Craig Groeschel - Leading with Productive Boundaries
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Craig Groeschel: I am excited to have back Lysa TerKeurst, a very, very good friend of mine. She is the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, a prolific author, two times, number one "New York Times" bestselling author, five time "New York Times" bestselling author. She has a new book out called "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are". It's my honor to welcome back Lysa. Lysa! Glad to have you on the podcast.
Lysa TerKeurst: Thank you. It's always an honor and joy to be with you, Craig. Thank you.
Craig Groeschel: Hey, Lysa, you, amongst many other awards and incredible attributes, you have won today. You are the one and only three time guest on the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast".
Lysa TerKeurst: Well, that is incredible, and maybe even slightly intimidating, so, maybe you should have shared that with me at the end.
Craig Groeschel: Well, there'll be more, but you're the first, and that just is a reflection of how much I appreciate you and your team and your leadership. And a lot of people around the world know you as a prolific author, and congratulations on your new book, "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are". So, many people have read your books, but I also appreciate you just as a world class leader. You've got an incredible team and great people. And I want to do, we've interviewed you before, but I wanna hear a little bit of your leadership backstory, Lysa. Can you tell us, when was the first time in life when you recognized that you were actually a leader, or had leadership gifts?
Lysa TerKeurst: I never really considered myself a leader in middle school and high school. I wanted to be, and so I ran for a lot of school elections and had some pretty sad moments where I had to take my posters down after losing the school elections. And so, I didn't really consider myself a leader until I got into my mid-twenties and I was helping behind the scenes to start this little endeavor called Proverbs 31. And people started looking to me and asking me advice, and I wouldn't have called myself a leader in that moment, but I think my leadership journey, I won't say it started accidentally, I'll say it just started small. And I think when people were looking to me to help make important decisions, and wanting my advice, I think that's the moment where I became a leader. Now, I quickly learned that, in my leadership journey, I did not wanna be the smartest person at the table. I think some leaders are intimidated to bring in, especially in a new organization, I think some leaders are intimidated to bring in people that are smarter than them, or, I should say, more equipped in certain areas than them. But I always saw the great need and necessity for that. And so I surrounded myself with people who were enthusiastic and who also were better equipped to handle certain specific areas of responsibility in the ministry, and that served me really well.
Craig Groeschel: I love your leadership story, Lysa. I love the fact that you started small, and I love the fact that you are wise enough to surround yourself by people that are smarter than you. I wanna kind of ask you a follow up question, because you didn't see yourself as a leader, but you did have leadership gifts. What would you say to someone else right now that's kind of on the edge, they might be like you, they're doing something small. What would you say to them to build a little bit of confidence that they actually can grow in their leadership? What'd you learn in your early twenties, and what would you say to someone like that?
Lysa TerKeurst: Well, I think it's important to pay attention to where we are most comfortable and where we demonstrate strengths that have been part of our life for a really long time. So, an example of that for me, I was never comfortable doing accounting or math or trying to crunch the numbers for the budget. So, I recognized that there were other people that could do that, and do it much better than me. Where I was comfortable, and where I can look back in my, even early childhood, I was comfortable communicating. And, I have so many stories when a teacher would give an assignment of a book report that needed to be presented in front of the class, everybody else would groan and moan and dread that day; I was super excited. Book report days, to me, were the ultimate school experience. I just loved it. I loved to read, I loved to write, I loved to stand up in front of my classmates and influence them to possibly consider reading this book, or having this perspective after reading this book. And so there were lots of hints along the way that I had leadership qualities, but it didn't look like winning the school election, it looked like exploring my strengths, and then when I did step into leadership, going to those strengths and recognizing, this is my lane, and leadership will look like this for me. And being comfortable with that. I think that's good to be comfortable, and also just to recognize, and I want our community to understand, that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. That you can be incredibly empathetic and be a great leader, or you can be charismatic and be a great leader. You can be inquisitive and ask lots of questions and be a great leader, or you can be confidently directive and be a great leader. There are shy leaders that are strategic, and there are bold leaders that are more in the moment. And I think you're really wise in helping leaders discover what's unique about them, kind of pulling that out of them, and recognizing, sometimes people think of leaders in more of a typical, bold, charismatic person up front, and that's just not true. Leadership is influence. Everybody has influence. And I love that part of your story. I'd like to get a little bit, Lysa, into your mind with your team, because your team is just, you guys are crazy brilliant, creative beyond measure. And that doesn't happen by accident. I'd like to know, what is it you do to attract creative people, build creative people, create an environment that gives them permission to create? Give me a little insight into your strategy to create an environment where creative people grow and have permission to excel.
