by Dan Scott
As I scroll through the pictures on my phone, I see a few types of pictures.
Food and landscapes from my recent travels.
The obvious selfies to prove I was actually there.
Posed snapshots of my family in various locations.
And bits of life captured in candid images.
Out of all of them, I think the candids are my favorite. The annual family photos are great and all, but when you really think about it, I wonder if it’s an accurate picture of my family. We never coordinate our clothes like that. And rarely do we have those perfect smiles across our face. Not that they’re not great images, they are. These portraits are beautiful and frame-worthy.
But there’s just something about candids that when I scroll through and see a candid photo, I’m immediately transported to that moment in time, a story that gives that image a context greater than any posed family photo could give. Sure, the image might be a bit blurry and out of focus; it will never hang in a museum or a wall in my home for that matter. But the story behind that candid image makes it a priceless masterpiece.
As leaders, we tend to have an image in mind of how we’d like our teams to look. More often than not, that image looks more like a perfect family portrait. Everyone coordinated in their efforts, people loving their life with smiles lighting up their faces, hugging in perfect formation no matter what the project entails. We lead like this is the ideal, yet . . . let’s be honest for a moment. This is not even close to reality, nor should it be.
Think about those candid photos that tell stories. They remind us that our lives are made up of these small moments that build to something bigger then ourselves. They can help us focus on creating more moments that will add to the story or take it in a new direction. Candids remind us that life doesn’t happen in perfect portraits, life is what happens when you forget that the camera is pointed at you.
This is how we should lead, not with perfect pictures but developing stories.
When you lead from a perfect picture . . .
You create and unrealistic expectation no one can ever achieve. Ultimately this will kill your team morale, as people will live in fear that their job is on the line.
You eventually create a culture of self-doubt where everyone wonders if they’re measuring up. They will either always play it safe, or become paralyzed by their self-doubt and do only what they are told to do.
You reduce the amount of risk your staff is willing to take. They will feel like they can’t try new ideas for fear they’ll make someone unhappy.
You squelch necessary tension that should occur on projects. People will not want to appear like they’re bucking the system and not cooperating with the rest of the team.
On the flip side, when you lead from a candid image that tells a story:
Your staff will feel encouraged to take risks and move your ministry forward. If they fail, they feel safe knowing that the story they are creating can only happen by taking risks. Sometimes they won’t pan out, but when they do, the risk will always be worth the reward.
You will communicate that messiness is just part of the process. People will be willing to role up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and do the hard work it takes to make ministry happen.
You will promote that tension is a healthy part of the creative process. Discussions and disagreements will help ensure that what you’re creating is the best possible idea your team can produce.
Your staff will not only trust you, they will feel that you trust them. They will feel the freedom to do their job and think of creative ways to solve problems, often in ways you might never have imagined.
All of this in the long run will lead toward building team morale as people celebrate the new stories being told by what they accomplish together.
Interestingly enough, leading this way is actually easier. It relieves the stress of always having to be perfect. Your team will appreciate being part of a bigger story that they can tell together as they cooperate together and build your ministry.
How about you? How have you started to lead your team to tell a story instead of create a perfect portrait? Share your ideas below. We’d love to hear them!