The longer I’m in ministry and the larger Revolution gets I’m more and more convinced that those who can work well with others go farther and are more successful.
Often, the goal for many leaders or people is to show they are the smartest person in the room.
I worked at a church who had a talented graphic artist. He knew more about graphic design than anyone else in the church (and it was a large church). He also let it be known that he knew more than anyone else. He always complained to pastors about the ability or lack of ability of others. Put down what other people did, etc.
Whenever he talked about a situation he disagree with, he always made himself sound like the martyr or the only person who cared.
What was interesting about all of this was that he was not a nice person. He didn’t play well in the sandbox. Behind each ministry team he was on were a sea of bodies. All people he just couldn’t work with. People who did not understand he was smarter than they were, had more experience than they did and all around, did their job better than they did.
Why didn’t people see this? he would complain.
The reality was, people did see this. They saw how talented he was, how much experience he had, but no one cared because ministry is a team sport.
When we decide that we are smarter than the team we work with or the people around (and you may be the smartest person), you keep yourself from growing and becoming all that you could be, but you keep others from it as well.
How do I know?
I used to be this way and still struggle to fight against it.
Here are a few ways to know if you are hindering yourself:
1. You are the only one that cares. People with this elevated sense of themselves are the only ones who care. They are the only ones who are passionate. You may never say this, but your body language or attitude communicate to everyone else, “you don’t care as much as I do.” When a team or volunteers sense this, they check out. Why? Because they do care. As much as you? Maybe not, but they care. Your job as a leader is to help them care. Also, if you are on a ministry team at a church and not the leader, your leader cares even though you might think you are more passionate than they are.
2. No one does it as well as you do so you can’t let go. This is a struggle every leader has. Sometimes, this is a struggle people on a team have because they think (or they know) they are more talented than the leader. It takes humility to be on a team and be more talented than the leader. It takes humility on the part of the leader to have people on their team who are more talented than the leader. If you are a leader and someone can do something 70% as well as you can (or better), give it away. Stop holding them back, stop holding yourself back and stop holding your team back. If you are on a team and you can do something better than your leader, don’t passive aggressively tell them, be honest with them.
3. You think others are ruining the ministry or your work. Unless a law is broken, one incident or weekend at a church will not destroy all the work you’ve done. Often though, the smartest person in the room (which is the person we’re talking about, who thinks they can get by on talent, hard work and knowledge) thinks others are ruining things by what they do. Yet, they aren’t. They are simply doing things differently. This is one reason most churches stay small, they are led by people who are not willing to allow others to use their passions and gifts.
4. You find yourself bouncing from one job or ministry role to the next. Often, when someone doesn’t work well with others, they have a history of changing teams, ministries, churches and jobs. It is always “the other people” or “the situation.” You’ll hear things like, “They didn’t appreciate me.” “I wasn’t challenged, I was bored.” “They didn’t understand me.” You’ll hear about office politics that kept them from advancing or how someone was jealous of them. You’ll hear a lot about the fault of other people and nothing about what they did to leave a trail of short stay’s in jobs. At some point if you are this person, you have to admit that it isn’t them, it’s you that’s the problem and the unhealthy one.
5. The same problems follow you. What is amazing about life, jobs and teams is that a problem that you have on one team has a miraculous way of following you to your next team because, wait for it. You’re there. I knew one leader who changed teams and jobs numerous times in a short period of time and was so frustrated, yet she couldn’t see that she was the consistent piece in every situation. Each team she was on it was the same story, she couldn’t get along with anyone and she never understood why she kept running into the same problems. If you find yourself running into the same problems wherever you go, look in the mirror and see what is there.
In many ways, this blog post is are the lessons I’ve learned over the last 10-12 years of leadership. I was the guy in all of these points. I thought I was the smartest person in every room I entered and I made sure people knew it. I thought I cared more than others, that I could get by with my knowledge, talent and hard work and that would lead to success, but that is a lonely way to live because eventually you get passed over for promotions or leadership opportunities and no one wants to work with you.
In their book Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, the authors use a phrase for healthy leaders and healthy groups (they call them tribes): I am because we are. For you or your team or church to reach its potential, you must be able to work and play well with others. You must grow in your “relational intelligence.”
But I’m an introvert, or I’m a strong personality you might say. Doesn’t matter. If you want to be all that God has called you to be, you must grow in this. Or else, you’ll never get as far as you could.