Welcome back to our series on Learn to Lead: Ten Essential Skills Every New Leader Must Master. We have covered L: Listen and Learn, and E: Emotional Intelligence. Today I want to talk about A: Accessibility, and along with it Vulnerability.
Beware of the:
- Ivory tower syndrome
- Corner office syndrome
I have devised a simple test to determine whether you are task or people oriented. When you are working at your desk, and someone comes up to talk to you just for conversation, do you stop work, smile, and chat until the conversation comes to its natural conclusion? Or do you grimace inside and do anything you can to get the conversation done as quickly as possible. If your answer is the latter than you are one of us: the ‘Type A’ personality who tends to measure success by getting our lists checked off.
This personality type is often described as impatient, time-conscious, insecure about their status, competitive, hostile, and aggressive. They are often considered workaholics and are not very good listeners, and Christian ministries are filled with them.
“My intention always has been to arrive at human contact without enforcing authority. A musician, after all, is not a military officer. What matters most is human contact. The great mystery of music-making requires real friendship among those who work together. Every member of the orchestra knows I am with him and her in my heart.” —Carlo Maria Giulini, former conductor, Los Angeles Philharmonic, as quoted in Bennis and Nanus, Leaders
Let’s talk about an idea we call “power distance”. In the old days, there was a lot of power distance between boss and worker. As the decades have gone one, the power distance has gotten smaller.
Four Generations of People Living Today:
Builders – great power distance. Born before 1946
Boomers – medium power distance. Born 1946 to 1964 (78 million)
GenXers – a little power distance Born between 1965 and 1990
Millenials – none! No power distance. Born between 1990 to 2010 (80 million)
I am not saying it is good or bad, but it is real! Some older people get surprised at how boomers and builders expect more power distance than they are comfortable with. My good friend Patrick Kelly and I are working on a new book about how boomers and Millennials can work well together. This is one of the big issues. Older people sometimes read this as lack of respect, but that is not what is going on here. It is a generational difference in appropriate “power distances.”
Then there is the issue of other cultures. I have seen this A LOT!
Example: U.S. Versus Korea. We actually have too little power distance in some situations in our country. I think about some leaders and pastors and their challenges. Some cultures seem to have too much, some too little.
I Talked to a woman this week that was in leadership in her church and complained about some people that always demand immediate responses to messages and email. No boundaries at all! I do NOT mean by accessibility that you are there for everyone 24/7.
As a leader in today’s world, you need to be accessible to your people.
Let me tell the story of my pizza lunch at WorldVenture. I wanted to pick the brain of those under 30 to get an idea of what they liked and did not like. I put these three things up on the board:
- What they liked – accessibility. Not Dr. Finzel but HANS
- What they did not like – anything formal – like the walls!
- Suggested improvements – more communication and access to all the leaders
Understanding Young Workers
With more and more emerging-generation workers on the scene, managers need to understand what turns them on and off.
- Ask for their input
- Recognition and praise
- Time spent with managers and leadership
- Learning how their current work is making them more marketable
- Opportunities to learn new things
- Fun at work—structured play, harmless practical jokes, cartoons, light
- Flexible schedules
- Small, unexpected rewards for jobs well done
- Cubicle land
- Working side-by-side with the leadership
- Wait in Line-having to “pay dues” before they can do important things
- The process change or be shortened
- The leaders hide out in their offices
- The leaders are not ever around!
- Inflexibility about time
- Being overly watched and scrutinized
- Controlling culture
- Do it because I told you to
- Feeling pressured to convert to traditionalist behavior
- Disparaging comments about their generation’s tastes and styles
- Feeling disrespected
- Corner offices
- Remote out of touch leaders
I want to use the illustration of the leadership example of Jesus and of Paul – two great leaders in Christianity.
Even Jesus had an open door policy – he made time for people, especially his inner circle of the 12. Here is someone who had a lot of pressure to perform. And had just 3 years in his position. He had a lot to do in a short amount of time!
Matthew 4:24 and 5:1
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2and he began to teach them.
Luke 4:40 – At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.
And Paul the Apostle: I have always loved the teaching from what he wrote to the Thessalonians. He had no corner office. No ivory tower. No lecture or pulpit. It was life on life as their leader—man of influence:
I Thes 2:7 & 8 – “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
The more people that we have on our team, the more the pressure to isolate yourself from key people. Don’t get locked into your corner office or ivory tower. You have to be accessible to be effective. Because it is the people! Leadership is people work!
Vulnerability – actually makes us more human
Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are. It might be emotional, like admitting that you’re in love with someone who might only like you as a friend, or it can be literal, like the vulnerability of a soccer goal that’s unprotected by any defensive players.
Reasons why we fear vulnerability
- Being discovered
- Keep up image
- Pretenders that we have our act together
- Pride – can’t admit our mistakes
- Fear of being found out – The “imposter syndrome” from Episode 62
“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”
Brene Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
I am a private person. Sometimes that comes across as arrogance or pride or ITC – I’m too cool to talk to you. But the truth is the opposite!
- I am a type A personality. Driven to produce.
- My family always judged me on what I did (performance)— not who I was becoming (character).
- My home had no intimacy.
- I am an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs—introverted and decisive. I thrive on getting things done by myself.
- I am a pragmatic German—as opposed to abstract or mystic. Know any Germans? can be tough to get to know!
- I am a technology freak—I love machines and electronics. They help me get a lot done! But they also distract me away from quiet deep conversations.
- I am an ACA—adult child of an alcoholic. My counselor told me that this means we follow these four rules:
- Don’t talk (about what’s important).
- Don’t feel (especially “difficult” emotions). –Don’t trust (too much danger).
- Don’t stop working (you will never succeed).
I went to a counselor. He helped me. I think most of us could use a counselor or therapist – pay someone to really listen deep to your issues!! Who else will?
He told me I needed to be more vulnerable with my team. So I told them. I shared this list with them. Number 7 blew them away!!! Everything changed. They said, “Oh, now we get you!”
It all begins with the foundation that is laid with vulnerability. Vulnerability builds trust. And without trust you will never go up to great results
This is a biblical concept:
Paul was great at this! A powerful personality who showed great vulnerability:
I Timothy 1:15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
I Cor. 15:9
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
People love following leaders who are real and personal and accessible and vulnerable about their strengths and weaknesses.
“If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It underpins everything.”
4 Action points:
- Be sure you have times where you accessible to the people you lead. You can have an open door policy according to your schedule. Have meals with the team.Go hiking. Have a picnic.
- When you need alone time, structure it and let people know you will get back to them. Boundaries are important at times – Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries.
- Do not pretend to be perfect or have your act together if you don’t. People don’t like woking for walled off people who are pretenders. This is really true in the church! Hiding weaknesses really does not build trust.
- Study “The Five Dysfunctions of a team.” You will learn that it all begins with building trust. And trust comes through vulnerability.