— I think one of the worst things we can do to a creative person, is micromanage them. And so, I think that giving a creative person clear expectations of what the end product or the end result needs to be, but giving them the freedom to get there in their own unique way, I think that's really important. Also, I think the environment that a creative person works in, matters, and there needs to be enthusiasm and there needs to be inspiration. And don't limit yourself to just typical ways to bring enthusiasm and inspiration. I know, for me, when I walk in the office, I think a lot of my staff would say, "The fun has now arrived". And I know sometimes when I used to go out of town when my kids were smaller, or younger, they would say, "Don't leave Mom, 'cause you take all the fun with you"! And, so paying attention to the fact that I'm a creative person, and I know that I need an enthusiastic, fun environment. I need inspiration around me. I need think tanks, not just boring meetings, you know? And a think tank is so much more invigorating, where everybody's voice matters, and everybody contributes something significant. And I know that we need stuff around us that feels beautiful, and inspiring. And so, all of that to me is part of the unique way that we not only attract creative people, but we keep those creative people. And I think the number one thing is just giving them a lot of freedom to be expressive, but also responsible.
— That's good, I like that; to give them freedom to be expressive but also responsible. Because, I'm gonna say this super respectfully, and this is an over-generalization, and certainly is not all true, but a lot of people would say, "Well, creative people are more difficult to manage, or they're just kind of loosey goosey and don't hit deadlines". And, again, that's really not fair at all. But, what I'd like for you to do is, let's just assume that I've kind of got an old school mindset that, you should show up for work at eight and leave at five, and you should do it in this room, and you got the tools to do it. And I don't understand creative people. And, I'll tell you what I'm trying to lead to is, what I've had to learn is, I've had to learn to appreciate the differences in how people get to an end product, and allow for things that are really way outside my comfort zone. So if I'm kind of a person that just doesn't understand the creative mindset, and that might even frustrate me, what advice would you give me as a leader to better understand, and, not only understand, but to maximize their gifts, appreciate them, and celebrate them?
— I think communication is gonna be really key, because you are gonna have very definitive expectations, and that's just how you're wired. If you like to show up at nine and leave at five, and have a more rigid style to you, then naturally, the end product needs to be delivered in a way that fits what you deem as successful, or as excellent work. I absolutely require excellent work. But I know that the only way for me to get excellent work, whether I'm talking to a creative or anybody else that's structured in a different way, I need to be crystal clear of my definition of excellence. And let me give you an example of that; one of my teams, I was doing a review of that team, and some development that they needed to work on is they needed to be more strategic. And I was frustrated, because everything that they kept bringing back to me was requiring the audience or the reader, the consumer, to make an illogical leap. And it was driving me nuts; "Why can you not see that there's strategy here that needs to be implemented, so that the distinctive is very evident and you're not requiring people to make illogical leaps"? And finally one of my leaders looked at me and said, "Lysa, we don't know your definition of strategic, and so can you please unpack that for us"? And it clued me in to know that some of what I do out of instinct, needs to be unpacked, and the layers need to be peeled back, and the clearer definition needs to be given so that they have a fighting chance to deliver what it is I'm asking for.
— That is really, really good. And I think in the same way that they may not understand some of your instincts, others of us as leaders may not understand their instincts, or the why behind it. I love what you're saying. If we can be really, really clear up front that here is the end goal here, and probably have to communicate real deadlines, and then talk about, what are the negotiables in between? And the negotiables honestly should be a lot when we're working with creatives. And if we do give them more freedom with clear direction, the outcome can be incredible. And you've proven that again and again in your organization. I just, I look on and admire what your team creates. And so, thank you for being a good example we can learn from. All right Lysa, I wanna ask just some kind of rapid fire questions about the current environment that a lot of leaders are learning to navigate. And then I wanna dive into your brilliant new book and ask you a bunch of questions about that. So first, before we get to your book, let's talk about the current state of the world. And I don't know what you're gonna say, I've got no idea, I don't even know if we're allowed to call this, kind of, like, a post-COVID world. You know, in some places that might be illegal to say, but we're certainly moving beyond what was, we know that, whatever the terminology would be. But I would ask you, what changes in the mood of your team, in your culture, what are you seeing that's different now as opposed to 2019?
