One of the clearest things I’ve been learning during my first few weeks here in a mega-church concerns the power of touch.  I’m not talking about physical touch, though I do think there is great power in a quick, entirely chaste, touch on someone’s shoulder.  I’m talking about the power of gently touching an idea or a direction someone is considering.

See, I’m learning that there’s a very subtle, yet profound difference between un-leashing people and un-tethering them.  People want to be empowered to do what they’re good at and and what they’ve been tasked with focusing on.  But people want to know that what they’re doing is part of a bigger picture.  They want to know that their work makes sense in light of the vision and direction of the church as a whole.  In other words, they don’t want to feel like they’re out there on their own, proceeding forward in the dark.

Just saying “it’s up to you” on everything can be as dis-empowering as saying “I’ll decide for you” on everything.

So good leaders find the balance between the two by listening well and affirming as much as possible, especially the ways that what they’re being asked to consider is in line with the core values and strategic directions of the church.  I think good leaders try to say “you decide” as much as possible, but as part of conversations where alignment is articulated and affirmed.  That helps everyone keep moving in the same direction naturally.

And this needs to happen not just when someone comes to your office asking for insight.  It needs to happen regularly by the leader visiting with people and asking what they’re working on.  I love asking that question and, because of what I’ve just heard, being able to say “you know what I love about that? It’s that…” and connecting it to core values and vision.

I’m learning that if we do this well as leaders, we don’t have to say “no” or ask people to radically change directions very much, because there’s an organic, but substantial development of alignment. 

We don’t have to push people into the places we want them.  We just have to offer little touches here and there to keep us all headed in the same direction.

That’s the power of touch.