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Women need leadership skills for home, work and church

GLORIETA, N.M.(BP)–Women who are leaders in their churches, at their jobs, and in their homes need skills in effective communication and conflict and time management, said Debra Bell, a WMU leader from Sacramento, Calif.
“As a leader, you need to better understand the powerful tool of communication, and you need to also understand the impact conflict has on your life and how to manage your time effectively,” Bell told women attending Black Church Leadership Week, Aug. 4-8, at Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center.
Bell, the Woman’s Missionary Union director for the Sacramento Association and a member of New Testament Baptist Church, Sacramento, led the workshop “Leadership Skills for Women: Time Management, Conflict Management, and Good Communication.”
Bell said to communicate properly and effectively as leaders, women need to understand the process of communication.
“Sometimes we take communication for granted. Good communication influences our relationships and our ability to be good leaders.”
Communication can be demonstrated by two models, Bell said, one-way communication and two-way communication. In the one-way model, a person sends messages, but doesn’t receive them.
“This places the entire responsibility for the success of communication on the person sending the message,” she said.
Two-way or interaction communication “says that communication is not just stimulus, but response. A good communicator skillfully prepares and delivers messages, but also pays close attention to reactions and feedback.”
An effective leader will use communication skills that depend on the situation, Bell said.
The leader must assess the specific task in a given situation and determine if the group is able and willing to accomplish it, Bell said. Once the leader diagnoses the ability and willingness of the group to perform a task, she then might choose among four communication/leadership styles to relay the information. The styles are:
1. Telling. “When the individual or group has a low level of ability or willingness, the leader needs to be specific about how to accomplish the task.”
2. Coaching. “When an individual or group has more experience, the leader can move to a less directive and more supportive style.”
3. Encouraging. “A group or individual with a good bit of experience and willingness is usually eager to have a say in how the task is done.”
4. Delegating. “Truly experienced, capable individuals or groups can take on the entire responsibility of the task and allow the leader to spend time on other tasks.”
In addition to understanding effective communications skills, good leaders also must be able to manage their time well, and to do that, they must plan, Bell said.
“Planning means predetermining a course of events. You should take one percent of your day to gain control over the other 99 percent.”
Excuses for not planning include: “There isn’t time to plan,” “Planning limits my freedom,” and “I have to put out today’s fires before I do anything.”
Guidelines for effective daily planning include:
— reviewing values and goals.
— setting specific daily tasks.
— evaluating time verses task.
— anticipating obstacles.
— prioritizing tasks or identifying the appropriate value and order of tasks.
“The three steps to building a prioritized daily task list include making a list of all the things you want to do today, giving a value to each item on the list, and numbering the order you will do them.”
Bell said Christians are obligated to master their time, and not be mastered by it.
“Each of us gets 24-hours a day, no more, no less. The difference comes in what we do with our 24 hours. When we master our time, we master our lives.”
Finally, Bell said conflict management is a skill Christian women leaders must learn.
“Conflict has been defined as a struggle over opposing ideas or values or claims to status, power or resources,” Bell said. “But it can actually be a rich, complex experience that stimulates our thinking, involves our interests and goals, and generates strong emotions. Learning to manage conflict challenges us to elaborate our ides as we understand others and to express our feelings and to help others express theirs.”
Conflict is neither good nor bad, Bell said. “That depends on how skillfully it is managed.
“The Bible does not condemn conflict. It seems to say that conflict is at times inevitable, but it does not have to be a sin. Christians do not have to agree on every issue or subject. Each of us has been created in the image of God, but we don’t have to try to make everyone think like us.”
Conflict, in fact, has its advantages, Bell said.
— It brings attention to the existence of a problem that might have otherwise been ignored or overlooked.
— It can unify a group, causing the members to set aside destructive or counterproductive disagreements while they attend to the conflict.
— It can sharpen the issues of specific problems.
— It allows people to feel committed to their decisions.
— It can create beneficial discussion.
Conflict can also bring about improved solutions, organizational change, personal development, knowledge and creativity, psychological maturity, challenge and fun.
The different ways people deal with conflict, Bell said, are win-lose, lose-lose, lose-win, and win-win.
1. A win-lose situation occurs when one party in the conflict achieves his or her goals and the other loses. Power is often used to force the other person into accepting a position, and each party tries to figure out how to get the upper hand.
2. A lose-lose or compromise strategy occurs if both parties fail to achieve all or part of their goals. In this situation, nobody wins all; everyone loses something. “Although, we often think of compromise as a good thing, neither side is fully satisfied because both sides give up something they had hoped to hang on to or gain,” Bell said.
3. A lose-win or accommodating strategy means one side accommodates so the other can win. A person might lack the courage to express his feelings or convictions or he might perceive the other party as attractive and want them to win so as not to jeopardize a relationship.
4. A win-win or problem solving strategy is mutually beneficial to both parties. This strategy directs energy toward confronting and defeating the problem, not the other person. An open exchange is encouraged.
“As a leader, your most important conflict management skill will be your ability to bring people together and persuade them to engage in the process of learning to deal constructively with conflict,” Bell said. We have to struggle, confront, and otherwise engage fully in life if we are to become all that God intends us to be.”
Black Church Leadership Week is coordinated by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board and sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission and North American Mission boards, Woman’s Missionary Union and Annuity Board. About 950 registered for the conference.

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  • Terri Lackey