Posted in Leadership

Expressed permission to “Get Back!”

Who’s telling you to “get back!”? Who has the authority to step in and tell you to “step back” from something you’re doing?

You’ve likely seen it, but you may not know what it’s called. Or actually, what the person is called. Most college and professional football teams have a “get back coach.” During the week they have another role with the team (strength and conditioning coach or maybe a linebackers’ coach). But on game day, they have the charge to keep over-zealous players and coaches off the playing field (who aren’t supposed to be on field).

Why? Well people get hurt on football sidelines when they venture too far out. Also, their team can get penalized for crossing into the marked box where referees and players are roaming.

In a very odd scene, you have a head football coach who’s flailing and yelling on the sideline, and at the same time, inching closer and closer to the game action. And then behind him, you have the “get back coach.” And for some coaches prone to wander, the “get back coach” is literally touching him at all times or within grabbing distance at all times. He’s ready to grab the coach’s waistband and pull him back.

All this to help the wandering coach avoid injury for himself or a penalty for the team.

Who in your life has the authority to metaphorically grab your waistband and put you back into place? Who’s keeping you from harming yourself or the “team” (church) you lead?

“Get Back” Situations

If you were to make a distasteful comment in a meeting that most people would choose to ignore because you’re the boss, who’s going to come to you directly and let you know you crossed a line? What if you lingered too long after church talking to a member of the opposite sex who’s not your spouse? Who can pull you aside and let you know you ventured out too far? If in an email you wrote a sentence that caused harm to others or was mean-spirited, who’s going to tell you it was too much?

Who can tell you the last 2% and not fear retribution? Who loves you enough to be a truth-teller?

Expressed Permission

We may think we already have “get back” people in our life. But they’re not official or effective until you’ve given them expressed permission to speak bluntly to you. They’ve got to have permission to figuratively, or literally, pull you back by your waistband to avoid harm to yourself or the areas and people you lead.

When’s the last time someone you trust confronted you and told you to “get back?” If it’s been awhile, you’ve either not arranged for this coaching in your life or you’re not prone to wander. My guess, you’ve not yet given someone permission to help you when you can’t see you need “get back” help.

If you don’t give this permission, most people won’t do it. And this is especially true for those of us who are clergy and/or have tenure or positional authority. There’s a natural tendency toward being perceived as untouchable or “unchallengeable.” You’ve got to ask for it, and then when one of your “get back coaches” grabs you by the waistband, well, heed their warning.

If head football coaches making millions of dollars a year put a “get back coach” in place just to help avoid 15 yard penalties, than maybe as church and family leaders we should realize our stakes are much higher and we should put them in place too.

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Leadership Blind Spot Automation

It beeps. It lights up. It creates awareness that your casual over-the-shoulder can’t achieve. Vehicles have come a long way in blind spot technology.

It use to require a head turn of some seventy-five degrees. Then manufactures made the mini-mirrors to be added to your side view mirror. And now, automated blind spot checkers.

I doubt most of us have kept progressing in our leadership blind spot technology as vehicle manufactures have for their cars. In fact, as we’ve gone further in our leadership, our blind spots may have been ignored and probably even gotten larger.

Because we’re the “leader”, the person riding shotgun with us may feel less freedom to warn us of our blind spots. And because we’re the “boss”, our ego may prohibit us from asking said shotgun rider for their input.

We feel like we have so much experience, we can just sense our blind spots. “Surely I’m self-aware enough, right?” Yep, the more longevity and leadership success means we may have just broadened the width of our blind spots.

For these reasons, we need more sophisticated blind spot checking.

Blind Spot Automation

Awareness

It begins with admitting you have a problem. “Hi, my name is Brian, and I know I have leadership blind spots.” If you struggle to say that, well, you’ve definitely got blind spots. They could be significant blind spots like character or competency. Usually though, they’re areas that didn’t use to be a problem, but over time without intentionality, the blind spot has become a reality. Are you aware you have blind spots? Can your self-awareness skills identify them?

Ask

No matter how self-aware you may be, you’ll still need a second opinion. And that means you’ll have to ask others. And when you do, ask with assumption that these blind spots do in fact exist. Your inquiry shouldn’t be, “Do I have any blind spots?” But should be more like, “I realize I get into my own world, habits, and passionate about my work, and I know that means I have some leadership blind spots. What are a couple areas you’ve seen where I’m most likely to be susceptible?”

Just assuming they exist and framing in a way that gives the person permission to answer candidly without feeling like they’re attacking you will go a long way in getting useful feedback.

Assessments

While I do think personality assessments should always be considered 10% accurate, nor do I see their results as something that should hold a person hostage to behaviors that are “hard wired in.” I do feel like the results can be a tool. A tool that’s printed that can tell you in black and white how your actions and personality may be perceived by others.

In the most recent personality assessment I took, its results reminded me of some areas that are square in my blind spot. But there were some results that were new to me. For example, when note mentioned, “[Brian] may rely too much on past experience.” I’d never considered this before, but because I became aware of this possibility, I was able to investigate. If you haven’t used a personality assessment, I encourage you to find a free or affordable one and see if it will create awareness for you.

Accountability

Who, without you asking for it, can make you aware of your leadership blind spots? Who have you given permission to be a “back seat driver” and let you know when you’re merging into an area that could cause a wreck?

You’re a leader. You get things done. You care about others. But a leader who cares about those they lead will make sure at least one of the things you get done is identifying and eliminating your leadership blind spots.

 

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Pronoun Posturing (for leaders)

It’s been told to me, and I’ve said it. It’s a leadership principle that’s been touted. It’s this, we need to earn our right to lead.

We have to go out and do the hard work, the behind the scenes work, the work that involves leading a couple of people before a couple hundred people. And while there’s some truth in that, the Bible calls us to a different posture.

It’s still about working hard. But what it’s not about is “us”, “me”, or even, “we”.

2 Chronicles records Solomon’s establishment as king and the remarkable conversation where Solomon’s request to God was a request for “wisdom and knowledge.”

But recently, something else stood out to me in that exchange. It’s in the last half of verse eleven. God is speaking and grants Solomon wisdom and knowledge, and then says, “But you have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king.”

Notice the “my” and then “I”?

Whose people will Solomon govern? God’s people.

Who made Solomon king? God did.

It’s as if God was saying, “Look, I’m going to provide you with some exceptional gifts. But remember, I gave those gifts of wisdom and knowledge, and I’m putting you in a place of leadership. And yes, I’m allowing you to lead my people.”

Do we need this same kind of reminder that emphasizes pronouns?

You see, God knows what leader-types are like. We get the opportunity to do something for God’s kingdom and we’re honored. But then all the sudden we either forgot who put us there and/or we begin to think about our newly established leadership opportunity as our own little personal fiefdom.

The church we serve is not ours. The people are not ours. We’re a short-term steward of people and leadership opportunities.

As leaders, our choice of words when describing the who, how and why we lead is important. But even more important, is the heart behind the words. Are we really in a posture that reflects the proper (God-honoring) pronouns?

Here’s to proper pronouns.

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