What’s Up with Pastor Todd 3-26-21

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 3-26-21

“To Improve Your Team, First Work on Yourself” is the title of a 2019 Harvard Business Review article that caught my attention this week. This concept is the foundation of my approach to ministry for the past 25 years. It is the bedrock on which family systems theory is built. Family systems theory, first developed by psychiatrist Murray Bowen and adapted for congregations by Rabbi Ed Friedman, has had a huge influence on generations of clergy. This includes my counterpart in the First Church/South Church consolidation effort, Rev. Denny Moon, and our consolidation coach, Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg. I encourage you to check out the short article both for your own personal edification and as a springboard for conversation as First Church and South Church move into our next stage of work together.

GUCCI, the steering team for the First Church and South Church consolidation effort, is organizing work groups to lead the next stage of our work. The work groups are: 1) “Getting to Know Each Other,” 2) “Nuts and Bolts,” 3) “Properties and Memorial Gardens,” 4) “Staffing, Technology, and Communications,” 5) “History,” and 6) “Program.” 

Considerable thought is being put into the size and composition of these work groups as well as how to build a culture of healthy communication in the work groups so that our time together is productive and to build a healthy foundation for a future congregation.

Which brings me back to the Harvard Business Review article. The author recommends teams master three “foundational capabilities” to improve their functioning: “internal self-awareness, external self-awareness, and personal accountability.”

Internal self-awareness involves understanding your feelings, beliefs, and values — your inner narrative.” The article goes on to give examples of how increasing internal self-awareness affects interactions. For more details on building self-awareness see this HBR article. I have found maintaining a daily meditation practice key to building self-awareness. Coaching and therapy are also incredibly effective modalties for increasing this “foundational capability.”

“External self-awareness involves understanding how our words and actions impact others.” How do we understand how our words and actions impact others? Ask! I have observed the most effective leaders, including Claire, pause a meeting to ask about body language: “You just scrunched up your face. What was happening in you then?” Or repeating what was said and asking, “Did I get that right?” Or “Are you getting what you need out of this conversation?” It can feel risky to ask for feedback, but all of the best leaders do it.

As for accountability: “When we think of accountability, we typically think of holding others accountable. But the most effective leaders and teammates are more focused on holding themselves accountable.”

Years ago I was meeting with a group of church leaders. We were trying to revitalize a dying downtown congregation that had once been the largest in the state. The team had been attempting to engage the wider congregation in the turnaround effort with little success. The meeting devolved into a complaint session about how we had a congregation of freeloaders who needed an attitude adjustment. By some miracle the conversation shifted to looking at our own attitudes and behaviors as leaders. Finally the light bulb went on and the team leader said with conviction: “Nothing will change until we change.” Long story short: after seven years of hard effort, the congregation was completely transformed. Moral of the story: “If you want to improve your team, first work on yourself.” 

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 11-13-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 11-11-19

I’m sitting in one of the living-rooms-turned-into-conference-rooms of the Edwards House Retreat and Conference Center in Framingham, MA. Edwards House is a giant farm house situated on several acres that serves both as the (now former) Massachusetts Conference UCC headquarters and–as the name would imply–a site for conferences, retreats, meetings and other types of church-related gatherings.

I’m here for a week-long training in leadership coaching. This is the second part of a Lilly Endowment funded program to train an ecumenical group of clergy–who were selected through an application process–in the theory and practice of coaching groups and individuals for the purposes of raising awareness, clarifying values,  and maximizing effectiveness.

Coaching is NOT therapy. It is not spiritual direction or pastoral counselling. It is a way of working with people through deep listening, artful language, and powerful questions that is designed to produce real world, life-changing results.

Coaches work with pastors, lay leaders, congregations, non-profit and for-profit organizations, managers, “C-suite” executives, parents, teachers, and leaders of all types. The idea behind training clergy in leadership coaching is that clergy can, in turn, coach their staff, volunteer leaders, and teams. Coaching is a leadership style that brings out the best in individuals and groups.

I have greatly benefitted from working with a number of coaches over my 20 years of ministry. If it weren’t for the coaches who have encouraged me and helped me grow as a leader, I probably wouldn’t be in ministry today. I’m glad for this opportunity to give back. Once we’re certified, those of us who are being trained are required to donate 50 hours of coaching to churches, teams, and/or individual leaders of the Southern New England Conference UCC.

My training requires that I log 500 hours of coaching for certification. If you are interested in a sample coaching session, email me at pastor@firstchurchgranby.org to learn more.