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By: Heather Snodgrass
Leadership doesn’t always look like what we expect. Sometimes being a leader means leading a team from the top-down, but sometimes it means leading side-to-side, and sometimes it means leading from the bottom-up. I’ve lead well from the top-down and I’ve lead well from the bottom-up, but leading side-to-side is a whole different story. And for me, it’s not a story I’m proud of.
Recently, I co-directed a big event with a co-worker of mine. We started planning for the event six months in advance and everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly, that is until about a month and a half before D-day. Things started heating up, tempers quietly flared, and tensions built. Three days before the event, we had a…conversation about how we’d been feeling toward each other. It was respectful, but it was filled with the frustrations we’d built up toward each other over the past six months.
Hearing the things my co-director had to say about how I’d acted as a partner hurt me. When I heard things like, “You’ve acted like I couldn’t do anything” and “I feel like you haven’t been trusting me,” I instantly thought of every reason why I was right in acting the way that I had. Because I was right. She was wrong.
I allowed myself those few minutes of anger, but then I forced myself to calm down and really think about what she was saying. Were those things true? Had I done them? Is that how I wanted to be known? During our whole journey I kept thinking to myself how much easier it was to lead from the top-down or from the bottom-up, but if I can’t lead side-to-side, am I really a leader?
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and mourning the death of the leader in me, I decided to be proactive about it. Yeah, I failed as a partner this time around, but I’m going to have a thousand more chances to partner with people, and I’m going to learn from my mistakes and do better next time.
Here are three things I learned about how to lead well with others:
1) Learn each other’s strengths up front.
If you’re going to be successful in leading alongside others, you have to know and be honest about your strengths, so you can play to those and have the best possible outcome. I’m organized and good at communication. I’m not very creative without someone giving me a boost, and I can’t visualize spaces well at all. I would be a terrible interior designer. So naturally, I wouldn’t play the role of decorator in planning an event. Next time I co-lead with someone I’ll make sure that we have this conversation up-front so it’s clear what parts of the job I’ll do well, and what parts they’ll do well.
2) Have “last 10%” conversations early and often.
At Cross Point, we have a staff value that says, “Lean into the last 10%”. It’s not hard to be 90% honest in conversations and conveniently leave out the tough parts—the frustrations and tensions, or even the thanks and appreciation. In the above situation, if my co-director and I had had last 10% conversations early on when we started feeling frustrated with each other, instead of saving it until three days before the event, then we would have had a much more enjoyable planning experience than we did. Last 10% conversations are not easy to have, but they’re necessary if you want to be successful as a leader.
3) Trust. Trust. Trust.
If you’re a type-A control freak like me, trusting others to do things well is hard. However, after learning each other’s strengths up front, all you can do is trust that your partner is the best one for that role and can get the job done well. Sneakily taking tasks from him/her isn’t going to do anything except erode trust and burn the bridge between you.
I wish my co-director and I had done these three things at the beginning of and throughout our partnership rather than waiting until the end, but I’m still glad we had the conversation we did. During those final three days before the event, I worked hard to implement the things she had told me I’d failed at. I went out of my way to show her I trusted her, I thanked her often, and I celebrated our success with her. It ended up being an incredible event and, while it definitely wasn’t a smooth process, she made me a better leader.
Leading with others is one of the hardest parts of being a leader, but if you can learn to lead well in those situations, you’ll be combining the best of many people into one team or event, and what ends up happening will be magical.
[/vc_column_text][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”297″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Heather Snodgrass works at Cross Point Church as the Bellevue Dream Center Coordinator, where she oversees the DCS Safe Room and the adult special needs ministry. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Taylor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]