LESSON 15 OF 40 – Do Not Interrupt!
Don’t assume board members know how to listen.
THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In order for a board to operate at its highest potential, its members need to practice diligent listening. If a board is full of people who are waiting on their turn to talk—instead of listening in order to understand—the board or team will quickly find its lid of effectiveness. For some, listening is a desire to cultivate—and for others it is a discipline to choose. But regardless of the ease in which you practice healthy listening, it is the critical ingredient to healthy relationships and interactions, especially on the board level.
MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 15, pages 84-88:
Ruth Haley Barton:
• “Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.”
• “Don’t take for granted that people know how to listen. We live in a culture where people are much more skilled at trying to get their point across and arguing their position than they are at engaging in mutually influencing relationships.”
MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
On our team, we hold each other accountable and sharpen each other in the area of listening with this question, “Are you listening to hear or listening to respond?”
I have to confess that I am guilty of preparing my response as someone else is speaking. I am, as this chapter outlines, a “driver” (one of the four social styles), so I process information fairly quickly and I come to convicted responses almost as quickly. I have learned over time—while serving on and leading different board-type environments—that you can lead with quick thinking, quick talking, and passionate communication. But one day you will find yourself frustrated in feelings of leadership isolation—and it is most likely because you have been more interested in getting your preferred opinions validated than you were in creating a relationship with your board.
Listening to hear, in my opinion, is a kindness or gift that is supernaturally charged by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. I have experienced times when leadership teams and boards are in all-day meetings and almost nothing gets accomplished because one or two people are talking over everyone else the whole time, regardless of the topic. (I’ve actually been that guy!)
I have also had the opposite experience, where people are leaning in with spiritual ears, listening to discern what God might be stirring or where He might be leading the team. When this is happening, it is a beautiful exchange and the outcome is ALWAYS fruitful.
Listening for me is a discipline I have learned—and am learning to choose—and in my life it requires pen and paper. Pen and paper help me capture key words or topics others are sharing and internalize them as we process toward our end goal. This small practice helps me ask better questions—which is the result of good listening!
It also helps me focus by eliminating distractions. I can’t have my phone out or my laptop open because if I get out of focus for any real amount of time—I am dishonoring the people I am serving with. I am also communicating to myself that whatever other thing I have going on is more important than what the team has going on.
If I prioritize self over team in just these simple ways, I almost certainly will be quick to speak and slow to listen. For me, it’s all connected.
THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY RYAN BRITT:
• Buy and read Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.
• Take your board through the exercise in Lesson 15, “10 Guidelines for Entering Into and Maintaining a Listening Posture” (pages 86-87) and discuss your findings.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, “Lesson 15 – Do Not Interrupt!”
On June 5, 2019, watch for the commentary by Werner Jacobsen on Lesson 16, "The Bully in the Church Boardroom. God, the pastor, the board chair, and other board members must neutralize the board bully.”