— Probably one of the biggest changes is people's desire to not have to come to the office. I think during the pandemic people saw that they could effectively work from home, and they got used to that, and now they want to work from home. So, we really wrestled through as an executive team, who needs to be in the office, what's the justification for requiring them to be in the office more days than other people? What's responsible for us to require? You know, we just built a 16,000 square foot office building, and so we wanna be a faithful steward by using the office. So we really wrestled through that, and I think we came up with some really good parameters for our people that gives them flexibility to honor the fact that during the pandemic they were not only as productive, but they became more productive working from home. And so I didn't wanna ignore that, just because I had in my mindset that healthy organizations have people in the office five days a week. So, we got very creative, and we do require our team to be present every Tuesday and every Wednesday. Then, they have some flex on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. And that has been working really well for us. Now, will it be that way forever? I don't know. But it's working right now, and I wanna pay attention to what works and be very responsible with that. So that's a big thing. Another big thing is, I think coming out of the pandemic, people are very skeptical. And I think people are very skeptical, especially of larger organizations. And so, one of the initiatives that I launched within Proverbs 31 is that we wanna go deeper, not wider. And what I mean by that is I cast this vision to my staff that I wanted them to, they can't do it with everybody that contacts our ministry, but with some people that contact the ministry, I want them to pause their typical flow and go deeper with that person. And then, as the leader of the organization, I need to do that same thing with my employees. So I may not be able to go deeper with every single person, but it is so important for me to be an honest leader and to squelch some of that skepticism by modeling what I've challenged them to do with our consumer by doing it within the staff of Proverbs 31 Ministries.
— I think those things are so important, and I agree with you 100%. I think that every organization now has to wrestle with, how do we work? Where do we work? And I've talked to a lot of leaders that, you know, some of 'em say, "You gotta be back in the office 100%, all the time". Others are saying, "We don't even ever need to see you again"! And some are in between. And so I think every organization is different, so it's hard to really create a one-size-fits-all, but those are good questions to wrestle with. And then, I love what you're saying, it's really sad to me, but now, like you said, people start with a posture sometimes of skepticism and a lack of trust, more so than before. And so, we have to do more to create trust in our people. And it's sad, but it's real. And I like what you said, and I want to kinda ask you a follow up question, but you talked about, you know, doing one-on-ones, going deeper with people, which I think is really, really, really important. Is there anything else that you're doing or any way you're thinking differently to create trust with your people, clarity of direction, or transparency on decision making, or is there anything else that you're doing that would help other leaders to say, "Yeah, some of my team may not be in a good place, but Lysa's doing this, and I think I can apply it," what advice would you give us?
— Well, recently we decided that it was very important coming out of the pandemic to get proactive with our five year goals. And the reason is, because there's more disruptors in the marketplace, and that's true whether you're in the secular marketplace or whether you're in the ministry marketplace. There are a lot of disruptors right now that were not present. COVID was like draining a lake, and now we're really forced to see what's there. And when you're forced to see what's there, you get a lot more honest about places where your organization, in five years, if it continues to go this way, is gonna be on a decline. And we've gotta really pay attention to that. So, we got very honest about disruptors, and that became a really big word for us. The second word that became really big is distinctives. You know, before the pandemic, one of our distinctives is that we were pretty exclusive in what we offered. One of our distinctives was our online Bible study. Well, coming out of the pandemic, everybody was doing an online Bible study now, because the online market got saturated. And another disruptor is not only is there more competition, if you wanna use that word, out there, but we had lost that distinctive of being one of the only that provided that. But also, people are exhausted being on their computers. And so a major disruptor for us is, you know, the oversaturation in people's minds of Zoom meetings, and doing another thing where they're trying to connect through technology, rather than person-to-person. So, we had to pay attention to distinctives and disruptors. And when we set our five years goal, we didn't just think about it externally, we thought about it internally. So we asked the question for our employees, "Where have we lost some of our distinctive of being an excellent place to work? And what are some of those disruptors that people are facing"? And we decided to make it our highest goal, not just one of our goals, but our highest goal, to effectively do ministry with the people who work for us. And, we put some pretty big five year goals in place, because our hope is that, by taking really good care of the people inside of the organization, that that will bleed over to more effective communication and more effective ministry outside of our organization. And we didn't just say to our employees, "You matter, you're important," we gave them very tangible, practical examples, and we delivered on that promise in year one. We're not waiting until year five, but we delivered on it year one. And I think our employees would say this year they know that one of our highest goals is to take really good care of our employees.
