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Dr. Craig L. Oliver

Dr. Craig L. Oliver

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!   

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

— John Quincy Adams

In the context of our modern world inspirational leadership is no longer enough! It is a good thing to inspire those who follow us. It is a good thing to stoke the embers of passion within them inclining them to do more….but we can’t stop there. Truly effective leadership is transformational. It not only inspires others to do more, but it compels them to be more than they are. We WIN through TRANSFORMATIONAL leadership!

“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

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”

— Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch

It has been said that passion is the oxygen of the soul.  Well if that is true, then passionate leadership is the lifeblood of any successful institution or organization.   There is nothing more perplexing and discouraging than an organization that lacks zeal and excitement about the purpose for which they exist.  Conversely, there is nothing more attractive than an organization where everyone exudes passion about the mission of the institution and actively carry it out with enthusiasm.  This spirit of passionate deployment in the life of the institution is typically correlated with the passion of the leadership team.  Collectively, we WIN through passionate leadership!   

In the spirit of the times in which we live as well as our recent celebration of Father’s Day, I thought it apropos to share an article that I recently read entitled The 12 Things The Negro Must Do For Himself by Nannie Helen Burroughs.  It originates from a booklet that was sold in the early 1900’s but echoes true given the climate of the times and the need for People of Color to transcend an ever increasing contradictory context.  It was shared on the web by Black Men in America.com.  Take a thoughtful and critical look at the list below and determine how it can apply in our modern setting individually and collectively. 

- Dr. Craig L. Oliver, Sr.

  1. The Negro Must Learn To Put First Things First.  The First Things Are:  Education; Development of Character Traits; A Trade and Home Ownership. 
    • The Negro puts too much of his earning in clothes, in food, in show and in having what he calls “a good time.”  The Dr. Kelly Miller said, “The Negro buys what he WANTS and begs for what he Needs.”  Too true!

“You are not fighting for a victory…You are fighting from victory! Victory is already yours.”

  • - Priscilla Shirer

The audacious and tenacious faith we possess to declare “i” WIN in all circumstances and over all adversity is founded in our connection to the ULTIMATE WINNER’s victory.  We WIN because Jesus Christ emerged victorious over Death, Hell, and the Grave and by virtue of His victory righteousness and justification have been imputed to us.  Moreover, our justification through faith in Him has given us access to His efficacious grace whereby we are empowered to stand victoriously! We WIN because He WON!

“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!

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

— Oprah Winfrey

As human beings we were created with the innate need for connection.  There is an inherent interdependency that is wired into our DNA that makes connection essential.  It is critically important that we connect with the right people.  This is especially true for those of us who are leaders because those to whom we connect can either further our vision or hinder it.  One of the major keys of success is ensuring that we are strategically connected to the right people.  Practically, the DOT has the premise in place where the requirement for riding in the HOV lane means you must have a person in the car with you.  You can’t have access to the HOV lane without another person in the car.  In some scenarios in order to have access and to accelerate in certain avenues you must be strategically aligned with another person.  We WIN through strategic connections!       

The new paradigm and concept for ministry is collaboration.  Far gone are the days when the pastor or preacher is the solo leader of the church.  The Lone Ranger mode of ministry is no longer relevant.  Collaboration is the new normal.  If we are going to successfully navigate the demands of leadership in this dispensation then we must ADJUST our attitudes and mindsets about leadership beginning with the idea of collaborative leadership.  We WIN through collaboration!      

Nehemiah is an excellent example of leadership in a collaborative context.  The story of Nehemiah begins with many of the Jews having returned from Babylonian captivity.  God had been faithful to His promise to return them to Jerusalem but the city was still a far cry from its former glory.  A group of returning Jews had rebuilt the temple 12 years prior to Nehemiah’s involvement but the walls of the city had not been rebuilt leaving Jerusalem vulnerable to enemy raiders.  When word of the condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants came to Nehemiah, who was still serving as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, he was greatly burdened to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem rebuilt.  Through Divine Providence he received permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem from the King of Persia and set out to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding effort. 

“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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