“The real world is where healthy relationships actually have to move from chemistry to construction.” – Di Wilson, It’s Time
This awesome little quote comes from a fantastic book by a new friend of mine, Di Wilson. Di Pastors Newport Church in Newport, CA alongside her husband Jonathan Wilson, and it’s just incredible to see what God is doing through the two leaders over on the West Coast. We are using Di’s book as a discussion catalyst for our sisterhood leadership development groups.
In our first group we talked about the demands placed upon our relationships as we move from simply hanging out and being friends with people (chemistry) to the sometimes sticky situation of trying to be their friend and their leader (construction). As leaders we have all had to face this subtle shift in our relationships with others at one time or another. It can be awkward — even uncomfortable. Here are some of the ways the girls in my group and I have successfully navigated this transition:
• Keep your identity strong and focused.
Before you are a leader, a pastor, a blogger, a wife, a mom, a daughter, a student, or whatever…you are first and foremost child of God. Keep that identity front and center. It is this core aspect of who you are in Christ that has to drive all of your decisions and your direction in life. Don’t lose sight of it.
• Stay honest and open.
You will have to engage in some tense and uncomfortable conversations with friends sometimes – nobody likes doing that! I have learned that It’s ok to acknowledge that the conversation is difficult for you. It’s ok to say, “I don’t like having conversations like this, but it’s a conversation we have to have. It makes me uncomfortable to bring this up with you as a friend, but as your leader I have a responsibility to do it.” (Be careful about crossing the fine line of creating an “us against them” scenario by saying something like, “I really wouldn’t care if it was just up to me, but you know how ______ is about stuff like this, so let’s make sure it doesn’t keep happening.” That’s a subtle way of passing off leadership responsibility to the people above you, and it will ultimately bring division and poor morale to the team.)
• Don’t put off the hard talk for too long.
You would be amazed at how many people on your team are compensating for the lack of performance or commitment of just one person. Meanwhile they are looking at you – the leader—wondering when you are going to notice and step in and do something about it! There is a tension between being kind and letting one team member consistently lower the moral and productivity of the team. Effective leaders know how to balance that tension – and when to tip the scales in one direction or another.
• Come to the discussion with specific examples, a plan of action, and at least one great thing to share about the person you are talking to.
Sometimes we can get so nervous about having difficult conversations with people ( I always get nervous!) that we try to get the painful part over as quickly as possible. As a result, the person we are talking with feels attacked, misunderstood, and that their positive contributions have not be taken into account. Relax and take your time – the person on your team is worth it! Coming up with things to praise helps soften the blow a bit and let’s your friend know that you notice the positive things they are doing. Having specific examples isolates the behavior rather than heaping general displeasure on their head. Having a plan of action to fix the problem says, “I believe in you. I love having you on the team, so I put effort into finding a way to make that work for both of us.”
Now it’s your turn. Have you had to move into a leadership role over people who are your friends? Did it impact your friendships in any way? How do you handle difficult discussions that sometimes must be had? I would love to hear from you!