“Yes People” will Cripple Organic Outreach Part 1

Loriana Sekarski

July, 2018

Does Your Team Confront Each Other with the Truth?

This is the first of a two-part series on healthy organizational communication, a requirement for successful implementation of Organic Outreach principles. 

I’ve always loved the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It was amusing, and it pulled me in and made me wonder: Was anyone going to tell the king he was butt naked? The tailors convinced the king, as they sewed around him with invisible thread, that he was becoming the owner of a beautiful suit made with the most expensive and elegant threads and tapestries. As more people came to see the new suit, they too remarked on its grandeur, and the emperor was impressed with the tailors.

Sadly, I see this scenario played out in businesses and churches that fail to allow healthy conflict that is necessary for their leadership team to address real issues, such as:

  • Threats to the organization. 
  • Inefficiencies caused by unwillingness to collaborate.
  • Drains on resources.
  • Impediments to change efforts like Organic Outreach.

Issue: It isn’t acceptable in church culture to say, “Evangelism makes me uncomfortable.” 

The seriousness of this issue hit hard when I sat in the Organic Outreach Intensive Training, as I compared that change effort to ones I had led in businesses. I believe evangelism in churches is akin to teamwork in business. No one will openly proclaim they don’t support either, for doing so is not politically correct (or scripturally viable). But both cultural shifts require actions that make some people uncomfortable, and if we don’t allow them to share their concerns, we may likely encounter unexpected resistance which can derail our efforts. For example, they may give lip service to the change and then overtly or through lack of action undermine the effort. 

It is so much easier to say, “Yes, everything is good, boss.” No conflict. No tension. No potential hurt feelings. Not only does this hurt the ability of the leadership to effectively run the organization, but it also destroys their credibility because the employees usually see the problem and are dismayed if it persists. They wonder, “Does management not see it? Or does management not have what it takes to address it?” 

This happened in 1 Kings 22. King Ahab of Israel needed advice and asked his prophets, and as typically, they said, “Oh yes sir, you can win.” When the real prophet was asked, he was thrown under the bus. The king followed the yes-men, and he was crushed.


"As more people came to see the new suit, they too remarked on its grandeur, and the emperor was impressed with the tailors."


How would you describe the general response to conflict in your organization? Do you create a safe environment where people can speak their ideas and contradict you? Point out problems? If not, you run the risk of significant implementation issues with Organic Outreach. Without honest feedback, you won’t be able to identify the mind shifts needed for the cultural change. You also won’t be told about barriers that are getting in the way – which could possibly be some of your own actions or comments.

Step 1: Assessing Openness

If at all possible, I encourage you to have an outsider confidentially collect information from your staff on how open the communication is. In my consulting practice, I’ve heard many leaders tell me that they had open communication on their team, while their staff told me otherwise. When it isn’t safe to speak up, the leader can be very mistaken about the reality of the culture he or she fosters. 

The following are other clues to how open your staff is:

  • Has someone challenged your perspective in the last month? 
  • In the last three months, have you changed your plans due to input?
  • When someone gives you feedback, what is your reaction? Do you listen and say “thank you” or are you quick to explain your actions? 
  • Do you block time to seek opinions from others?
  • When people question your ideas, do you seek to understand theirs or do you tend to get defensive?
  • Is your inner circle of advisors composed of people who will disagree with you?
  • Have you recently praised someone for challenging your team’s status quo? 
  • Do you avoid problems because your team members voice their concerns, or do they nod in agreement silently aware of the challenges you will encounter? 
  • Would you embrace someone on your staff who says, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable with encouraging outreach?”
  • If someone offers an opposing view in a meeting, do you engage in a discussion and invite others to join in, or do you quickly move to the next item on the agenda?

I encourage you to do a regular self-check with this list. In September, we will discuss how to build a more open environment. 

Your Challenge: Ask yourself these questions, and better yet, ask others (including your family) what their answers would be for you (and watch their facial expressions for tells that contradict their verbal responses). Be in tune with your actions and reactions, and assess how others perceive your openness to opposing views. Just asking for this feedback is a powerful first step at opening up communication with your team.

Loriana Sekarski is the founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she’s fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a program that addresses domestic abuse within the Christian community.

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