Author: Nataliya Osipova, MI National Director.
A couple of years ago, while I was being interviewed for the role of MI National Director, I was asked whether I was able to lead a team remotely. I was told that all my staff are located interstate and overseas, and it will be a challenging task to build a team and support them remotely. No one told me I would be sitting in my office, alone, as even my assistant would be working from overseas.
But that’s another story.
At that time, I had ministered as a pastor for five years in Melbourne’s largest church. I led hundreds of volunteers and tens of leaders without being able to see them more often than once a quarter. Yet, we had amazing close relationships and our life groups were growing. Did I enjoy this remote leadership? No, I did not. But what I thought was a great challenge turned out to be a great blessing as I learned the skills necessary to lead, and even draw people closer together, from afar.
Now that we all have to operate like this in this season of COVID 19 and one lockdown after another, we need to pull out the necessary tools from our leadership toolbox to make sure people don’t lose the vision and passion in the distraction of working from home in isolation from their workmates.
The main means of communication now is a video call or conference call. These calls can make or break someone’s day. So, let me share some questions I make sure to ask my team members when I am are speaking with them.
How are you?
This simple question can be easily answered with something general, like “I’m doing well” or any other cliché response. But don’t stop there, make sure your people know that you are truly interested. It might take some time before they open up to you, but it is worth it!
What are you working on right now?
It’s good to check in like this as it will give you a good indication of where is the project at. It will give you a chance to see whether the staff are experiencing frustrations or whether things are going well. And, of course, it will show your interest and give you an opportunity to speak into the process.
What are the main obstacles in your work?
Here you will be able to see if there are areas in which you can help. There may be things that need to be reorganised, people you might need to call asap and encourage. But mostly, it will give your staff permission to share the not-so-positive things and have an opportunity to be heard. As without this question, most people will only report good things.
Tell me how I can help you to accomplish your goal?
Two minds are better than one and together you could address any roadblocks to finishing the project, help to sharpen the idea or bring increased clarity.
Is there anything God is speaking to you about that you would like to share?
When this question is asked often, it will encourage people to be more focused on, and observant of, God’s work in their life. I remember my senior minister back in Russia gathering his team and always asking us, “Who did you witness to this week?”. In the beginning it was awkward silence and he would be the only one to share. But being asked the same question every week, again and again, reminded us of why we are here—to reach the lost with the Gospel; and it caused us to actually go out and witness to people. Soon enough we all had something to share and it became a great habit. So, if there is no response at first, share what you have and ask again the next time.
Can I pray for you?
In Exodus 18, Jethro says to Moses, “You will be able to endure the pressures and all these people will go home in peace”. There is a very vital connection between people going home in peace and us as leaders enduring pressure. It is always easier to lead when you know your people’s needs are met. And we could not possibly accomplish this on our own, but we believe in God who hears us! So, before you let them go (well, hang up) offer to pray. Praise God for their gift and express your gratitude, encourage them and let them go in peace.
You can use your own questions. Just make sure you are fully present and engaged in the conversation as this is the greatest gift we can give to people when we lead from afar.
Missions Interlink is an NFP that seeks to serve Christians on the mission field. Linking, equipping, serving, inspiring, and representing mission organisations and churches across Australia. For more information – go to their website here.