— So that's so interesting to me, Lysa, because, well, first of all, we'll acknowledge you're in ministry, and so your end goal is to minister and strengthen people, often through the written Word, through online Bible studies, through all the curriculum you put out, and that's your end goal. But in order to increase your end goal of ministry to those, your consumer, you feel like ministering to your team is the highest priority. Now I could almost imagine a business person saying, "Well our goal's not ministry. Our goal is to make a profit and do business well". I would think you probably would advise them in a similar way, that if you want to create a profit externally, you probably need to care for your team internally first. And I think that we're seeing a lot of leaders wake up to that today, because I think we have more people on our teams hurting today than before. And the way I kind of assess it, Lysa, is I think that the world has gotten so crazy, and in many ways it seems like it's settling down, but I think the tide's going out and people are now going, "Oh my gosh, here's where I'm hurt". And almost like, I don't want to sound too extreme, but almost like PTSD from the past couple of years; relational disruption, division, loss of relationships. So people are coming to work, or working from home, wherever they're working, and they're hurting way, way more today. You said your team knows it and they feel it. Could you give me some advice of what you've done to minister to them, to care for them, to strengthen them, that would help other leaders maybe do the same thing?
— So we really paid attention to what our employees were talking about. And possibly even what behind the scenes were they kind of maybe complaining about, or not so much even complaining, but just expressing concern over. And so, some very practical things. One was maternity leave. And that was something that was being talked about a lot. A lot of our employees, we have 70 employees now, and a lot of our employees are females, and a lot of them are at the age and stage of life where they're, you know, starting their families. So maternity leave became something that was really important to our employees. And we had a, I felt like, it was a very good policy. And so I could have tried to convince my employees why our policy was so good, or I could be brave enough to get input and consider changing the policy, all the while being very responsible with the finances and with the cost to the organization. But I think that's been a very positive step forward. Another one is paying attention to the needs of our employees, and giving them permission to lead in their area and speak to any part of their job that's inefficient, or to call out inefficiencies either in other departments without the fear of them being seen as a whistleblower. And I think empowering people to be able to identify little places where the organization is broken gave them this feeling of ownership that helps squelch the idea that there's a separation between the workers and the executives. And it made everyone feel like they were a significant contributor to the organization. And giving them career pathways, that's another big thing that we're working on. Some of our younger people, all the way to some of the older people within our organization, they wanna know, "How do I progress inside of this organization"? And taking the time to ask our employees, "What is success to you"? To some people it's a title, to other people, it's pay, to other people, they wanna see that they have the opportunity to get promoted. If those career pathways aren't clear, then you could potentially lose some of your most enthusiastic employees.
— Benefits, contribution, and growth. So this is super important. What you wanna do is, you want to get into the mindset of your team and recognize the world has changed, and what benefits and blesses them today might be different than it was before. And as leaders, we thought we were bringing a good game to support our team before, but the world has changed. And so if we don't recognize that, we may be missing some opportunities to hear from them and give them some benefits; maternity leave, time off, flexibility, whatever. The second thing you basically said is, you've given them permission to be contributors. In an environment where people often don't trust, they won't bring up ideas, because they're gonna be afraid that they might be perceived in the wrong way, or might be a whistleblower. But you're saying you're empowering them, giving them permission, to raise ideas. And then I take it another level; when they do, we celebrate it like crazy, because we need to let people know that their ideas matter and make a difference, and so they're contributing. And then the third thing is you said you're giving them, basically, a place for personal growth, professional growth, organizational promotion, and those things are great. So, I love what you're doing. I just wanted to kind of bring them to our community. We're listening and trying to provide benefits that bless them, we want them to have ownership and be able to bring contribution, and then, people wanna grow. And you're giving them that. And so, I think that's brilliant leadership. Let's shift to your book, because, this is an incredibly important topic, and one that I think a lot of leaders are gonna benefit from. "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are". Most books, there's often a story behind it. Is there any kind of organizational story that contributed to you writing this book?
— Absolutely. I experienced a lot of relationship chaos in the past eight years. And where there's chaos, there's usually a lack of boundaries. And so, like many of my other books, I didn't approach this topic from the point of my strength, I approached it from my point of struggle, and my desperate need to answer some pretty critical questions. For me, being a Christian, I wanted to know, is it Christian to establish boundaries? Is it unkind? And I needed the confidence to know that boundaries was the correct solution to some of the problems that I was experiencing. And I spent about 1,000 hours really doing research, and a lot of it from the Bible, looking to see where in the Bible are boundaries discussed. And what I quickly discovered is, boundaries aren't just a good idea, they're God's idea. And that led me also into the world of therapy. There's a lot of good therapeutic practices out there that walk right in line with theology. And I wanted to know, what is the difference between a healthy boundary and an unhealthy boundary, and why do I often feel like a boundary failure? So I did a ton of research, I interviewed a lot of people, I learned a lot, and I didn't want to keep it to myself.
