The Woman Nobody Knew

…CNN reported it this way on their website March 7, 2014

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself. One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy. At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid.

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes. Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

“I’ve been doing this 37 years. Never seen anything like this before,” said Undersheriff Mike McCabe of Oakland County, Michigan, just outside Detroit.

The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.

Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.

“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.

“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.

McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time. Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.

Another neighbor, Darryl Tillery, told the Detroit Free Press that mail never piled up at the house and the lawn never grew out of order. McCabe said one of the neighbors cut the grass for years.

My Question: Is it OK to let a person “keep to herself?”

She kept to herself…but should we let someone “keep to herself?” I wondered about that when I read this. I am such a proponent of community – in neighborhoods, churches, workplaces and educational institutions. While I never force myself on people (I, too, have an introverted side), I like to get to know people where I live, work and play.

So what if a neighbor is a loner? What about the guy at work who eats lunch alone, or the professor who teaches and heads to her study? While we cannot force people to have relationships, we can move toward them in love and service. In this sad story I kept wondering:

Would I knock on the door? Would I go in? Call the cops? Would I care if a neighbor seemed to “disappear” for too long? What does “love” look like if it does not look like movement toward people? If I love people, can I ignore their apparent desire to be alone? Can I at least nudge forward by asking, seeking and knocking (literally), wondering if God might use me to break through?

The next time you see a pattern of isolation, don’t assume it is desired or even the best thing for someone. Ask, seek and knock. I wonder if she was so lonely she ended her life. We do not know the cause of death, but loneliness had to be a contributing factor.

People are dying for community…literally. Are we aware? Isn’t our lack of awareness and action a sin of the worst kind?

This story could have ended differently. If it had started differently. We can be part of the solution.

Ask…Seek…Knock. Don’t let someone be “the woman/man nobody knew.”

Leadership Essentials and Their Implications

5 Leadership Essentials and Their Implications for the Church

 

One of my students created this summary of the widely admired and broadly used (over 1 million copies in 20 years) book “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner.

The Leadership Challenge

 

I have included some comments about how these might apply in the world of the 21st century church among younger leaders. I would love your thoughts as well.

Model the Way

Leaders establish principles concerning the way constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers should be treated, and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. They set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action.

Implications:– Walk the talk; those of us who teach about leadership must first act, then teach. Younger leaders hear leadership talks and are skeptical, because they talk to their employees who almost laugh at the hypocrisy…except it is too sad to laugh. Emerging leaders do the research – they know. A great “talk” is not good enough. Like Ezra modeled…Study, Practice and then Teach (Ez. 7:10)

Inspire a Shared Vision

Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.

Implications: “Shared” is the key word here. Not imposed. Pastors and other church leaders often assume their vision is THE vision. After all, we are the spiritual leader. The “I have the vision; you need to follow me” days are over for rising church leaders. I just spoke to one at a major giga-church in the US. They can’t wait for the older guy to step aside so a true team vision can emerge.

Challenge the Process

Leaders search for opportunities to innovate and challenge existing sacred cows. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.

Implications: This is a no-brainer for many young leaders. While some young leaders are stuck in theologies that allow little creativity of thought (everything was decided in the 1600’s or 1800’s or…), the more they read, the more they realize they must challenge the status quo. While some new organizations and coalitions seek to drive people backward, these young leaders are creating their own movements and associations – and they are broader, more inclusive and more biblical.

Enable Others to Act

Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.

Implications: Liz Wiseman does a great job distinguishing diminishers from multipliers. Here is a short summary of her work. I think younger leaders really get this. Would love to see the over 45 crowd get this as well, but a hierarchical leadership model versus a shared leadership model gets in the way (should be “elders” plural, 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1:5 – a circle of leaders). This is where a lot my research is focused these days.

Encourage the Heart

Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.

Implications: YES! The people who really “do the work of the ministry” as in Ephesians 4, the “volunteers” are our heroes. Just met with two of my heroes Sunday – a couple 91 and 89, who are in a care facility. What are they doing? The same thing they did at Willow – serving people by guiding small groups, leading communion, and organizing worship for about 20 people! Love it!

What are your thoughts? Can these 5 areas of leadership practiced better by a rising generation than mine has done?

 

 

 

 

Here I am today

Here I am. 

