The speed of trust

By Rick James

One of the great things about being able to give and receive honest feedback is that it builds trust. Trust is one of the most valuable organisational commodities. It is not an optional extra, nor a soft, airy fairy ideal. Trust is at the core of how well any organisation functions. As Steven MR Covey clearly outlines in his book of the same name, we operate only at the ‘speed of trust’ (2006).

Low trust slows everything down. If there is no trust, words and decision are negatively interpreted. There is suspicion, between people and organisations, not synergy. It leads to increasing bureaucracy, duplication of effort, political manoeuvring and disengagement.

Do you trust your boss? – the answer to this one question apparently is more predictive of team and organisational performance than any other question.

As we go to work, (as leader, consultant, NGO staff) our top responsibility is to build trust. Trust is one of the most powerful forms of motivation and inspiration. People want to be trusted. They respond to trust. Covey defines leadership as “getting results in a way that inspires trust”.

So what can we do to build trust as leaders? The fastest way to build trust is to make and keep commitments. We judge ourselves by our intentions, we judge other people by their behaviour. Good words have their place, but what you do has far greater impact than what you say.

Do not be naïve or gullible – combine high propensity to trust with rigorous analysis. Look at your systems. Are they set up for the 3% who can’t be trusted or the 97% who can? Leaders have to go first in the game of trust. The onus is on you to make the first move.

This week, what can you do at work to build trust and thereby increase the speed of your organisation?

Collaborating with a tentative and open mind

By Doreen Kwarimpa-Atim

I regularly facilitate an exercise called “Creative conversations”. This involves two people holding a conversation using colour and form without prior planning or verbal communication.

Individuals who go into the exercise with a fixed mind-set of a complete picture that they want to draw get very frustrated when their partners do not follow their lead. They are usually dissatisfied with the outcome. In contrast, participants who start without any pre-set idea, who are more open and tentative find it easier to collaborate together. They also tend to describe the exercise as fun and enjoyable and are more satisfied with the outcome.

I’ve learned that if we go into any collaboration with an open mind, even tentatively, this can be both more fulfilling and productive. It results in better relationships and genuinely shared ownership of outcomes.

It reminds me of two senior consultants I work with. When we are planning something together they suggest tentatively, using phrases like; “It seems…” “Perhaps we could…” Their open approach makes me feel my contributions are welcome and whatever we come up with is ‘ours’. But is also makes me wonder, how often am I stressed when working with others, simply because I am so set in the way I see things or want them to be…

This week, how can you be more open to working with what others bring on the table?
What do you need to do more of or less of to be more flexible when working with others?

Partnership with God through work

By Angelina M. Twinomujuni

Do you ever feel that your work is not significant? You are not alone. I feel like that sometimes. I am encouraged by others who have walked before me when I feel this way. Moses did not think that tending sheep was significant until he was asked to lead a people out of bondage. The skills that he mastered tending his sheep became important in his journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. God is in the habit of partnering with people to address societal issues. He is able to use whatever you do or have to influence your family, community, organisation and even nation. Moses had a staff in his hand. That staff became a powerful tool, used to demonstrate God’s power leading to the deliverance of a people who had been in bondage for over 400 Years.

It is so easy to look at your work as an ordinary task. I am only crunching numbers you may say, or just walking the baby to the park, reviewing and analysing reports, or even monitoring progress markers for project implementation. However, work is more than a task. Work is a calling. Work is worship. Work is mission. Your work can be a strategic frontier for the advancement of the gospel. The next time you think that you are just going to work, remember that your work is more than your job description. Your work can transcend your tasks when it is surrendered to God.

This week, are there steps you need to take to improve on the way you look at your work?

Regaining hope

By Dorothy Grace Stewart

How do you deal with disappointment? Some of us hide it away. We deny its reality with fine words. But deep down we become numb. We become afraid to trust God again. ‘Surviving disappointment’ becomes our background story, influencing our response to every interaction. We need to grieve disappointment in a healthy way.

Jesus tells John the Baptist, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6) I think Jesus was calling John to trust Him again; to trust what John hopes in, not what he is experiencing physically and emotionally. Jesus then goes on to sing John the Baptist’s praises to the crowds and encourage them to have faith in the God’s kingdom and ways as John did.

Isn’t it beautiful that Jesus’ expectation of John was not primarily perseverance in the strength of his own faith, but hope in the goodness of God’s heart for him and the world!

This week:

  • Are you making space to grieve disappointment?
  • Are you letting God move you from a place of disappointment to hope?
  • How might you be able to help facilitate this process for others?

Peace within and around you

By Priya Raj Kumar

Jerk … jerk.. bump… bump. It was stiflingly hot. We were covered in dust and perspiration. My husband, my daughter and I were jostling around in a car, on our way to a remote village in Assam, India. We were going to evaluate a project focussing on peace and development among the tribals who had suffered ethnic violence. After hours of exhausting travel, we eventually reached the village. The car stopped and we surrounded by smiling men, women and children draped in colourful garments. As part of the traditional welcome, the women washed our feet in wide brass bowls full of cool water. They carefully dried our feet and massaged them with oil. Then garlanded us with flowers. The weariness of travel melted away. We felt refreshed from within. This intimate, loving ritual reminded us of the loving way in which Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. We experienced a sense of deep peace. We were drawn to the simple men and women whom we had never met before.

The whole world is in turmoil. All of us yearn for peace – peace in our homes, peace at the work place, peace in the towns we live in, peace in our country and peace between nations. I often remember the story of a saint who was consulted by his disciples as to how to get peace. The saint replied with a gentle smile: “Your peace is within you.” Not satisfied, one disciple further queried: “Shall I then search for peace from within?” “No”, the saint responded, “Your within is outside you.”

