By Mike Klockenbrink

Checked my schedule, I’ve got a meeting at 10:00, lunch appointment and emails all afternoon. I thought the meeting at 10:00 was to discuss how things were proceeding according to the plan. Once it started I realized that was a wrong assumption. Oops, my bad.

Bam! Ambushed. Heads spinning; trying to gather my thoughts. Where is all of this coming from? I thought we had this under control. Breath, just listen, calm down. Seek first to understand then to be understood.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced this. It’s not a good spot to be in. Unfortunately this happens on a regular basis in the workplace.

One of the first things I learned in any successful organization is that you must drive out fear. As long as fear exists, nobody is free to be themselves. If every time you were called to a meeting you were in fear of something about the meeting, I would have to ask is this the kind of organization I would like to work for.

So how do you make this happen? It starts at the top and trickles down. Lead by example with your immediate staff. Create an atmosphere of transparency. I would recommend that the leadership team take a two day retreat. I know this may be difficult for many of you, but the rewards will justify the cost. The agenda should be very simple, get to know each other. I mean really know each other.

Our leadership staff did this just over a year ago with great results. We spent the first day allowing each person about 90 minutes to tell their story: Where they grew up, went to school, jobs they’ve had, marriage, family and what brought them to where they’re at today. You work side by side with some people and you realize that you don’t really know that much about them. It was an absolute blast hearing each person’s journey. Day two was spent on dreaming about the future.

When you get to know each other, you become more transparent and more vulnerable. You are willing to speak truth to someone at the same time caring for them and not attacking them. How can we support each other and make the whole team better? When you really have each other’s back, the fear goes away and you’re less likely to be ambushed.

Mike Klockenbrink is chief of staff at Lakeside Church, Folsom, CA.


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