After a day of classes and meetings and decisions and traffic and after being misunderstood and feeling incomplete and having too many things unresolved.

Here I am.

What do I want today? Really?

Oh, there is so much I want. But too often I am tempted to want the lesser things. So I want to get focused before ending this part of my day. I am sitting here in Barnes and Noble for a quick decaf before driving the last 5 minutes home. I sit amidst the cries, “Read me, see me, hear me, buy me” … empty promises and false hopes surround me.

Yet I find myself strangely centered. A calming assurance washes over me. The music of Audrey Assad singing I Shall Not Want fills my ears, warms my heart and steadies my soul, reminding me that I need deliverance from these things and many others.

 

Admittedly, I am too easily gripped and bound by the many voices that clamor for my fleeting attention. But I am called to want not. Instead, to find rest. To hear that one, still voice deep within. Henri Nouwen calls it the Inner Voice of Love.

The Inner Voice of Love

 

So I sit and listen while the world fades into the shadows.

Audrey’s simple lyrics and haunting melody are just what I needed …

 

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

 

From the need to be understood

From the need to be accepted

From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me O God

 

From the fear of serving others

From the fear of death or trial

From the fear of humility

Deliver me O God

 

And her chorus brings it all into one calming declaration…

 

And I shall not want, I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

 

So today it is His goodness I experience. It feeds my soul. And I am glad.

Here I am. Right where I need to be.

 

Extraordinary Groups – achieving personal transformation and great results

Extraordinary Groups

I am working with a group of young leaders in the area of high-performance teams and groups. One of the best resources I have come across for this is Extraordinary Groups by Bellman and Ryan.

Extraordinary Groups by Geoffrey M. Bellman, Kathleen D. Ryan

Extraordinary Groups by Geoffrey M. Bellman, Kathleen D. Ryan

 

In my opinion this is one of the most comprehensive resources in this arena because:

  • it combines author experience with very practical ideas and approaches
  • has a sound working model easily adapted to your situation
  • has transferable concepts and processes for any team, for-and-non-profit
  • walks you through the model in very practical ways
  • focuses on outcomes and how to engage robust discussions for your team
  • is well written with a language and style that is engaging, accessible and not too complex

 

Geoff Bellman’s approach is based on research and experience – you can watch a 40-minute presentation here that your team would get a lot out of! Very solid work.

Kathy Ryan and Geoff are a competent people who have built teams, led high-capacity groups, worked in complex organizations, understand the non-profit sector, and are advocates for relational transformation while honoring the need for great results

I like Kathy’s bio where you find this

Through The Orion Partnership, a consulting firm based near Seattle, Washington, she has been known for her work in turning fear-based organizations into ones where collaboration and trust are the keys to high performance.

There are many organizations that could really use her help!

Here are a few of my big takeaways from their work and this book.

First, get the book. It really is solid. And work the model with your team – the exercise is worth the effort.

Second, the 8 Characteristics of a an Extraordinary Group make for a solid framework and assessment (the work and book have been so well received that they just developed a team assessment and resources for the process.

Here are the 8 Characteristics
Outstanding Results Transformation
  • Compelling Purpose
  • Shared Leadership
  • Just-enough Structure
  • Full Engagement
  • Embracing Differences
  • Unexpected Learning
  • Strengthened Relationships
  • Great Results

 

 

Take your team through a discussion and reality check on this list alone, and you will be glad you did.

And third, the Group Needs Model they use is fresh, coherent and very applicable for creating a high-performance culture with a strong emphasis on personal growth not simply team results. The model addresses 3 major aspects of a team with 2 components in each, with an overall focus on personal and organizational change:

SELF = Self Acceptance and Potential

GROUP = Team Purpose and Relational Bonds

WORLD = Current Reality and Desired Impact

How is your team doing with respect to building people who connect deeply and together achieve great results? Where are the gaps? What is your process and model for evaluating and guiding a team?

 

I plan to utilize more of this work in my work with church and leadership groups – outstanding tool!

The Ending of an Era – The Beginning of Something New

My Daughter Kinsley

Last night I watched my daughter Kinsley play her last home basketball game on the Westminster Christian School court. These seniors have been together since 4th grade and probably have a 9-year cumulative record of 140-20 or something like that – this year they finished 20-4 as they head to the playoffs.

