Tuesday, May 19, 2015

People Get Angry

As a person in a position of leadership in multiple organizations, I love learning from other leaders any chance I get.  The book of Judges covers the stories of many leaders.  These Judges, unfortunately, do many things that one should not strive to emulate.  While reading this book recently, Gideon’s leadership journey really resonated with me. 

Gideon was raised into a position of leadership in response to Israel’s oppression under the Midianites.  Gideon initially went into battle with men from three different tribes.  Facing the super-power of the day, they were greatly outnumbered to begin with.  When Gideon and the Israelites reached the Midian camp, the Lord told Gideon that their small army had too many people.  Human tendency and pride would allow the Israelites to boast that their immanent victory was because of their own doing, not because of the power of the Spirit.  So in view of the strength of the Midian army, Gideon was commanded to release any solider who was afraid to enter into battle.  22,000 men left the army that day.  I can only imagine the pain, anger and confusion that Gideon was feeling.  He was being obedient to the leading of the Spirit but obedience went against logic.  I wonder how Gideon’s military officials responded to his command.  After he loses a majority of his enlisted men, the Lord cut down the ranks until a hodgepodge group of 300 soldiers remained.  Gideon, through the power of the Spirit, wins the battle and frees Israel from oppression.

Even before all the fighting stops, Gideon is confronted by angry Israelites.  The tribe of Ephraim comes to Gideon complaining that they were excluded from battle and taking grate offense ate being ignored.  They yell at Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” They challenged him vigorously (Judges 8:1).  I am sure the word they actually used to challenge Gideon could not be printed in the Good Book.  The Ephraimites were angry at Gideon for no logical reason.  Gideon asked for the tribes in the East to assist him in defeating Midian, Ephraim was in the middle of the country.  Never mind that 99% of the troops that responded to Gideon’s call here sent home.  It is incredibly unlikely that even if soldiers from Ephraim reported for duty that Gideon would have allowed them into battle.  There was no logical reason for Ephraim to be mad at Gideon and yet they vigorously challenged him.  Oh the joys of leadership!

Two leadership principles stuck out to me in Gideon’s story.
1.       People are going to be upset with you and disagree with a decision you make.  It is an inevitable consequence of leadership. There is no way to make everyone happy and prevent conflict.  It is the reality of the leadership journey. 
2.       Being obedient to the leading of the Spirit is not always logical or easy to explain.  Only in the Kingdom economy does the underdog enter battle with 300 people and win.  It will not always be possible to logically explain to those under my leadership why I am making certain decisions.  While I can’t make everyone happy, I can at least be obedient.

These are two very good things to keep in my.  I can try to defend myself until I am blue in the face or I can trying to resolve the conflict and move forward.  Gideon’s response to Ephraim’s anger is also something to emulate. He does not defend his actions but offers a solution to move forward.  He finds a way to bring the tribe of Ephraim into the plan.  This is a great leadership tools as well.  Inviting people to be a part of the solution is always a better plan than explaining the solution.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Strength in Numbers

           I have been reflecting recently on the power of diversity found in community.  We were designed to be in relationship, to learn from others.  There is such strength found when different people are intentional about bringing their best to the table. Everyone was created with different skill sets and abilities.  I know that I have many wonderful attributes to contribute to any group of people, but my skills alone are not sufficient.  I need other people to bring their best so that I can more fully experience all the attributes of our Father. 
Gifts mixes are designed to work together.  On a recent trip to Shanghai, I became sick and my friend Emily and I ended up needing to reschedule our flight.  Emily is one the most compassionate and attentive people I have the pleasure of knowing.  I could not have had a better person to help take care of me when I was feeling ill.  As Emily was helping us reschedule our flight and making sure I had water and a comfortable place to sit, I suddenly remembered that Emily had checked baggage and her bag was about to leave for Shanghai without her.  [Honestly, it seemed like that was the only coherent thought I had during the entire night]. Emily was able to inform the fight staff in enough time to keep her bag from traveling across the country without her.  When we finally on the way to Shanghai and immune systems were back in full swing, Emily and I started laughing about how my attention to detail was crucial in that situation.  That skill is so ingrained in me that it came out even while I was not operating at my best.  Attention to detail, however, is no comfort.  I needed Emily’s compassion just as much as she needed her bag. 
While this is a small example, it reminded me of the importance of relationship and appreciating differences.  What do I miss by not asking for help, allowing others to speak into my life.  What aspects of our Father’s character do I not see because I am focused on myself and what I can do well?  How could our communities, fellowships, families change if we actively celebrated our diversity?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The 80/20 Principle

Conflict.  It is something most of us dread and will do almost anything to get out of.  Living overseas I daily interact with people from multiple cultures, personalities, and backgrounds.  Cultural misunderstandings are unavoidable. Miscommunication is common and can lead to unintentional offenses.  Additionally, we are all sinful human beings who naturally look out for our own interests above the needs of others.  Long story short, I will offend people and be offended.  I will hurt people, even when I do not mean to. Other people will inadvertently hurt me.  The question is how do I respond when I am hurt or hurt other people?

I have found the 80/20 Principle to be a great tool in dealing with conflict.  This principle states that in any conflict or disagreement, each party is responsible for part of the misunderstanding.  Even if I am not the person who started the conflict, I am responsible for my response and actions to the conflict.  They could be 80% of the problem, but I need to own my 20%. It means I need to pause, acknowledge how my actions have contributed to the issue (no matter how minor). The 80/20 Principle reminds me that I have to acknowledge my behavior and ask for forgiveness.  It is amazing how the simple act of apologizing and owning our behavior will defuse a tense situation.  The Principle helps me realize that I am never completely justified in my anger and that there is always a different side to the story.

This week I had the opportunity to live out the 80/20 Principle at work.  There was a disagreement about an action step that came out of a meeting.  Instead of justifying or defending our actions, my coworker and I were able to acknowledge our mistakes and apologize for actions that were hastily made.  Because we each quickly apologized for how our actions effected the other person, we were able to move on and resolve the issue in a relatively timely matter. We chose to talk about the problem in real time, not wait for other offenses to be added to this one incident.  Something that had the potential to fester for weeks was resolved in 20 minutes.  Relationship was strengthened because both parties took responsibility for actions.  Since the focus of the conservation was not each person attempting to get the other to admit guilt, we were able to move forward and discuss ways to avoid this problem in the future.  Instead of damaging relationship, application of this principle strengthen our working relationship and friendship.  

While I do not like conflict, I love that this principle is a tool to help me deal with conflict in a healthy manner.  It reminds me that I make mistakes, am sinful and need to repent of the things that I do wrong.  I helps me enter each conversation with a teachable spirit, listening for the other person’s heart and intention instead of focusing on getting them to apologize. It does not allow me to play victim or lay the blame solely on the other person.  It reminds me that conflict is another facet of health relationship and that when I take responsibility for my actions I show honor and respect to the other person.