Is Your Vision Holding You Back?

 In Blog, Communication

There is a difference in ‘how’ we see things and ‘what’ we see. Walking outside, two people can look up at the sky and see the clouds forming and know that rain is coming. That is what they see. How we see it can be very different. One person thinks, ‘Of course it’s going to rain – I just washed my car’, while the other person thinks, ‘Rain! This will be so good for my garden. We needed this.’  How you see the world is a matter of context, history, and perspective. It is the ‘how’ of seeing that shapes our beliefs and what we think is possible.

For the past four years, athletes from all over the world prepared for the highest form of competition – the Olympics. Each competitor had pinned their hopes and dreams on the possibility of winning on the world’s largest stage. Matthew Centrowitz was aspiring to  compete in the 1500 meter race. Over the past several years, he had won medals in several world class races, so his dreams of Olympic gold were anything but far fetched. The challenge he faced was overcoming history. No American had won the 1500 meter since 1908. Yup, not one American had received gold in this event in over 108 years. But Matt beat the odds bringing home Olympic gold with a time of 3:50. Amazing.

But there’s more to the story. As is normally the case, after the Olympics have ended, the Paralympic Games are opened. This is an opportunity for people to compete who have disabilities and physical limitations. Despite these challenges, the Paralympics is a pageantry of hope and possibility despite the athlete’s limitations. This time, the unheard of happened. When the 1500 meter race was over, standing atop the podium was Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka. His time was 3:48.  In fact, not just Baka, but three other competitors finished the 1500 meter in under 3:50 beating Centrowitz’s 3:50 Olympic gold-winning time. Each of these four athletes had one thing in common. They were visually impaired.  What others would say were physical limitations, were not a barrier to outrunning gold medalist Centrowitz’s time.

Perhaps what enabled the paralympic runners to perform at such an amazing level wasn’t what they could see, but what they couldn’t. By not seeing what was ‘possible’ they risked everything by setting a pace that others would say is unsustainable. By not seeing the cameras and crowds, perhaps they pushed past limitations turning them into assets. No one can say for sure what it was that caused them to have what others would call impossible abilities, but what cannot be taken away or disputed is that they were the fastest 4 people in Rio, regardless of abilities.

Too often, we in churches look to what is possible, what is likely to happen, and how we think things are going to play out. Like most people, how we see risk, failure and what others think  informs what we are willing to do. Perhaps it’s time to reframe risk, failure and the possible:

Here are 4 tips to creating a high functioning team that embraces risk:

Give Permission

High performing teams are lead by someone who gives permission to teammates. Great leaders let others lead. Following the stories in the gospel, Jesus knew he had limited time to ‘do the work’. He spent the majority of his time equipping and empowering his key people to become the leaders of the future. His model was simple and powerful. Watch me do it. Go try it yourself. Let’s talk about how it went and what we learned. Go try it again.

Re-define Failure

If we choose to reframe failure as not trying, then when we do fail, it isn’t something to hide. If we can’t point to and even celebrate our failures, we are not likely trying or risking enough. The status quo won’t get us where we want to go, so that means we must try. For more on the benefits of failure, check out Fail, by J.R. Briggs.  Often in our greatest failures, we find the most exquisite grace and hope.

Eliminate Shame

We cannot lead teams without accountability, but how we respond to mistakes is the most significant factor in high functioning teams. The core difference between shame and guilt is that guilt says ‘I made a mistake. Not going to do that again if I can help it’ and shame says “I AM a mistake and I will do that again because it is who I am.’  This is not just semantics. As leaders, it is our job to help the people on the team be accountable for what we do, but we cannot allow shame to become part of the culture.

Identify the lessons

We are all busy, but if we want to build thriving teams, we cannot be so busy that we miss the opportunity to review what worked, what didn’t work and what we would do differently. Innovators don’t think of things as good and bad, perfect or horrible. We expand into new ground by experimentation and iteration. This means that we need to reflect on what we could do differently. I know it takes time, but it will more than pay for itself if we make the investment in identifying lessons learned.

What are the ideas and dreams of how things can be different in your church that you haven’t tried because they might not work? How can we redefine what it means to connect, to grow, and to engage by seeing possibilities in what was previously seen as dangerous? Our dreams might fail. They totally could. But they could also take flight.

What bold risk are you willing to take today?