Tag Archives: trust

Trust v. Suspicion

If you have ever spent a significant amount of time around a young child, one of the first things you might notice is their wide-eyed love for life. Everything is new, everything is an experience and everything deserves all of their energy. Your next observation might involve the reality that they are willing to trust virtually anything that you say. This is why it is crucial for adults to manage their tongues around children, but that is for another post. 


There is an innate trust built into us that believes our family and friends are for us and that what they say is true and it matters. As we age, this childlike innocence becomes a negative as society begins to ridicule those who are considered gullible or naive or, dare I say it, too trusting! While I am a proponent of wisdom and discernment as a leader, I often recognize that all too often I get pulled into a perspective of suspicion towards others leaders rather than trust. 

Trust builds relationship and gains respect; suspicion builds walls and erodes confidence 

Trust sees errors as an opportunity for growth; suspicion sees errors as intentional failing

Trust looks for the good in others; suspicion assume wrongdoing at all times

Trust is the foundation of a healthy and effective leader; suspicion will undermine your leadership and the team you lead

If the contrast between trust and suspicion is so strong and if these two concepts carry such great weight in the effectiveness of our leadership, what can we do to maintain an atmosphere of trust among our teams? May I offer a few ideas, but I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

The first step is to slow down. When I am overwhelmed, overscheduled or overburdened, I find that my ability to see the good in others is greatly diminished because I am focused on myself. I need to slow down, check my rhythms, clear my desk and remember what truly matters.

Next, what would the world look like if I truly treated others as I want to be treated? This gets quoted by so many people as the golden rule of life, yet so few of us actually operate by this principle. If I don’t want to be seen in a negative light, then I must resist the temptation to view others in a similar manner. It takes intentional effort to believe in others and to see their good, especially in the midst of a failed project or broken communication stream. Be the leader who makes this intentionality important!

 Another idea is to truly value every opportunity as a place for growth. I don’t need to be suspicious of team members because no matter what they are or are not doing, we have a mutually agreed upon learning moment. And if things get to the point where I need to dismiss somebody from my team, I can still see the good in them and realize that they will have a better fit on a different team. 
Finally, it’s not personal! I am amazed at the rash of airplane incidents recently occurring across the country. What happened to our ability to wait patiently, to prefer others, and to realize that when we are treated poorly it is rarely an intentionally personal attack, but is often the result of somebody else’s busyness, distractedness or simple self-absorption? I was recently getting off an airplane and the doors were not even open yet, but the man in the row ahead of me was apparently in a huge hurry and began pushing and pressing people to get out of his way. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who remembered that it’s not personal. We were able to smile at each other and chuckle at the incredible impatience of this fellow passenger. 

I am being challenged lately to recapture my ability to trust others by default and to reserve my suspicion for rare moments. This is not a call to discard wisdom, experience or even my gut instinct of discernment. Rather, it is a challenge to be the type of person, and leader, who believes in and sees the best in others. Not only wil my stress level drop, but I can be an influence for good in the lives of those around me. As a leader, an atmosphere of trust provides the greatest opportunity for accomplishment in the lives of myself and my team.

What about you? Do you wrestle with the tension between trust and suspicion? What tips would you share to help us all remain on the trust side of the aisle?

~ Mike

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The Storms of Leadership

Have you ever just wanted to quit? Have you ever felt like the tide was never going to pull back? Have you ever looked around at your circumstances and just wanted to throw in the towel? I know that I have on more occasions that I care to admit. While this might seem to be discouraging, I can actually find great encouragement in the life of Christ and how He handled the storms as they arose.

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In Matthew 8:24 (NIV) we read that “…suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” Later, another storm arises and He is seen walking on water. An interesting side note is that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat the night before, knowing there was a pending storm. In Luke 4:30 (ESV), an angry mob brings Jesus to the side of a hill “so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Storms never shocked Christ, never caused fear and never pulled Him from the mission that God called Him to. Storms are seen by Jesus as not merely part of life, but tools for growth in the lives of those who follow Him.

How else can we explain the impact that Jesus’ handling of storms had on Peter? He is transformed from an arrogant fisherman (John 13:6-8) to a well-intentioned but misunderstanding sword wielder. He then takes his greatest moment to defend Christ and instead denies that they ever knew each other. Could this possibly be the same Peter who preaches on the Day of Pentecost, who challenges the Sanhedrin and who is a “founding father” of the Church? It seems that the combination of witnessing how Christ handled storms with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provided all that was needed for a powerful leadership transformation.

Storms do not define us, but they allow us to better see God. Leadership requires the ability to trust in God in the midst of storms and to lead others in and through storms to safety. We must experience personal storms before we are able to lead others in them. In my life, it is only through the experience of coming out on the other side of storms that I have seen my faith and confidence in God grow. After all, without any storms in life, why would I need the strength and power of God in my life?

As tempting as it might be to wish for lack of storms, I have come to learn that they are a reality of life and are really the only way to grow and expand leadership capacity.

