; they understand them at a deeper level because they understand what motivates them.

     No one becomes a resonant leader overnight. It’s a process that takes time and deep self-knowledge. We cannot possibly begin to know what motivates others until we know what motivates ourselves. This requires self-awareness and a state of mindfulness, which takes work. Many who aspire to leadership, or who are now leaders, fail to understand this. Many are afraid of exploring deep inside themselves and seeing what lurks beneath the solid exterior they’ve built up. Some like to keep a tight control over their emotional lives and this soul-searching activity seems fraught with emotion. It’s messy. It’s a bit scary. It might unlock and release something about ourselves we don’t want to face.

     However, if we want to be emotionally intelligent, then we have to go there. Emotional intelligence is emotional maturity. It’s becoming someone who is tuned into what emotions they are experiencing and has the ability to regulate them. It extends to an awareness of the emotions of those around you and then, through empathy and understanding, seeking to maximize this understanding and create great working relationships where mutual respect grows and creativity blossoms.
For most of us, this is a work in progress, as is learning to become more like Jesus. However, part of learning to be like Jesus is learning to have emotional intelligence.

     Jesus knew and understood those that he led. He knew the weaknesses of his disciples. He understood Peter’s impetuousness. He had the sons of Zebedee all figured out. The woman at the well was surprised when Jesus told her he was aware of her personal situation. It was the deep love Jesus had for others that allowed him to know them so well. We are reminded by Peter,  

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

     This applies to our leadership. Whether or not we work in ministry, business or are a volunteer coach for our children’s soccer league, we are called to love others with a sincere and deep love—especially those we lead.

     A health-care supervisor I was studying with told me about a nurse who worked for her that she dreaded having to deal with. “Every shift was difficult as he complained about others and failed to see the faults in himself,” she said. “However, as I was journaling one night and writing about this employee, it occurred to me that I was judging him and complaining about him.” As she grew in her understanding of herself, she was able to begin to deal with the difficult employee by seeing him differently. “I also realized that, as a Christian, I had to learn to love him,” she told me. “I became a different leader that day.”
Our staff knew us very well - laughter replaced tears at our farewell

    As we seek to know ourselves more deeply, we need to spend time alone with God, seeking to know him and understand why he loves us. As we cultivate a deep understanding of who we are, we will begin to understand others. And then we will begin to lead in ways that create a meaningful experience for those we lead and inspire them to join us on the same journey.


Delve Deeper

It takes inner strength to look at your real self. Here are some ways to learn more about yourself:
  • Journal each night, reflecting on the day and how you responded to different situations. Asking yourself “why” is a good way to keep digging deeper. 
  • Do a 360 degree evaluation for yourself, asking people you work with and for whom you work for honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Find someone you look to for leadership, someone you can trust, and ask him or her to enter into a mentoring or coaching relationship with you.

Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer of Victoria’s High Point Community Church.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Than Words

If you want to be a leader, 

you have to know how to communicate!

Words are powerful. They can build up and they can tear down. It’s not just the words that make a difference, but the timing as well. A word properly used can bring about change in a situation that desperately needs it. The Bible tells us that “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 NIV).

For those of us in leadership positions, our words are not only important, they also carry great weight. Although we must choose our words carefully, we also want to ensure that we don’t sit in silence when we need to be heard. Silence may be golden, but it quickly turns to tarnished brass if it lasts too long.

Some leaders think they’re good communicators, but they may overestimate their skills at times. Communication is more than just listening to people and giving feedback. We communicate through our facial expressions, body language and our ability to be attentive to someone. People can quickly tell if we are not paying attention or if we are going through the motions.

 No matter whether we are Sunday school teachers or business leaders, we need to pay attention to the way we communicate. There are a number of barriers to effective communication. Here are a few:

• Lack of respect by either party for the other
• Failure to establish the best medium for communication
• Assuming that the listener receives the right message
• Ignored emotions or sensitivities
• Inability to get on the listener’s level of understanding
• Intimidation by either party

If any of these are in play, the communication is over before it begins.

