And, just like that we’re in our final week.
Chapter 9 – Overcoming the Communication Barrier
1. What part of communication do you struggle with the most?
2. Where do you need to be more sensitive to how your emotions come through in your communication?
3. In what types of situations do others most commonly misunderstand you?
4. When do you feel the most comfortable or confident in your communication?
SJ-“Leadership rises or falls on communication” (p. 115). The longer I’m in leadership the more I believe this. And I agree with Jenni (p. 117) that communication is a two-way street: we have to listen to understand and communicate to be understood. Here’s an outline of her steps toward understanding and being understood:
a. Be a good listener.
b. Be self aware.
c. Be sensitive.
d. Be direct and confident.
e. Pay attention to your timing.
f. Just be you.
Of all these, being a good listener might be the hardest for me…for a few reasons. Sometimes I can be too set on proving I’m right. God has been pointing this out to me for some time now. Self-awareness is a big part of this hang-up of mine, so they work together completely. Another reason I might not be a good listener is when my emotions are getting the best of me and I become too defensive. When that happens I not only quit listening, I can quit being reasonable and rational. Her steps toward being a good listener are good. Focus and keeping an open mind (p. 120) are key, but first I have to breathe, acknowledge when I’m off course, say a prayer, and re-focus. Asking clarifying questions helps too.
Loved her “feedback sandwich:” compliment, critique, compliment (p. 125). Brilliant! Sadly, I have been that person who packed my sandwich so full of leafy condiments that the meat got lost. I have grown a lot in the department of directness, many thanks to my son and my job. I hope to continue growing!
Timing is everything. I typically have a little knack there, especially when I seek God’s timing first. Her final suggestion of just being myself I also agree with. I think we women have a horrible tendency to try to be someone else (that comparison thing). I used to apologize for my emotionality; I used to think I shouldn’t show emotion. What God has been teaching me is that He created me with emotion, so I shouldn’t shy away from it. I do need to learn to have self-control, patience, etc…but it’s okay to show passion and joy and sadness and frustration.
Gosh, I can’t say enough about self-awareness. I really think ALL this hinges on knowing ourselves as best as possible, tapping into our strengths and finding ways to compensate for our weaknesses (not to mention leaning into God for His strength). It wasn’t that many years ago that I finally realized I am an introvert. Tests were never conclusive for me…I was always down the middle, on the fence. But when I discovered at my core I’m an introvert, I began to realize what I need to do to ensure I’m functioning at capacity. I need sufficient rest, time alone, time to think/process before I can make decisions. When I’ve given myself these things, I am most confident, sensitive, and able to communicate.
Chapter 10 – Put the Boxing Gloves Down
1. Have you had painful experiences with other women that have affected your leadership? How have you dealt with them? Have you brought them into the light?
2. When you face tension in leading other women, do you find yourself reacting as Shrinking Violet, Retaliating Rita, or Cynical Cindy? Is there another reaction that you deal with? What do you do about it?
3. When leading other women, do you struggle more with jealousy, judging, or being their champion? Is there another area that causes you difficulty? What is it?
SJ-I’m a peacemaker, a pleaser…when it comes to fight or flight, I RUN. So my first reaction to a chapter like this one is, “Oh, I don’t need this. I don’t wear boxing gloves.” Then I read the chapter and realize…”Ohhhh, maybe I relate to this more than I thought!” Honestly, I’ve been all three of the extreme reactors…Violet, Rita, and Cindy. Sadly, I’m sure each one will rear their ugly heads again some day. But here’s hoping I’ve learned a little something in my years of experience and through a study like this one so that they remain FAR away most days.
Shrinking Violet happens when I’m either totally angry and my emotions have taken control of my brain OR when I’m so overwhelmed I literally don’t know what to do, so I do nothing. Early on in ministry, Violet was around often. I’m happy to say she doesn’t show up very often because I’m learning to breathe and pray through emotion, to explain my state of mind and ask for grace or more time, and to speak up even when I’m mad…all those strategies of communicating we just learned really work!
Retaliating Rita is rare. In fact, if I hadn’t just had a season where she made a surprise appearance, I might have thought she didn’t exist for me. But she does, and apparently when I’m made to defend decisions and actions that I feel are warranted. (that need to be right thing…) I learned a lot about myself in this season…some good, some not so good. But I did learn. And communication (with God and with this leader) was the ONLY thing that kept the whole thing from going bust.
Cynical Cindy shows up when I’m tired or around someone who’s constantly negative. I had a LONG season a few years ago when both were happening on a daily basis. I was new in this position and was exhausted everyday. I worked with a couple of people who seemed to be negative about almost everything. And I got sucked in. God gave me a glimpse of this negativity, and I had to do some major mind and attitude shifting to start overcoming it. I’ve learned to surround myself with optimists and keep my thoughts on God, His promises, His truths. I think that’s what the Bible calls guarding our minds!
Chapter 11 – Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders
1. Do you have young women leaders in your church or organization? If you don’t, why do you think this is so? If you do, what’s worked for you that you could offer to others?
2. What do you think holds most young women back in their leadership?
3. Do you personally encourage young women in their leadership? Why or why not?
SJ-One thing Jenni and Sherry do is challenge us with some really tough questions that if we answer honestly can be very convicting. This is one of them. If I’m honest…not defensive or “right”…I have seen how true this can be. We can ask a young person to be in a leadership role, but really what we’re doing is filling a spot because it’s expected. But are we really asking that person to lead? To try new things? I think we’re coming along in this department, but I realize after this chapter there is much more we can be doing.
So, it’s one thing for me to look at our church and ask these questions, it’s another thing entirely for me to ask myself! Ouch. And, really, control is an issue for me. God’s been working on me in this area since my Emmaus Walk in 1996. I’ve come a long way, but in leadership, I’ve a long way to go. I’m a do-er. But I am in a season of learning how to be a share-er and a release-er and a delegate-er.
Sometimes it’s a trust thing. A lot of times it’s a time thing…it’s faster just to do it myself, you know?
So this chapter slapped me across the face…and lit a fire in my heart! I love the idea of being challenged by others (young or old) and I want to love the idea of taking risks (that control thing).
When it comes to inviting the younger generation to step into leadership with me, I get very excited, so I’m grateful for the information in this chapter:
a. Place trust in people, not experience. Experience has a lot of weight in church leadership, so this is BIG.
b. Pay attention to how you speak. Now that I’m working with younger folks, I know how true “speak business” vs “speak social” really is. Funny thing is I don’t wholly fall in either camp. On that fence again…
c. Use your shoulders. LOVED this one. It’s true, I have experience and they have new ideas. Let’s figure out how to tap into both! Her suggestions to (never lead alone) invite a young person to accompany me to meetings or other experiences is another stroke of brilliance…and not hard to do. And like Sherry, encouragement comes more easily for me, but I do need to be consistent with it.
d. Operate in reverse. Oh my goodness if I didn’t buy that “Reverse Mentoring” book a few years ago at a conference. Have I read it? No. Should I? Apparently!
I feel like in some ways we’ve come full circle because as I read the end of this chapter (and the book), I feel like I’m back to the issue of needing those consistent encouragers AND challengers in my life. Now I’ll add a layer to that and challenge myself to be a champion of women leaders…which happens to be a growing passion of mine.
What is God doing here? If I’ve learned anything in this study, it’s that God IS doing something, and all I have to do is seek what THE NEXT STEP is. I don’t need to fret about what the future holds or how I’m going to accomplish big dreams. All I (and you) need to do is seek God for the next step.
Don’t whine. Don’t get defensive. Don’t pout. Just lead!