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Working with a Strong Personality

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by gb93433, Apr 24, 2007.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433 Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Jun 26, 2003
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    Working with a Strong Personality, Part 2
    by Dan Reiland
    The Pastor's Coach

    If you have people with strong personalities working for you, you are fortunate. It may not always feel that way, but you are. This of course assumes they are competent and productive! I have five such direct reports. They all have different but strong personalities. They are not afraid to ask questions, speak their mind, and show up with passion. That's a good thing. They are also eager to serve, humble, and know ultimately “who's the boss.”

    The “boss” comment is not meant as sarcasm or arrogance. It's just a fact. While “boss” isn't the best choice of words and hopefully you wouldn't exude a boss “attitude” – if you're the boss, you're the boss. You need to be comfortable in “boss skin.” If you are uncomfortable with that role, if you are uneasy about “sitting at the head chair”, if you are just weird about the whole deal then you end up being a weird boss. So, if that is your role, then internalize it so that it's natural and not a big deal. Just remember it's about your responsibility to serve others and your persona will be fine.

    Back to strong personalities. You may have only one strong personality on your team. If this is the case, you might be tempted to brand this person as a renegade, trouble-making, non-team player. They may however, be the best leader on the team. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Create some personal connect time. Invest in them. Practice the following five principles and see if it doesn't make a difference.

    In any case, the following five thoughts will help you be a better leader when leading strong personalities.

    * Give them room to breathe.

    You can't squeeze an eagle. Try it some time. It will claw your eyes out, fly away, and never be seen again! It will still be an eagle, just no longer in your neck of the woods.

    Leaders get excited when they hire an eagle but when the eagle does what eagles do, the leader often will often attempt to shut them down. Yes, there are limits and boundaries. There are budgets and calendars. Reality is reality. But it's your job as the boss to clear as much of the junk out of the way as possible so they can fly and make it happen. Clearing the junk out of the way includes a wide variety of things from keeping the morale high to keeping the red-tape low.

    So what does room to breathe look like? It can be as simple as letting them follow their own schedule. Why demand that an eagle be in the office at 8:00AM if when they come in at 9:00AM, they are happier and more productive? The same is true in reverse. Why make the strong personality stay until 5:00PM or 6:00PM when they want to come in at 6:00AM and leave a little earlier than the rest of the flock. Again, I understand the reality of boundaries and there are systems and processes that require teamwork. But there is always room to breathe if you will allow it.

    It can also be more complicated, such as allowing the staff member to take a risk on a new ministry idea or hire an edgy staff member, or invest a large amount of money in an existing ministry that you think should be “killed” - but they are passionate to revive it. Risk and failure are part of the journey to success; strong personalities need room to try. However, they must also put some wins on the board in order to sustain the privilege of being treated like an eagle. In other words, always connect freedom to responsibility and productivity.

    If the three top words in real estate are location, location, location. The top three words for leading eagles are empower, empower, empower.

    * Invest in their leadership development.

    People with drive, energy, and strong personalities want to grow. They are grateful to the ones who invest in their progress. This requires effort and energy on your part. You can send staff to conferences and that is good, but there is more. Using the example of a leadership conference, you can double the value by taking the time to connect with your staff member when they return. Ask questions about what they learned, how they will apply it, where they felt stretched and what they gleaned that will help the church and staff in general. Then several weeks later, check in again to see what progress has been made. Focus more on their growth than the net gains in ministry. If you focus on their growth, the gains in ministry will follow. Putting this into practice is tough on most leaders, but it's worth it. Bank on the long-term results that come from long-term investments.

    Create other environments that are more personal in nature and consistent in timing. A monthly leadership lesson taught to the staff works well. Create time for the staff to interact with each other on key topics as you teach and facilitate discussion. Read leadership books together, bring in a speaker, purchase CDs and other resources to make available. The most difficult part of leadership development is making the commitment to do it. It's not an urgent thing so it often gets cut. I urge you to start and stick with it.

    The training isn't always purely leadership. Often, at least for us at Crossroads, it takes a turn to more of a focus on spiritual maturity and devotion. I don't get boxy or categorize these topics, presuming that ultimately you are teaching spiritual leadership to spiritual people. I simply want to note that your training is not always “pure” leadership.

    * Set high expectations and hold to them.

    Strong personalities don't respond well to weak personalities, particularly ones that do not set and hold a line. You don't have to be ugly about it, in fact demonstrating the fruit of the spirit is always a good idea! Loving, kind, and firm is a great combination. OK, one of those is not a fruit of the spirit, but it's still a good idea.

    Through your process of leadership development, observation and honest conversation you will know what your staff members, especially the strong personalities, can do. It is based on that knowledge that you set high standards and stick to them.

    Far too often in a church staff environment, we incorrectly apply grace. Someone makes a mistake or falls short of a standard of excellence and we say, “Ah, that's OK.” It's not OK. Jesus didn't die on the cross for “OK.” He deserves our best. You can be kind in your communication and patient in your coaching, but don't lower your expectations. The cause of Christ is worth everyone's best.

    * Speak directly – listening isn't enough.

    Strong personalities want to be heard. You do need to listen and pay genuine attention to what they have to say. But at some point it's time for you to speak to the matter and soft and easy is often not the best route. (It is often best when dealing with a personal issue such as something in their marriage or family life.)

    My mentor John Maxwell reminds me that my “occasional” academic/philosophical bent can get me in trouble. If I don't pay attention I will use too many words and come in from a side angle rather than be direct. Strong personalities don't like this. They want it fast, clear, and straight between the eyes. Though it may aggravate them in the moment, they really do prefer it that way. I do too. I'd much rather have someone shoot straight and strong with me because then I know exactly where I (and they) stand. And ultimately, I trust them more. (Remember, especially if you are a strong personality as well, straight and strong is not mean and ugly.)

    * Play to their gifts not their egos.

    When it comes to leading strong personalities, it's more art than science. There is no formula and emotion matters. Let's start with the basics. Never manipulate. Tell the truth, not what they want to hear. You might be tempted to sugar coat something or put a spin on a conversation to play toward their agreement. They always know when you are doing that. That's not the reason you shouldn't manipulate! The reason you shouldn't manipulate is because it's wrong. Many leaders have said to me that it's a fine line between manipulation and leadership finesse. I don't think the line is that fine. The motives of your heart and your true agendas make the distinction very clear.

    Keep your compliments, praise, and rewards based on their gifts and talents. That's the best way to keep it real and get their best performance. (And remember, they want their best performance too!) I have seen too many strong personalities think they are good at something and they are not. This often occurs in teaching and worship leading roles. But because the force of their personality is so strong, their ego is indulged and they are permitted to continue doing something that does not engage their true gifts.

    Beyond words of affirmation, you want to lean into their gifts not their egos because ultimately when they operate in their sweet spot you have created a true win-win scenario. They win and the church wins, which means the Kingdom wins!

    "This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.INJOY.com."

    This information cannot be used for resale in any manner.

    Copyright 2007, INJOY 3760 Peachtree Crest, Ste A, Duluth, GA 30097
  2. Mexdeaf

    Mexdeaf New Member

    Mar 14, 2005
    Likes Received:
    That's pretty good stuff. I have read some of Maxwell's books, but they come off as being too 'secular' to me- by that I mean that he seems to approve of the 'the ends justifies the means' philosophy, which I do not agree with.

    What other leadership books or resources do you recommend?