It’s no surprise the world of virtual communication is becoming the prominent form of teamwork in today’s culture. From remote working to mobile offices and video conferencing, the trajectory of team communication seems to be heading towards–if not already arrived at– an entirely virtual world.
In January 2000 I joined a virtual team. This was my first experience working virtually. For the next 7 years I learned and grew to appreciate the integration of technology into my daily routine. One early takeaway was that I needed to build a strong social network as most of my working day was spent alone, connected to a phone or computer; unless I was meeting in person with clients. I still lean into some of the friendships I developed over two decades ago today. While there are certainly strengths and pitfalls to the virtual approach to ministry and work, it’s become our everyday norm.
The question we’re now faced with is this: how do we embrace this virtual norm while avoiding its pitfalls? Whether you lead a church plant, an established congregation or serve in a network role, I would imagine that your work utilizes technology differently than it did pre-pandemic. Let’s discuss some of the models and tools–as well as the challenges–that accompany virtual communication.
As a leader and coach, I’ve found it necessary to provide the tools for my team’s communication. Without a clear understanding and expectation of how we will communicate, details can get lost and messages can get crossed, especially when you’re not meeting face-to-face. It is important to establish the mode in which you plan to communicate with your team members and commit to using that specific method for internal communication.
Some of these tools include Slack, Trello, Asana, and Basecamp, to name just a few. Each of these platforms enables you to communicate internally, assign tasks with deadlines, and share project ideas in one space with your team members.
The appealing nature of the virtual world is the array of benefits that come with it. Some of those benefits include:
Flexibility: The ease of choosing your own schedule and working style from a number of different locations. This can boost your productivity and focus. When one works in the same space everyday, it can be easy to become mentally “stuck.” A lot of virtual and remote work can enable one to choose their own hours, thus bringing more balance to work and personal life – especially if one has other commitments with family or loved ones.
Fewer Distractions: Many people thrive when working with others, but others need to be able to work alone to complete tasks. Not being in a shared workspace can help some team members give their full attention to a project.
Cost/Time Effective: Without an office or on-site workspace, there is no need to pay for a building or office location. One can simply work from any location, including their home. Less time and money is wasted because there is no commute time to work, no overhead, and greater balance for team members, allowing them to work more efficiently.
Lest we forget the pitfalls, there are plenty of challenges that virtual teams face when it comes to working efficiently. Understanding these challenges ahead of time will help to prevent these issues from causing major disruptions in teamwork and productivity.
Some of those challenges to virtual teams include:
Decreased social interaction/team experiences: We noted above that many people work well in solitude. They have fewer distractions and can thrive when given the space to use their creative skills. However, some teams are more creative when people are working together and interacting with one another on a daily basis. Working with a team in a physical location helps to build strong bonds and strengthens the team as a whole. Many team members that thrive on social interaction can often find themselves feeling isolated and lonely as they spend each day working without people around them. It is essential to evaluate the needs of team members on a regular basis.
Accountability/self-discipline: Along with working alone comes the reality of unmonitored work time. Because of this there is often the need to self-motivate to get the work done. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility to be self disciplined when working on a virtual team.
Missed communication: Even with the most up-to-date platforms, there will be times when communication is lost or overlooked. When team members do not meet regularly, there is opportunity for deadlines to be missed and for ideas to be misconstrued. The dependence on technology can pose a challenge that limits teams from being consistently on the same page. Communication is a major factor in healthy teams and must be prioritized in order for teams to operate efficiently.
Let’s return to the question we asked at the beginning: “How do we embrace this virtual norm while also avoiding its pitfalls?”
I believe if we commit to being aware of the challenges and take into consideration how team members operate on an individual level, our teams will thrive. When we see red flags and challenges that arise, addressing them immediately can prevent burnout and miscommunication.
Here are three questions to help you to reflect on and consider the best way to serve your virtual team:
1. What is your current team model?
2. What is the ideal team arrangement for your team and its ministry?
3. What benefits do you see in working virtually? What do you need to watch out for?
Photo by Eduardo Dutra from Pexels
I was speaking to a friend recently about how we make life decisions. We discussed the importance of looking at a decision from God’s perspective vs. a human perspective alone. The difference is stark: when we make a decision based on the human intellect alone we might come away with a “good decision”; in contrast, when we consider God’s perspective on a matter we engage the spiritual dimension. This leads us down the path of prayerful decision making.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I were discerning where we wanted to live. At the time we lived in an apartment on the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. As time went on, we sensed God calling us to move downtown. We wanted to move specifically into a poor, multi-ethnic community where we could connect with people who were far from God. Little did we know where we would land.
