imagesEvery winter, with just the right amount of cabin fever,  I seem to muster up the courage to try to watch some kind of scary movie.  Predictably each time, I am crunched down in my seat in the middle of some horrifying scene, hands over my face, listening, but not really listening, to what is happening. When the scene is over, I will then, without fail, turn to my husband and say “what happened?”

Perhaps one of the most common things in working with churches that we hear is trepidation about what the Organizational Intelligence will find.   This fear can lead the church and its leadership to miss key pieces of its ministry and what is happening.   One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in litigation is to find my case’s weakest part – then take that weakest part head on and address it.  Do it before the opposing counsel gets to it or the judge notices it.    As an attorney this helps you control the narrative, and, hopefully, set the course for how your client’s story will play out.

It is simple advice really, but it is not instinctive.  It takes the old adage “find their weakness and exploit it” and turns it on its head.  It instead forces you to know your weakness, face it, and grow from there.   Perhaps most surprisingly, in my experience, acknowledging the weakness and calling it what it is can help focus move onto what is strong and where the greatest potential lies.

As someone new to this work, to me, this is what Organization Intelligence does. It takes out all of the guesswork. It removes the hands from the eyes and makes you watch the entire movie.  With this new whole vision, Organizational Intelligence places the control for the course of action back in the hands of the congregation and its leadership.  It helps churches discover what their weaknesses are and gives them an opportunity to turn those weakness with their strengths into instruments for change.   And what can come out of this intelligence and this new direction is something we, at Holy Cow! Consulting, get to see everyday.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6.

Emily Swanson

President, Holy Cow! Consulting

4 thoughts on “The Fear of Looking and Organizational Intelligence

  1. David,
    My experience with the Church Assessment Tool in a variety of congregations around the county is that the revelations made possible by CAT findings are almost always like a light coming on for most people, even when the results uncover something unexpected or disappointing. Several churches I work with have placed in the Recovery quadrant; that is, they have low energy and low satisfaction. Yes, for leaders in those churches, the initial reaction was often troubling. But, the expert interpreters trained by Holy Cow! have always been able, as they unfold the results, to put these kinds of findings into a broad perspective and to suggest pathways to better health. One of the most common reactions I receive is that people are happy to have information that explains the feelings people have about their church.
    Trepidation is normal, I think, in the same way that most of us have some fear about going to the dentist or taking a driver’s license test. Again, Holy Cow! staff provide very good advice on how to prepare people for the CAT so they understand the potential value of the organizational intelligence gained from the results. I never advise that leaders are compelled to do something based on the results of the CAT. I do recommend that they use the findings to explore what I call “the story behind the story.” Sometimes, the conversations made possible by the findings serve primarily to clarify things. And, greater clarity is rarely something to be feared.

    “Sometimes, church leaders worry that the CAT results will discourage leaders from going in a certain direction. In response that that worry, the CAT guidelines offer this advice:
    An assessment is never an abdication of leadership. It is provides leaders with a snapshot of the current state of member thinking which is essential to charting a step-by-step course toward the destination leaders have discerned is best. It also provides insight into leadership strategies that are more likely to be effective because they are based upon what is important to members. In addition, benchmarking against other churches tends to normalize negative attitudes that are factors in every congregation and has the effect of reducing their significance.”

    Thanks for posting the question, and I hope you find this response helpful. In the long run, knowing is better than guessing.

    Jim Pence, Walkalong Consulting, a Holy Cow! Consulting strategic partner.

  2. David: I think this is a great question and I am opening it up to other consultants who can share their observations as well. From Holy Cow, Robyn is going to craft a thoughtful response as well when she returns from a consulting trip in Texas. I am hoping your comment and question inspires a great dialogue about the work everyone is doing with the CAT.
    Emily Swanson

  3. I tend to fear disclosure when I think it may reveal something I don’t want to be revealed or when the I suspect the revelation will compel me to do something about what is revealed. I am just wondering if Holy Cow!’s experience suggests what lies behind the trepidation among congregants around the CAT.

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