The next time you're in Athens, GA, go to White Tiger and order the Barbarella Tacos.
Two corn tortillas topped with mozzarella, piled high with pulled pork and cole slaw and drizzled with BBQ sauce.
White Tiger is across the street from our church building, and I eat there often on Mondays when I have lunch with the church's pastor of discipleship (and one of my best friends), Aaron Slaten.
Yesterday's conversation covered Georgia football (brutal game against Ole Miss last Saturday!), coaching our sons in soccer (Aaron) and flag football (me), and a host of subjects related to the areas of our church that Aaron leads.
At one point, Aaron brought up a meeting we were both involved in on Sunday after our gathering. Two couples have been actively helping one of the ladies in our church who's going through a tough season of life. And they asked the elders to meet with them and determine how our church can be as helpful as we possibly can be.
'What happened in there?'
Now, I thought that we had walked out of the meeting with a clear plan of action. The situation is emotionally volatile, and I thought the most helpful thing we could do is to take everything we know so far and get on the same page.
But that wasn't the problem. Aaron has worked with me for a decade. He has seen me at my best, and he has seen me at my worst.
Let's just say that what he observed leaned heavily towards the latter.
Given all of the feelings in the room, I decided the best course of action was to focus on facts, bring clarity to the situation and walk out of the meeting with a plan of action. And that's what we did.
Aaron's bewilderment, however, wasn't about anything that I did. If you texted him right now, he'd tell you that we made real progress. What frustrated him was something that I didn't do.
'Look, I know you care about [everyone involved] and by the end of the meeting that was obvious, but bro, you started that meeting so cold and focused on the task that you forgot about the people in the room.'
Well...crap. He was right.
The quality of our leadership shows up in particular moments, often in the unconscious choices that we make. I've spent some time reflecting on the mistakes that I made, and thought I'd share them with you:
- I started the conversation in the wrong place. When we sat down, I could have asked both couples a very simple question: how are you? Failure to do so was a lost opportunity to demonstrate my genuine care and concern for them. PRINCIPLE - Even when a meeting is task-focused, take the time to show your care and concern for the people involved.
- I left my team behind. Because we met immediately after our gathering, I didn't run my plan past Aaron or our other elders. How much better would that meeting have been if they had the opportunity to ask me a couple of questions and remind me to not unintentionally devalue these two couples? PRINCIPLE - Find the person or two on your team who can help you display both care and clarity when someone sits down looking for advice from you.
- Progress is better than perfection. I did not demonstrate adequate emotional intelligence in that meeting. And that frustrates the stew out of me. See, my personality is not naturally empathetic (not good for a pastor) and I've worked hard to open up those parts of my life. Emotional intelligence is vital for us as leaders, and my momentary ignorance was a glaring reminder that I have not yet arrived. But - and here's the lesson for me - there will be other opportunities to get this right. The only lasting failure from last Sunday will be if I throw my hands up in despair and quit trying to grow. PRINCIPLE - Don't let guilt and shame derail you. You are not perfect, and you never will be. Own your mistakes and failure but don't let them own you.
Do The Next Right Thing
- Does your leadership tend to prioritize tasks or people? Please don't answer 'both'! Self-awareness about your tendencies will help you know what you need in place around you (agenda, team, etc.) to serve people well.
- Read Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Does my story sound familiar to you? What is the most significant lesson you've learned from your experience? Share in the comments section below.