So this is the end.

I’ve got mixed emotions about it. I love watching her play… she is joy in motion. And I love the way she does that crossover dribble that leaves the competition in the dust wondering what just flew past them as they stumble back to their feet. Brings a smile to my face. They came up 3 points short last night, but what a run!

Regardless of how far they go in the playoffs, the ending of an era has come. Soon she will move on, joining my son who headed off to college in 2008, and leaving us with an empty nest.

It is hard for some people to move on. But not these kids. While they realize some friendships may never be the same, they look forward with hope and back with joy. They are young, restless, talented, adventurous and free. The world is now their basketball court and they are calling the plays

Not so for too many adults – business people, educators, parents, athletes and church leaders. They cannot – or will not – step aside or move on. They have not learned to trade position for passion, power for influence, playing the game for coaching the players. They cling to worn out strategies, crusty habits, tired theologies, and weary game plans. It is time to enter a new season.

It is time for a new season in life for Kinsley…and for me and for Gail. I have stepped into a coaching role, shaping leaders, teaching, mentoring, creating new expressions of influence, research and exploration. And it is wonderful.

Gail has launched SACRED, and place where the soul can rest. You can see what she does at www.mylifeissacred.com. Son Ryan is heading off to graduate school. It is a time for us to create, embrace and thrive into the new.

Maybe this is the time for you as well. Whether you are 25, 55, or 75,  before you lies something that God has been preparing, and it is time for you to walk into it. It is the end of one era…and the start of something new.

You’ll see more of what I am doing, new areas of teaching and training for community life, and development strategies for leaders. It will all be part of a new website in a month or so.

Pain Partners: Becoming a Community out of Desperation

Breath Taken

Early this morning I received a very sad email. I sat wondering, “Where is God in all this mess. Why? Why now? Why this man? Hasn’t he suffered enough with his cancer and his many trials?”

It has been said, “All true community begins at the edge of suffering”

Before me sits a Bible, filled with stories of pain and suffering and redemption. These stories unnerve us, encourage us, and then remind us of things eternal. We become sober to the realities of life in a broken world.  Still I ask, “Where is God when it hurts?” The answer should not surprise us. It is embedded in this email.

Here it is, edited and with names changed, but you will get the idea.  This man is suffering with cancer that is rare and hard to treat. And then this email from his wife…

Good morning-

Yesterday, at about 4:45 p.m., Mike was rear ended, spun into oncoming traffic and then T-boned. He was in a small rental car that was totaled. He was taken to the hospital and into surgery just after 7. He remained conscious and calm. He was very cold – not in much pain, not scared. He kept telling me he wasn’t scared, that he was ready, that he knew he was forgiven, saved by grace, and loved by his Father. We prayed a lot. He was mostly calm, always conscious, very well aware of what had happened.

The nurses were crying and rushing and more and more doctors and machines and nurses came. He had some deep lacerations to his head; he was bleeding. He was on a backboard, coughing, having difficulty breathing, frustrated with being strapped down and held in place. His spleen needed to come out and he had many breaks and fractures. His heart rate was too fast and his blood pressure too low. They gave him several units of blood.

They took him into surgery. He was brave! Our family and close friends joined us.

Tony, Sarah, Matt, Rachael, Mike’s family, Ashton, Tammy, and Susan came and joined the wait. (His Pain Partners.) We were all able to go in, briefly, and see him last night. He was somewhat conscious and on a respirator to help with his breathing and had some staples on the back of his head. His color was good; he rested.

It is likely that his cancer treatment will be suspended while they address these issues. It’s a lot to take in. He needs a whole lot of prayer and love and hope. His long road seems mighty long right now. Blessings and love, Karen.

Here is my edited reply to my friend who forwarded “Karen’s” email to me.

Ug …this is very hard to hear at this point, Dave, but his life is being a witness to so many who are serving him right now in the hospitals – they are seeing Jesus in him and that is remarkable…Mike’s broken life, and the community that surround him, is being used in powerful ways … I know that does not feel good to you and me right now, or especially to him or Karen, but it is true. A hard but real truth.

