No “theys” allowed…Leadership according to Larry Osborne

5 Jul

If I could give myself 10 pieces of advice that I didn’t know about leadership going into a church plant this would have been one of them for sure. Thank you Larry Osborne. I wish I read your book Sticky Teams earlier…even though it just came out.

“Leadership-oriented teams don’t succumb to the tyranny of the “theys.”
When I came to North Coast, our board leaned heavily to the representative side of the scale. As a result, whenever we dealt with a controversial issues, we spend a great deal of time discussing an apparently large and influential group of people known as “they.” No one seemed to know who they were, and those who did seem to know weren’t too keen on identifying them. But boy, did they have clout. It seemed to me that they were the largest power block in the church.
As a result, before making decisions, we spent hours worrying how “they” might respond. And afterward, we second-guessed ourselves whenever someone reported, “I’ve been talking to some people about this, and they have some real concerns.”
To make matters worse, I could never find out who “they” were, or how many of them there were. It was strange. For a group as large and powerful as they appeared to be, they sure valued their anonymity.
Finally, I’d had enough. i told the board that as far as I was concerned, the “theys” no longer existed. I’d happily listen to comments and critiques from people with real names and faces. But nebulous theys who didn’t want their identity known and hypothetical theys we couldn’t identify known would no longer have any sway.
The board agreed. So we instituted a “no theys” rule. It immediately pulled the rug out from underneath the biggest group of resisters we had and eventually exposed them to be a tiny minority (and at times, a mere figment of our imagination).
Our “no theys” rule applies not only to the board; it also applies to every staff and to all of my dealings with the congregation. Now whenever someone says that they’ve been talking to some people who have a concern, I always ask, “Who are they?”
If I’m told that they wouldn’t be comfortable having their names mentioned, I respond, “That’s too bad, because I’m not comfortable listening to anonymous sources. Let me know when they’re willing to be identified. I’ll be happy to listen.”


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