My husband travels to China for business at least once a month and so we’ve become used to a lot of long-distance communicating. I’ve learned that my husband becomes so engrossed in what he’s doing while he travels that he sometimes forgets to communicate things that are important. Case in point: About a year ago Dan was on one of his usual 10-day trips to China. We hadn’t spoken in a few days but when he called, he started telling me all about shopping for dishes and a new mattress and how he couldn’t understand why nothing was set up yet at the “apartment.” After a moment of silence, I finally chimed in with a lot of sadness in my voice and asked, “Are you moving to China?” The response was quick as Dan backtracked and explained that they had gotten an apartment for an employee that included an extra room for he and other employees to use when they were in the country—a cost savings for them—a moment of panic for the wife. While it now makes for a great humorous story, in the moment I felt crushed and Dan felt horrible for failing to communicate about the apartment before he left. My husband and I normally make a pretty good team—but we are keenly aware that tension builds when we aren’t communicating clearly with each other.
Part 3 of Larry Osborne’s book, Sticky Teams, covers the critical topic of communication. In this section, Osborne highlights four key areas where communication is crucial for teams to stay sticky:
Change—I love the line Osborne gives about the advice an old farmer gives to a young and newly arrived pastor of a church, “Go slow, son. Churches are a lot like horses, they don’t like to be startled or surprised. It causes deviant behavior.” If you’ve ever served at a church you can totally relate to the farmer’s advice. Communication is so important when implementing change in an organization. It’s vital to test the waters, listen and respond to the change resistors, and to sell the idea to individuals before presenting it to the group at large.
Salaries—This is a topic that seems to be covered too lightly at board meetings because it’s tabled until the end when everyone is tired and ready to go home. But salaries aren’t something that can be decided on a whim; it’s important for the board to discuss it as both an investment and an expense and determine how pay will be structured before hires are made and evaluations are conducted.
Money—The subject has split, even leveled, many churches over the years. It’s the topic that no one really wants to talk about but expects that it will be there to pay for everything in relation to church and ministry. When communicating about money, it’s important to plan—saving is a good thing and don’t make assumptions—always consider the facts in regards to money. And one of the best ways to communicate in regards to money—a simple thank you to those who generously and sacrificially give.
The Tough Stuff—Churches aren’t perfect because people aren’t perfect. Churches have to tackle tough situations at times such as moral failures, financial crisis, or releasing staff to name a few. Discretion, honesty, and grace are all important elements to be used when communicating in areas that can, if navigated incorrectly, leave wounds and damage that will scar for years to come.
Think On This
How would you currently rate your staff’s communication today? In what areas could communication be stronger? Why are topics such as change, salaries, and money tough to talk about? What are one or two things that you can specifically do this week to improve communication with your team?