What do storms do for me practically?

  1. They remind me that life is bigger than me – I need God’s perspective
  2. They remind me that I am not in control – I need God’s power
  3. They remind me that I am not alone – I need God’s presence

Each of these concepts allows me to step back, to rest, and to trust in my God. If He didn’t personally run from storms and taught His disciples likewise, then it only makes sense to follow in His steps and look at storms not as something to escape or avoid, but rather to weather by His grace and with His strength. And as a leader, this then provides me both the credibility and experience to pass this on to those whom I am privileged to influence.

As I move into a new year, these three areas of need are going to be the filter through which I pray, I read, I learn and I lead. As these areas grow personally, I trust that God will expand my influence as a leader and will increase my capacity to lead as well. Will you join me this year as I better embrace storms and look for God’s perspective, power and presence in the midst.

~ Mike

How to Lead to the Brim

When I was nineteen, I was on a missions trip to Venezuela for one month. Through a series of unfortunate events (also known as the sovereignty of God), I was enlisted as the interpreter and translator for about three weeks of our trip. While I had taken four years of Spanish and even passed my AP test in high school, I had never used my Spanish in any meaningful way aside from small conversations around town. Yet, now God was asking me to step up, battle my fear and translate the preaching and teaching of our team leaders across the country. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was able to overcome my own fears and I was used to help share the Gospel with countless people that summer.

Man, talk about feeling like God asking me to step out in faith and engage in an opportunity that I had no idea what the outcome might be! While it might be simple to say this was the only instance, as I look back across my life, I can see a constant pattern of God asking me to do things that would not seem rational. I said yes to starting my Master’s degree with no money and very little confidence only to graduate two years later. I resigned from a church without a guaranteed job in place only to land at the ministry where I have served for the past four years.

God has spent my lifetime working to grow and expand my faith by asking me to do things that just seem to make no sense.

In a certain way, I feel like I can relate to the servants we learn about in John 2. While participating in a wedding at Cana, the host ran out of wine. This would have been a huge social faux pas and the host was now in a bind. Mary speaks with her son, Jesus, and after a short conversation, He becomes involved in the narrative.

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While the story might be familiar, there is an interesting section that seems to apply to leaders. After the servants become engaged with Jesus and are waiting for orders, He simply commands them to “fill the jars with water.” He never says how much or even that they had to use all six jars. However, the servants respond by filling “them up to the brim.” (John 2:6-7)

What does this say about their heart and willingness to follow direction? It seems that they were a group who were not inclined to cut corners. Maybe they anticipated a amazing story? Maybe they just wanted to give their best? Maybe they wanted to give themselves extra work by requiring extra trips to the well (least likely option)?

I have no idea what their motivation was. All I know is that the jars were filled to the brim.

Similar to the many stories in my life where I could not see around the corner, I have at least attempted to give God my best and to trust Him with the outcome. Have I lived this out perfectly? Not at all! For every story where I have confidently “filled my jars to the brim” there are plenty more where I went halfway or maybe walked away from the jars without even trying.

So, what does this I have to do with leadership? There are three main areas that the servants model that I hope will become a regular part of my life.

First, they modeled lives of faith. There was not a questioning of Jesus’ commands in any way. We do not read of hesitation, argument, complaints about the extra work or any other form of negativity or doubt. Instead, there is an instant response to the words of Christ. Wow, do I need to grow in this area! Often, my steps of faith come after many moments of questions, arguments, denials and even justification of following my own path. I am amazed that no matter how many times following my path does not end well, that is still my initial response. Definitely an area for growth in my life.

Second, this lifestyle manifests through acts of obedience. The servants simply obey. Behavior that reveals their trust and is displayed to those at the party that they will obey the One who is providing the direction. When Jesus calls us to have a childlike faith, I often wonder if this is part of what He meant. So often children must simply obey their parents without a sense of understanding. If they have loving parents, as we have a loving Father, this turns out well and they learn to continue on the path of obedience.

Finally, there had to be a sense of anticipation on their part. Whether or not they knew who Jesus was, the interaction between him and his mother set the stage that something was about to happen. Can you not picture the servants peeking out from behind a curtain watching the host take a sip of the water? What must their reaction have been upon his declaration that this was better wine than had previously been served? I don’t know about you, but anticipation that ends in fulfillment cannot help but lead to even greater anticipation for the things of God.

May I encourage you to join my journey of learning how to fill my jars to the brim? While I have been blessed to have a few moments where I got this idea right, I want this to happen more often and to be part of my daily life. Oh, how wonderful life would be if I were to live with a sense of faith, obedience and anticipation every time Jesus would give me direction.

Learning to fill,

Mike

Tension Produces Dreams

I have often wondered if life would truly be better if it was simpler. What if I didn’t have to strive quite so much? What if relationships just happened naturally? Wouldn’t everybody be better off if we removed the struggle and pain and work? I mean don’t most people just live for the weekend so that they can kick off their shoes and relax? 


