The Beauty of Approachability

When I was 16 years go I got my first job busing tables at a Goldie’s Restaurant in my hometown.  This job involved removing half-eaten food from tables, waiters that wouldn’t share their tips, cleaning the bathrooms, and just about every other conceivable disgusting thing in the restaurant business.  But I’ve always remembered one thing from my 4 nights of  employment.  (Are you surprised?  Of course I quit after 4 days!)

I guess I wasn’t exactly hiding my dissatisfaction with my chores, and my boss pulled me into his office to tell me to smile more.  I laughed at his request and then he got in my face and told me that to work for his restaurant I had to look approachable, and if I was walking around looking upset; that nobody would ever ask for my help…and then there was the potential that an unhappy customer might leave the restaurant.  That right there is some truth!

So fast forward almost 20 years and that advice still stands!  Every Sunday morning as I walk in and through the areas of my church, I’m interacting with a customer of sorts.  Not the kind of customer that is buying something, but the kind that has a need that needs to be filled.  I don’t know what those needs are, but I need to work to be as approachable as possible.  Sometimes it’s being approachable to tell someone where they can find a particular place on our campus.  Other times it’s being able to reward the bravery of a child that wants you to pray with them.

Here are the ways I work to always make people feel welcome.

  • Smile.  This is the simplest one.  Simply smile.  A simple smile always disarms even the most frustrated person.  And here’s a little secret about the power of a smile…it can cover whatever turmoil you may be going through in the moment.  Have you ever heard this saying, “Fake it, ’til you make it!”?  Just because you don’t feel like smiling, isn’t a good enough reason to frown!
  • Look Around. I work every weekend to not always look at myself, and what I’m going through during a busy weekend.  Instead, I take the time to look at what is around me.  Many times I’ve discovered I can help people by just seeing what they see.  Walking around and looking for those needs, is key to finding the needs I can meet.
  • Avoid Groups. By this I mean, that I avoid standing around in groups of cliques.  If you go to church you know what I mean.  I don’t hang out with the other pastors in the lobby, loiter in front of the nursery, or restrict myself to the guest connections counter.  I’m not rude, but I just never stay in one place very long.
  • Smile. Oh, did I already mention this one?

If you’re working at a church, and you’re not deliberately working to make yourself available to those that need you…then you’re missing one of your greatest callings!

Setting and Keeping Goals

I’m a big list maker.  I prefer the Santa method, I make a list and check it twice.  My moleskin is full of to-do’s, notes, and things I need to remember to stay on top of all that I’m required to do.  But sometimes the list needs to get bigger, and be in front of you more.  There are some lists that fit the category of “Official Goals.”  But goals doesn’t suffice entirely, because goals can be broken down further into three different categories.

  1. Everyday Goals -> You could call these core values, mission statements, or whatever; but I prefer “everyday goals” as they are the filter that allow us to say no to other good ideas.  On our ministry team I have 3 everyday goals, and they are on my dry erase goal board…right at the top in red ink!
  2. Short Term Goals -> These are things that get specific, and I should be working on  immediately  (like yesterday if possible!)  These goals are quick-fix things that we can accomplish quickly and with limited discussion.  The accountability on these is fierce and lightning fast, because it has to be done and it has to be done shortly.
  3. Long Term Goals -> These are the goals that make everyone uncomfortable.  These are sometimes audacious and dreamer-oriented; but at the same time I have to see them as  immensely  doable at some point in the future.  I stay away from impossible things here, but still want to stretch myself with the long term initiatives of the team I lead.

But after I’ve nailed these down and illustrated them out for everyone, I can easily end up with 20 short term goals and 20 long term goals; so what to do now?  Break them down into different areas of responsibilities; and start delegating them out.  And for heaven’s sake put them up where you can see them!  Here is an example of the goals worksheet my team and I have created together (click image to view them in a large format.)

In some upcoming posts I’m going to talk about the process of coming up with the goals themselves.  Because they are truly owned by everyone on our NextGen team, and that may be the most important part of all of this!