I lost my best friend at age 15 after he suffered for 3 years and died of spinal cancer. He was a Philadelphia Phillies fan so players would come visit him, as did others who, at the time, would never go to a church or read a Bible. But he had a strong faith for just a young teen. He talked to them about Christ, his future, salvation, etc. When he died, many remembered his short life but also his great faith. We were devastated, but I know it started me on a journey toward God, and helped others to strengthen their faith. 

A young man in a class I teach has Cystic Fibrosis. He is being hospitalized (again) this weekend to treat lung infections with IV antibiotics. He is the same age as my son, and is aware of the degenerative nature of his disease. I could not imagine my son in that condition knowing his life will be a short one filled with suffering. It punches me in the gut every time I walk into the room.

But it has also driven me to prayer. And I have wept over this student, remembering that sin has broken this world and it took the death of Jesus himself to defeat its misery. So I have hope, and I am humbled, and I sit at God’s feet and find strength. But I do not do it alone. In community we share the pain.

I am at a loss for answers as to why these things happen. I can only cling to what I know to be true. And that is what Mike and my student are doing. And I think I can guarantee that their many sufferings (which I would never wish on anyone) are being transformed into something beautiful for God’s glory. So I pray and I weep. But I also hope… for a new world one day when all the “Mikes” of this world are dancing and singing. It is what I cling to in the brokenness.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  - Revelation 21: 1-5 

Yes, make it new! For all of us. So that our partnership in pain will be transformed into a reunion of joy and gladness with the One who brings us home.

I recommend Phil Yancey’s book, Where is God When it Hurts?

Where is God When It Hurts?

 

10 Risky Questions for Leaders

Dr. Donahue works with catalytic leaders and leadership teams to help leaders maximize their leadership capacity, sharpen missional clarity, build transformational groups and teams. He is a growth coach to senior leaders who act as catalysts for change personally and organizationally.

I am always intrigued by what is said in commencement speeches. Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford is one of the most Googled.  His “stay hungry, stay foolish” theme really resonated with listeners. If you never heard it, it is a real gem. You can watch it here.

 

 

This June, at my alma mater’s graduation ceremonies, Princeton’s departing President, Shirley Tilghman, referred to Jeff Bezos’ commencement address to graduates in 2010. Though not as memorable or as well-known as Jobs’ talk, Bezos offered a series of questions for leaders or at least what every leader should be asking.

 

Bezos is Founder and CEO of Amazon.com and is a Princeton Class of 1986 graduate.  His remarks challenged graduating seniors to consider 10 key questions.  Here they are for your consumption.

 

1)     Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

2)     Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

3)     Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

4)     Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

5)     Will you bluff it out when you are wrong, or will you apologize?

6)     Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

7)     Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

8)     When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

9)     Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

10)   Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

 

I certainly was challenge by almost all of these. I did not feel a sense of guilt or failure so much as new resolve to grow and risk in these areas. Numbers 1, 6, and 9 have particular meaning for me at this moment in life and leadership.

 

How about you? I suggest you reflect honestly on the list, and choose your top 2-3 questions for further investigation and focus. Leaders – especially those who share leadership or have collaborative styles – will have to take some risks that will cause discomfort and leave you vulnerable to failure or criticism.

 

But what other options are there? A life filled with woulda-coulda-shoulda regrets and a leadership legacy what-if’s and what-might-have-beens?

 

Not for me. And I hope not for you.

Never Alone, Never Again – You Decide

Dr. Donahue works with catalytic leaders and leadership teams to help leaders maximize their leadership capacity, sharpen missional clarity, build transformational groups and teams. He is a growth coach to senior leaders who act as catalysts for change personally and organizationally.

You do not have to do life alone. But some of you choose to. I cannot imagine why. Oh, I know…you have many relationships; you know lots of people. You have Facebook friends and Twitter peeps. You know some guys at the softball league or some gals at the monthly business leaders luncheon. You trade contacts and share ideas. You talk about the weather, the kids, the job and the economy.

But are you known? To be known is to place the heart-level truth about yourself into the hands of another person. And to trust they will receive it and guard it. And then to do the same for them. Can you really say that you are known deeply and have others whom you know at the heart level?

It starts small. It means doing some life together – a meal, a coffee, a play time with other moms and kids, reading a book, going to a museum, volunteering together to serve the poor. It is not hard, but it takes some effort.

