4 Moves Great Leaders Make To Get Unstuck

Last Saturday was a fun day.

I was in Chicago for the weekend to work on a new project, and we took a break on Saturday to hit Wrigley Field for the Cubs v. Cards game, then watched U2 at Soldier Field.

The Cubs game was everything baseball should be. A beautiful, 75-degree afternoon. An enthusiastic crowd. A rivalry game between two teams struggling to live up to expectations. And a Cubs win on a grand slam by OF Kyle Schwarber, mired in an awful slump.

Then we made the 30-minute (harrowing) Uber drive down to Soldier Field, walked around the stadium before heading to our seats.

That's when we ran into a problem.

Let me say, first, that being inside the stadium for the Joshua Tree show was an incredible privilege. I know a lot of people who would have traded places with me in a heartbeat.

That said, let me show you our seats.

Here's what you're seeing. The main stage for the concert was hidden behind a speaker. Our seats were underneath the mezzanine level which meant that we were able only to see a fraction of the giant 8K screen that played a significant role in the show.

My friends and I weren't thrilled with the view, but we were determined to make the most out of it. Gratitude and what not, right?

Then the show started.

The band sounded...awful. I am not a musician, but I know enough to be dangerous. Bono's lyrics were indecipherable. I couldn't pick out which key The Edge was playing. The effect that it had on me, as a fan of U2, was distress because what my brain expected to hear was nothing like what I was experiencing.

About four songs in, my friend suggested that we check out a section of seats at the back of the stadium. An entire section that was empty because the band's (two-story) sound and light board blocked the view of the band. So those seats weren't for sale. But no one was keeping anyone from sitting there.

Here's the view from our new seats.

You can see the difference. The whole screen is visible, and we get the Chicago skyline in the background. Very cool.

But what you can't see is the difference in what we were able to hear. Once we got out from under the concrete overhang, we could hear...everything. Bono's vocals were pristine. Every note The Edge played rang through loud (very loud) and clear.

Under the concrete, we couldn't see anything. Most of the sound was muted. And what little did come through sounded muddled and swirled.

But when we changed seats, we got a different perspective. And that different perspective changed everything about our experience.

What Leaders Learn When They Change Seats

If you're struggling to understand someone else's point of view...or if you can't see through the fog of a particularly challenging situation, then you need to keep reading.

Because there's a cost to staying in your seat.

When most leaders get frustrated or confused, they dig in. Holding on to their position and perspective, they only make the problem worse. Because when you stay in your seat:

  • You don't see anything other than what you've already seen
  • You don't hear anything other than what you've already heard
  • You don't feel anything other than what you've already felt
  • You don't see what other people are seeing
  • You don't hear what other people are hearing
  • You don't feel what other people are feeling

Instead of staying in your seat and trying to convince other people to see and hear and feel from your perspective, a mark of great leadership is to change seats and get another perspective on the situation.

In my experience, there are 4 moves you can make to change your perspective and get unstuck:

1. Move Up - Look At The Big Picture

When you get stuck on the details of your current situation, ask where this will take us in the next 3-5 years.

Imagine there's a difference of opinion about how to disciple people in the church. Two or more well-crafted concepts of discipleship have been developed, and there are strong proponents for every pathway. Everyone has dug in, and tensions are beginning to run hot.

Ask everyone to take a week and come back with the story of the impact their discipleship path will take the church. Ask them to also tell a story where the church adopts their idea, and it fails. 

Doing this forces everyone to put words to what success and failure look like. It allows other people to see possibilities that can get lost in the details of our philosophical convictions. And while it might lead directly to a decision about how to move forward, the greater value is in helping you, and your team get unstuck.

2. Move Down - Pay Attention To Details

When you get stuck in determining which direction to take, dig into objective metrics. 

Imagine a discussion about multiplying your church - starting a new group or a new gathering time; launching a new site; planting a church. Most leadership teams are going to have a variety of opinions about whether that step should be taken. 

If you get stuck as one or more people, dig into their position, focus in on details that can be seen, measured, or counted. How many people. How much money. 

By moving away from subjective opinion to objective fact, you give people a place to focus their energy. Their perspective changes and might open up new insights that lead to a better decision together.

3. Move In - Do Someone Else's Work

When stuck along the well-worn path of your work, walk a mile in another leader's work shoes.

I'm taking the next month off from preaching. It's summer here in Athens, and in a college town, the rhythm of our city and church changes significantly. We have really good preachers who don't get many reps. People are out of town on vacation, putting stress on our volunteer teams to fill slots.

So at least once during the month, I'm going to volunteer in our kids' ministry. In addition to the reasons stated above, I like to see life on Sundays in our church from the perspective of a volunteer leader. I'm not teaching the class; I'm there to help the lead teacher. I'm not Pastor Matt (at least not functionally); I'm just a dad who wants to help the kids in our church follow Jesus.

Every time I do this, I gain renewed appreciation for the sacrifice and joy that comes from doing good work. It's different than the good work I set out to do most Sundays, and in very real ways, it is more difficult. 

When you walk in someone else's work shoes, you develop greater empathy for their convictions and perspective.

4. Move Out - Look and Listen From Other Leaders

When stuck along the well-worn path of your convictions, look at the situation through the eyes of another leader.

Imagine you find yourself at a stalemate with another leader in your church. Both of you have played all the cards in your hand; you've employed emotion and logic, and...you're still stuck.

Try this. Take all the energy you've used to persuade them to see your side of the argument and redirect it to seek to understand their perspective.

Ask questions. Restate what you hear them saying. Don't settle until you can articulate their position AND see it as a possible way forward.

Again, this will help you move towards a better decision. More importantly, you are creating an environment where you and your team can move forward together.

Do The Next Right Thing

Les McKeown says that leadership is any act that leads to a common goal. That means that leadership is ordinary and happens often.

But extraordinary leadership? That happens far less frequently. But when you make one of the moves above to change seats and get a different perspective, you'll be modeling extraordinary leadership.

So do this. Think about a relatively minor point of tension between you and another leader. Look over the list above and choose the approach you want to take.

Have questions? Need additional help? Leave a comment below, and I'll do all I can to help!

3 Things For You

Book Of The Week - God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church's Future

Will Mancini has learned a lot of photocopied vision in churches since starting the Auxano consulting group in 2004. He has also seen patterns of unique vision development during that time and has captured what he has learned in a fantastic book called God Dreams.

Every church exists to glorify God by making disciples. But how does your church uniquely carry out that vision and mission? If you don't have a clear answer to that question, pick up a copy of God Dreams. It's the roadmap you need.

Tools I Use - Expensify

I hate expense reports. For years, the multiple hours it took me to find receipts and put them into a random spreadsheet that I would call a 'report' was the bane of my professional existence.

And then three years ago, I found Expensify. With an easy-to-use interface, the ability to sync with your credit/debit card and upload receipts, Expensify makes reporting expenses fast and easy.

Resource Of The Week - Advance The Church

Registration is open for the Advance The Church conference this November in Memphis, TN. Hosted by the Acts 29 Southeast U.S. Network, ATC exists to help churches and church leaders thrive practically.

I'm excited about the opportunity to lead a breakout session on productivity. I'll share what's working well on the front lines of ministry, and how to make the most out of your day in a way that honors God and embraces human limitations.

You can register here - and if you plan on taking your leadership team, information is available about discounted rates.

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