When you were a child, did you play the telephone game? It’s a fun game that doesn’t require any props or technology. Children get in a circle. One whispers a message to the person next to them. That child whispers what they heard to the person next to them. Each child whispers what they hear to the child next to them until the message makes it completely around the circle.
Children are not the best whisperers, so the message usually changes dramatically before it arrives at the last person in the circle. The telephone game is a simple game with a simple goal: Listen well.
Leaders are often called upon to cast vision and encourage teams. We are rewarded for how well we communicate with people, but how well do we hear what people are saying to us? As the telephone game teaches us, listening is more than passively receiving information. Listening is a dynamic activity that involves paying careful attention to what is being said — and good listeners learn to pay attention to what’s unsaid.
When congregations take the time to listen to their neighbors, they can discover the community’s true concerns and hopes instead of offering solutions to problems that don’t exist. When leaders take the time to listen deeply to staff, stakeholders and volunteers, they learn more about what the organization needs to do than they could ever discern on their own. This kind of listening takes time, but the cost of not listening is often more than we can afford.
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Before you go…
Leaders would do well to heed the advice in James 1:19: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” On my best days, when I’m trying to solve a people problem or find a way through conflict, I start by asking a good question. Then I listen. I almost always discover new information that offers new perspective. I recommend that before you cast your next vision, or attempt to solve the latest conflict, sit down with people who have something generative to say and listen to them.
Connect with me and the Alban Weekly team at email@example.com. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity
Partner Resource: Announcing the 2023 Reflective Leadership Grants
In 2023, Leadership Education plans to award upwards of 30 Reflective Leadership Grants, which provide Christian leaders “balcony time” to reflect on accomplishments, broaden perspectives and discern next steps.
We welcome applicants who serve in a range of leadership roles, from project director to senior administrator, and who are working in a variety of organizations, including denominations, seminaries, church-related colleges, consultancies, congregations, Christian nonprofits, Christian social enterprises and others. The application deadline is May 15, 2023.