Good communication also involves picking up on subtle cues and being tuned in to the small things that are happening with the person we are listening to. I was listening attentively to a client as he told me how good he felt that he had worked through some of the issues he had with a former girlfriend. While he was talking I noticed his hands were clutching the arms of the chair rather tightly and his leg was bouncing up and down. His words and body were not in agreement. After a time of listening and watching, I pointed this out to him. Was there more underneath that needed attention? In the end, he decided that he still had some things he needed to work through and made the decision to carry on with his counseling sessions.

Oddly enough, it is when we are attuned to all the subtle and sometimes disturbing cues around us and in us that we begin to hear the sacred things to which God wants us to pay attention. Each conversation is an opportunity to gather valuable information about a person’s background, culture and way of seeing the world. When we pay attention to the details and tuck that information away, it helps us build meaningful relationships. Some call this active listening, but Peter Senge talks about “generative listening” in his book, The Fifth Discipline. It’s really a state of “communion” or “grace” with the other person. Here’s how Senge describes it:
     “To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.”

     This type of listening is a creative act. It’s divesting your mind of all your preconceived ideas of what you think you know about a person, and opening up to the possibilities that may come out of it. You may end up thinking in a whole new way.

     As you learn to listen more effectively to others, you will have the right words to say. We say the wrong things when we don’t understand the person before us and we miss out on what they really need to hear to take them to the next level. That’s because we misunderstand not only what they’re saying, but also who they are. God is interested in who we are, not just in what we do and how we do it. When leaders take time to truly know those they lead, holy, authentic communication is the result.

Major Kathie Chiu is the pastor at High Point Community Church
*This article was originally published in the Canadian Salvationist September 2012
copyright owned by The Salvation Army

Saturday, March 02, 2013

How Long....

Swirls of darkness surround me. I can't see. Life is over as I know it, no one cares. Why can't I get up, get out of this deep, dark hole of despair?  God, are you really there? Do you exist? Why do you let this happen to me. I can't go on living like this. If I could just go to sleep and not wake up... I could just drive to the airport with my Visa and go somewhere, escape, warmth, the sun.... my heart beats hard and fast, my chest tightening. My head is going to explode and I know my blood pressure is high.

I can tell what's happening. I'm analyzing all my thoughts desperately trying to sort the true from the false... I'm exhausted.

This is is not really me. I know that inside, somewhere distant I can hear the truth.

I'm overwhelmed.

Darkness lifts as the sun comes out and I struggle to move, speaking words of life out loud to myself like a crazy woman - can anyone hear me? They'll commit me for sure.

People, I need people. I need to connect so I'm not alone. I need to feel the warm sun and cool breeze on my face. As I get up I'm sore. My muscles ache and strain to move. I want to lie down again but I push myself up.

Just get to the computer and see if she's on Skype... she's there. A lifeline thrown out. Thank you Lord.

If you've ever suffered depression and anxiety, this will sound familiar to you. This is the monkey on my back. My haunting. My cross to bear. My curse. I don't want it. I struggle against it trying to do all I can to help myself get better. Some days I'm successful, other days I'm not.

I'm blessed to have a husband who loves and adores me. I'm not sure why he does... but, he does anyway. I can talk to him, I can warn him I'm slipping. He reaches out to me and loves me. He doesn't get angry at me, he puts up with my irritability and sharp words. I apologize but he just looks at me with love and says, "That's ok."

I love him so much.

Perhaps you don't have someone like that in your life. Perhaps you're alone or your family doesn't understand. I want to assure you - you're not alone. There are people going through the same thing day after day, struggling to hang on.

Take heart, beloved. God is near even though He seems far. Hang on to truth, not the feelings of despair.

This is my psalm when I'm sinking...

How long, Adonai? 
     Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I keep asking myself what to do, 
          with sorrow in my heart every day?

Look, and answer me, Adonai, my God!
     Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death. 
          Then my enemy would say, "I was able to beat him;"

But I trust in your grace, your unfailing love, 
     my heart rejoices as you bring me to safety. 
I will sing to Adonai, because he gives me even more than I need. (psalm 13)

grace.... Kathie