The Lie of Consensus

Consensus is defined as “general agreement among a group.”  You know where consensus comes into play in your life, right?  You want to start moving ahead with your ideas, but you feel you need some consensus from your leaders to do it.  You know what needs to be done, but you want consensus from others before moving forward.  You are burdened with a need that needs met quickly, but you want to build consensus so you won’t feel all alone meeting the need.

The danger with consensus is that oftentimes it stagnates our progress and delays our successes.  In and of itself, consensus is a great thing to have.  There are times when it is absolutely necessary to get others on your side before moving forward on something.  But there are those other times that we use the lack of consensus as an excuse to not obey what we know God has told us to do.

So how do you know when to gain consensus, and when to act quickly without it?  How should I know.  You’re the one working in your church, leading your family, and daily seeking God’s Will for your life and situation, right?  You’re already the expert.

Just refuse to buy into the lie that you NEED consensus to do anything.  Pray and act, pray and act, pray and act, and I believe you will go in the direction that you and your group need to go.

Six Keys to Leading Awesome People

Do The Work

I have led some really great teams of leaders in my experience. Leading great leaders has forced me to evaluate myself to become the leader they need me to be.  In this journey, I’ve discovered 6 important keys to making it happen for my team.

1. Let them be themselves.  You hired them for who they are, let them be that. (Wisdom and Discretion applied as needed.)  

2. Encourage Self Management.  When you hire someone, let them manage their own time and productivity.  (See #3 for corresponding key.)

3.  Hold everyone Accountable.  When letting someone be themselves, and encouraging self management on your team;  it’s imperative that you also couple those things with heavy accountability.  When is the last time you asked your team what their daily and weekly schedule looked like?  Not that you want to change it, but just because you want to see with your eyes what they are doing with their time.

4.  Say Thank You.  The easiest thing to forget when leading others, yet also the easist thing to do.  When you see something great, tell them you saw it.  So easy to do, so easy to forget.

5. Force Teamwork.  You might say, “How can you force something that should be natural?”  Easy, I tell people to work together on projects.  When they do that, they are being a team.  I will not tolerate the solitary person on our team, we all have to buy in and be a team.  And sometimes that takes the leader making that big ask!

6. Set the Example.  Be the change you want to see on your team.  I know it’s easier said than done…but it’s important nonetheless!

This list goes on and on and on and on…what would you add?

Not Being a Jerk

Are you a nice person?  Are you an encourager?  Do people want to be in your presence?

Are you a jerk?  Do you push people away with insulting behavior and a lack of respect?

There is great power and influence in simply being a nice person.  Of course you could lead by demanding and pushing out those that resist, but then you will probably end  up working in a different place than the local church…right?  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; and I’ve had my fair share of “What are they thinking?” moments with supervisors and pastors I’ve worked for in the church.  But when you make a decision to be a nicer person to those around you, you will open doors of opportunity to truly impact people around you with your vision for where you want to go!

There are probably 1,000 things that could help you be nicer to those around you, but have you considered these?

  • Have someone over for dinner.
  • Take someone to coffee.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Send an unwarranted mobile text saying thank you.
  • Smile at people.
  • Stop complaining in the presence of others.
  • Stop conversations that are turning negative.
  • Compliment someones shoes.
  • Give people time to answer the question, “How are you doing?”
  • Be intentional about getting to know people.
  • Be generous with your time.
  • Open your life up for others to see.
  • Make eye contact when listening to someone.
  • Talk to children.  Really, really talk to them.
  • Introduce your spouse to new people.
  • Have a firm handshake and offer your hand to strangers.
  • Don’t brag about yourself.
  • Wear deodorant and brush your teeth.
  • Speak complimentary of your superiors and bosses.
  • Praise good things in others.
  • Laugh often.
  • Don’t laugh when it’s not appropriate.
  • Ask forgiveness when it’s needed.
  • Be quick to pray for people when they open up about a need.
  • Listen well, Talk less.

And most importantly, just try to be nice.  I can promise that if you intentionally set out to be a nicer person, it will happen.  People are much more gracious than you would imagine, and there is room for bad days here and there.  The power of forgiveness compliments this so well!

When we strive to be a person that is concerned for others, then we can become an influencer of people.  When you influence people, you can help lead others through life change!  The power to influence others may be the greatest power given to us, and it all starts with learning to NOT be a jerk!