Good leaders have strong opinions.
And they should.
But our decisions should be guided by the mission, not by our opinions.
This is especially true in church leadership. The importance of Christ’s mission should be communicated in everything we do and say. Including in subtle cues that often remain under the surface.
The Importance Of Saying “No”
One of the most important aspects of leadership is the courage to recognize and stop bad ideas so that better ideas can thrive. Saying “no” is hard. If it’s done badly it can lower a team’s morale, and even lose good people.
But it must be done. So it’s essential that we learn how to do it well.
Unfortunately, one of the easiest and most common ways we express our disagreement with a new idea is also one of the worse.
Saying “I don’t like that” is one of the fastest ways to kill innovation and stifle a church’s mission – especially when it’s said by the person in the lead position. In a church, that’s usually the pastor.
Here are five reasons “I don’t like that” (or something similar) should be banished from the vocabulary of every leader.
Saying “I don’t like that”...
1. …makes it more about the leader than the mission
Good leaders never make their decisions based on personal preference. They make decisions based on the mission. “What are we trying to do and how well will this idea get us there?” is all that matters.
The reason we don’t like something may, in fact, be because it doesn’t move the mission forward. If so, we need to say it that way. When we phrase our disagreement as if it’s a personal preference, we subtly divert the attention of our team members away from the mission and towards us.
When we use phrases like “I like...” or “I don’t like...” team members will start trying to appease the leader instead of striving to make the team better.
Every decision should be about the mission. What’s right. What works. Not what we like or don’t like.
Save your personal preferences for how you take your coffee.
2. …slows the flow of good ideas
When the opinions of the team leader are expressed in a personal way – even unintentionally – it makes everyone pause before offering any idea that might be too new or on the fringes. And it makes some people stop expressing themselves at all.
But when the leader’s opinions are expressed in language that emphasizes the mission, people feel more open to express new, innovative, even half-baked ideas that might eventually become something great.
3. …shuts down honest criticism
No one wants to contradict the boss.
Except for the people who revel in being disagreeable – and you don’t want them on your team.
4. …makes disagreement feel more confrontational than necessary
When an objection to an idea is expressed in a personal way, any pushback against it will feel personal too.
Soon, what should be a healthy dialog about the validity of an idea becomes a heated argument with people’s feelings getting hurt.
5. Refusing to say “I don’t like that” forces everyone to look for deeper, better reasons
When we remove “I don’t like that” from our leadership vocabulary, it needs to be replaced with something better. To do that, we need to ask ourselves questions like “why don’t I like it?”
This forces us to think more deeply about our feelings, the mission, the team, and where we’re heading. It can even help us recognize when our personal feelings are getting in the way.
Also, if the leader refuses to say “I don’t like it…”, team members won’t say it either. And they’ll have to think more deeply about the mission, too.
What To Say Instead
So, if “I don’t like it” is off the table, what is the best way to express disagreement with an idea?
Actually, there’s a world of possibilities, all of which force us to stay on mission, and look deeper at what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Instead of expressing disapproval, which tends to shut down debate and dry up new ideas, using questions tends to open everyone up to thinking better and deeper.
- How does this fit the mission?
- Is there something I’m not seeing here?
- How can we do this better?
- What parts of this can be turned into something great?
Questions like this are a great way of engaging the team instead of shutting them down, encouraging more ideas instead of drying them up, and keeping the mission front-and-center, where it belongs.
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