While conducting a communication training session for Project Managers International (PMI), we landed on this critical issue of trust that was the missing puzzle piece causing the conflict under discussion. As I consult with business and industry, this trust issue continues to be a foundation piece that is often overshadowed by the more glamorous and seemingly compelling topics of productivity, quotas, regulations, and performance reviews. Being a highly driven person myself, I truly understand this mentality. It’s all about getting that task list under submission. I will admit that on a particularly productive day, I just might take of a picture of my check-marked task list and send it to my best friend – just to brag. We want tangible proof of our hard work, and trust doesn’t quantify so easily on a spread sheet. Except it does.
People don’t leave difficult work to take other jobs; they leave difficult people. Considering the cost of finding, hiring, and training someone new, the financial loss is significant when someone decides to leave an organization. We certainly feel that when someone decides to leave a church staff. Chances are, trust is part of the equation in far bigger proportions than anyone chooses to discuss. Trust affects everything in every part of your organization and trust will be the glue that holds people together in times of stress, anxiety, and conflict.
Knowing that tasks are going to get the spotlight rather than the relationships, puts me in a persuasive mode when I am doing communication training in the corporate world. I’m constantly lobbying, trying to convince people that it’s critical to work on the relationships in the office rather than just the to-do list. That’s a hard sell for some who buy into the idea that, “Relationships don’t matter as long as I’m doing my work.” Wrong. It does matter; your organization is seriously handicapped if people buy into this delusion. Taking small amounts of time to build trust is even more important for task-driven people because it is likely the relationships are already on shaky ground.
Now, back to the PMI session. We talked about simple, time-efficient trust builders: finding things in common, listening, responding rather than reacting, work style preferences, consistency, noticing details about someone’s life, looking for small opportunities to build a positive foundation of friendliness and respect. These simple things are probably done in every other setting except work, especially when the clock and task gods are being diligently served.
Our session came to a close, and the next session on emotional intelligence began. Emotional intelligence and communication are sister disciplines, so I sat in on the session. I loved hearing about how the science of people skills is so closely tied to effective business skills. Then the speaker began to talk about trust. Right on, sister! Keep talking. My balloon was quickly burst, though, when one of the participants referred to my session and basically said, “All that touchy, feely stuff isn’t how I build trust. I build trust by meeting deadlines, quotas, and working hard.”
Sigh. Of course I know that people feel this way, but to hear it like that stung a little. And it really struck me how loyal we are to our own perspectives, our own way of doing things. This individual said this sincerely with the best of intentions. What I know, and she doesn’t, is that her productivity would be so much better if her relationships were stronger. Keep all this trust talk in balance. I know you can’t hang around all day at work chatting it up, doing trust falls, and organizing group hugs. And what does all this have to do with church anyway? Well, we can be very churchy without being very Jesusy. Running programs and ministries takes a great deal of corporate style organization and hard work. All this can be done without building any relationships at all if we are sacrificing to the task and clock gods. This lands on the spreadsheet bottom line as lower attendance and staff turnover. Being Jesusy requires being present, really seeing someone, appreciating what they bring to the world, and sharing the journey. As I look at God’s design for the world, I see so much balance between earth and sky, roots and branches, left and right, light and dark. It just makes sense to do a task/relationship balance check on our church leadership as well.
After serving as Children’s Minister since 2010, Amanda Box is now the Connections Minister for Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi. As Connections Minister, she works with ministry leaders, small groups, and new members. Previous career adventures include all things communication. Amanda has consulted with business and industry for over 20 years to equip people with improved communication skills so they are able to do their best work every day. Additionally, Amanda was a full-time college professor for 10 years and also spent four years as the public relations professional for a non-profit. Amanda earned her undergraduate degree in communication from Freed-Hardeman University in 1991 and a master’s degree in communication from Mississippi College in 1993. Amanda and her husband Chuck of 25 years live in Jackson with their three children: Trey, Isabelle, and Hazel.