By Mary Byers, Managing Editor, FullFill
I had lunch recently with a friend who is a pastor. As we walked the halls of his church, I admired the hand-painted, modern artwork in the hallway.
“Our former youth pastor did that,” he said.
“Former?” I asked.
“Yes. Former. But he’s still with us.”
“Former…and still with you” I asked. “There must be a story there.”
“After he joined us we found out he really wasn’t very good with youth. But I liked him so I decided to see if we could figure out his strengths and find a way to put them to work. He’s now the director of arts and creative communication. It’s been great. He does art outreach and we do an art camp every summer. He painted this series of pictures to illustrate a sermon series I did.”
I looked at my friend. We had been immature high schoolers when we met. Yet his response was wise, mature, and compassionate. Perhaps it’s because of his profession. Maybe he realizes good staff members are hard to find. Probably it’s a combination. Regardless, I wish my response to disappointments caused by other people was as constructive as his.
My response is much less wise and compassionate. When someone on a team I’m leading isn’t really good at something or isn’t working up to my standards, my first response is to complain to my husband. (Poor guy!) I often stomp around my house as I try to figure out how to handle the problem. I know that I sigh a lot. And feel angry. And roll my eyes. Frankly, it makes me feel better. But it doesn’t change anything.
I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s response. He worked to figure out the youth pastor’s strengths. How often am I patient enough to do that? Usually I’m so worked up about the situation that all I can see is weaknesses. In the face of disappointment, I’ve never even thought to look for someone’s strengths. Until now.
Now I’m thinking about how I can offer a word of encouragement or be a catalyst to helping other people realize their strengths. I’m thinking about taking more time to notice the people around me and how I can invite them into leadership with me, rather than being so focused on surrounding myself with competent people who I know will get the job done the way I want them to. I’m wondering who has hidden talents I don’t even know about. And I’m thinking about all the volunteer projects I’ve tackled in areas that weren’t my strength—and how frustrating that must have been for the volunteers around me.
Figuring out strengths and putting them to work. Isn’t that what the best leaders are all about?
Mary Byers is managing editor of FullFill and the author of six books, including How to Say No…And Live to Tell About It.