— So that raises about 4,000 questions, just based on what you said. But let's start with, in the workplace, healthy boundary versus unhealthy boundary. Can you unpack those two ideas and give me a little clarity on which is which, and why?
— Absolutely. So, let me do it by kind of drawing this little chart, if you will. So just kind of go with me with this. I want you to think of a boundary in terms of three important words. Those three words are; access, responsibility, and consequences. So where a lot of people are hitting this spot of, "I just can't take it anymore". Or, "If something doesn't change, I'm just gonna go crazy over here"! When you start having those feelings, that's an indication of dysfunction. And where there's dysfunction, it's usually playing out in chaos in our relationships. So let me explain where that's coming from. So many of us are giving level 10 access to people without requiring level 10 responsibility for that access. And if we give level 10 access to someone, but they are only willing or capable of bringing level three responsibility, the distance between those two is where dysfunctions are present, and chaos is playing out. That's the need for a boundary. Now, here's where we've gotten it wrong, here's where I've gotten it wrong; I tried to put a boundary on this other person to force them to raise up their level of responsibility. But we all know, and we've learned, we can't control another person, we can't make another person change. That's like if you were having a cardiac event today, I could sustain your life for a little while through external pressure doing CPR, but never have you seen two friends walking around the mall, one doing chest compressions on the other, and thought, "Wow, that's a sustainable way to live," right? Because in that cardiac event, if their heart doesn't start beating on its own, then life is not sustainable. And the same is true if someone doesn't desire to bring more responsibility to the access that you've granted them, you can't make them have that desire. That desire has to come from within. So, we can't put that boundary on another person and expect it to be effective. What we need to do is, we need to put a boundary in the situation, and maybe on ourselves, that if they're only willing or capable of bringing level three responsibility, then we boundary ourselves to reduce the access down to level three. Because that's the level of responsibility that's present in the dynamic. And, that has really radically changed my ability to put boundaries in place without asking for permission or without apologizing. My counselor often says, "Adults inform, children explain". I don't need to ask someone permission to put a boundary in place, and I don't need to over-explain why the boundary is necessary. I need to be clear in my communication. I can be kind in my communication, I can say what I mean, mean what I say, and don't say it mean. But when it comes to a need for a boundary, to keep myself safe and sane and in a position where I can love others well without losing the best of who I am, and honestly without losing it on other people, because I have so many frustrations, due to a lack of boundaries, then I must pay attention to access and responsibility. And then of course the third word is, consequences. A boundary without a consequence is nothing but a bad suggestion. Now the consequences don't need to be extreme, they need to be realistic and they need to be well communicated. And these aren't threats. This isn't an effort to control or manipulate. We always need to check our motives. If we find ourselves threatening and controlling and manipulating, then we need to reassess the way that we are doing this whole process. But there do need to be logical consequences for boundaries that are not respected and that are crossed, and we need to be consistent with those consequences. On the flip side, we need to recognize that establishing boundaries may cost us something. And it may cost us something that we like that we're getting in this relationship, even if the relationship is dysfunctional. So we have to count the cost, and then decide, the pain of not implementing a boundary has now gotten to the point where it's worth the cost to implement a healthy boundary.
— That's really, really helpful. And I'd like to try to apply that kind of professionally and organizationally. So let's say we're working for a team and we need to create some boundaries. I'm assuming that if we're not emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy, then we might struggle to recognize the need for them, or create them appropriately. Can you talk a little bit about, how do we develop the emotional intelligence that gives us the wisdom to not over-boundary or under-boundary our lives professionally?
