How to Challenge the Process?

I often get asked by frustrated parishioners, "I would like our church to be more _______. How do I get my pastor to change?"

That's a great question. How do we challenge the process?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be a raving fan publicly and an honest critic privately. Never verbalize your frustrations in public. Public loyalty creates private leverage. This is true isn't it? Think about it. How much time do you have in your schedule for someone you know has been publicly critical of you? You are suddenly busy, aren't you? But what about when a raving fan asks for an appointment? You will clear your schedule to meet with them. The bottom line, if you want to influence with your leader, don't express your frustrations in public. Find something to be a fan about and voice your praise publicly. Don't be dishonest, but like the old axiom says, "if you can't say nothin' good, don't say anything at all."

  2. Develop the art of challenging the process without challenging the authority of the leader. The degree you can challenge your leader is based on the degree of your relationship with them. If you don't have a trust relationship established with your leader, your insights will most likely be unwelcome. However, if you take the time to develop a sincere relationship with your leader, you will begin to gain their trust and in turn have their ear. Another important consideration is timing. Regardless of the degree of relationship established there is the important rule of timing. For example, never confront a speaker immediately following the speech. The speaker is generally raw and tired and therefore more emotional than normal. It is always good to save your comments for a day or to. You will find it will be much more received when emotions are not in play.

  3. When instruction is given, follow through now and debrief later. More often than not, we as followers do not always see the big picture and therefore do not always understand everything that is at stake when a decision is made. Therefore, it is always wise to follow through on the instructions and then add your input or suggestions during the debriefing.

  4. Don’t confuse your insights as moral imperatives. Just because you see things differently than your leader, doesn't necessarily mean you are right. Hold on to you ideas and insights loosely. Too many times we marry our insights and view everything else as wrong. Be careful of this attitude. It can only lead to frustration and hurt.

  5. Remember that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean your leader is not open to change. It may mean your idea isn’t any good. Sometimes, we have bad ideas. I know it's shocking. But not every idea is a good one. Again, don't be married to your ideas. And if you hear a no, don't assume your leader is closed to change. It may be that you don't see the whole picture, or that your idea is simply a poor one, and that's okay. We all have bad ideas from time to time.

As a leader, it is vital that we are open to the process being challenged. In fact, I would encourage you to teach your people how to challenge the process. I do this by:

  1. Creating opportunities for those who report to me to regularly challenge the process. I ask all of my staff and key volunteers to give me weekly reports. In these reports I ask 7 main questions: a) What are we doing right? (Let’s optimize) b) What’s wrong? (Let’s change) c) What’s confusing? (Let’s clarify) d) What’s missing? (Let’s add) e) What are the threats? (Let’s avoid) f) What are the opportunities? (Let’s exploit) g) What could we eliminate that no one would miss? (Let’s cut it out)

  2. Clarifying what is non-negotiable and what is up for discussion. I teach the Vision is permanent but the models and programs are temporary. The Message is sacred by the methods are not.

  3. Reminding myself that "Progress is always proceeded by change. Change is always proceeded by challenge. Challenging the status quo is often where leadership begins." Leaders see things differently than everyone else. They generally carry a vision, that's why they stand out. When someone is challenging the process it may be they are a fledgling leader and the last thing I want to do is squash them because of my own insecurities.

Questions: Are you a raving fan publicly of your leader? Do you feel comfortable confronting your leader?Leaders, do you invite your people to challenge the process?