Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Ways that we unintentionally create or contribute to conflict and misunderstanding

None of us sets out to create conflict with others. Most of us truly dislike conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it. However, it is also true that we can contribute to conflict unintentionally through our attitudes, responses and words. Being aware of these issues can help us do a better job of lessoning or avoiding unnecessary conflict.

Our responses and conflict

A significant contributor to conflict and misunderstanding can come from our responses to others. For instance, if someone makes a suggestion, offers a differing opinion or even takes a shot at us, a defensive reaction will contribute to ratcheting up conflict in the relationship. Contrast that with an open response like "Tell me more about why you think that?" which invites response and dialogue rather than shutting it down. 

Other responses like anger or impatience will have the same negative effect so learning to control our emotions and responses with people who irritate or words that irritate is a key to lowering the possibility of conflict or misunderstanding. Staying calm, collected, friendly and approachable in the face of people or situations that punch our buttons lowers the temperature. When we don't control our responses we invariably raise the temperature.

Our attitudes and conflict

More subtle than our actual responses to others is that of our attitude toward others who challenge us. If I have a dismissive, impatient, disrespectful, angry, haughty or irritated attitude with those interacting to me (justified or not) it raises the temperature. 

Early in my leadership life I was not very skilled in hiding or controlling my responses and it hurt me with others. It was unintentional but it caused issues nonetheless. It really comes down to treating all people and ideas with respect whether those ideas will fly or not fly. If our attitude is always one of respect we will respond well to people regardless of the merits of their ideas or even sometimes poor attitudes.

Our words and conflict

We are stewards of our words. They can build relationships or destroy them. They can raise the level of conflict or lower it. They can encourage or discourage. The diplomacy of our words and the respect we show others makes all the difference.

I intentionally placed this after our responses and our attitudes because harmful words come from uncontrolled responses and poor attitudes toward others. And those harmful words create misunderstanding and conflict. 

Learning to control our words is a learned discipline. I have been known to silently say to myself "KMS" numerous times when I am with people who push my buttons. It stands for "Keep Mouth Shut." It is a reminder that my words are going to matter so think about what I am going to say and how I am going to say it before responding.

When misunderstanding and conflict occurs we ought to ask ourselves whether we contributed to it through our responses, attitudes or words and become aware of how all three can contribute to conflict or lower the temperature. 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Help your board do self-evaluation of their work with seven evaluative statements

Church boards (and other boards) often forget what good governance looks like. Not because they don't care but because in the press of ministry life they forget. 

A simple way to evaluate your board work is to have everyone on the board assign a number from 1 to 10 for each of the statements below. Ten signifies we do this well and consistently and one signifies we do it poorly or inconsistently. Average out the scores for each statement and have a board conversation around it.

1. We have an outward vision rather than internal preoccupation

Churches with an outward vision do so because their boards are more occupied with thinking how to impact the community and world rather than spending the majority of their time discussing what happens inside the church.

2. We encourage a diversity of viewpoints

Healthy boards do not do "group think" but encourage each member to think for themselves, share their thoughts and through the diversity of viewpoints come to better decisions.

3. We do strategic leadership more than administrative details

Boards are not designed to spend their time on administrative details that others can do. They are designed to provide strategic leadership to the organization and grapple with the BIG rocks.

4. We have a clear distinction between the board and lead pastor roles

A lack of clarity between the responsibilities of a church board and that of a lead pastor creates either confusion or conflict. Clear distinctions between board and lead pastor roles fosters healthy relationships between the two and smoother leadership.

5. We make collective rather than individual decisions

Healthy boards make collective rather than individual decisions. They also have an understanding that once the decision is made each member will be supportive of the decision. No individual can force their will on the board or choose not to support its decisions.

6. We are more future focused than we are present or past focused

The best boards have a clear focus on the future rather than on the past or present. While they may need to deal with current crisis or some administrative details, their primary focus is on the future and how they can help the organization to meet the needs of the future.

7. We are committed to being proactive in our leadership rather than reactive

The vast majority of church boards live in the reactive world - dealing with crisis or day to day issues. The best boards are proactive in their leadership by setting appropriate policy and thinking about the future rather than  doing reactive leadership that is focused on the present and second guessing the decisions of others.

See also, 
Church board self assessment. 15 Questions

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Friday, June 22, 2018

Powerful relationships

We all have relationships. For most of us, however, they are relatively shallow and we long for something deeper: someone with whom we can reveal our true selves and the struggles we wrestle with. Friends who knows us fully and yet accepts us totally. That is a powerful relationship.