And it means a conversation – about life and love and hope and fear and truth and the world. Pick a topic and tell a story – your story. How did you get here from there? What makes you smile? What stirs your passions? What gets you really mad? What kind of injustice is so intolerable that you cannot stand it anymore? What about your work gives you a rush; what part of it gives you a headache?

Just talk and listen – really well and real carefully.

But whatever you do make a commitment to never stand alone. Never.

I met a good friend today, someone who has championed the cause of community with me for years, and has helped build it with others around the world. We have been partners, co-workers, and fellow employees. I love him. I think the world of him.

But more important than that, we are good friends. We know the pain and the darkness of one another’s lives; the scary parts and beautiful parts; we laugh until we cry; we spur one another on; we provide counsel and feedback for decisions; we solve problems; and much of the time we simply share a slice or two of life – the good, bad and ugly. We know the gore and the glory. And we still do life together.

We made a commitment a long time ago to never do life alone – never again.

How about you? When will you move beyond the glossy surface of superficial relationships and break through into the depth of relational integrity.

Life matters. And it is VERY short.  What are you waiting for?

 

 

Life-Shaping Values

Dr. Donahue works with catalytic leaders and leadership teams to help leaders maximize their leadership capacity, sharpen missional clarity, build transformational groups and teams. He is a growth coach to senior leaders who act as catalysts for change personally and organizationally.

Values that shape you

What are the values that guide your decisions or influence how you spend your time? A few years ago I set out to define a few. I wanted them to be broad enough to address most aspects of life but have enough clarity to use as a “grid” or a “filter” for actions I might take, relationships I would be seeking, and how I might approach my work.

Values answer “WHY” the questions of your life, mission or a direction you are considering. They provide a guiding framework for reflection, decision making and time allocation.

Here are my four driving values. Confession: I do waste time and I do make bad decisions. But I know I would make more and squander more without a growing, guiding sense of why I do what I am doing.

 

Compelling Truth

I have to ask myself sometimes, “Is there are good reason I am doing this? What do I really believe? Are there certain “life truths” that guide me. Because I am a person of faith in the Christian tradition, I hold to some truths I believe have been revealed by God to guide our lives. These are captured in well-know scriptures and creeds. I think of the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23, The Apostle’s Creed, The Book of Common Prayer, and some confessions and statements of faith created throughout the ages by various groups. (For an artistic and beautiful video rendition of Psalm 23, you might look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ervcj18qeyg .)

There are other important truths as well. Some of mine include “don’t sacrifice family to get ahead at work; honor your life rhythms; listen to your story and the stories of others; make the hard choice, most of the time it is the right one; your word is your bond; the news is not always true; everything works great until people show up; and, like they say, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative before bed. (Some awkward truths you just have to share!).

 

Does my life reflect truths I believe and do my actions contribute to their expression?

 

Inspiring Beauty

I love art, music, poetry, good food, great books and inspiring experiences. I use the term “beauty” to capture all of these because engagement with beauty moves me emotionally. Some beauty is superficial to be sure, and it can be used to manipulate and tempt and deceive. But at the core beauty lifts the soul, refreshes the heart and puts a smile on your face.

There is a deeper, truer beauty we need to pursue and embrace in the world and with one another. Model Cameron Russell shook the modeling world with her “tell all” talk at TED in January of this year. If you have not seen it, you must – especially you women. http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/16/model-cameron-russell-gives-the-real-story-behind-six-of-her-stunning-photos/

 

 

Does my activity add beauty to what we are doing; am I taking time to soak in the beauty of the moment?

 

Bold Love

Love is a most misunderstood virtue, often containing a mix of wondrous truth and awful lies. I wonder if many people truly understand love anymore, especially in light of how we demean and trivialize it.

Bold love implies adventure—the risk we take to offer loving acts of kindness, loving words of hope and affirmation, or simple loving expressions of touch or our presence to those whose lives ache with pain, heartache and rejection. “Bold” love challenges me to love others when at first they appear unlovable; it causes me to share love when it requires work to express that love (to the poor, the sick and the lonely); and bold love means receiving expressions of love from others even when I feel unworthy of love. It is the kind of love Dan Allender describes in his book Bold Love.

 

Does bold love define the way you view others, yourself, God and the world today?

