Monday, February 13, 2017

City Limits

I am a Pastor at Christ Fellowship, and I get to look after the Stuart Campus.  I love it!

Now, if you did not know better, you would assume that the Campus is located in Stuart, Florida.  But the truth is, the property lies just outside the city limits of the city of Stuart.  Actually, it is in unincorporated Martin County.  We call the Campus “Stuart Campus” because Stuart is a clear, known city nearby that serves as a great identity marker for all of those who live in the South Florida area.

Stuart is a great little city.  It even has it’s own Police department.  If you go outside the city limits of Stuart, and you ever needed help from Law Enforcement, you would then call upon the Martin County Sheriff’s Department.  The Stuart Police Department serves the people of Stuart and stays within the city limits.

As I was pondering this one day, I thought it served as a great picture of how leadership plays out when it comes to relationships.  

Leadership works only within the boundaries of how well relationships are developed, much like the city limits are for Stuart.

Years ago, as a young Pastor serving as the Worship Leader of my church, I was given leadership and authority over people.  My musical ability catapulted me high up as a leader, yet I did not truly understand the essence of what leadership is, how leadership works, or at least how it works best.

I remember having many conflicts with people on my team, and many challenges with having to lead the people under my care.  It seemed I was always putting out fires.  I think what I did not understand early on is that my leadership could only extend to the level of relationships I had built.

Because I was a young, ambitious leader with great ideas and vision, I tended to move fast - implementing new plans, new systems, new styles that I loved, not always what was best for the church or the people.  When someone “got in my way”, or was not on board with where I was going, I would try to “lead them” to where I thought they needed to go.  I assumed that they would follow me simply because I was their leader.  I assumed that they would not have any questions, that they would understand clearly, having no doubts or concerns.  I was here to lead, to make things great - great for me really, not necessarily for them.

I also remember trying to speak my mind to people - colleagues I was on staff with, and the leaders above me. Not only did I feel like I was not being heard, I felt like I was not connecting.  There is nothing more frustrating than to want to make your point, only to not be accepted or be understood.  It’s like beating your head against a wall, but your not getting through - you’re just hurting your head.

Through the years of being mentored and through much experience of trial and error, I have learned that the key to getting your voice heard, the secret to connecting to people so that they will follow your lead is this:

Know your City Limits

As mentioned earlier, the city of Stuart has clear signs that show where the city limits end and where unincorporated Martin County begins.   Likewise, with each relationship we manage, we need to look for the signs of the city limits.  We can only go as far with people as we have built mutual trust and mutual respect.  

Here are a few practical keys to expand out your “City Limits” with people around you to expand your leadership with them:

  1. Invest Time
The greatest way to begin the process of building a healthy relationship is to spend time with people.  Spend intentional time where you are sharing life together, sharing your hopes and dreams with one another.  
Do fun things with people.  Make memorable events and moments together.  You can do this in groups to maximize moments, but you also need to be intentional with high - capacity people and loyal people by spending one on one time with them.  In a world of automation, Social Media “Friends” lists, and using the art of delegating, a leader CANNOT DELEGATE time investment to someone else.  I would recommend planning meaningful FACE TO FACE time with your key people.  Seek them out.  
Make plans in the coming days and weeks.  For this, get out from behind your desk.  Don’t work with your Assistant to arrange this - YOU arrange this.  And make sure there are times when you are not training, not coaching, not pushing your agenda.  Your agenda can wait so that you build authentic relationship with your people.  You need to do this also with your colleagues,  and certainly with your boss, for those in leadership above you.  YOU initiate this.  It will look different than how you create it for people who serve under you.  But make sure to make time with people you serve and work with.
  1. Invest Trust
To get trustworthy people, you must give them trust.  That seems backwards, doesn’t it?  I mean, you only give trust to people who have earned trust.  Right?  I get that.  But the way to BUILD trustworthy people is to begin by offering them some trust up front.  This is a powerful concept.

Here’s why it works.  When you understand that people want to succeed, they want to please, they want to do their best, you set them up for success.  You LEND THEM TRUST and put high belief in them.  When you do this, you communicate value, respect for who they are, and you encourage them to become the great person that they can be.  This takes seeing the best in people, even before they display it.  Start finding small areas where you can empower people and trust them.  When they see that you are willing to take a risk for them, they usually will rise to the level and become trustworthy.  And they will thank you for it!

  1. Invest in their Talent
The true purpose of leadership is this: help others get where they want to go.  Help people around you be successful in their calling.  That’s it.  Leadership is not meant for you or me to be successful or look successful.  The most celebrated leaders are recognized because they are SERVANT LEADERS, serving people.  

When the people around them are successful, the Leader feels a sense of accomplishment.  Whatever your vision, whatever your mission, it must work through utilizing people’s talents, tapping in to people’s calling.  When people see that you are developing their gifts and helping them live in their calling, they will be on board with your vision.  They will embrace your mission like it is their own.  Secure Leaders are not afraid of letting people under their care shine brighter than they are.  Secure Leaders are thrilled when people rise to higher levels of accomplishment.  That is a sign of a great leader! Find ways and opportunities to feature people’s gifts and successes.  Celebrate them! Get behind them and support them.  They will always turn around and thank you for helping them reach their calling.

Passionate Leaders want to break through barriers to reach higher levels, to realize their great vision.  But wise leaders understand that they can only lead their people and influence their colleagues and those who lead them according to the boundaries of the city limits.  Outside the city limits, they have no jurisdiction, no influence.  They may try to shout orders, but people will not come along on the journey.  When the leader makes demands or threats, the people only do the minimum requirement.  They drag their feet.  They question everything.  

As you endeavor to lead people, work to expand the borders in every relationship you manage by Investing Time, Trust and investing in their Talent.  You will find that people will embrace your vision and your leadership with them!