Finding rest this December

By Elaine Vitikainen

December is a busy month. We are submitting urgent reports, plans and budgets for next year. We are trying to tie up uncooperative loose ends. December can be stressful as we try to pack so many urgent activities in a short time.

But just as God called us to our work, I also believe that God calls us away from it. Amidst the hectic schedule, God calls us away to a place of rest. In John 4, we meet Jesus sitting by Jacob’s Well. He was resting as he was tired from the journey. I’m reassured that, like us, Jesus got tired.

Just as Jesus sat by the well, we too need to allow ourselves to rest. We should not fear empty spaces but instead be thankful for those moments of rest. God is calling us to rest in him. We rest in the knowledge that God is working with us. Our real achievements this past year have not come from our own strength, but only in as much as we have allowed God to work through us.

May God provide rest for our bodies and souls during this busy time. May God renew our joy and give us peace as we prepare for the coming year.

Confidence is the key

By William Ogara

What most people call mentorship is actually mostly about building people’s confidence. In one week alone, I have received the following requests:

“I am a member of an international board and we have just appointed a CEO who would like mentorship support from a fellow Christian. Can you assist him grow in his job?”

“I am keenly interested in pursuing a Doctorate, but I need your help to decide the area to specialise in”.

“We haven’t spoken for quite a long time… By the way, are you in a position to be my mentor?”

As I followed-up with each one, it turned out that people were primarily looking to build their confidence. It is about accompanying our fellow workers in achieving their assigned tasks in challenging situations. This reminded me of growing up in the village and learning to ride a bicycle with a large box of dried fish on the back. Initially I hid in the bush, hoping my father would not find me. But as I gradually understood how we needed this income for school fees and as I got more confident wobbling along the track, I began to enjoy it more and more. My father sometimes held my hands, sometimes let go, sometimes encouraged, at other times even punished. But he was always patient. It is like Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to pass on whatever he had witnessed to those who are ready in turn to share with others.

This week:
Who are we accompanying in their tasks? How can we build their confidence?

The Space for Grace Principles

By Elaine Vitikainen

In the blog post, What is Space for Grace , we were reminded that Space for Grace is a way of working and a theology of change. As we strive for professional excellence, following the good organisational development practice, we believe that the change process involves a spiritual dimension.

The following principles distinguish a ‘Space for Grace’ approach from simply good OD. As Space for Grace facilitators, we hold ourselves accountable to these principles:

Discern how God is already at work and whether the timing is right.
Pray for your client and get others to intercede for them.
Listen to God and to the people involved.
Design the intervention based on a biblical process of change.
Facilitate with grace by seeking to understand, empathise, support and appreciate.
Create safe spaces for more trusting relationships to develop.
Create and hold spaces for God’s spirit to inspire change.
Walk alongside the client after any intervention.
Humbly recognise that we are only instruments in a change process.

Here, you can find a Sketchnote of the Space for Grace principles.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact Elaine Vitikainen (elaine@evfacilitationandvisuals.fi) and Rick James (rjames@intrac.org).

 

 

Start with the small things

By Lorentz Forsberg

A friend came to visit me in my office. She is newly employed as an administrator at the parish level of one of our Swedish churches. We talked about our children and things in general for a while. Then she said suddenly:

“It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with my new job. I have just realised that people around me look stuck. They do not expect results. They do not even want to develop and change. We are just supposed to do the things we do and that is it. What should I do? I want to change this!”

Now this is a healthy start, I thought. Someone eager to lift the curtains, get rid of the dust and open the window to change. But as I probed with some questions it became clearer that things were not that easy. The organisation is tired to their bones of top-down driven change-processes. I really started to feel for my friend, as she was now embarking on this wonderfully difficult journey of being an internal change agent. It will be exhausting as well as exciting.

So, what could I say to this? Well, I did not say much, mostly I listened. My only advice in the end was to try to establish new ways of doing things in the areas of work were she had control. To model a different practice, even in small ways, can be an example to the organisation and its management. It will take her time to build trust and grow into her mission. As we parted, we agreed to keep in touch on this. People trying to free organisations from their stuck situations need a lot of support.

This week:
How can you inspire change through the way you do the small things?
What can you do to encourage the internal change agents that you know?

Meeting Jesus in hectic leadership

By Sven-Erik Fjellström

Marthainthekitchen@Bethany.then

Dear Martha,
Hope this email finds you well and not too busy.

I’ve recently been talking to some friends about that day when Jesus came to visit you (Luke 10:38-42). Things must have been very hectic indeed – and your sister Mary for one reason or another just decided to sit down to listen to Jesus.

Many of us share your frustration. I think we all have “both a Martha and a Mary in us”. The tricky thing is to find the balance. This applies to leadership too I suppose. But when thinking about leadership in hectic times, I worry about the artificial separation we make between the spiritual and worldly.

For me, periods of hectic leadership have sometimes been the most spiritual times in my life. Facing huge challenges forced me to pray like never before. I do understand your frustration about Mary. But I’m also inspired by you as a praying, meditating and reflecting person. The deep conversation you had with Jesus when your brother Lazarus died, as well as your confession that Jesus is the Messiah made me reevaluate my first impressions of you.

So, please, as soon as time allows, let me know what you think about the balance between the spiritual and worldly in our leadership.

Stay blessed,                                                                                                                                                           Sven-Erik

Don’t send that email!