I am blessed with a few powerful relationships. Other men who know me, love me, accept me, challenge me and want the best for me. I have a handful of these but they are enough. I am thankful for each of them and tell them of my appreciation regularly. 

Why are these relationships so powerful? Because in each case there is a mutual commitment to honesty and wanting the best for one another. There is grace and love extended both ways. There is a desire by each to be there for the other and encouragement is a regular part of the relationship. We may or may not talk often but when we do it is a life giving conversation that leaves both of us uplifted, hopeful and accepted. Even if the rest of the world were to abandon me, I know that these will not, no I them.

The key to powerful relationships is that grace and understanding is always present - even when we are challenged or are challenging another. Judgmental attitudes kill openness while attitudes of grace invite it and make it a safe place to open our hearts and lives. I suspect that it is the absence of grace among so many that makes these relationships so rare - and special.  

Powerful relationships are safe places, one of the most sacred gifts that we can give and receive. They are sacred because it is like Christ who loves us unconditionally. They are sacred because it is rare. They are sacred because these are people who will never abandon or betray us.

Who are you a safe place for? What are the powerful relationships that define your life and allow you to give others a like gift? Never take them for granted. Nurture these friendships. Allow a few powerful relationships to enrich your life and you enrich the lives of others.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Seven personal behaviors for the best board work

We give each other grace

Boards debate ideas and options and must deal with difficult decisions. Without grace toward one another and each other's viewpoints, conflict can create animosity and relational issues. Grace allows us to wade in and speak truthfully in a context of peace.

We speak the truth as we understand it

Unless we share what is actually on our minds, issues cannot be properly discussed, and options are left unaddressed. Too many board members are unwilling to speak candidly in meetings and end up talking about the issues elsewhere or living with frustration. Grace allows candid dialogue. We are responsible for sharing the truth as we understand it.

We show patience toward one another especially when we disagree

Disagreements are inevitable on a board. In fact, if there was no disagreement, a board would not be necessary. It is in the confluence of opinions, options and ideas that the best decisions are made. But getting to those great ideas requires patience with one another.

We listen carefully

The best board members are those who listen carefully and thoughtfully to others. Wisdom cannot be mined without careful listening and evaluation. The best board members are those who thoughtfully listen. When they speak others tend to listen.

We meet without a personal agenda

Boards exist for the good of the organization and its mission. Decisions are not about us or getting our way. It is what is best for the organization and its mission. Board members who must have their own way hurt the work of the board and often the organization itself.

We take a humble posture

Humility is at the heart of all good leadership. Our leadership is not about us and we do not possess all wisdom. The best leadership comes from humble leaders and board members who believe that the best decisions are corporately made. Humble board members learn at each meeting. Prideful members are simply focused on their own agenda.

We engage in robust dialogue without hidden agendas or personal attacks

Robust dialogue is the coinage of good boards. The ability to speak truth, disagree, talk through issues and even be emotional or passionate about an issue. This is healthy with two caveats: No personal attacks - it is not about people but about the mission; and no hidden agendas but only honest dialogue.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Be kind to those who irritate you because....

We make many assumptions about people around us, especially those who tend to irritate us. Why do they behave the way they do? Why do they irritate us? Why are they so irritable? There can be many "Whys." When irritated, Remember: "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." 

It is easy to respond harshly, cynically or irritably to those who respond poorly to us. The natural response is to respond back in kind. Or to confront. A loving response is to reply with kindness and see if you can uncover the pain that is causing their reaction to you. 

Sometimes pain is public like when one loses their job or a family member dies. Most pain is held in private hidden from the outside world: marriages in crisis, severe financial pressure, decisions that need to be made. Everyone has either public or private pain. Usually it is private and until we understand the issues someone is dealing with we cannot understand them - or their reactions. Once we do, we can not only minister to them but understand why they responded the way they did. 

We live in an increasingly polarized and busy world where relationships that allow us to share deeply are becoming more rare. Being sensitive to those around us and responding to them in kindness, knowing that we don't know their struggles, is a posture of love that can open the door to better understanding.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Four critical behaviors that founders must give up as an organization grows

Organizational founders are special people - whether it be in business, in the church or in a not for profit. They get things going, pursue a dream and if all goes well grow an organization. In doing so, they do what many others cannot do or did not have the courage to do. 

However, as they see success, they also face growing challenges to give up certain practices, procedures or prerogatives they have enjoyed in the past. In fact, unless they give up these things that they are used to doing they will either plateau the organization, becoming a hinderance to its future growth, or they will sabotage their staff who will find it increasingly hard to work for the founder. 

