Rising to expectations

One of the most important leadership truths I’ve learned in life is that people often rise to the expectations their leaders have of them. Most people are capable of doing more than they realize, and they only need someone to challenge them to exceed far more than they think possible.

This truth became real for me when I became the pastor of a small, struggling rural church in 1981. The church was on verge of closing when I became its pastor. For the first couple of years we didn’t do much but build relationships. Then we began our first attempt at doing something. It was a small thing that only required about $2,600.00, but it took us a year to raise that money. When we completed that project we started another one that would cost the same amount of money. This time it took only eight months. By now people were starting to feel they could accomplish things so we began larger projects. By the time I left that church twenty years later we built an addition that cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars debt-free. This was by a congregation of about 50 people. We also gave over $14,000.00 to our denomination’s mission program that year as well as being involved in many other ministries.

What made the difference in that small church? One of the most important things I did was to constantly tell the people how much I believed in them. I often would say in  sermons that I had more faith in them than many of them had in themselves. As we began to have some wins they started believing in themselves as well. We were doing things that few smaller churches would try.

When people believe in themselves they aren’t afraid to try new things, and they aren’t afraid to fail. We failed at many things we tried, but we succeeded often enough that we weren’t afraid to fail. We began to look at failure at simply one thing that wouldn’t work, and we would begin to look for another direction to take.

If you are a leader, it’s important to remind the people around you how much you believe in them. If you are in a place where things haven’t gone well for an extended period of time, find some quick easy wins to help build confidence in people. Winning is contagious! After a few easy wins you’ll be able to set the bar higher, and your people will rise up to the new challenges. It’s a win for both your organization and for the people who are accomplishing more than they thought possible.

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