By Lorentz Forsberg

As soon as I clicked ‘Send’ I knew I had made a mistake. I knew that this message was not the sort to write and send in anger. At the same time I felt a rush of excitement. I thought: ‘Finally I’m showing some guts, I’m proving I’m no longer just a lap-dog’.

My email essentially accused a group of colleagues of being the root cause of the culture of criticism that I felt had come to permeate all our office interactions. In my brief moment of ‘righteous fury’ I was convinced that the blame was all but mine. In one blow, however uncharacteristic, I managed to jeopardise years of trust and (mostly) good relations.

The golden part of this story is how my colleagues reacted and how they acted towards me. Yes, there were some tears and awkward moments. But as I look back on the days that followed I can honestly say that they have become a precious memory for me. As I was trying to clean up the mess I had made, I encountered so much love and care. I soon saw a maturity in my colleagues, that previously I had been blind to. My contempt transformed into awe and appreciation.

I know I should not have sent that e-mail. But all the same I love the effect it had…

This week:
What e-mails should you not send? What can you do instead?

Externalising blame

By Pieter Messelink

You might recognise the situation: you’re giving some input in a training or a meeting. You can see a mixed response. Some heads nodding, but others frowning, looking as if they want to burn down your ideas. I know I’m sensitive to negative feedback. To avoid the pain I tend to externalise blame. It must be someone else’s fault. This natural reaction is usually not the best ground for learning and development.

So whenever I get negative feedback I’ve started to ask myself three questions:

1. Where is the source of my identity?
If my identity comes from what I do or say, I’m in trouble. I remind myself that first and foremost I’m a child of God. Because of his amazing and borderless grace, I’m loved unconditionally. God is the source of life and wants the best for me.

2. What is God saying to me in this situation?
I take captive my own thoughts and re-align myself with my sense of calling. I seek to hear God’s perspective on the situation and then seek to respond. I do this whenever I’m preparing inputs for a training or a meeting. I remind myself: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

3. Am I willing to see those who criticise me as my coach?
God works through community. We are not meant to be lone or lonely rangers. A trusting team provides a solid base, helping me to distinguish the constructive feedback from the destructive.

What is Space for Grace?

By Elaine Vitikainen

During the last day of the Encounter for Nordic FBO Leaders in March, there was a question from one of the participants. She asked Rick and I to explain what is Space for Grace. This surprised me. After being together for almost two days, it was unclear what Space for Grace is.

So what is Space for Grace? What does it mean? How can we create it? How does it influence my work? How can it be integrated into my busy work life? Here is a page on the website which explains what is Space for Grace. A Webinar from March 2017 can also be found on this page. We also prepared a Sketchnote which tells about Space for Grace.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact Elaine Vitikainen (elaine@evfacilitationandvisuals.fi) and Rick James (rjames@intrac.org).

 

Keeping communication lines open

By Alice Wainaina

What do you do when the powers that be block sensible, well-intended change?

I was assisting a children’s charity with a launch of their programme for secondary school children. Although the TOR was focused on the launch, I felt it was imperative to discuss it in the context of the institution’s sustainability. The director was relieved at being able to voice some long-standing fears about sustainability. We considered various scenarios. He eventually decided they had to shift their approach from institutional care to a family-centred approach.

I met later with a team of the charity’s donors who were visiting. While pleased with the plans for the launch, they were clearly uncomfortable with the proposed change of approach. Their fundraising was based on an orphanage-type model. Despite my efforts to explain globally-accepted good practice, they were obviously unconvinced – as after they met with the director, I found myself locked out of any further discussions.

It was hard not to take it personally. I felt upset. I wanted to judge the leader for his lack of leadership. But despite the silence from him and the donor team I had met, I forced myself to keep communicating. I tried to do this with humility and gentleness, but without wavering in my conviction. One section of the donors kept up the communication. These had realised that institutional care was not the best option for the organisation in the long term, nor even for the children. Others, however, still put their own fundraising interests first. Eventually the director of the orphanage also called. He updated me on the children’s progress but did not bring up the issue of sustainability and shift in approach. After his long silence I did not think it prudent to force it on him. I do not know what will happen. The future of the charity is at stake. Sometimes all you can do is watch and pray.

This week, who should we keep communicating with, despite their silence or opposition?
Which situations of power do we need to respond to with humility, gentleness and conviction?

Accepting the mantle of mentoring

By Lorentz Forsberg

“Read this… and then we can talk”. Those were the very first words my new colleague said on my first day at work. He placed a pile of papers from a South African organization on my desk. Of course I did as he asked. I realized as I read that I could not have had a better introduction to the exciting, yet chaotic and frustrating story of human and organizational change. It was so personal that it smelled of mother’s cooking and father’s shaving. It touched my heart. I also realized that I had found a soul mate in my new colleague. He became my mentor.

Almost 20 years on, I now see how much that mentoring relationship profoundly shaped who I am at work today. Many of my flaws and vulnerabilities are still there – and I might even have added a few – but the core belief in the deep meaning of development has been nurtured and become embedded into my being. That is the greatest gift I received from my mentor.

Now, in my early 40´s I’m slowly realizing that I am in a position to mentor others. And as I look around, I see many others who should be mentoring our energetic recruits. We may think we have nothing to offer, but we do. Remember, the beginning of a beautiful mentorship can be as simple as: “Read this”.

What would be the first thing you put in the hands of a new employee? (but please not your annual report!)
Who could you be mentoring? How might you make it happen?