One of the reasons leaders decide to settle for the status quo rather than leading change is because they’ve heard the horror stories of how people get crushed in the process of change.
Change can run like a steam roller over people. We’ve seen it happen in the corporate world and we’ve seen it happen in ministry.
Jon, a young church leader from the UK, frames the issue well in his question on leading change:
How do you bring about change without crushing people along the way? In other words, when people have been doing “their” ministry for many, many years, who are very much more senior in years, and have seen fruitfulness in the past but for today it’s not fit for service, but they can’t see that, how do you help them to see that without saying to them, along the lines of, “What you’re doing is rubbish” and therein crippling them?
I don’t know of a single leader who hasn’t been in the jaws of the dilemma Jon is describing. How do you lead change without crushing people?
Believe it or not, you can do it. It begins with a simple premise: Don’t crush people. Crush the problem.
And you do that this way: Attack problems, not people.
When you decide to attack a problem, you make progress. When you decide to attack a person, well … you know how distrastrously that usually ends.
Here are four little know ways to lead change without crushing people by attacking the problem, not the person:
1. Turn to God so you won’t turn on them.
Your frustration has to go somewhere. And if you’re not intentional, the person who will bear the brunt of your frustration is the person you’re frustrated with.
You know this. You’ve done it with your spouse, your kids and others, and you’ve probably done it within your organization.
Christians have a distinct advantage here. We can turn to God. But to do it, you need to make your prayer life more authentic. King David figured this out. I always admired his reluctance to strike back at his enemies like King Saul. How did he show so much restraint?
Answer: He showed public restraint because he let his frustration out privately, in prayer. Read Psalm 109. Seriously—read it. Hear what it says. It will curl your hair. Get that authentic in your prayer life, and your frustration will run its course long before you get to the meeting or the phone call with the person you’re angry with.
2. Separate the person from the problem.
It’s tempting in leadership to think the person is the problem. Don’t.