The older I get the more I’m beginning to understand how important relationships are in everything.

  • My family
  • My work
  • My faith community

\Lately, in my coaching of Christian leaders, I’m observing two things which seem to cause a great deal of harm.

I’m thinking of them as “Relationship Killers.”

They cause a deep disconnect which can lead to  damaging and destroying what could continue to be healthy relationships.

1.  Expectations disconnect

2.  Values disconnect

Let’s take them one at a time and unpack them a bit in the context of leadership since that’s what these posts are all about.

Expectations disconnect

Whether you see yourself as the leader of your family, small group, church or a company or organization you lead, there can be differing expectations as to what you expect and want to see and what those you lead expect and want to see. When this happens, there can be trouble ahead.

I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has told me they’d  been let go and given the reason as, “You have not met our expectations,”  when those “Expectations” have never been adequately explained or understood.

In a marriage it’s sometimes the case that the two parties enter the relationship expecting certain things and assuming certain things which have never been adequately discussed.  We often make assumptions that things are going to be done and happen in ways we’re used to or grew up with only to be both surprised and disappointed that there was a total disconnect leading to relational frustration, disillusionment and in some cases serious conflict which can go on for years if not resolved.

Oh the immense benefits of sitting down, asking good questions, and listening well to what others are thinking and expecting from any kind of relationship. Frequent, honest, open communication is so vital.

I recall one worker with whom I was connected with on a church staff team when asked when was the last time he had a good conversation with his supervisor in which the supervisor asked him how he was doing, how his family was doing and how he felt about his current role and responsibilities. His response was “I can’t remember—at least a year at the last yearly evaluation.” Unfortunately, this is often the case with leaders who have too many direct reports and are overwhelmed most of the time.

A simple question such as, what are your expectations from this relationship, this role, this assignment? What do you need from me as your supervisor to see that happen?

Values disconnect

We all carry around values which we feel deeply about. Some are conscious and thought-through while others are just there and deeply held, but we’re not quite sure where they came from or why we believe them. These values are not often clearly expressed but are nonetheless there.

For example we may value vulnerability and assume that everyone would value this as we do. Then we get married, or get a new job, or work for a new organization and discover that what we value and what the other people we work for and with value are not  at all close to what we value. Then comes the frustration, the disappointment the anger as to why others don’t see things the way we do.

It’s common for organizations to have a set of values which they espouse and want employees to live out, but often these are not clearly articulated and explained and are seldom discussed.

They’re buried somewhere in all the paperwork we got when we joined. Values need to be taught, discussed and lived out by senior leaders. Hiring decisions, directional decisions and financial decision should be made in light of these values. These values are the gatekeepers for the group, church, family or organization.

I recently started serving with a new organization. We’re just getting started. One of the first things we did was compose a few core values, along with a purpose and vision statement. We want these to guide us in all we do. They can’t be just a statement on a website or in the employee hand-book or on laminated cards we all carry with us. We need to always be thinking of them and living them out in how we function day by day.

When there are significant disconnections in any family or work relationship,  many times it can be traced to insufficient discussion and understanding about expectations and values.

Let’s continue to talk, listen and understand where we are coming from in these two areas of potential problems and get on the same page. Are we too busy to have these kinds of conversations? I hope not!