— That's an excellent question. I would say look for the chaos in your organization, and where there is chaos, usually there is some sort of dysfunction and a lack of boundaries. Now here's the emotional intelligence part; we get used to our own dysfunctions, and we start calling dysfunctions, normal. So we may not be able to recognize dysfunctions, but we will feel the tension of the chaos. So look for the chaos. And, I think, to increase our level of emotional intelligence, it's gonna be really important that we get outside people looking in. And those people need to be safe and they need to be educated to give us good advice and help us see what we might be missing. It's gonna be really tough for a leader. Some leaders may be able to do this, and I commend them for it, but it may be really tough for the leader to have their team feed into them when it comes to increasing their emotional intelligence. Maybe eventually you'll get to a place where you can do that. But at first, go to trained professionals and ask the questions, or get other leaders to look inside of your organization. And if you can't define where the chaos is, or where the dysfunction is, give them permission to speak that into you. Let me give you a really practical example. A couple of years ago I did a renovation at my house, and some wires got crossed. I don't know how this happened. And if you're an electrician, you may be tempted to not believe me, but this is honestly true. The wires got crossed so that the only way for us to have hot water was for the back flood lights to be on. If you turned the back flood lights off, the hot water stopped working. So when my sister came to visit and went upstairs to take a shower, somebody turned the back flood lights off, and suddenly she's yelling downstairs, "Something just happened to the hot water"! To which I yelled back, "Oh someone turned off the back flood lights"! Well, when she finished her shower, she came downstairs, and she looked at me and she said, "Repeat what you said". And I said, "Oh, sorry, you ran out of hot water because the back flood lights went off. But when I turned them on, the hot water came back". And she looked at me, she said, "You need to get that fixed. You know that, right"? And I said, "I know, I've been meaning to put up a sign by the light switch for the back flood lights, telling people, 'Don't turn the back flood lights off because it'll make the hot water go out.'" And she looked at me even closer and she said, "That's not normal. Do you know that"? Like, "It's time to call the professionals". And that may be a silly example, but so very applicable to where we may be missing areas of dysfunction in our organization because it's been happening so long, we've suddenly called it normal. So it may be time to call in outside help, to help us recognize what's really happening, and to identify, even in ourselves, what we need to do about the dysfunction and the chaos that does exist, usually, in every organization.
— Yes. And so, I want to just add a little bit to that, and, first of all, tell you it's brilliant. And, little bit of color commentary that may help leaders and team members is, when we use words like chaos and dysfunction, a lot of times what that does is it creates a negative narrative in the organization that there's kind of evil people doing evil things. And I just wanna acknowledge that in every organization, especially right now, there's more complications and more challenges. And that doesn't mean it's evil people doing evil things. It basically means there's some problems to be solved. And a lot of times when we, if we're not careful, we're gonna approach it with, "This is a problem I hate, because this is a bad place". What I wanna do is take a different mindset and say, "This is an opportunity for us to improve". And if we can approach it that way, with emotional intelligence, then we can clearly define what it is we wanna change, and we can work to create boundaries. And I just kind of want to add that, Lysa, because I think that there is so much organizational distrust, and a problem doesn't mean a lack of integrity. Sometimes a problem hasn't been acknowledged yet. And so, let's work together to determine, where are the places we can improve? Let's listen to one another, let's create the appropriate boundaries, and then let's make our organizations great. And I want to give you permission to take kind of that idea even one step further; when you do get to that place where we recognize, "Here's an opportunity to improve, there is chaos and we can do better. There is a toxic environment, and we all wanna make it better. But between where we are and where we wanna be, there's some really hard conversations that we need to have". Give us some advice based on your thousands of hours of research. How can we better have hard conversations without hurt feelings, and work toward good, healthy resolutions?
— First of all, I would encourage all leaders to be honest about their own emotional and mental health. I think we're seeing a real rise in leaders struggling with that. And healthy people attract healthy people, and healthy people have healthy conversations. So, I think that's really important to pay attention to. When having a conversation with someone, there's a really important, I think, guide that we need to pay attention to. And some really smart psychological researchers came up with what they call the four horseman of the apocalypse in a relationship. And these are things to avoid, and we won't cover all four, but I'm gonna give you a couple. One is defensiveness. Anytime you're having a conversation and defensiveness starts to happen, you short circuit the other person's ability to clearly communicate what's happening because we're instantly personalizing what they have to say, taking offense at what they're saying, and we're too quick to jump in and tell them why they're wrong, or why they've misunderstood the situation. I think it's so important not to jump to defensiveness, but to be brave and courageous enough to let them say what they need to say. And then to respond back, "I believe you, that that is your experience. Now, let's look at the facts, and let's see where the facts line up with what you believe to be true, and maybe where the facts are an opportunity for me to present a different perspective". So defensive is one. Another one is simmering resentments. I got a really good challenge from my therapist recently, he challenged me to stop using the word expectations so much. Sometimes that's the most appropriate word. But he said, "Why don't you sometimes use needs and desires, instead of expectations? Because expectations sometimes have premeditated resentments built in". And so be careful how you use that word, because, along with defensiveness, one of the killers of a conversation is contempt. And what contempt is, is simmering resentments that have gone unaddressed, and preconceived notions that we've already labeled someone as a certain way. So before we even have the conversation, we're looking at that person through a lens of maybe a negative experience that we had. So I think paying attention to some of these kinds of fundamental conversation killers, and educating ourselves around that, will really be beneficial to, not only the leaders, but the people in our organization. That's why in "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes", I make much of providing people scripts that, when they need to have boundary conversations, I'm not gonna tell you what to think, but I'm gonna give you some really good things to think about when having healthy conversations.
