Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Communicating with Leaders

On ZoneGathering, our online community for small group leaders at NCC, we are running a series of articles on Communication. We want to help our leaders become better communicators-- with God and with others. We want to help them communicate up to authority, across to other leaders, and down to those they disciple.

While the following article is pretty specific to NCC, I thought I would post it over here, as well, in the event it's helpful to someone.

To be a great leader, it is vitally important that you connect with the leadership structure of the environment you are in. At work, that would be your boss or anyone with authority in your particular place in the company. At NCC, that first includes your Team Leader and/or Zone Leader. And secondly, those on staff responsible for spiritual growth.

As we explore the topic of communication, let's look at the principles of effectively communicating up to your leaders. These principles apply anywhere, but for the purposes of this article we will explore them within the framework of our discipleship structures at NCC.

Give Feedback
Team Leaders and Zone Leaders are responsible for giving direction, spiritual guidance, and support to our small group leaders. They have many years of discipleship and small group experience under their belt, and they may have already walked through some of stuff that you are facing. Giving them regular feedback about your group and the situations you are facing will help you in the long run.

At NCC, we ask each leader to complete a win sheet after each group meeting. This is one of the most important communication tools that you have as a leader.

Here are some of the reasons we do win sheets and how they can be beneficial to you:
  • Completing win sheets after each meeting should help you think more critically, intentionally, and strategically about your group
  • Win sheets are an opportunity to give God praise for the good things happening in your group. On the top of each win sheet is a Scripture: Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Acts 21:19-20a. That’s probably the best reason for doing win sheets. To give God praise.
  • Focusing on wins each week creates momentum.
  • Win sheets will help us help you. We will know immediately about issues in your group before they have a chance to spin out of control.
  • Win sheets will help us know how to pray for and encourage you.
In order to grow as a leader and improve communication with those above you, submit win sheets regularly.

Connect Often
In addition to submitting your win sheet, connect with your leader often. Don't wait for them to reach out to you; take the initiative to establish a good relationship with your leaders. The majority of the New Testament consists of the results of people connecting with their leader. Paul wrote most of the epistles to respond to questions that were raised by the churches that he worked with. If the Corinthians had not reached out to Paul to ask questions, then we might not have the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Reaching out proactively will help you be a better leader. Shoot them an email or give them a call just to reconnect, celebrate wins, get advice, or just let them know what's going on in your group.

In order to improve communication with your leaders, take the initiative to connect with them often.

Complain Well
One day, I am going to write a book entitled Following Well to explore the characteristics of a good follower. I am convinced that good followers tell their leaders what they need to hear; not what they want to hear. No successful leader surrounds themselves with only "yes men." We want to create a leadership culture at NCC that is open, honest, and transparent, and the voices of our leaders are the ones that we listen to the most.

In Philippians 2:14, Paul encourages the Christians of Philippi to imitate Christ and to "do everything without complaining or arguing." Knowing how to raise difficult issues well is a leadership art, and your skill in this area can accomplish positive results.

There is a right way to complain and a wrong way to complain. In the Peanuts comic strip, bossy Lucy tells Charlie Brown, "I don't pretend to be able to give advice. I merely point out the trouble." On the opposite end of the spectrum, Henry Ford said, "Don't find a fault; find a remedy."

A good leader and follower is a Henry Ford, not a Lucy.

I want to create a leadership culture at NCC where every problem or concern is accompanied by two things: a potential solution and a willingness to be a part of the solution. Daniel is a great example of a leader who provided a solution to a problem. As a new leader-in-training in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was given food and wine that did not comply with the Hebrew dietary laws. Instead of simply refusing to eat the food, he offered a solution. His solution was not only allowed, but it proved to be a better idea and was implemented school-wide. Some of our best ideas at NCC have come from leaders who helped discover solutions. (See Daniel 1)

And while you've got that Bible cracked open, Joseph is another great example of a man with a plan. Read Genesis 41.

When you talk with your leaders about a problem that you see, come armed with a potential solution and a willingness to take some ownership of that solution.

Share Vision
Your leaders can't help you navigate if they don't know where you are going. At the beginning of each semester, schedule some time with your Team Leader or Zone Leader and tell them the goals for your group. Talk to them about how the goals of your group fit into their goals for the zone and the goals of NCC for community and discipleship. That creates an opportunity for us to help your group accomplish those goals. Your leader may be able to throw ideas and resources your way when they know your vision. They can also help you grow your vision and equip you to reach it.

To improve your leadership, share your vision and goals with your leaders.

One More Thing
One final thing-- encourage your leaders. I know that sounds kinda silly and touchy-feely, but your Team Leaders and Zone Leaders are passionate about discipleship and they are committed to your spiritual growth and leadership development. Paul recognized the importance of encouragement over 30 times in his epistles. The writer of Hebews says that we should "encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13) and "think of ways to encourage one another" (Hebrews 10:25)

Shoot your leaders a note of encouragement and thank them for the work that they do. One positive comment can offset the discouraging comments.

Communication is key to our growth both individually and corporately, and communicating effectively up to our leaders is a skill that we should all diligently develop.


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