Sunday, December 29, 2013

Breaking News

I saw my cousin at a family gathering recently and she said "what's this about a new job? You update Facebook all the time but nothing about this!" And that got me thinking about the process of breaking personal news.
Maybe it's just me. When I have big news I need to roll it around in my head a bit before speaking it. It's allllmost like worrying about jinxing it... but not exactly. This process (of changing jobs) has been just about two months in the making, between applying and interviewing and waiting and giving notice and wrapping up. It's an excruciatingly long time for me to have news. I want to handle it right, release it the right way. I hate having secrets but am loath to tell anyone, hate the attention of making announcements but am dying to talk about it.
When I was pregnant the last time, Scott and I sat together the morning I discovered it and I said "let's just wait to tell people." He agreed. It was our third (ultimately unsuccessful) pregnancy and I did not want to go through the whole roller coaster again, just in case. I hate having to un-tell news even more than the telling. So with our secret sealed in between us, I went off to work. Scott called me when I reached the bottom of our hill- about 2 minutes later- and said "I told someone." I get it, I understand the need to tell, to let it out, to let someone in on the lonely turmoil that is having news.
When I was leaving my last job, it was a quicker process (blessedly) but still, I was going to work with my colleagues and making plans for the future that I knew I would not be a part of. My spiritual director said "you're not lying, you're not keeping secrets. You're cooking something up with God right now and it's not ready to bring it out of the kitchen."
When there's news, there's suddenly a proper procedure. Who needs to know right away? Who will have to hear this directly from me, who will be angry if they hear it from someone else? How can I time the announcement right so that I'm not having to say goodbye for a painfully long time? Is it okay to tell the people I'm leaving that I'm really excited about the new job? Although this is something I'm going through, grief that I have to face, I have to acknowledge that the people I'm leaving behind are sad, too. How am I to accept that grief without being... I don't know... self-aggrandizing? How am I
to be okay when someone doesn't seem all that sad that I'm going? It's all a delicate balance, and fraught.

Still, through this whole process I've felt the strong hand of God on my shoulder, directing my steps like my parents once did, pushing me through the crowd at the fair. I remember the feeling of not needing to be able to see the path ahead or even know where we were, because my much taller parents could see what I couldn't, and would push me in the right direction. All there was (is) for me to do was keep walking. So here I go! It feels good and scary and exciting and unreal and promising and hard. And now you know.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

These are a Few of My Favorite Rules.

I've been thinking and reading and talking a lot about leadership lately, and when you have to explain your leadership style, it forces you to have to determine what it is. I've come up with three of my favorite themes for leadership and ones that I come back to over and over again while working with parish staffs.
1) The Levy Rule: I don't know who Levy is, but I read somewhere about a company that lived by this rule, attributed to one of their leaders, Somebody Levy. The rule is: if you're going to suggest it, be prepared to make it happen. I've been in meetings where people say "we should have a soup kitchen in our church basement! Someone really ought to do that!" They mean Someone Else. But the Levy rule says that if you think it's important enough to suggest, you must be prepared, at least, to work toward making it happen. If you think it would be neat to have a sculpture of the Immaculate Conception in butter, but you don't know how to sculpt and don't have the time to learn and you don't have any butter, then stow that thought away on your inner shelf until a time when you can commit to it. On the other hand, if you know a butter sculptor and are willing to give her a call, then let's hear about that idea!
(Another handy catch phrase is one used by this guy, however not in this video:  "There's no 'they' on the Santa Fe!" is what this submarine captain told his people when they said things like "they didn't order the right part" or "they screwed that up." He taught them to change their language to "we" and that gave them ownership-agency- over the entire system. It's something I'm going to remember and use the next time someone tries to blame someone else for... whatever. Check out the TED talk about how this nuclear sub director got his workers all on the same... deck... I don't know... watch it:
2) Don't Look for Trouble: I have a pet-peeve, and it's when someone (especially me!) throws out a new idea, and it's met immediately with reasons why IT WON'T WORK. Ooooh it makes me seethe just thinking about it. When you hear an idea, even a crazy-sounding, impossible-sounding, hard-to-do-sounding idea, just take a beat. Take a breath and revel in the possibility. Maybe the idea as floated won't work, but maybe it'll be a seed to a whole new flower. Wonder about it. Consider the possibilities. Think about how it could work. Do all that first.
3) Assume and Expect the Best: So often I've heard from parish staff members comments like these: "dno one will come to that." "They won't get it." "That language is too churchy, we need to make it simple." "No one reads the bulletin." I just don't believe that anyone is served by assuming the worst of the congregation. If it is true that you only improve at tennis by playing against someone who's better at it than you, then I think it's also true that we can challenge people to grow in their faith (and their vocabulary) by challenging. Here's an alternative catchy phrase that I try to remind people of on church staffs all the time: "If they're there, they care." Church is not considered mandatory by any means in the majority of our people anymore.If they're in our pews, it's because they care, at least a little, and we can and should work with them on that assumption.

I apparently collect catchphrases. Huh. I've got other rules, too, but... there's time for that in my busy blogging schedule! Now get back to work!