I’ve been learning some things about discerning God’s voice from other voices. I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned in the hope that in the quiet, you can better hear God’s voice too.
Borrowing from St. Ignatius (1491-1556), I have adapted the process he used to discern God’s will when making a decision. This is a process you can use personally or apply to help others. Gina and I applied many of these steps when we were discerning God’s plan for our move from the suburbs into the inner city.
1.State the problem
When we can clearly and succinctly state a problem, it’s already partially solved. Take time here to thoroughly understand the problem so you can concisely articulate it. A clearly understood problem is a problem 80% solved.
2. Unpack options
You will almost always have at least two options, if not more. Understand each one and its implications so that you can make an informed decision. The energy you put here will be well spent and will pay dividends later.
3. Pray for inner freedom
For Ignatius, “inner freedom” meant “indifference” to the outcome. Not ambivalence, but earnestly desiring God’s will, whatever it may be. Once His will was discerned, he would be wholly committed to leaning in and following through.
4. Do you need any other information to make a decision?
To gather all relevant information needed to make a prayerful decision is an important next step. What do you sense Jesus wants you to know in order to make a prayerful decision? The answer to this question will direct you down a path that might lead you to an unexpected outcome.
5. Pray for inner freedom – again
This can’t be overstated. The goal is to begin at a place of indifference and arrive at a place of acceptance. It’s easy to slide back and forth from a human place to a spiritual place.
6. List advantages & disadvantages
Surprisingly, I’ve overlooked this step more times than I care to admit. A simple list of the pros and cons can reveal the wisest choice. Make certain you have taken ample time to slow down, pray, and reflect on this step.
7. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages
Now – compare and reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the options before you. I would encourage you to think through opportunities and threats when making big decisions. This can clarify nuances you may not have considered.
8. Test your reasoning with your imagination
Ignatius engaged his imagination in the Spiritual Exercises using the Gospels in particular. Engage scripture and allow yourself to imagine that you’re in the scene with Jesus. Ask Him, “What do you have to say about this? Then ask yourself, “What was that like?”
This is where I am still learning. Use your imagination to project where you will be 3, 6, 9, and 12 months down the road with each option. What sensations are you experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and in your “gut”? Check in with your body: what do you sense is going on?
9. Make a tentative decision
In a way, this is testing the water before you finalize your decision. You can apply different tools to help you at this juncture. One tool I use is called the Objective Prioritization Process. Simply take your options and compare them against one other. For example, if you have four options, number each one and “match” all the various combinations (such as 1v2, 1v3, 1v4 and so on). Then choose which option you prefer under each and total the number of 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s. You will then have your top choice(s).
10. Confirm the decision
Decisions can be confirmed in a number of ways. Individually, you might need to sit with the decision for a season to determine how it feels and whether it makes sense. You might want feedback from trusted friends. Or you might simply move on once you affirm this is the direction you want to take.
11. Make your decision even if you aren’t certain about it
When I choose to make a decision I like to think I’ve made it prayerfully based on the information I had in the moment. Situations do change; but when I do my due diligence I can be sure the Holy Spirit has also done His.
Gina and I employed much of this process in discerning where we would move. Eventually, we landed in a townhouse in the middle of an immigrant community. People from all over the globe would settle there as a means to establish some stability in their lives with the hope of moving up and out. Over the 12 years we lived there, we started our family and found wonderful opportunities to see God work.
Discerning God’s will using a prayerful process made it possible for us to recall why we had moved there, especially during tumultuous seasons.
Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash
You’ve been coaching for a while now. You may have even completed coach certification, but you feel there is something more… Are you coaching at your optimal level or could you be a better coach? How do you really know how well you’re doing?
First published on CCT
Sure, there are always some obvious red flags when your coaching isn’t effective. But don’t wait for your clients to start dropping off the face of the earth; instead, consider these 5 signs that you could be a better coach.
How to Know When Your Coaching Needs to Improve
1. People aren’t knocking at your door.
If you are functioning well as a coach and helping those you serve, word will spread. People you have coached will start sending others your way because they know how helpful you can be. The influence you have will be expanding because of the quality of what you’re offering. If you’re not experiencing those word-of-mouth referrals, it’s time to assess how well you’re really functioning as a coach.
