On the Corner
by Robert Docter –
AN OPEN LETTER TO BUILDERS:
New appointments are on the horizon. New towns–new people– new opportunities. So you want to be a “builder.”
Here are some thoughts as you begin the process of assuming responsibility in your new appointments. Keep in mind I’ve never been a corps officer. I have, however, worked with many and observed even more from a slight distance. Take these thoughts as someone who cares about you and is jealous for your success.
First, accept the premise that you are in the “relationship business.” Resist perceiving yourself as “the administrator” or “the boss” or “the commanding officer.” Get some feedback from others in how you present yourself. What kinds of words do they use when they describe the way you relate? “Pretentious”? “Reserved”? “Arrogant”? “Shy”? “Open”? “Closed”? Put your feelings aside and take the risk of getting to know yourself and others. You are now in the relationship business. God is part of the relationship. Pray. Get others involved in prayer. Help those around you understand the dimensions of your faith and your commitment to prayer.
Second, be a helper. This means you need to put others before yourself. Explore with others in your corps what goals they would like to see the corps achieve. Work to help them move toward these goals. This means you need to put some of your own personal interests aside.
For instance, don’t make fixing up your quarters one of the first things you address. Don’t be too quick to ask about the state of budget allocations for expenditures designed primarily to serve you –like car allowance–or buying new furniture for your office.
Third, be a visitor. Learn people’s names. This takes work, but it is extremely important. Get to know the families. Know those who are related in the corps. Spend time and meet people in their homes. Arrange the visits in advance. Don’t arrive as if you are on an inspection tour. Take enough time to get a sense of people where they live. Be friendly. There will be occasions when you are focused and thinking about other issues, but try not to let this get in the way of being genuinely interested in those around you. You are “genuine” when your non-verbal presentation matches your verbal communication. If you are in too much of a “hurry” as you rush by, the people you greet won’t perceive you as genuinely interested in them.
Fourth, practice sound approaches to information gathering. Avoid making generalizations on the basis of meager data. Don’t leap to conclusions. Resist the temptation to label people. Never stereotype.
Fifth, maintain confidentiality. People will share information with you about themselves. You don’t own this material. They do. You cannot take it. It’s theirs. They have invested some trust in you–possibly due to your ministerial status. You cannot share this with anyone–not even your spouse. Violating confidentiality is like stealing someone else’s property.
Sixth, relate from the pulpit. You might not be the world’s greatest preacher at this stage of your career, but you can relate to your fellow worshippers from the pulpit. This requires eye contact, sensitivity to issues and concerns facing members of the congregation, and a positive, non-judgmental orientation. You can’t build on weaknesses. Build on strengths.
Seventh, avoid burnout. This happens when you lose sight of the goal–when you are tired or depressed–when you fail to generate continuing excitement in your work. It can easily be avoided, but it takes awareness of its slow incursion and a desire to effect some kind of change.
You are terrific people in whom the Army has invested considerable time, care and resources. You now take the field. Let me know how it’s going. Stay in touch.