When we are at peace with our family, friends, colleagues and God we are at peace with ourselves. Conversely when we experience disharmony and strife in ourselves, our relationships and work productivity are adversely affected. The wisdom of the saint’s message is that we cannot find our peace in isolation to our surroundings. So let us relate well with ourselves, our surroundings and those around us. With God’s grace, we can be at peace wherever we are.

This week, how do we make peace with our surroundings?
How do we make peace with those around us?

Suffocating bureaucracy

By Claes Johan Alexandersson

From: International Assessment Committee
To: Matthew, disciple of Jesus
Subject: Missing information

Thank you for your latest report. We were pleased to read that Jesus has continued to build awareness among the target group. It sounds like you had a good number at the latest meeting – five thousand men, besides women and children. You state in the report that all were fed and afterwards twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over were taken up.

But we are concerned that you are not following our procurement and gender policy. We ask you to send the following documents / information:

  • Your procurement policy
  • How well you followed this procurement policy for this specific event. For example, please include:
    • A copy of each of each tender bid.
    • An explanation, why you miscalculated the amount of food needed.
    • Please send us the exact number of women and girls as this is not stated in the report.

In the name of your Lord,
The assessment committee

PS. Don’t forget to relate the activities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the future.

This week:
What can you do differently to let people’s ideas flourish and not suffocate them in bureaucracy?

Leading Change

Leading change is probably the main task of leaders today. The environment in which we operate is disrupted, turbulent and ever-accelerating. To survive and remain relevant NGOs have to change at a faster pace than ever before. Change really is the only constant for NGO leaders today.

You as a leader may be a bit like a guide helping your own organisation up and down this mountain of change. How effective you are as a guide, once again comes down to how much people trust you. Are they prepared to follow you – even when it is difficult to see the way ahead? When they are tired and frustrated and longing for an easier life? Do you have the competence and the humility and courage, to be an effective mountain guide?

Here you can find the Mountain Model of Change by Rick James and the sketchnote by Elaine Vitikainen.



Struggling and losing the plot

By Dorothy Grace Stewart

I was working with some leaders who are persevering through perennial and seemingly unrelenting loss. Their hearts are asking, “Is the struggle God’s calling for my life? Is my job just to persevere?” It’s so tough.

Yet I don’t think that the struggle is the sum total of God’s calling for any life. Yes, God
does call His people into incredible places of suffering but I also expect God to be good in truth and love. There is a point to ministry whether marked by success or disappointment.

John the Baptist’s life illustrates this for me. The ministry of being ‘the voice crying in the wilderness,’ was not without the struggles of isolation, hostility and even profound disappointment bordering on disbelief. In Matthew 11 John the Baptist is imprisoned and questioning the whole point of his life’s ministry. He asks: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” A bold and heartbreaking question from John. Can you imagine what pain and doubt he must have been experiencing? But the beautiful thing is he literally took this doubt and disappointment to Jesus.

Jesus did not respond by telling John to “just hang on”. He didn’t diminish John’s suffering and doubt. Instead he pointed to His goodness in the ministry of truth and love. ‘And Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.”’ (Matthew 11:4-5)

When the point of ministry seems to be endless struggle we are in danger of losing God’s plot. Like John, we may need to take it to Jesus and get a glimpse of the bigger picture.

This week:
• How are you disappointed with God?
• Are you willing to let God show you places where ministry is flourishing, even if it’s not yours personally?

What about prestige?

By Elaine Vitikainen

A secular client I was working for recently kept mentioning the word ‘prestige’. She said that there is no pressure and no prestige involved. I found prestige a strange word. I’d never really thought about prestige in relation to my work. I had never seen myself aiming for prestige.

I like to think that prestige is not really an issue for me. I know I can only do what I do because God has enabled me to do it. Everything is only made possible with God. Am I too naïve? It made me ponder the verse: “But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

As I reflected on this verse, I realised that I was not immune from the trap of prestige. After all, do I not really look for prestige when I show people my graphic art work? Do I not aim for prestige when I talk about my work to others?

This week:                                                                                                                                                         Think about the work that we do. How much of our identity, our sense of self, is tied up in what we do? At what points does a desire for prestige quietly creep in?


God in the chaos

By Sven-Erik Fjellström


Dear Mary,

I often wonder how it was for you to be a parent, especially in those early years that we do not know so much about. I ask myself how you managed in two crisis times of your life – when you were away from your home in Nazareth. I am thinking of Bethlehem and Jerusalem…

Clearly Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem must have been the most extraordinary moment of your life. Nowadays we focus on the moving story of a child, a Saviour, being born. But does this miss the chaos of it all? Not finding a place to stay, giving birth in a stable, a lot of unexpected visitors, some knocking at the door, others perhaps singing from heaven? No wonder the Bible says that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”.

We find it hard to find that tranquility in the midst of everything. We think of reflection in a quiet, even silent, space for retreat. But you seemed to manage in the midst of complete chaos.

And then again you must have been so frightened in Jerusalem 12 years later when Jesus disappeared and you thought you had lost your son. Any parent who has gone through this fear fully understands (I’d have been so frustrated with him too!). But his calm answer to you about being in his Father’s house must have given you new insight into who he was.

Your experience speaks to me about leadership today. Perhaps great insights do not come to us when we finally get some time off with space to reflect. More often they knock on or even knock down our doors in the midst of chaotic, confused, challenging times – when we are stretched beyond what we can cope with on our own…

Perhaps as a leader I should expect to learn from God more in the storms of life rather than in the peaceful, quiet times. What would you say?

Kind regards,                                                                                                                                                   Sven-Erik