How To Unlock Potential In Your Church Volunteers

Posted by Aaron Buer on October 25, 2018

There is nothing quite as humbling as coming face to face with a weakness.

Can I be honest? I hate it.

And yet, I’m grateful for clarity because how are we ever going to grow as leaders, pastors and communicators if we don’t know about our weaknesses?

In the last month, I have come to see a blind spot in my leadership.

The clarity came through this book:

This isn’t a new book and perhaps you’ve already read it.

If you haven’t, I’d pick it up. It’s a great and challenging read.

The basic premise is this: The best leaders are multipliers.

What the author means by this is that the best leaders draw out the best in their people and this leads to double the production and creative output of each person.

On the flipside, most leaders are diminishers.

By this, the author means that many leaders actually diminish the output of their people.

And here’s where it gets painful for me.

I think that in some ways I’ve been functioning as a diminishing leader.

Ugh! It hurts.

I’m mad.

And yet, I’m grateful, because here is an opportunity to improve and grow and help the people under my care reach their God-given potential.

I’ve been talking with one of my leadership mentors, who is a phenomenal leader and also recommended that I read the book.

I asked him to help me understand what he does to help unlock potential in others.

Here’s a synopsis of what he shared and how I’ve been trying to implement the ideas.

1. I Have The Best Idea vs. Someone Else Has The Best Idea

I’m learning that great leadership starts with humility.

For years, I’ve inadvertently thought of leadership as me telling my team what we should do when we run into a problem because...well, I’m the leader.

I’ve been tasked as the leader and I have more experience.

It makes sense. Right?

Maybe not.

I hate to say it but I’ve been operating under the belief that I’m probably the smartest one in the room.

I know, I know. You’d never do that.

What I’m realizing is that there is incredible wisdom in approaching every conversation and meeting with the understanding that I’m probably not the smartest person in the room and someone else likely has a better idea than me.

What I’m finding helpful is entering into a debate or meeting while reminding myself that someone else probably has the best idea.

I tend to be a pretty dominant person, so I have to constantly remind myself of this thought.

I have to tell myself to be patient and don’t dominate the conversation.

So, if you want to become a better leader - a leader who helps to unlock the potential of every person on your team, start by changing your assumption about best ideas.

2. Ask Questions vs. Providing Solutions

So, how do you find those “best ideas” that probably aren’t yours?

You get there by asking questions.

I am so quick to share my ideas and solutions, but what I’ve discovered is that I’ve accidentally created a team culture in which everyone is basically waiting for me to share my idea because that’s probably the idea we’ll use.

It’s almost like we uncover a problem and all eyes turn to the leader.

Well, what do we do?

When we as leaders constantly provide the solutions, we miss an opportunity to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in our teams.

Slowing down the process through great question asking can raise the skills and abilities of the entire team.

If you want to become a leader that helps to unlock the potential of everyone, slow down the process by asking great questions and stop providing solutions.

In doing so, you’ll develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills of everyone under your care.

3. Allowing Failure vs. Personally Fixing

You are probably in leadership because you are really good at something.

You have a skill that is exceptional and, because of this, people look to you for leadership.

For me, my strongest skill is communication - preaching, teaching, writing, etc.

For a long time now, I’ve thought that one of my best contributions to my team is to use my skill to elevate everyone else’s work.

For example, when we write curriculum, I usually edit and rework the content to make it better.

I get nervous when someone else creates teaching content that I believe is weak.

And so, I rework it to make it better and then everyone wins.

Except...not everyone wins.

What I’m realizing is that my swooping in and constantly fixing has shortchanged the learning process for my teammates.

What I should be doing is providing guidance on the front end regarding what the expectations are.

And then providing feedback on the back end regarding how well the person hit the mark.

Meddling in the middle not only shortchanges the learning process but also leads to people not contributing their best work because they know it will just get changed.

The best thing that can happen is allowing for a measure of failure.

Obviously, you can’t permit catastrophic failure.

Wow. There were 17 points of heresy in your sermon. We have a problem.

But, we can (and should) permit a measure of failure.

In your second point, I really think you lost momentum. What do you think happened?

Allowing people to feel the natural consequences of subpar work is one of the best motivators for future growth and success.

So, if you want to help unlock greatness in the people under your care, allow them to fail a bit.

Don’t give into the temptation to swoop in and fix everything.

But beware...this is really difficult to do.

It is so hard to watch someone fail, especially in an area that you possess great strengths.

But, if we don’t take the time to do this, we simply won’t develop people and that is a travesty.

Wrap Up

Well, this felt like a very vulnerable post.

I hope that my mistakes help open your eyes to potential weaknesses in your own leadership.

Better yet, I hope my mistakes help you avoid similar mistakes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon. Thanks for reading.

Topics: Advice

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