Friday, July 20, 2007

a few thoughts on work & fear

in any work environment, much of the interplay between employees and employers is defined - sadly - by certain, specific, fears

now, in my mind, the real tragedies of fear are the interpersonal consequences

for example,
the most destructive thing about fear in a work environment is that it makes you treat people differently

fear disrupts relationships

you can't speak openly or honestly with someone else if you're afraid, and neither can they speak openly and honestly with you if they sense that your fear has erected barriers of tension, irrationality, and bad memories of previous employers

in addition,
fear has a nasty habit of awkwardly reprioritizing the wrong things
when we're afraid, we look for isolation - so that no one can "get us" or "get" our ideas
when we're afraid, we take solace in negative speech - so that others will know our opinion on the fear-makers
when we're afraid, we dismiss the open hearts and ready minds of willing helpers as the actions of credit-takers and dream-thieves

when, in fact, none of this may be true

in the church world - by which i mean the world of vocational [pastoral] ministry - we are often afraid of some very mundane things

words, for example, can be terribly frightening to pastors
words like "program", "prayer", "evangelism", "free-form", "criticism", "organic", "teamwork" and a variety of others from all over a variety of word-spectrums

we're afraid of these words because we think they're used as a means of control, by either complaining congregants or overbearing bosses

which, incidently, is another thing we're afraid of - authority
pastors are wired to be lone-rangers
and, to be fair, most pastors are one-man shows
so, particularly in this age of anti-denominational-involvement and local church autonomy, we shy away from authority

but i often miss authority
not because i want more rules
but because i require other, wiser, voices in my life to help me facilitate the work of god on earth

still, we're afraid of authority because we think authority means a lack of autonomy
and it does - and i think the most recent season of my life provides rich material for proving that lesser autonomy would be healthier for more pastors. we need accountability. we need counsel. we need boundaries and guidelines to which we submit as godly men and women under the authority of the body.

we don't need to be controlled, but we do need to be accountable.

which is another thing we're afraid of - accountability
we're afraid of being held accountable [even by godly, intelligent, well-meaning people] because we're afraid of failure
we're in a prime vocation for success/failure to drive our worth and our self-image
so, the idea that our ministries may not "work" is a horribly vulnerable thought
because we feel like it means "we" don't work

but this is not true

furthermore, we've got to be willing to be appraised on our efforts
to discard those things that are ineffective, or too costly, or produce nothing of new testament spirituality
and we often need other people to help us evaluate those things in those ways
because we're too afraid of failure to do it honestly ourselves

but, we're also afraid of working with other people closely
we're afraid of teamwork because we might not always have the best answers or the best solutions
and not being able to be the best - even though we don't want to admit it - seriously undercuts the shadow beliefs most pastors secretly hold
by which i mean that we all think we ought to know better
because we all feel like everyone else expects us to be wiser than politicians, more creative than hollywood producers, and more entrepreneurial than businessmen
and we're afraid they'll find out we're really not that qualified in those kinds of ways

i think we're afraid of ideas
we're afraid of ideas that are bigger than us - because we can't make them real or understand their significance and we think we should
we're afraid of ideas that are newer than our new ideas - because we work so hard to stay fresh, it feels like an indictment that we're not the "fresh-est"
we're afraid of ideas that prove our hypotheses wrong - because we thought our 'bright ideas' would be the 'next big thing' and they so rarely - if ever - are

i think my job these days is to try and aleviate the fears of those around me
while speaking honestly with carmel or dad or jvo about my own fears

i try to put others' fears to rest
and i try and master my own

to try and advance this conversation a little further
let me put some fears to bed

we are cultivating a staff at westwinds that works around the following kinds of things:

innovation - we want everyone to dream big, to think outside the boxes they've just built [by virtue of thinking outside their previous boxes], and to feel like they're empowered to try things no one else has the freedom or the resources to try

credibility - we also want everyone to hold their ideas loosely; so, if the idea is tried, tested, given a reasonable amount of tweaking and, at the end, feels like it's not effective...then we want to go back to the drawing board and start fresh - without judgement, without complaint, without accusation

freedom - we want everyone to take the space they need to be creative, to get things done, to honor family, to honor god, and to become the best possible version of themselves; but, to paraphrase what ben parker has said so well "with great freedom, comes great responsibility"

worth - we want everyone to receive credit for their own work, value for their own contributions, and to recognize the part they play on a much larger team. we want them to know that we couldn't do anything [like what we're currently doing] without them, and that their brains, their fantasies, and their noble ambitions are welcomed and authenticated here.

i don't often write on leadership stuff on this blog
typically, leadership stuff doesn't trouble me in ways that blogging might address therapeutically
but our staff is going through a lot these days
and i wanted to be public about my love and my ambitions for them

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