By Eddie Pipkin
I’m one of the 14 people left who read the local paper every morning while I drink my coffee. Granted, I read it on my phone, so there’s that tip of the hat to modern technology. Reading the paper on your phone is efficient and convenient, but you do miss out on such pre-Reddit time killers as the comics, crosswords, and classifieds. You still get the horoscopes, though, and while I am not a believer in astrology, I’ll sometimes skim through the daily divinations for a laugh. And a few days ago, while doing just that, it hit me. Wow! These would make one of those great bullet-pointed lists we are always posting with tips for being a better leader!
Exactly the way that would work will be revealed a little farther down the page, but first I want to focus on why a trendsetting team leader like yourself would ever utilize such seemingly dubious source material.
Creative approaches to team meetings.
One of the challenges that we all face as leaders in ministry is running meetings that don’t bore our team members. Absolutely, we should be holding regular meetings that get meaningful work done in a timely fashion. They should have organized agendas (to which we adhere), use time respectfully (by beginning and ending when advertised), and result in measurable goals (which we track with discipline).
They should also create space for digging deeper into the issues that surround effective individual and institutional leadership. And, as a bonus in pursuit of all these noble objectives, they should be creative and fun.
Many ministry leaders have a fixed meeting format which is designed to keep things on track and lead to some good discussion and even a comforting sense of routine. Maybe we bookend the business at hand with a Bible reflection to begin and a “prayers and concerns” time to end. Done well, these interactions can lead to introspection and team connection. Done as a perfunctory exercise, however, they only intensify that eye-rolling ennui many of us have about meetings. For instance, it’s easy enough to tell when the team leader has quickly googled a Bible devotion to check that off the list for the meeting (uninspired, unconnected to the team’s current challenges). Even the “sharing time” for a team can become uncomfortable if always done exactly the same way. I remember the bizarre experience of feeling like a team I was working with felt disappointed in me because I didn’t have regular problems to share like the rest of them—I solved this by reserving one “struggle” to share each week, so I could fit in, but I never felt very good about that process.
That’s why it is a good thing to mix up meeting approaches. It’s a little more work for the team leader, sure, but it’s part of the core work of being a leader: investing time in meeting preparation that will boost energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and connectedness among team members.
That’s where the daily horoscope comes in. If you include a time of leadership training or discussion of leadership topics in your regular meeting (and you should), imagine one week in which you say, “Okay, for this week’s leadership focus, we’re going to take a look at horoscopes!” That will get their attention. The reason this exercise works is because of the generic nature of horoscopes and the basic premise that they offer up basic, useful advice, which can be applied to any decision-making scenario.
You pull from different horoscopes to launch discussion, and there are several ways to do this:
- You cut out the horoscope entries from a newspaper and put them in a basket. Have each person (or a group of two or three persons, depending on the size of your team) draw a horoscope randomly. They can deliver their take on the advice they received.
- You can have team members read through the entire day’s horoscope entries, choosing the advice that leaps out to them as most applicable for their current leadership challenges and opportunities.
- You can have team members read through the entire day’s horoscope entries, choosing the advice they would most like to pass along to their ministry volunteers or people who interact with their ministry.
- You can do a provocative variation of the above suggestion by having team members clip out the advice they would most like to pass along to you, the team leader. (Do this anonymously, but maybe include an opportunity for some discussion based on this exercise.)
- You can have team members read the horoscope for their actual birthday, then share discussion on how applicable (or laughably not) the advice for the day is for them in terms of their current ministry challenges and opportunities.
As an example of just how applicable such an exercise might be, here is some of the horoscope-based advice that I read in the paper this morning, Wednesday, June 13th, 2018:
- Don’t be so quick to pass up an invitation or opportunity as you may be pleasantly surprised.
- Devote yourself to a cause only if you are passionate about it, not to earn brownie points.
- Don’t make any important decisions until your choice is backed up by all the data available.
- The more the merrier. Surround yourself with those who share your interests and passions, as exchanging ideas with them may yield something wonderful.
- Deep contemplation of an issue may lead you to conclusions and insights that you may have previously overlooked.
- Everyone has their own take on an issue, but if you listen to several different points of view, you may get to the heart of the matter.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t worry if you don’t reap immediate benefits from your latest endeavor, as it may take some time.
- Give the gift of experience. Offer your advice and guidance to someone who may be about to repeat mistakes you have made in the past.
- Don’t start what you can’t finish. Some tasks may be too large or costly for you to handle, so be sure to think things over before you act.
- One thing at a time. Choose an objective for the day and stick to it, as trying to do too many things at once could create a mess.
Granted, I threw out a couple, like “true love is blind—physical appearance isn’t everything.” But each of the aphorisms that made the cut has a lesson for the taking and a launching point for some great conversation which can be tailored to your individual ministry setting. In fact, they’re downright biblical. An interesting variation could even be to have each group illustrate their horoscope’s advice with a story from the Bible.
There are many ways to have some fun kicking off discussion and insights with a playful approach. Giving room for people to laugh or take unexpected directions in their thinking can open the floodgates to more serious considerations.
What are some great discussion starter tricks you have used or observed in team meetings? Don’t be shy: share! (And don’t be shy about sharing the ideas that went up in flames, like so frequently happened on The Office.)