Putting on the Right Hats for Innovation

by New Church Starts

by Christie Latona, Path 1 Mentor Coach and Consultant; facilitator, and entrepreneur

Any time an annual conference, district, or church decides it wants to plant a new church, it triggers the typical six concerns surrounding change. As champions for planting new faith communities, we need to remember that part of the territory includes addressing those concerns. Casting the vision will rally some people, but raise concerns for others. It is tempting to get frustrated with folks who question the idea of planting a church or of making other needed changes to innovate. Instead of getting caught up in defensive postures, we should interpret a concern as simply an unanswered question. Choose your attitude wisely and transform those concerns into commitments.

1. Information Concerns. What is it that you know, that if I knew I'd agree with the need for change and/or the direction of the change? I've noticed a tendency to "sell" the change which is different than having a conversation with stakeholders about why, why now, and why this. You need to be on the lookout for people who are raising concerns because they simply don't know what you know. The detective hat reminds us to share clues and data while our own path of discovery can help us acknowledge and be patient with those who need to discover answers for themselves.

2. Personal Concerns. I don't know about you, but the popular radio station--WIIFM (What's In It For Me?)--doesn't seem quite so popular these days, especially in the church. Praise God! Instead I'm finding personal concerns really have more to do with seeking the answer to different questions: Can I still succeed in this new reality? How is this going to impact me? The astronaut helmet helps us work with folks to identify the necessary conditions that will be maintained in the new reality and how we are going to support them in exploring this new land with no gravity. If we can't help valued stakeholders see how they can be successful in the new reality, we find ourselves in battles for power.

3. Implementation Concerns. Once people are satisfied with answers to their informational and personal concerns they focus on actual implementation. Specifically, folks want to know: How is this really going to work? Where do I get help? Just like the blueprints created by architects are given to people in hard hats, often our strategic plans are given to implementers. As the rate of environmental change increases, those blueprints can become out of sync with reality. Instead of wasting precious time perfecting the blueprint, we need to empower implementers to figure out what modifications are needed in real time AND provide clear processes for where and when to get help.

4. Impact Concerns. If you have answered the first three concern areas in a manner that creates POSITIVE energy, implementation concerns aren't emotionally loaded. If you haven't answered, you will see active opposition start to form. The questions are simple: Does this change make any real difference? Will it be worth it? The surgeon's hat is useful to us as we try to answer these questions. We often must describe the quality of life for the "patient" after the procedure even as we also describe the risk factors, including the risk of not doing the procedure. It is important that we answer these questions in a reassuring manner. We want a cool professional assessment. Likewise, in our enthusiasm about the vision for the new plant or project, we can overpromise and under-deliver. When we do that, we undermine our credibility that we need for the next change initiative.

5. Collaboration Concerns. For wide-sweeping change initiatives, “How do we get everyone involved?” is an important question that must be addressed.  The coach’s hat reminds us to play to our strengths, organize people around a common objective, and help them in their particular role so that they can be a positive contributor. It’s about deciding where we need coaches, where we need players, which players are assigned to which coaches, and how coaches are to relate to one another. There is a lot of role confusion with many change initiatives. Clarifying the game plan is critical in order to transform this concern into commitment.

 6. Refinement Concerns. What happens if we need to make changes? Who gets to decide what changes are allowed? These questions are cousins to the implementation concerns raised above, but usually are asked once the change is underway. Like an artist who has captured the idea on canvas, we need to be sure that folks are encouraged to form the same color palette (values and mission) to make needed changes. Too often organizations stop short of filling the entire canvas or the necessary details because they haven't armed enough people with paintbrushes and artist's berats. Each change initiative needs to be raising up new innovative and creative leaders that will push us beyond the current change initiative and into the next one.

If you think learning facilitation skills might be important in your context or if you are considering becoming a Path 1 Recommended Coach, join me for the Facilitation Intensive on October 18 and discover strategies you can use to guide stakeholder expectations and decisions everywhere you go.