Leadership and Communication
by Yvonne LaMar
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The present administrationís support of faith-based organizations has caused a new phenomenon that is often not addressed. Faith based organizations are engaging in community service at growing rates and pursuing government grants to support their efforts. There are numerous workshops to help common people learn the ins and outs of getting government grants. Many churches are benefiting from them.
The manpower behind these community efforts often come from church members who have shown dedication and willingness to work hard. Being promoted as efforts grow is a common incentive used to keep people motivated and programs growing. What begins as a volunteer workforce can quickly become an employed staff with responsibilities that they are not prepared to handle. Someone who has proven himself in one area can find himself flailing in other areas.
Leadership positions can be very rewarding, but they have a long history of bringing out the worst in people. Good leaders make it look easy and the people who see them often think they can do just as well or better in their position. We have all had experiences where that is not the case.
Most people have had no training in leadership. They are motivated, smart, they have impressive skills, but no idea of how to lead. Too often, they take their cues from experiences that they have had Ė bad experiences! I am stunned to see that so many people are hindered by their upbringing or early work experiences. It is hard to believe that they learned that yelling, emotional manipulation, or blatant tyranny were viable options for leaders.
No organization can function for long with bad leadership. I often recommend authors for new leaders to pursue. Not books to read, but authors to pursue. Wayne Dyer, Warren Bennis, Stephen Covey, Deborah Tannen, and even Dr. Phil have written and said many things that are helpful when personal issues start to surface in your organization.
When working with new leaders I tend to focus on communication. Communication seems to be the area that makes the most difference between an effective effort and a failure. I advise to speak openly. Any information that is relevant to the project is relevant to everyone involved in the project. Regular meetings, work logs, and meeting notes are important to keeping everything moving forward and keeping everyone informed.
Setting boundaries is also important in communication. It is nice to relate to people and enjoy each other, but people must know that communication about their efforts are really about their efforts and nothing else. It requires precise language and specific examples so things are not misunderstood. People can be sensitive, and rightly so, keep that in mind when you make a criticism about how they do things.
Communicating precisely requires a new leader to know their people. Knowing who does what and how they do it is crucial. If no one is following, you arenít a leader. Putting people where they are most effective is the first sign that you are paying attention. Establishing roles for people also helps to set boundaries for communications. The beginning and end of their role informs you about what they need to know. It is frustrating to hear someone discussing a shortcoming with someone who is not responsible for it. It leads to blaming and gossip. Keep the communications relevant to who you are speaking to.
Setting boundaries also leads to closure. When all has been said and done about an issue, you can move on to the next thing. Leaders promote the relief and satisfaction that comes from settling things. Leaving anything unfinished means that you will have to address it later, thatís fine if you need time, but ignoring the unpleasant does not make it go away.
The healthiest thing that you can do is remember that it is all a process. If today does not go well, there is tomorrow. I read somewhere that living in the past causes depression and living in the future causes anxiety. My first job as a counselor was at a drug rehabilitation center called One Day At A Time. I think I was too young to really appreciate the sentiment at the time, but I have learned to receive it on a deeper level. Todayís effort is what counts. Yesterday can not be undone and tomorrow will bring its own concerns. Accept your position and step all the way into it, everyone will respond to your comfort level. They will also respond to your leadership.
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