Just a Few Sentences…

I analyze everything. I pay close attention to what’s going on around me and have to take time to think through and process things. So when it comes to making quick decisions, I don’t typically feel very comfortable. I’ve often tended to view this aspect of my personality negatively.

About three months ago, I was having a conversation with an adult leader about streamlining some different systems and processes for an event. When we came to one of the responsibilities and how to improve it, I made a passing comment about how I wasn’t very good at that job because I need to think through things and this job required thinking on the spot. And then I just made a small comment about how I viewed this part of my personality as a disadvantage. And the leader stopped me. She said, “Matthew, don’t say that. It’s important and valuable think through things the way you do. We need that!” And she went on to explain how my perspective could actually contribute to improving this responsibility. This took me entirely by surprise and completely changed my perspective!

I took away a few big lessons from this discussion with that leader.

I realized that it’s all about perspective. I looked at this certain situation from my assumption that my personality was a disadvantage, while the leader viewed it from a different vantage point. While it’s true that sometimes that part of my personality can be negative, I shouldn’t start with that belief. I should begin with a positive perspective.

I also realized how different personalities work together. If everyone was just like me and analyzed everything deeply and took time to process everything, we’d be in deep trouble. And if no one was like me, we’d also be in deep trouble because so many details would be ignored. But when people with all of the different personalities that God has created work together, everyone contributes and adds value.

But the biggest lesson I took away from this conversation actually had nothing to do with my personality, or the issue we were discussing. From this conversation, I realized just how powerful words are, if they are spoken. That leader didn’t have to stop me and encourage me and help me see things differently. She could have easily said nothing; the conversation would have continued and neither of us would have thought anything about it. It wasn’t that I thought this “disadvantage” of mine was that big of a deal. It was a “small” opportunity to encourage, but she chose to affirm me anyway. Now I wonder how often I miss out on opportunities to affirm and encourage people, not because I’m not paying attention, but rather because I see the chance but don’t think it’s really that important. But that leader thought it was important. And it meant a whole lot to me. Those couple of sentences made a world of difference.

Now, I’m inspired to do the same for others. My words have impact, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t want to waste opportunities I have to be an encourager. I want to encourage and affirm, no matter how “small” I think the opportunity is. Those words from that leader blessed me, and I want to pass that on.

We never know the impact we can have on someone because of a couple of sentences in a conversation!

5 Lessons about Teamwork

This past year, I had the honor and privilege of serving on the Institute for Cultural Communicators‘ 2012-2013 National Student Leader Council (NSLC). The responsibility of the NSLC pertains primarily to supporting ICC’s student leadership programs. Not only have I been able to support and serve ICC and its student leaders, but I have also learned much from this opportunity, especially regarding teamwork. Here are five lessons I’ve learned about teamwork as a result of serving on the NSLC:

  1. A team is one unit. I know this might sound a little obvious, but serving on the NSLC has shown me just how true this is. As a team, we are not individuals all working toward the same goal. We are one unit (made up of individuals) working toward a goal. Individuals give character to the team, but ultimately a team has to be unified to be effective.
  2. Teammates focus on each other, not themselves. It’s a common saying: “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Being a good teammate means ignoring what you want and what’s best for you and instead focusing on your team members and thinking about what’s best for them and for the team as a whole.
  3. Teammates love each other. Just because you’re on the same team doesn’t mean you always work well together. Sometimes your teammates will annoy you or frustrate you. But as a team, you have to love each other in spite of your differences and difficulties. And when you do that, you end up appreciating your team even more than before.
  4. Teammates need each other. The idea behind a team is that you’re not alone; you have people working alongside you. I’ve seen just how true this is as I’ve worked on the Council. Whether it’s planning a conference call or discussing a policy, we have to work together; we can’t do it alone!
  5. Teams are not exclusive. As the NSLC, we are given special responsibilities. But this doesn’t mean that we have to be our own exclusive club. In fact, part of being a team means reaching out to those not on your team. And that brings even more joy than only hanging out with “your team.”

Serving on the National Student Leader Council has taught me so much. I love my team and am so thankful for all of the lessons I’ve learned!