Leadership Means Speaking the Truth

Learning to Lead Responsibly

by Brent Colby / September 15, 2017

Kidmin leaders must learn how to have difficult conversations. I discovered this the first time I had to fire a volunteer. It wasn’t pretty.

It all started when I recruited a warm body. Perhaps you have some of these on your team: they have a pulse and have passed a background check. These were the two primary requirements for serving the church in those days. I thought things were good until I got the word from one of my other team members. The warm body recruit was extremely awkward, bad with kids, and often rude to adults. Things were not going well … so we gave it another week. When week two was another fail, we decided to change roles for this poorly suited volunteer. But nothing seemed to work. I was stuck with a bad volunteer who I had to ask to step down. Time didn’t fix anything, and my desire to avoid a difficult conversation just made things more difficult.

I had never learned to have crucial conversations like this. Growing up, my family usually avoided conflict. I felt like asking this volunteer to leave would be mean, and that it might even hurt his feelings! But my concern was misguided. By not confronting this volunteer, I was actually behaving in the cruelest way.

Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Ephesus and said, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15,16, ESV). He tells them to speak the truth in love to each other. This, as it seems, is a critical part of the body of Christ growing together in maturity. Without speaking the truth in love, the body cannot function together and fulfill its purpose. It is very important that we tell the truth to those who need to hear it.

So how do we learn to have those difficult conversations with those who need it?
  1. Speak from a place of love. You know that the kindest thing you can do is tell someone the truth. It may sting, but they will thank you for the honesty later.
  2. Speak the whole truth. Don’t sugarcoat things lest your audience miss what you are trying to say. Be completely honest, but don’t go out of your way to sound mean.
  3. 1, 2, 3, go. You must commit to having the crucial conversation. It will not “just happen” unless you make it happen. Be brave and full of courage, and make it happen. You owe it to yourself and to the person you need to address.
I eventually had the critical conversation with my team member. It was difficult and he was obviously disappointed. But when it was all over, I realized that it was not that difficult and that he was not that disappointed. I had built up this conversation into something bigger than what it was.

Have your own critical conversation this week. Speak kind works that cut right to the truth. It’s the only way to go.