 

Authentic Community

We are experiencing a return to communal life. The “rugged individualism” that Robert Bellah and others referred to in Habits of the Heart is finally giving way – in some places – to a more communal and “others-focused” mindset.

We all long for true community we are love, know, celebrate and serve one another, working together toward mutual goals and becoming a group of people that enjoy life together. I am privileged to share this kind of community with my family, a small group that meets regularly, some neighborhood friends, and some colleagues globally. For me, the “shared life” is the only life worth living.

 

Does a commitment to community guide the way you live, serve, and manage your life?

 

What are the values that shape you? Send them along so we can all learn from your thoughts – thanks.

Conflict Navigation – 6 Steps You Cannot Ignore

Dr. Donahue works with catalytic leaders and leadership teams to help leaders maximize their leadership capacity, sharpen missional clarity, build transformational groups and teams. He is a growth coach to senior leaders who act as catalysts for change personally and organizationally.

Conflict Navigation Dr. Bill DonahueI was talking with my son on the phone about a situation he was facing – a conflict between two members of a group that was affecting the entire group of eight. So, instead of having their regular gathering, the two members plus three from the group gathered to work it out together.

As he described what happened and how they chose to handle it, I realized they were wise about how they approached the situation and resolved it. And it reminded me of some principles of conflict navigation that every team, group and leader should be aware of. I have practiced and taught this for years.

 

 

1 – Start Soon: The temptation to avoid conflict often leads to not facing it at all. People put it off so long they figure, “That’s water under the bridge, now. Let’s just move on.” Or they think, “Maybe it will fix itself.” I guarantee that never happens. Don’t let things go on so long that deep-seated feelings and anger start boiling under the lid. The next time there is a disagreement among members this pot is going to blow! You don’t have to act immediately; let emotions calm down, get a clear head, clarify what you want to say, and then in 24-48 hours deal with it.

 

2- Meet Face to Face: Not email, not texting, not writing a long heart-felt letter. The impersonal approach makes it difficult to have a conversation, read feelings, respond “in the moment” and intercept misperceptions before a long trail of emails or texts gets established. Have a cup of coffee and work it out.

 

3- Affirm the Relationship: Be genuine and let the other party (or parties) know that you are there for them, you want to restore health to the relationship or team, and that you value them. Name some positive contributions or attitudes you see, and remind them that “You matter to us/me and that is why we need to meet and remove this barrier to our friendship/work.” This let’s them know you really want to work this out and move on. You are not finger-pointing just to “win” or be “right” – rather, you want restoration.

 

4- Make Observations not Accusations: Avoid “you” language and use “I” language. “You are a liar” is just going to add fuel to the fire. Better to say, “Twice I heard you say that you would make that phone call Tuesday, and now it is Thursday and the client is frustrated. I am concerned about that relationship.” OR, “Yesterday when you and I were arguing I felt attacked for my opinion. I heard you say some very harsh words and it hurt me. We need to talk this through.” Stick with, “I saw, I heard, I felt” language and then let them respond.

 

5- Get the Facts and Listen: Once you have taken a minute or two to make your comments, listen and ask, “Do you understand what I saw/felt/heard and why that is causing a problem?” Make sure you hear their words as well as their emotions. Clarify, repeat what they are saying to show you are listening, and make an effort to show you understand their side. (Same thing if you are the third party – make sure to two people in conflict have heard each other by making them say what they heard. DO NOT assume they listened, and do not simply ask for a yes-or-no response to the question, “Did you hear what Susan was saying?”

 

6- Promote Resolution: “Ok, so where do we go from here? Let’s find a way we can move forward. What do you need to take place? Here is what I need.” It may take some time to fully restore a relationship, especially if the conflict was bad and harsh things were don or said. But at least you can get the “issue” resolved, agree to move ahead, and determine a plan for continuing to process the damage, as needed. Avoid the extremes of dragging it out or trying to “clean it all up” in a hurry just because it is painful. You will regret wither approach. Stay in the process and move toward resolution.

 

 

Some good resources to use are:

 

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_10?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=fierce+conversations&sprefix=fierce+con%2Caps%2C189

 

Caring Enough to Confront, by David Augsburger

http://www.amazon.com/Caring-Enough-Confront-Understand-Feelings/dp/0830746498/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367931301&sr=1-1&keywords=caring+enough+to+confront+by+david+augsburger