Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tearing up the One-way Streets

A few more things for my public file on the topic of listening as ministry:

1. Leaders Have a Lot to Learn

A few years back I posted an item illustrating how those who might usually be the leaders and the teachers can keep growing and learning as they invest in reverse internships.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal covers much the same ground, providing more background and some pithy quotes about reverse mentoring.

A common application seems to be that senior leaders look down the corporate ladder for someone to help them learn the latest paths in communication and technology. When a Gen Y reverse mentoring program took off at one company, it became cool; all the managers wanted to have their own "junior mentors."

2. Learning Builds Bridges

A couple of Christian leaders are asking how these ideas might apply in making disciples. Miguel suggests discovering discipleship opportunities by putting ourselves in reverse discipleship situations - finding someone who doesn't know Jesus to teach us how to do something we need to know.

It's not a new idea. Many missionaries, moving to a new culture and finding themselves in a place of incompetence, look to local folks for orientation. They humble themselves to engage in culture and language learning by immersion. This process is painful, but often more effective than other approaches, and so endearing it can yield deep and life-long friendships. (To short-circuit this process, just limit yourself to learning from other expats or local Christians, or skip learning and dive right into teaching and leading). 

3. Leaders Need to Listen and Learn

In what I see as a related note, Steve Moore's recent vlog talks about closing the feedback loop. He explores the vital importance, for leaders, of finding effective feedback. We need people in their lives and organizations who can help us see our blind spots and destructive behaviors.

Steve says that as an organization grows it tends to build one-way streets. Nobody wants to tell the leader that he's making a big mistake, that he's alienating people or basing his decisions on flawed information.

Good news - and affirmation - flows up. Bad news - and correction - flows down. Effective and growing leaders need to break up those one-way streets and set up structures to give them crucial feedback.  

Read or heard anything lately about listening, something you found helpful? Let me know.


Joyce Travis said...

My husband has been a pastor for many years and now through our discipleship counseling we are able to help many churches and people. He has found that the more a pastor and church leaders share what is going on in the church, the more informed people are and thus willing to work toward the goals presented. Secrets can build all sorts of problems within the body of believers. We are thankful to be involved in a ministry as field staff that is based on the truth; after all, it is the truth which sets one free.
Joyce Travis

Marti said...

Thanks, Joyce! Yes, keeping secrets really breaks down trust and creates all kinds of problems! May we all be the kind of people who want to be connected with one another and are willing to take the risks of transparency.