— That's so good. Yeah, if I'm not mistaken, and there may be other people who've done research on it, the four horsemen, I think Dr. Gottman at least was one of them.
— I'll have our team do a little bit of research, and link in the Leader Guide to some helpful articles. I think one might have been stonewalling. I'm trying to remember the four. But that's super helpful.
— And I'm also just aware, I think right now, kind of like what you said, people are more skeptical going into conversations today. I think we have to build more trust, because there often is less trust. And, like what you said, the filters, if you walk in with a bad attitude about somebody, there's no way to hear something good coming from them. And organizationally, we have to work through that. We really wanna create an environment where trust is given, mistrust is earned, meaning, we're gonna start from a place where we actually do trust you. And most people think, "Well, trust is earned," actually, we wanna hire great people, and so trust is given, like, we freely are gonna trust people and start with that mindset. And then you can actually get somewhere. I wanna ask you, in "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes", if you're at a level 10 of giving people access, that might be too much. One of the questions a lot of people ask, Lysa, in leadership is, "How transparent can we really be as leaders"? I think transparency matters a lot, and people want us to be more open about a lot of different things. There might be a such thing as being too open. What advice would you have for us to be as transparent as we can without creating an environment that's detrimental, maybe, to ourselves?
— Well, I think on the most basic level, when we are transparent with our team, I think giving them just the foundational issue at hand, just giving them a few facts about what we're facing, if we are going through something difficult as a leader, and people will feel it. Like, people kind of know something's going on. And it will increase their skepticism if they feel that something's going on, but they are told everything's fine. So I think sharing the basics is good. Going into too much detail is just not gonna be necessary or helpful. And some leaders feel the pressure to go into detail because they think that's the only way to be honest. But here's something I think can help; there's a big difference between privacy and secrecy. Secrecy is when we're hiding facts because we don't wanna be found out, and we wanna continue bad behavior. That's secrecy. Privacy is withholding some of the details for the sake of healing, not hiding. And so, I think if we can remember that we can be very honest and very private about the details, all at the same time, that's not us keeping secrets, that's not us being dishonest, that's us being wise.
— That is really, really good. I hope that there's someone that just, like, hits review, and listens to that a few times. And that goes all the way down to, like, "What do we share on social media? You know, what do we," because, I mean, that's a real issue today too, right? What do we talk about in our small group Bible studies, and how do we lead? So I think that's brilliant. I want to move to kind of a lightning round, just for fun, Lysa. Before we do that, "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes", can you tell us, just kind of give us an overview, of those listening, who really needs that book? Who's this book for?
— Anyone that's gotten to a place in a relationship or in several of their relationships where they're starting to say, "I just can't take it anymore". That's who needs this book. And, if you wanna get proactive, so you don't get to the place where you start saying over some of your relationships, "I just can't take it anymore," be proactive and go ahead and educate yourself about good boundaries and goodbyes. I really think this book will help any human who interacts with other humans. That's who I really think could benefit from reading this book.
— Because we all get to the place where it seems like we can't take it anymore, at some point and some time. And sometimes we're the person who's doing that to somebody else, right? And so-
— Yeah, thank you for your work on it, and your research, and your whole team. What you do and what you provide is so valuable. Just for fun, a quick lightning round. Favorite leadership quote, is there anything that stands out to you, Lysa?
— Yes, I have a really good quote, I'm gonna pull it out right now. It's from Ralph Waldo Emerson. and it's this; "Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail".
— Wow, very good.
— And the reason that I like that so much, I know we're in lightening round, so I won't comment too much, but I think one of the most important things within an organization for a leader to do is identify the distinctives and make sure that we're not doing the same thing as everyone else is doing, and therefore putting ourselves intentionally in competition. Instead, if your organization doesn't have distinctives, go find an area that you can be distinctive. Highlight those distinctives. And make your organization the go-to place for this very high-felt need, and then you will be successful.
— The book years and years ago that did that for me was "Blue Ocean Strategy". I don't know if you read that, but...
— There's a lot of competition in the bloody waters, and a lot of people are in red water, look for the blue ocean. And...
— That's right.
— That's a good quote. Biggest leadership pet peeve.