The challenge for founders is that of letting go, learning to delegate and to trust the opinions of others as they lead their organization.  Here are four behaviors that need to change as the organization grows. Whether they can or will goes to the emotional health (EQ) of the founder. 

One: The small decisions
Founders are used to all decisions going through them. Inevitably this will become a barrier to growth as their capacity to make timely decisions decreases as the number of decisions increases. If one hires good staff one must also empower those staff to make decisions within the boundaries that have been set. If a founder cannot relinquish small decisions to their staff they are unlikely to see their organization continue to grow and flourish. Micromanagement might work when an organization is small but it becomes a barrier as it grows.

Two: Unilateral decision making
Here is my rule. Founders can make unilateral decisions until they hire additional management or leadership staff. At that point, key decisions must become the subject of discussion by the team as each member is a stakeholder and needs to carry out decisions that are made. Founders do not realize how demoralizing it is to staff when they unilaterally make decisions that impact others. If you have hired other leaders, bring their expertise to the table and give up the former practice of unilateral decision making. Good staff will not stay long term if their gifts and counsel are ignored.

Three: On the fly decision making
This is related to the second issue but with the added twist that "on the fly decisions" or "decisions made by the seat of one's pants" are often decisions that throw a monkey wrench into everyone else's day because a direction has been changed or some surprise has been announced that others are not prepared for. Rapid changes of direction without consultation with the key stakeholders is demoralizing as it often creates confusion to say nothing of now needing to redo what has already been done. Once you have a team it is imperative to engage that team in key decisions and not surprise them.

Four: Control
Central to the growth of any organization is the notion that one hires the best talent that one can and that together the team charts the course of success. That means that founders must be willing to relinquish some of their past control, trust their individual leaders to lead within the boundaries set for them and guide through metrics, coaching and relationship. How the work gets done will be different perhaps than how the founder did it. But this means that the founder needs to relinquish the sense that he/she must control everything that happens because that will strangle the organization.

The transition from a "founder mode" of leadership to a more "sustainable mode" of leadership is not easy. Certainly it depends of the quality of the team that is built. But, the most important factor is a founder who understands that they must change how they think and operate as the organization grows. What got you to here will not get you to there - it got you to here.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Friday, June 8, 2018

Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and depression

Unless you have suffered from depression or have lived with someone who does you will not understand how two such successful people who seemingly had everything going for them could commit suicide. But if you have experienced significant depression or lived with someone who does, you do! 

How can one describe depression to one who has never experienced it? 

Waterboarding of the soul

The dark night of the soul

Being stuck in your own head with all its fears and thoughts without a way out

Pain, pain and more pain - the kind that you cannot escape from

Brain fog where everything is a struggle, everything is hard

Darkness and sadness and hopelessness

Drowning in a vast ocean

Constant feeling of fear

If you have experienced depression you will have your own metaphors but none of them are sufficient to describe the experience. Most illnesses can be described. This one can only be felt and it feels like there is no escape. Money, position, power, family and any number of other things we often aspire to cannot free the depressed person from the prison of the mind. It is an illness and that illness needs compassion, understanding and help.

Because this illness resides in the brain, there is no escape from it. It can appear at the oddest moments and rob the brightest and most successful of their joy. It is in the brain but it is not just a matter of just "getting over it," or "thinking positive thoughts." It often requires extensive therapy and medication and ways to cope with the inner pain. 

If you cannot understand the suicides of Anthony Bourain or Kate Spade it is because it is not understandable apart from understanding the unpredictability of depression and the darkness that even successful people experience. Outward appearances can hide deep inner pain regardless of one's success in life. 

Many evangelicals and deeply religious people misunderstand depression thinking that if only one would give their issues to God all would be well and quote Scripture verses to that affect. Life is not that simple and answers are not that easy. Depression is a disease. "Just get over it," is not an answer but a deeply painful attitude to those who suffer from depression. You would not say that to someone with cancer and it equally does not apply to depression.

There are, thankfully, many good therapies for depression, as well as medications (Don't be one of those - especially in the religious community - who look down on those who take medication for depression). Sometimes it is learning how to deal with the disease rather than curing the disease. It can be a hard road but one worth travelling so that joy can replace depression, if only part of the time.

I have deep compassion for Anthony, Kate and their families. In a moment of time and in a season of depression, suicide seemed the only way out. I wish with all my heart they had chosen a different path but understanding the metaphors above I understand the pain. If you know someone who suffers from depression, encourage them to get help. It is available! Like anything else it can be a hard road but worth the effort. A life lost to depression robs the world of a precious individual made in God's image and of inestimable value.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."