Tag Archive: confrontation

When A Leader Should Confront

Business dispute

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One of the most important decisions a leader makes is when to confront someone they lead.

Confrontation is not a bad word. From its Latin origin, it means to turn your face towards. (What is bad is to say confrontational things, in the form of an email or to a third person when you’re not “facing them.) Confronting is an inevitable part of leadership. It’s part of keeping your church on mission. It’s part of developing others.

I’ve written previously on “saying the last 2%” once you’re in a confrontational or developmental conversation. But regardless of whether you’re saying 98% or the last 2%, you first need to determine if you should say anything at all. In other words, is the issue even confront-worthy?

So before you send that email to schedule a meeting, or catch someone in the hallway and ask them to step in your office…

Count the Cost

Ken Sande, author of The Peace Maker reminds us…

“We need to make a conscious effort to count the costs of a conflict at the outset of a dispute and compare them to the benefits of quickly settling the matter (via over-looking).”

Proverbs 19:11 tells us that “it’s to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

You need to perform a cost/benefit analysis. Here are some questions you can ask yourself, to determine if an issue is worth confronting:

  • Does this issue, unchecked, have the ability to cause harm to others or the church?
  • Will this issue get really annoying to you or others if repeated or perpetuated?
  • Is it sinful or anti-staff values?
  • Do you have a specific issue to address, or do you have a general dislike of this person or their attitude?
  • Was this a one-time offense, or is it likely to happen again?

These questions will help uncover your motives and ensure that your issue is in fact, an issue, and not simply a temporary annoyance.

Another way to ensure better confrontation is to think gray. That is, give the issue some space before setting up the confrontation. While I loathe the leadership methodology that waits for the annual review to unload all of someone’s short comings, waiting one to three days will help focus the confrontation.

One other thing that Ken Sande suggests:

“Ask the humanizing question. The humanizing question looks at an infraction and uses not only a situational view of the person who committed infraction, but also a dispositional view. When we feel we are wronged, we often ask, ‘What’s the matter with that person?’ instead of, ‘Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do that?’

Practical takeaways for everyday church leadership:

  • Before rushing to confront, count the cost
  • Perform a cost/benefit analysis
  • Pray for wisdom
  • Ask the humanizing question



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Hard Conversation Pointers for Members and Staff

face to face

The Latin term for confrontation means – “to turn your face toward; to look at fully.”

For many people, confrontation is something they do passively while walking away from another person, or a reply they make to a tweet or email. But as leaders in the church, we can’t afford to confront cowardly (or sinfully).

In their book Boundaries, Face to Face, @DrHenryCloud and @DrJohnTownsend suggest that “boundary conversations” are “motivated and driven by love, and also are focused and have an agenda.” These are two important components of a confrontation conversation that has boundaries.

It’s critical for church leaders to have hard conversations well. If not done well, such conversations may contribute to festering sin, and might also create a chasm between you and the person being confronted. If that happens, it will make it difficult for you to worship together and do church life together.

Before you decide to initiate a hard conversation like this with someone, determine two things:

  1. Is this something you can overlook? (Proverbs 19:11) Many would-be confrontations can be stopped at this point. Ask yourself – is this person doing something that is wrong, or is it simply something I don’t prefer? If it’s the latter, choose to overlook.
  2. Are my reasons for the conversation motivated and driven by love? In other words, is it driven and motivated by a greater good?

If you’ve determined the offense should not be overlooked, and the confrontation is motivated by love and the greater good, then make the choice to confront the person within these boundaries:

  • Determine your agenda. Be specific. Deal with the most pressing issue, and then stay on agenda. Non-focused confrontations deal with too many issues and instances, and rarely get to resolution.
  • Call the meeting at a time that gives you the best chance for success. Try to be flexible, and adjust to their timing if possible. If they’re not a morning person, than avoid breakfast meetings.
  • Pray… for the other person, their receiving of the message, your attitude, and for God-honoring resolution.
  • Prepare your delivery. Most experts agree you have somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes to set the tone of a conflict conversation, and that tone is determinative of the outcome. Prepare well for that thirty seconds.
  • Know your desired outcome. Know what equates to success in this confrontation. Allow room for the other person to speak into this, but know what you hope to achieve.
  • Make sure you get to the last 2%. This is the hardest part of the conversation. This is the part that may take people aback. But the last 2% is the reason for the conversation. Say what you need to say. Make sure it’s delivered clearly. Without it, you’ve just engaged in a hard conversation that was all preface.

When you’re done, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I say anything un-becoming as a Christian?
  • Did I stay on agenda?
  • Did I say the last 2%?
  • Did I listen well to their response?
  • Did we mutually determine a next step to deal with the issue?

Happy hard-conversating.


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