It was challenging for me to not see my son, Luke, as he began attending Purdue University a few years ago which is about two hours away from where we live. I found that I really had to communicate so much more and more clearly to continue to influence him. Communication is two way though and Luke, as many of the team members that we lead, didn’t share his deepest feelings with me at the time. There is nothing wrong with that. That was who he was as a person at that time. It is a blessing how God makes each one of us different which then blesses our families and teams with different perspectives.
However, if you know me, you would understand how challenging this is for me because I would tell you my whole life’s story with in five minutes of meeting me. I understood that Luke was not like me, but I had to understand that even more because he was 120 miles away and I didn’t have as much time to talk to him. Over the last few years he has begun to open up and we have had some great deeper conversations which has been awesome, but at the beginning it was different. It was more challenging and I thought that other leaders, such as fathers, mothers, youth leaders, etc., may be looking for how I found my way to lead during this time so that they can hopefully lead better in the future.
How did I deal with it? As normal, I lean on my closest friends. I was sharing this challenge with one of them and he told me two things that I should try to do. He said, first, you need to lead. I said I know, but what do you mean specifically. He said, "No, you need to L.E.A.D. You need to (L) LISTEN, (E) EMPATHIZE, (A) AFFIRM, and then (D) DIRECT." I said that I do that, but I find myself doing it in the opposite order. He said that this is where I need to adjust my leading. I need to listen first and then empathize. Stop trying to direct and tell him what to do or come up with a solution for him. My personality just goes there, but that is not what he needs to grow in his leadership and this is not how I am going to grow as a leader. This is not easy, but I really have been intentionally trying to lead in this manner.
My friend said the second thing you need to do is when I am in the first part of L.E.A.D.; listening, that I needed to intentionally try use three small words. He said you just need to say "Tell me more." I said, "Really...that is it?" He went on to say that when Luke tells me something, that I need to say those three words to let Luke know that I really want to hear more of his inner thoughts and feelings and that I care. I took his advice the next weekend when I visited Luke at school. We went on a short run (9 miles) where I had ample time to try using the LEAD concept and also those three small words, “Tell me more”. It worked amazingly and I began to listen more, speak less and get to know/lead my son even more. Even though Luke has been 120 miles away for the last three years, we have been able to grow closer due in part to this concept.
Team members, spouses, children, small group friends and others that you have the opportunity to lead that are more introverted need leaders to let them know that they care about who they are and that their beliefs and feelings matter just as much as those extroverts that wear their feelings on their sleeve. I would challenge you today to identify one person who has been a bit more challenging to get to know and try to use the LEAD (Listen, Empathize, Ask and then Direct) concept with them. Try to use those three easy words to say; TELL ME MORE. I believe it will help you grow in relationship with that person and thus help you positively influence them. Go lead by asking, “Tell me more”.
Let me know how it goes by adding comments to this blog. I would love to hear about your growth experience.
Blog main picture is from my niece who is an amazing photographer. See her other work at Nelson Photography (https://www.facebook.com/nelsonphotography99/.)