“It’s all about relationships!”
This past week in one of my advisory boards, we discussed a common theme that has been coming up for me in multiple venues: relationships. Yes, whether talking about leadership, growing your business, growing a ministry, discipleship, or a list of others, it’s all about relationships. Now before you say, “been there, done that” and tune out of this post, let me encourage you to stick with it a bit.
First, I know this might surprise many of you; however, I’m not the most social butterfly. If you have understanding, I’m a D/C on DISC and ISTJ on Meyers-Briggs which means I’m a task-driven, introvert. Or, another descriptive term some use is a Strategic Implementer. If you have a vision, need someone to assemble a team and strategy to implement this vision, I’m your man. I recognize the value of relationships, however, I’m wired to be very focused on achieving a desired outcome and my relationships are centered around our achievement of that outcome. In other words, I can have a tendency to only pursue relationships with people I believe will get me closer to a desired future vision. Now, before you jump to how harsh this might sound, I encourage you to do a bit of self reflection and know that much of the battle is recognizing our limitations.
To further elaborate, I’ve discovered their is a difference between positional leaders and those who develop voluntary follows. With my natural personality, as much as I felt I was a “servant leader” who valued relationship in my corporate experience, looking back, the truth was more that my influence was “positional”. In other words, most people were following me simply because I had the position or title. They weren’t following me “voluntarily”. Case in point, once I lost the position and title, no one came following me on my new adventure. Oh, I have a handful of friends I still talk with; however, truth be told, my influence was very much positional in those day as with many of yours.
One great way of discovering your influence and growing in it is to go and serve in a voluntary organization. When people don’t have to follow you because of your position, it can be a humbling experience to look back and see who’s following you. As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is about influence! If no one is following you, you’re not a leader and are simply out taking a walk!”
What’s the key to developing influence and voluntary follows? Yes, by now, you know the answer is: relationships. And, it’s about relationships with a few who reproduce similar relationships that often result in extraordinary influence.
Let’s take this more to a practical level. One of the topics we discussed this week was around marketing strategies. In the world of social media, mass emailing, and multiple other strategies, you know which is unanimously the best marketing approach, don’t you: referrals. Yes, everyone knows this; however, they don’t seem to get enough referrals. Well, it’s likely because they aren’t investing in the handful of relationships they already have. One example given was regarding an oral surgeon. He said, “if the oral surgeon has 10 dentist that he cultivates quality relationships, he’ll have more business that what he can handle”. Think about that, how many relationship would it truly take for you to have a sustainable business? Most normally respond with 8-10 strategic relationships. Ideally, these relationships are people you can reciprocate; but, they don’t have to be. What they do have to be is a “relationship” versus transaction.
Let’s look through a different lens. Let’s talk about discipleship. A couple weeks ago, our student ministry had a fantastic evening with our fall kick-off. A ministry that normally averages about 350 students saw nearly 1000 students for this kick-off event. Now, here is the tough question: how many of those students do we actually have influence? More importantly, how many of these students are we actually discipling? As I’ve prayed about this over the past few weeks, the word that continues to come to mind is “retention”. You see, it’s exciting to have nearly 1000 students show up for an event; however, the event isn’t the focus. We know that for anyone to truly experience the love of Christ and grow in their walk with Christ, they must be plugged into a discipleship environment such as a life group. And, what does a life group normally look like? It’s normally a group of 8-12 “voluntary” followers seeking to be in “relationship” with Christ and one another. Once this “relationship” takes root, that’s when hearts are changed and lives are transformed which creates a movement of voluntary followers.
Sticking with the topic of discipleship as I believe it’s a fantastic example of leadership, how has the church traditionally grown? Has it grown by our showing up once a week for a message, contributing our tithes and offerings, and allowing the “paid ministry staff” to do the work of discipleship? We all know the answer; however, are we truly acting on what we know? What would happen if we all had 8-12 discipleship relationships which were encouraged to reproduce their 8-12? It’s not rock science and history tells us the answer. You’d be apart of an unstoppable movement for Christ.
So, why don’t we invest further in relationships for our business and/or ministry? Well, normally, it’s because relationships take time and can get a bit messy at times. In a world of instant gratification that is “me-centric”, we don’t want to invest in people who don’t present an immediate return on investment or share their personal burdens with us. This is too time consuming and can be exhausting at times; especially, for those of us wired to “get the task done”.
But, what if we did truly invest in a handful of key relationships? Well, I’ll let Jesus Christ stand as the example for today’s post. His 3 year investment in relationships with 12 disciples created something this world had seen prior and likely never see again. You and I know it’s not about the numbers and I encourage you to stop and reflect upon the quality of your relationships once again today. Your business and/or ministry likely won’t survive without them.