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In life difficult conversations are essential in order to facilitate understanding.  Hard conversations are necessary and can occur in every context of our lives, be it family relationships, romantic relationships, or even ministry relationships.  Whenever you have relationship between individuals by virtue of varying thought processes hard conversations are mandated.  The conversations can be difficult and require a certain level of courage so that procrastination does not complicate an already difficult situation.  The longer we put off having these conversations the greater the potential fallout and collateral damage.

For the purposes of this writing we will focus on Identifying the Barriers to Having Hard Conversations while giving emphasis to Embracing the Benefits of Having Hard Conversations and Guidelines for Having Hard Conversations in subsequent blog posts.  Whatever your context of relationship and/or leadership, the ability to facilitate hard conversations is critical to growth and effectiveness.  We WIN through effective conversations!   

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“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.”          

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

In a world where many aspire to leadership it is imperative that we are clear regarding the impact of constructive leadership as opposed to destructive leadership.  Whether your context of leadership is the boardroom, classroom, family room, or ministry, successful leadership is predicated upon it being constructive rather than destructive.  Unfortunately, many leaders and influencers are unaware that their style and manner of leading is destructive until the ramifications are in full swing and extremely difficult to dial back.  A constructive leadership style lends itself and the organization toward success and must be embraced if one desires to be a premier leader in today’s society.  We WIN through constructive leadership!   

One of the first things that I want to address is that constructive leadership does not mean leading without correction, hard conversations, or even discipline.  As a parent there will be times that you have to correct your children.  In relationships of all types, moments will arise where difficult conversations must take place.   As a leader you are tasked with leading in all areas which may include corrective or disciplinary action, but the methodology you employ in disseminating the aforementioned is what differentiates your leadership from being constructive rather than destructive. 

Let’s utilize what many Human Resources experts refer to as the Feedback Sandwich to demonstrate an effective way to have a corrective or difficult conversation.  The Feedback Sandwich begins with expressing something positive, followed by addressing what needs to be corrected, and finishes the conversation  by expressing another positive point.  As we expand this model in detail, I believe that you will find this to be an effective tool in whatever context of leadership or relationship you are engaged. 

First, begin the conversation by sharing the person’s strengths.  Articulate the things that they are doing well.  Showcase their WINS.  Inquire about the processes they utilize to garner success in the specific area(s) in which they are WINNING.  Whether it is your child, ministry partner, employee, or business partner, everyone wants to know that they are doing something right.  Beginning the conversation with a WIN disarms the hearer and brings a sense of relief that the intent of the conversation is not a negative one.    

Secondly, proceed honestly and directly to the areas that require improvement.  It is critical that we are honest in this area.  You must express the areas that require improvement in a manner whereby the person is clear on what needs to be done and why.  In order for the situation to remain constructive it is equally important that you address the behaviors, performance, or whatever it is that needs improvement rather than making the issue about the person.  While correction may be difficult to hear, when communicated properly the end result is mutually beneficial.  Whether the context is a personal relationship, business related, or ministry, the method of communication is as important as the actual message with some communication experts arguing that the medium of communication IS the actual message.      

Finally, end the corrective conversation on a positive note by sharing the positive results of those areas being addressed.  No one wants to have a conversation where they are told “improve or you’re fired”, whether that be in the context of a personal relationship, employment situation, or ministry opportunity.  Those words are destructive and will likely only contribute to the decimation of the relationship.  Ending the conversation on a positive note allows the person to not only believe that improvement is possible, but that you have an invested interest in their success to improve. 

WINNERS recognize that building people up is the best way to get optimal value from the relationship while simultaneously building morale and faith in the relationship.  A great leader is able to see the greatness and strength in those that they lead.  Moreover, the successful leader is able to communicate in such a way that those who follow recognize their own greatness and happily bring the gifts of their virtues to the table each day!  

We WIN through Constructive Leadership!  

Dr. Craig L. Oliver - #iWINatEBC

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“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

- Winston Churchill

Perhaps one of the most challenging obstacles that we face in our lives is the challenge to remain focused and on task when there are multiple things competing for our attention.  Even when engaged in God-inspired spiritual work the tendency to shift our focus to the most recent or sensational items can be compelling.  The mark of a true WINNER is highlighted in the person who has the ability to maintain their focus regardless of distractions, fears, and alternative agendas contending for their attention.  We WIN by remaining FOCUSED!

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“A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done.”

— Ralph Lauren

Some of you may look at where you are in your life and ponder the question: How did I get here? The truth is, we all end up somewhere in life, but very few of us arrive to our destinations by way of intention.  Clear vision is the deciding factor between arriving at your place of destination intentionally and stumbling along into it.  True leaders understand the value of having clear vision! 

The Israelites of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, were exiled to Babylon 150 years before Nehemiah’s time.  After seventy years of Babylonian captivity and in accordance with the prophets, the Persians under King Cyrus, overthrew the Babylonians to assume power.  By way of Divine Providence the heart of King Cyrus was moved to allow the Hebrews to return to Judah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s family along with many other Jews elected to stay in Persia as they had fared well under Persian rule.  Nehemiah had been identified as an intelligent worker in the court of the king and rose through the ranks to become his cupbearer ensuring that wine served to King Artaxerxes was safe and serving as his counselor and confidant. 

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“Praise is man’s response to the revelation of who God is.”

-          Dr. Craig L. Oliver

Praise is one of the many tools that positions us to access the grace that enables us to be victorious!  We Win Through Our Praise! Praise is man’s response to who God is and as such it solicits and invokes the Presence of the Lord becoming an indomitable force employed by the believer.  Praise literally infuses the essence of who He is into our everyday circumstances! We can’t help but win when we praise our God!   

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“True prayer is neither a mere exercise nor a vocal performance.  It is far deeper than that – it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.”

-          Charles Spurgeon

There are times within our individual contexts of life that we encounter extraordinary circumstances that require the intervention of the Good Hand of the Lord in our lives.  There are moments in life that demand influence, fortitude, or strength that exceed our capacity.  I firmly believe, however, that in these moments of our most exhaustive extremity that the conditions are perfect to engage the power wrought from fasting and praying.  More than merely going without food, fasting and prayer reflect a humbled and submitted posture of the heart as illustrated in the story of Nehemiah.      

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“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

-          Martin Luther King, Jr.

In our current racial, social, and political climate it would be easy to degenerate into a mindset of fear, anger, and extremism.  When we are constantly bombarded with information from the media that suggests that social justice and equality aren’t attainable for all it becomes easy to adopt a dismal outlook on our present circumstances.  To adopt a mentality of such a limited and self-defeating scope, however, would be to reject the resilient and indomitable legacy we possess as a people.  A mindset of the aforementioned vantage point obscures from our view the unfailing hope that we have as a people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds.    

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“I shall participate, I shall contribute, and in so doing, I will be the gainer.”

  • Walter Annenberg

Each of us has a unique virtue and grace assigned to us by God that gives expression to His presence in the earth.  We have an inimitable set of skills that comprise our imprint on the world designed to answer a specific need or call in the earth.  These talents and virtues were given to us to actively engage them in service to our families, our communities, and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.     

We all win when everyone actively participates collaboratively functioning as a single unit to accomplish the mission.  A common quote often attributed to Gestalt psychology theorists is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which intimates that we are far more effective functioning collaboratively rather than the sum total of our individual efforts.  Simply put we can accomplish far more working together than we can apart from each other.     

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