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Photo by Chris Murtagh

By Melanie Mar Chow

As a psychology major in college, I wish I seized the opportunity to take more sociology classes.  For my work with college students, one of the most perplexing experiences I have working with my students is observing how leaders get students out of the parking lot after the meeting to congregate for more fellowship over a meal.  What sociological advances can inform and educate not only me, but our student leaders to navigate group decision-making?

AAWOL’s blog has been exploring the importance of EQ (emotional intelligence).  Social skills is one of the five components of EQ according to Daniel Goleman, the other four components being self awareness, self-regulation, inner motivation, and empathy. Important to having social skills is being able to understand and integrate other’s needs with one’s own needs.  Successfully employing social skills remedies the challenge of a group’s attempt to find common ground.

Back to my favorite group decision of how students decide where to go eat after a meeting — at its core, it is a familiar task with great potential for social skill failure.   To make a group decision requires all of Goleman’s EQ components. Social skills can be likened to the sticks which balance plates (the other EQ attributes) and keep the plates spinning.

What is important for the leader?  What questions need to be asked in the thick of the moment when a decision must be made?

1.  The leader must know and tend to her (or his) emotional needs.  As the goal is to make a decision, the process might be emotionally challenging for the leader.  It is important for the leader to know how invested they are in the decision, as well as the group to identify their needs to help make a quick decision.  The leader should also be aware if any group member seems over-invested or emotional, and pause to consider the person’s need; maybe discussing all the different angles of identifying a restaurant is priority –- is it price, food type, fast food or sit-down?  What is most important to the group?

2.  Also important for the leader is to know which choices can be sacrificed to speed the decision process.  If the leader must sacrifice a personal choice, she (or he) should pause to process. A good method is to take a moment to text someone the immediate emotions by having a friend on call who is praying for that situation.  Vent then reconnect to the process.

3.  The leader must also identify and recognize whether all the important individual considerations are identified and managed.  In the case of locating a restaurant, there will be that voice that speaks out but is ill-informed as to how far it is or if it can welcome a party of 12  or more. Can it be reached by walking or driving? If driving, are there enough drivers?

For my students, group decision-making works when leaders gather weekly to plan.  After 20+ years, I’m delighted to share some leaders not only plan out their entire meeting from opening prayer to after meeting activities, but also the post-meeting activities in advance, including the group meal location.  Though a new or visiting student might have regarded it as an individual decision, in fact it was 4-6 leaders who gathered ahead of time to plan for the group.  Planning also allows negotiation to fulfill the group’s needs.  For instance, to my great surprise, when there are larger events for 50-200 people, group leaders create lists of restaurants that can take larger numbers of groups at a moment’s notice.

4.  Leaders, be aware of how to employ empathy towards others who may be unwilling to change their minds, and walk off or leave the group.   Learn how to balance the challenges of being firm but affirming differences of opinion –- and maybe honor their suggestion at a later date.  No matter what, it is important to extend a hand and invite the person back to the group.

5.  In all groups, there is a chance for relational failures and/or an emotional meltdowns, big or small.  Hopefully with planning, “meltdowns” won’t occur during the event, but if one does occur during or afterwards because of the activity chosen, make sure there is an opportunity to discuss the person’s disappointment/frustration and work towards a better solution.

In closing, what I’ve learned works best is to find ways to value the group as well as its individuals.  Whether for pleasure or business, people work well for a leader when they know their voices are heard, their suggestions for change are welcomed, and a sense of partnership is affirmed.   When a leader must make a decision in the midst of indecisiveness, she can stand firm and make a decision in this way, and know it was built on the voices of the community. Together, leader and group can affirm that it is still the group as a whole that brings new people in and all can see the potential and value that each person can offer the group and its purposes.

Rev. Melanie Mar Chow serves God through Asian American Christian Fellowship, the campus ministry division of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). She has been an ordained American Baptist minister since 2004. A Pacific Northwest native, she currently lives with her husband and daughter in Southern California.

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Photo by Arya Ziai

By Debbie Gin

“You can do anything, be anything you want.  You can even be the United States president.  You were born here.”  My father used to say this to his children, and, for a good part of my childhood, I believed every word of that mantra.  I don’t believe it now, but I often return to this string of sentiments and how they had a profound effect on my formation and sense of agency. (more…)

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Photo by Riza Nugraha

Photo by Riza Nugraha

By Vivian Mabuni

Leadership. Our ability to stay the course and maintain perspective amidst the stress, the demands, the spiritual warfare, and the misunderstandings has everything to do with the type of people we choose to be around. This post originally was shared over at SheReadsTruth. (more…)

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Photo by Cassandra Rae

Photo by Cassandra Rae

By Debbie Gin

Keeping company with seminary presidents and deans this year, I’ve had an unusual opportunity to watch how top leaders in theological education function — how they make decisions, what connections they forge, with whom they cultivate deep relationships, why they work against the grain for particular projects, and how much they divulge and in which circles.  For the most part, authenticity and transparency are highly valued.  And, for the most part, I agree with this high valuing. (more…)

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Photo by Nayu Kim

Photo by Nayu Kim

By Debbie Gin

I begin this blog with the question: What have you seen that makes a good leader?

Let me offer my own couple thoughts.  A church friend and I have been in an extended conversation about the Myers-Briggs (or Keirsey-Bates) Temperament Indicator and how this is related to good leadership.  (more…)

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Photo by Bahman Farzad

Posed by Chloe Sun

People in leadership positions need to let others know who they are, what ministries they are involved in, what they have accomplished, and how others can support and join their causes. In a way, leaders need to sell. Some leaders do it naturally and skillfully without making people feel uncomfortable, but this is not always the case. Some come across as too self-promoting. Others do it too business-like or too “humbly.” For me, I find it difficult to promote myself in general but in some contexts, people expect you to. I am interested to hear how others let people know who they are without coming across as self-promoting? (more…)

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Photo by Laszlo Ilyes

Photo by Laszlo Ilyes

By Vivian Mabuni

My husband, Darrin, and I have a mixed marriage. He is half Japanese, a quarter Portuguese and a quarter Native Hawaiian. He grew up in an Asian majority city and state, Hilo, Hawaii. I’m Chinese and I grew up in a majority Caucasian city and state, Boulder, Colorado. (more…)

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