— Fair enough. You're very value-driven, and your organization is very value-driven, is there a top value that guides what you do, Lysa?
— Responsible honesty.
— I'll count that as one, even though it's two words. I think that does count.
— I was hoping you didn't catch that.
— No, I think that actually is, that qualifying word, responsible, on the front of it, is a distinguishing characteristic of honesty. I like it. When you're looking for a new team member, is there one quality that stands above the rest that you're looking for in a great team member?
— Yes, and I can't take credit for this because I got this from Ron Blue. I asked him one time, "What's the number one thing that I need to keep in mind if I wanna hire good employees"? And he said back to me, "Brokenness". And I thought that was such an unusual answer. And I would add to that, healed brokenness. We want people to work through what they've walked through, but once they do, they have a depth of maturity that makes them an excellent employee.
— Wow. And so, follow up question, will all 20-year-olds qualify for that, or not?
— Not necessarily. But if they haven't walked through a whole lot of struggle, then just make sure when you're hiring them that they are not so rigid that they wouldn't be humble enough to learn from your struggles.
— I have never heard brokenness as an answer to that, and that's pretty profound. What's a hobby you're enjoying right now? Is there anything distracting you in a good way?
— You know what, Craig? I need a hobby.
— So I am open to suggestions.
— Come on, Lysa!
— I really am! I mean, I think, you know, I love to play cards, and, I don't wanna sound like a boring person, so I'm open to suggestions of hobbies.
— I give you full permission to speak that into me.
— Well, just as your friend, and, you know, Amy and I love you, we're all pretty close. I'd say you gotta get something! I think leaders need a healthy distraction all the time. So if, maybe start betting 5 cents on each round of cards and get a little competition going. We don't count it as, it's not gambling if it's only a nickel. That's what my dad told me, anyway.
— Okay! Well that's good.
— No, I do have hobbies...
— I just think that none of them are epically producing anything. Like, I play cornhole, I play Monopoly Deal. But, does that really qualify as a hobby?
— Aw, man, I think...
— It is a healthy distraction.
— Yeah, anything that gets your mind somewhere else, if you gotta play cornhole, play cornhole, be great at cornhole. Proudest moment that you've had in the last year, is there anything that stands out that you're really proud of?
— Yes. So our organization, internally, published a resource called, "40 Days Through the Bible". After we sold it for a year, internally, you know, just promoting it to the constituents of Proverbs 31, we allowed a publisher to take it into other markets. And I got word that "40 Days Through the Bible", not only got picked up by Target, which, it's very rare for Target to carry just purely a Bible study, not a trade book, but a Bible study. But not only did they carry it, it became one of their best selling products for that season. And so, it was my proudest moment because I thought, "Isn't that amazing that somebody could be walking through Target and see this beautifully designed book, pick it up, '40 Days Through the Bible'". And I wonder what kind of life change stories, that we'll never hear about, could come just because somebody happened to be in a Target that day.
— That's powerful. Something new you've learned about you recently?
— Something new that I've learned about me is, at 53, I'm more acquainted with what I still need to learn, than ever before. I have made peace that there's a lot of stuff I don't know, and I'm okay admitting that, and giving myself permission to admit what I still need to learn, and to pursue learning that.
— That's good. Something coming up that you're excited about?
— The "Good Boundaries and Goodbyes" book tour. I'm excited about that. Personally, I'm excited about walking into the future with my family. My family doesn't look like I thought it would, but, it's still an amazing family, and I'm excited about stepping into the future. It's scary, because it's so very unknown, but sometimes unknown is where faith becomes most evident, and faith is important to me and my family, and so is joy. So yeah, I'm excited about that.
— Well, I'm optimistic that you'll have some good and special times ahead. And I wanna tell you thank you for being a good friend to us, a good friend to our church. And if people wanna find out more about you, more about Proverbs 31, where are the best places to come and learn more from you?
— You can go to proverbs31.org, and you can also find me on social media @lysaterkeurst. My name is spelled kind of unusual, so if you just look for L-Y-S-A, you'll find me.
— Well, Lysa, thank you again for your time, your investing. Congratulations on the book. Those of you in our leadership community, if this is helpful to you, and I believe it is, please share. Tag me, tag Lysa, our teams may repost you. And I also wanna encourage you to get the Leader Guide, go to life.church/leadershippodcast. And we've got additional information, we'll show you how to get in touch with Lysa and to get her book as well. And then we'll drop new content on the first Thursday of every month. Lysa, thank you so much for investing in us today.