2. You don’t ask for specific feedback.
If you don’t regularly receive specific feedback from clients, you aren’t getting the constructive critique you need to grow. Most coaches are afraid to ask for feedback about how they can be. Those who do ask are the ones who keep improving. Even for those who are good at reading the room, no one really knows how clients are actually experiencing them. To really find out, you’ll need to ask–and you’ll need to ask for specifics. A general, “How’s everything going?” is unlikely to yield anything constructive. Don’t let insecurity prevent you from continuing to grow as a coach.
3. You’ve stopped checking your mirrors.
If you think you don’t have blind spots, you will eventually crash. Thinking you already know it all or you have nothing left to learn is the classic trap of overconfidence. Even if you’re at the top of your game, there is room to grow and sharpen your skills. In fact, coaches who are prideful often receive the most negative feedback from those they have coached. Be sure you’re not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3). Overconfidence leads directly to complacency…and then to lower and lower performance levels.
4. The thrill is gone.
Sometimes when we’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, we experience a drop in our level of excitement or our enthusiasm plateaus. If you’re not looking forward to your coaching sessions or they begin to feel burdensome, it’s an important indicator that you’re going through the motions and need to find a way to effectively fill your tank.
5. You don’t have time to grow.
If you haven’t participated in intentional growth training of some kind in the last 18 months, you may not be prioritizing your coaching. Practitioners in almost all fields are required to engage in ongoing training–and for good reasons. Working with people has profound implications, and when you try to improve and learn by yourself, it doesn’t have the same effect as doing it with others. It requires humility and intentionality to keep stretching and growing.
If one or more of these signs have hit home, it’s time to renew your commitment to grow as a coach.
The good news is that we have the perfect way to get you back to coaching at your best—the Coaching Excellence GrowthTrack!
This GrowthTrack utilizes the only research-backed Christian coach assessment on the market to identify your strengths and areas for development. Learning is customized to meet your needs as you meet one-on-one with a highly qualified coach mentor as well as peers in a cohort format.
It’s time to be the best coach you can be!
The Fall 2022 Coaching Excellence GrowthTrack starts September 1st! Get the best deal by paying in full before 8-15-2022 for a 10% discount!
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Robert E Logan and Gary Reinecke Christian Coaching Tools Co-Founders.
Photo by Kalle Kortelainen on Unsplash
What do you do when your plans are stymied?
Even the best of leaders will discover their limitations when circumstances are challenging. I’m not talking about when the thrill has waned or when you lack motivation; I’m referring to the times when you are working hard but not getting the results you’re envisioning.
How you navigate those seasons in your life and work is a testament to the way you lead yourself.
The English Premiership (top soccer league) launched the start of the new season this weekend. The best of the best know how to grind out a result, even when things are not going favorably–or at least they can figure out how not to lose, walking away with a tie. While not ideal, a tie earns 1 point for a tie versus 0 points for a loss and 3 points for a win. Last year, Liverpool came in second by the slimmest of margins to Manchester City – they had one less point over the course of the season.
Have you ever gone through a tough set of circumstances when things out of your control went sideways? Did you feel your world caving in or everything going against you? Did you find yourself struggling to enjoy life?
As I’ve moved through these seasons (and helped others do the same), I have discovered four important aspects of self-leadership. Focusing on these during times of crisis can help recalibrate us and can help us move more purposefully through challenging circumstances.
4 signs of self-leadership
- Remember your purpose (Why)
- Be clear on the end game (Win)
- Embrace the responsibility of leadership (What)
- Surround yourself with people that care for you (Who)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1904-1945) was a model of someone who led well. He understood his purpose. He was clear on the win. He embraced his leadership role. He surrounded himself with people who cared about him and with the things he cared for: establishing the Kingdom of God and the fall of the Third Reich!
Few people have had such an impact on the world as Bonhoeffer. It was his ability to stay calm and resolved in the midst of a life that was disrupted by arrest and imprisonment in concentration camps–and eventual execution–that inspired his fellow prisoners. His writings on discipleship, community, and ethics are classics. His views were tested in real-life circumstances not in an academic institution.
He had this to say about the church:
“The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.”
His was a radical call to discipleship.
Here are three questions you can use for your reflection (or to help others) when confronted with challenging circumstances:
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- What are the most critical things I/you need to do in this situation for success?
- Who can I/you lean on during this time?
How can these questions guide you when you find yourself in need of grinding out a result?
Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash