Thursday, May 31, 2007

Working with 'confusers' in ministry

by Shaun Blakeney


Details are crucial to ensure there is no room for questions or opportunities for confusers to infuse their artistry into your plan."

Shaun Blakeney, co-author of Energy Zappers


Let me tell you about a young woman I call "Connie Confuser." If I explained to Connie that everyone in the group was to study the same material, which had already been prepared, she would happily say, "I understand." Then she would write her own curriculum.

If I gave Connie a detailed instruction on how class time was to be formatted, she'd cheerily say, "Got it!" But I'd be left to sort things out when she devised her own format.

If I wanted a class, Connie would convert it into a huggy cluster. If our plan called for small group, highly interpersonal time, Connie would switch to a lecture format that bored almost everyone.

Connie threatened to put our whole organization into the critical care unit. Connie's group had no more connection with our mission and purpose than a honeybee with a helicopter. The result was that I was drained, the volunteers began to lose their focus, and we wondered what had happened to our joint goals and plans.

"I am sorry," Connie would say every time we met. "Now I know exactly what you're talking about." But there was no hint in her actions that her confusion bug had been zapped.

Confusers, like Connie, lack clarity about mission, method, motive, and other factors essential to a team's success, and they infect everybody with their blurred vision. While confusers can be "muddled" and mean no harm, "malicious" and out to defeat you, "mischievous" and creatively manipulating, or "modifiers" who always try to improve rather than implement, the bottom line is always the same: confusion. So, when dealing with confusers, there are some simple steps to follow to turn their drain into gain.

First, be clear on who you are. Your appreciation for who you are may lag on gray days, but never lose the sense of who you are. When you know your identity, others know it as well. It's hard for the confusers to mislead you and your followers when your identity is established clearly and consistently. The converse of this is that, if you allow yourself to be wishy-washy or lose sight of your true self, you in turn become a confuser yourself.

Also, be clear on your mission and its moment. When you clearly define the mission with a tangible timeline, it leaves little room for the confusers to get a foothold. This is not the time to be concise, to the point, "just the facts." Details are crucial to ensure there is no room for questions or opportunities for confusers to infuse their artistry into your plan. And, as we have all heard, "timing is everything." It is imperative that you and those you lead are fully aware of the timeline, deadlines, and moments of inertia that will halt production and moments of synergy that will multiply your efforts.

Third, be clear on the confusers and their agendas. Identifying confusers in your midst is critical to neutralizing their destructive capabilities. This seems rather intuitive, but it is important to stress this point. Identifying the confusers allows you to anticipate their moves and thereby thwart their efforts. It also empowers you to proactively confront them and try to realign their agendas to match yours. Do not allow them to "pull the wool over your eyes" and smooth things over. Make no mistake, confusers have an agenda, and they are masters of vernacular. They can put their "spin" on everything and make it sound great. Do not be deceived. They are not in your corner. Identifying the confusers will allow you to see through their words to the heart of the matter.

And finally, stay your course. As the leader of your team, it is paramount that you exhibit your commitment to the mission. You cannot expect others to boldly follow you if you don't know where you are going or how to get there. Make your plan, follow it, and see it through to completion. Leaders who know themselves and their mission cannot be diverted form its course and accomplishment. Instead, they clarify the confusers through their commitment and determination.

This article has been adapted from Shaun Blakeney and Wallace Henley's new book, Energy Zappers (Baker, 2007).

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