06 Apr '13
Learning to understand those we work with
There are few skills more important than that of learning how to understand those who we work with. It was Barnabas who watched and understood Paul after his conversion when others were deeply fearful of him. It was also Barnabas who understood John Mark when Paul wrote him off as a a failure: He got it right when Paul got it wrong.
Paul grew in this area and was a good read of Timothy and Titus, two men who he took under his wing to mentor. First and Second Timothy are full of insight into Timothy's wiring, propensities, strengths and weaknesses with specific wisdom and insight brought to bear by Paul. Paul had learned to do what Barnabas did instinctively, exegete people.
Everyone has fears, insecurities, strengths, unique wiring and blind spots that impact who they are, how they relate and how they are perceived. Good leaders learn how to exegete and understand those they lead and work with because it allows them to speak into their lives in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
This is a skill that can be learned. Often young leaders, like Paul, are too busy with their missional agenda to understand those around them. Hopefully, like Paul, they also learn the importance of exegeting people and opportunities along with the text.
Several simple suggestions for those who want to grow in their ability to exegete colleagues and staff. First, spend time in dialogue with them. It is in dialogue and probing that one best understands where another individual is coming from, what drives them and their framework of thinking and understanding. This is what Barnabas did with Paul in the early days. When others were afraid of him and therefore shunned him, Barnabas took him aside and talked with him - encouraged him and discipled him.
Second, watch, listen and observe words and actions. It is amazing what one can learn by simply being a good observer of words and actions. This is important in understanding those who report to you, those who are your colleagues or those above you. They more you understand how people think, how they react and how they make decisions the better you can influence their thinking and work productively with them.
Third, take time to mull and think about why a staff member reacts or acts the way they do. Just as insight into texts come to those who preach and teach as they mull the text so insight into people comes if we will take the time to mull them. People are complex and the better we understand their complexity the better we will understand who they are and what informs their actions.
Those who become exegetes of those around them find themselves with much better relationships than those who don't. In fact, those who don't build this skill often end up with shallow relationships because they never took the time to understand their colleagues. In the end it can short circuit one's leadership effectiveness.