I tried this interesting little exercise recently and I encourage you to do it too. Here’s how it goes: Pick a milestone moment in your life and think about the advice you would share if you could go back and have coffee with yourself. Neat, right?
I really wanted something I could share with our We Are One women, so as I thought about my 25-year-old, newly-promoted-into-management self, I came up with four major points I’d stress to her, and realized that each is related with a fear in decision-making.
That fear would show up here is not surprising. After all, you can point to any area of my life and I can tell you of a fear for which the Lord has dealt or is dealing with me. Irrational fear, fear of rejection, fear of fear–I’ve experienced plenty–-each submitted to my gracious God to heal in the way that only He can. And let’s face it–-being a decision-maker can be scary. We don’t like to be wrong. Wrong is a big red “X.” Wrong is…well…not right. So as I consider the pitfalls I’d point out to the younger me, I first say, “Don’t be afraid.”
1. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Although the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra has always felt pretty bogus for me, don’t think I haven’t tried it. However, I can’t think of one instance where pretending I understood something made for anything other than confusion and frustration. Instead, admit when you don’t “get it” and be willing to research or learn something new. You don’t have to become an expert on everything your team does, but asking for more detail of a particular process or a demo of critical software will better prepare you to dialog with them and advocate for them. I also encourage you to seek out mentorship on a regular basis. Jot down a brief list of questions and set aside some time to discuss your “I don’t know's” with someone who knows.
2. Don’t be afraid to take your time. My daughter caught a rebound during her basketball game last weekend, and instinctively I called out, “Hold the ball; slow it down!” This can be a solid offensive strategy, allowing your team to set up a play and find the best shot. It’s no different in the workplace. Sometimes you’re going to feel pressured to give immediate feedback, even if you’re not comfortable that it’s right. Don’t do it, especially when the result could have long-term repercussions. If you’re an intuition-based decision maker, beware of getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. Process the details if you need to. Take time to pray. Remember that it’s your job to set up your team for the best shot, not necessarily the quick shot.
3. Don’t be afraid to go with your instinct. Ever heard the phrase “paralysis through analysis"? I have. My comfort zone is information-based decision making. On more than one occasion I’ve been guilty of wanting ALL the data before I would be comfortable coming to a conclusion. As I indicated, there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to process what you know, but don’t get stuck sorting through minutiae. One of Colin Powell’s 18 Leadership Principles is the P=40 to 70 formula. What this means is that when you have 40 to 70% of the data, you go with your gut. In our case, this is Holy Spirit–-don’t forget that your most capable Ally is right there. Talk to Him and be confident in your decision.
4. Don’t be afraid to be the lone voice of dissent. I can recall moments throughout my career when I didn’t agree with my peers on a direction. In so many of these instances, I tried desperately to change my perspective to align with theirs. After all, they were more experienced, better educated, or in some instances, just louder. I would assume that I “missed it” and needed to work on being better aligned. A while back, I found myself in this scenario once again, praying that the Lord would help me to get on the same page. His response was simple: “You’re not supposed to agree. I’ve gifted you with a different perspective and I need you to communicate that perspective to the group.” What a relief! Maybe you’re people-focused while someone else is results-focused. Maybe you’re communication-focused when someone else is task-focused. Don’t discount your idea because it doesn’t match; you could have the key to turning a good idea into a great one.
As we take our last sips of lukewarm coffee, I would close our time together by praying Joshua 1:9 over myself. I pray it over you too, “ …Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I would share with myself these words that the Lord has spoken over me many times and in many ways: “I’ve placed you in this role for such a time as this. I’ve equipped you, and I’m with you. Don’t be afraid; we got this.”
Heather co-leads the Wednesday afternoon lifegroup, Being Intentional. She is Vice President of Communication for an entertainment media distribution company. Heather has been a Trinity member for over 30 years. She and her husband Joel have been married 11 years and are truly delighted by the daily amusements in raising their two energetic daughters, Avery, 8 and Liddy 5. Heather’s favorite things include finishing (emphasis on finishing) a long run, seeing an unlikely plan come together, and encouraging women as they learn to lead.