I think that this idea is actually fairly hollow and will not actually lead us where we want to go. An oft repeated story is told of butterflies that must wrestle with their cocoon in order to strengthen their wings so that they can survive once they are loose. Witnessing the birth of my children not only confirmed that I was grateful to not be in the hospital bed, but helped me to realize that the birth of a dream comes on the other side of great tension. 

Tension provides a sense of gratitude for an accomplished work

Tension makes the thrill of jumping that much bigger

Tension helps me know what is worth fighting for

Tension provides the perspective and momentum necessary to take a risk

I have shared before how it took seven months of unemployment before I landed at the job that I currently hold. Talk about tension! The team that I am privileged to lead is in the middle of a 2-year project to create resources for local churches to better serve families affected by disability. These resources are the result of years of tension – conversations, debates and discussions about the best way to serve the church. 

So, how can you make tension work for you?

1) Keep your eye on the prize, on your vision, on the dream. If tension causes you to walk away from this, then it wasn’t that compelling to begin with. Take this as a great opportunity to revisit the vision and make sure that it is truly large enough to be compelling.

2) Remember that life is a journey and tension is simply one of the steps you must take on your way to success. Tension is a well-oiled bike chain, a rubber band ready to launch, or the nervous feeling you get right before you make a leap of faith. 

3) Although it might be clichè, there is a reason that it works – “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”. Tension is necessary for world class athletes to become stronger. And without tension you will never learn just what you can truly handle. 

4) Tension brings you to the feet of Jesus. Tension reminds me constantly that He is God and I am not. I cannot, nor am I meant to, proceed through life on my own strength. Tension keeps me humble which is always the best way to be.

I don’t know what you are walking through this week, but I would imagine it includes some tension. Be encouraged to not run from it, but rather to embrace it, to bring it to God and to anticipate the dreams that will be birthed because of it. 

~ Mike

Make a Difference Where You Are

I can remember years ago when I was in children’s minstry having the experience of being greeted in the grocery store by a woman whose daughter was in my ministry. I have had football coaches and players come up to me at church functions to say hello because I was a referee for their games. Once I even found myself on the phone with a customer service representative who turned out to be the parent of a child in my ministry. Enough of these occurences have caused me to become more aware of the fact that I am part of a community. I do not lead in a vacuum and neither do you. No matter how much we might want to compartmentalize our lives, the vivid truth is that there is a greater connectedness between home and work and church and extracurriculuar than we might realize. Authenticity compels me to be the same person regardless of the context where I find myself. 


As a leader, people are watching me for various reasons. Maybe they want to see how a follower of Christ responds to certain situations. Maybe they know that I am leading in one context and are observing my authenticity. Maybe I am just the loudest person in the group (which is very typical)!

So, what does leadership look like in my community? Going back to leadership as influence, community life is all about points of influence. Do I influence in a good and positive direction? Do I provide hope and stability? Am I seen as a healthy role model? Ultimately, do people see Christ or at least become curious about Christ as they watch my life?

In considering my community, there are four basic characteristics that I want to be known for. These apply at home, at church, in the mall or on the football field or anywhere else I might find myself.

First, I want to be known as trustworthy. I want my words to be credible and my actions to be authentic. It is easy to speak the truth when people are watching or I am engaged in a conversation. But what do I do when I am given incorrect change at the store? If, as a football official, I am supposed to uphold justice and fairness, but am seen in the community as a liar, my credibility is severely undermined. There is a great concept of truth that states if you always speak truth, you never have to remember the story. Being trustworthy is actually as simple as speaking truth and sticking to the single story that actually happened. 

I also want to be known as a generous leader. While generosity is most often equated with finances, it also speaks to how I spend my time and how freely I share my story or advice. Leading in the community means that I do what I can to improve and enhance life. Maybe I volunteer at church, serve at a community event or look for ways to mentor upcoming generations. Nobody really wants to be around a stingy or selfish person, so I strive to choose generosity with what I have. 

Effective community leadership also requires that I am caring and compassionate. This is as simple as making it easy for somebody to cross the street when I am driving. I don’t know about your city, but in mine, it has become an adventure to use the crosswalk because far too many drivers are self-absorbed and in a hurry. How would I respond if I arrived at the scene of an accident? What about the kid in line at Starbucks who comes up short for her venti quad super-sugar extra whipped cream drink? I need to slow down a bit, see the world around me, and look for ways to care for others.

Finally, I want to be seen in my community as a leader who stands for justice. I want to be on the side of the underdog and to speak on behalf of the marginalized. Whether this applies to people who have become homeless, families affected by special needs, or just a small child attempting to be noticed by a store clerk, great leadership looks for and acts upon opportunities to elevate the people nearby. I truly hope that I am seen as this type of a leader. 

So, what about you? What does leadership look like in your community? What other characteristics would you add to my list and, more importantly, how are you doing in living up to these standards? Leadership is influence and our communities are a great place to exert the influence that we have – this is how to truly make a difference right where you are!

~ Mike