In my first full-time ministry position, right out of college, I learned so much because I served with a leader who loved me enough to confront me and tell me the truth. He coached me on developing other leaders for ministry, and he encouraged me in my personal development. And I still remember one interaction where he challenged me about the non-verbal signals I was sending, signals that showed I was not fully on-board. The conversation went like this…
During a meeting with him, I recounted several conversations of people who came to me to “talk about concerns.” He said to me, “It seems people come to you with those types of things. Do you find that to be true?” I initially thought this was a compliment, so I proudly declared, “Yes, I believe so. I think I am viewed as trusted and safe.” He then said, “Let’s probe that a bit more. Why else could people be coming to you?” Over the next several moments we concluded together that it is not always a good thing if people are complaining to me, that perhaps “being a trusted person” was not the only signal I was sending. Through the interaction, here is what I learned: If people are always complaining to you, you should evaluate why. It may not be because you are trusted, but it may be because you are divisive.
If people are always complaining to you, you may be sending signals that:
1. You are an ally in negativity.
People who are negative look for allies. Great leaders don’t want to be allies with those who are perpetually negative. The negativity adversely impacts the culture and takes energy away from what is most important. Great leaders want to be allies with those who solve problems, with those who enhance the culture, and with those who joyfully serve others.
2. You like the conversations.
We all struggle with something. If you constantly attract complaining people, there is good likelihood you are addicted to drama or dysfunction or like being in the midst of gossip. Like all sins, gossip is a miserable thing to struggle with because the conversations never quench us. They only make us want more.
3. You are not on board with the mission or direction.
We want to know we are not the only ones. In all of life this is true. People who are not on board with the mission or direction want to connect with people they sense feel the same way. If you are visibly excited about your job, about what you are doing, about the mission – then you tend to pull other excited people to you. When it comes to attitude, we tend to migrate to those with similar ones.
The challenge I heard was: “Eric, evaluate if you are sending signals that you are not excited about our mission and direction.” I went home and evaluated. I concluded that my passivity towards some things sent signals that I was not fully on board. Realizing that I don’t want to waste time or steal energy away from what matter most, I repented. And I still repent. I want to steward the time we have towards what matters most.