Tag: Caring

Becoming a Discipling Leader

This is a post I wrote earlier this year and published at the Vision Room in October.

Over the years, I have worked in a variety of fields, gaining exposure to many different industries. Each industry has unique jargon. Have you ever worked on a cat cracker or executed a turnaround? If so, you probably worked in a refinery. In church, we throw the word ‘discipleship’ around like everybody knows what it means. We talk about needing more of it and how we are really going to focus on it next semester. I was not well versed in church terminology, so I did a bit of research on the word. In addition to discovering this funny video from Tripp and Tyler, I found the major theme of discipleship was ‘following in the ways of someone else’.

I love the practical nature of this approach. It is not about reading more books and listening to more sermons or getting another degree. In fairness, I love knowledge and I loved school while I was there. However, real life happens in, well, the real world. What, then, is a disciple?

Disciple = Learner

I had a friend boil all that down for me: to be a disciple is to be a learner. I again went back to our old friend Chris Argyris, who stated (with Donald Schön) that learning is the ability to detect and correct error. We are striving to change our behavior to follow in the ways of Jesus. The best way to do that is to discover when we miss the mark and then get better. Sounds easy, right? There are a few key steps to making that happen consistently for you and for those you lead.

Build a Learning Environment

  • Create safety. The foundation of a learning environment is safety. Learners must feel safe enough and confident enough to admit mistakes. First to ourselves, then to our community (family, friends, coworkers, bosses, employees … you name it). This begins with the leader and sets a tone for all disciples. Exposing your own failures, fears, or questions is a sign not of weakness but of strength. This does not mean exposing every detail of your life to everyone; you must use judgement when being vulnerable. We are all disciples together, sometimes in the role of teacher and sometimes in the role of learner, so we need to consider how we create the environment for others to learn. Find a learning partner that you can listen to, guide, and hold accountable, and who can put their trust in you.
  • Embrace your mistakes. Too often, the concept of being a disciple of Christ is associated with having everything together. This is not how we think about a student. No one thinks the third grader can calculate the velocity of a moving object on the first day of school. Calling yourself a student begins with acknowledgment that you don’t have all the answers and are prone to mistakes. As disciples, we need to see our mistakes not as failures but as opportunities for growth. We must learn to enjoy our mistakes. Those may be errors in judgement, poorly chosen words, or a swing on that golf club that didn’t work out just right. Remember, mistakes are better teachers than success.
  • Check your emotions. Think back to the last time you realized you had made a mistake. The bigger the better. Without focusing on the error itself, revisit the experience of that realization. Is that a positive feeling? For most, this is an unpleasant feeling and leaves us running for the hills, thinking, “I will never do that again.” I recently had the chance to hear Brené Brown talk about this sense of being ‘emotionally snared’ and how it limits your ability to think clearly or learn anything new. That mistake you made — can you think clearly about it or are you staying wrapped up in the emotional response?
  • Talk less, act more. Great, you analyzed your mistake. Unless you translate that into action, you are likely to find yourself in the same position again. Often, through introspection, the learning we gain from a mistake can be applied to numerous situations. Don’t just learn from the individual circumstance. Look for the themes, causal factors, and unique things about your personality that make that situation difficult. Now experiment with new behaviors to see what works. Trying new things helps you know how best to engage with others and get a better result.

Is it possible to enjoy your mistakes? I think so, and it happens when you have experienced more good from your errors than bad. When you have presented a mistake to the world, and you got better as a result, that leaves a mark. Lather, rinse, repeat. Over time, reframe the experience of error from fear to excitement.

Your Next Move

Take a risk and admit the next mistake you make to the most dangerous person in the room. Detect your errors and share them with a close friend you can trust, then ask them for help in changing your behavior. To walk in the ways of someone else, to become disciples of Jesus the Christ, communicate your weakness and strengthen it for the next encounter.

I Have a Name

I have recently started working on a really exciting ballooning project. A couple of my ballooning friends are planning to fly a balloon over the Pacific Ocean, from Japan to the US. To learn more about this project, go to pacificballoon.com.

As a result of this project, I have been working with a few corporations to help us out on the US side with recovering the equipment.

I solicited one well known national logistics company thinking they could give me advice. Specifically, my note read like this:

Thanks for the time to consider helping us figure this out!

As it turns out, they did not take the time to help us figure it out. Instead, I got this note back:

Thanks for not caring

Thanks for not caring

People or Tasks?

A friend at church once told me, “When people become tasks, I know I need to take a break.” I thought when I wrote my note to this company, I was a real person with a personal interest in a pretty cool project. What I got back clearly told me I was a task to this company. On the plus side, I did get a response. Part of me didn’t even expect that!

When caring for people and their needs becomes just another task to add to the list and get it done as fast as possible, we are missing the point.

Use My Name

I get it – they probably get hundreds of requests for help, or money, or something each day. They can’t possibly be expected to help everyone, or even be interested in everyone. However, by failing to actually insert my name in the communication they left me wanting.

Contrast that note above with this one:

A better way to respond

A better way to respond

I have a similar reaction when I receive emails directed to me without using my name. Maybe I am old school, but I learned to open a communication with some sort of a salutation. Rehearse this in your own mind, how does it sound when a missive starts with the content? How about when it starts with some small acknowledgement that you are a real person, with a name?

Your Next Move

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed with everything, and everyone, in your inbox remember those are real people with real lives and real feelings. Treat them with the care they deserve, even when you don’t feel like it.

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