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Transitions, Part 2: Processing Information

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Processing Information: Which Is Best – To Trust or to Verify?

How do your team members trust others and the information they receive? Chances are good that people on your team process information in different ways.

As a team conducts ministry, it passes through four inescapable transitions – movements or changes that take the team from one “place” to another. In this part 2 of 5 in our Transition Series, we examine how God provides specific ways your team can thrive through the transition of processing information.

  • Some members of your team will process information through the lens of optimism, always thinking the best and being ready to trust.
  • Some members of your team will  process information with realism, waiting to trust until they can validate and analyze details.

Both approaches – the Optimist and the Realist – bring value to a team. Take the case of Jeff and Carl, leaders in a large missions organization.

Optimists and Realists Process Information Differently

2 men at workCEO Jeff, an optimist, was a visionary type who excelled at sharing about the ministry’s work. His passion for missions spilled over into his presentations. He relied heavily on emotion and story to influence others, and did not let the ministry’s financial crisis stand in the way of his exciting vision-casting with donors.

Carl, the CFO, used an altogether different approach when sharing information. As a realist (and accountant), facts and data were important to him. Carl placed a high level of importance on organizing details meticulously and presenting them accurately. Carl could have let Jeff’s optimism frustrate him.

Fortunately, these two leaders came to understand and appreciate how they each processed information.

Turbulence and Trust

When it comes to processing information, a key issue on a team is trust. Optimists and Realists sort through trust differently.

Optimists like Jeff are trusting of the information they give and receive to others. They believe the best of everyone. Jeff, for instance, believed strongly that the ministry’s finances would work themselves out because 1. Its mission work impacted thousands of lives and 2. For decades, generous donors had stepped up to provide support.

Realists like Carl look for proof. They are skeptical in nature, and want verification so they know they’re making a good decision. Carl’s carefully-prepared graphs and his analysis of the current economic forecast left him unconvinced that the ministry could sit back and “do nothing.”

It’s Not Just About Processing Information. It’s About Processing People, Too.

Team turbulence can surge between Optimists and Realists as a result of how they process the information itself and how they digest the information about each other. Jeff may construe Carl’s weekly reports as an attack on his ability to lead or his ineffectiveness with donors. Carl may wrongly interpret Jeff’s emotional outbursts as mistrust – or even condemnation for a lack of faith. But if team members can trust how the others process information – and even find value in their approach –  the team can become stronger.

Understanding Leads to Unity

Fortunately Jeff and Carl have come to recognize that their differences in processing information are, in actual fact, strengths. They have learned to value each others’ approach and even rely on it, developing a sense of trust in the process. Jeff uses Carl’s financial charts and projects in major donor meetings to secure significant gifts. As Carl grows more familiar with Jeff’s stories, he creates customized reports for Jeff to use when presenting the vision about specific projects. Understanding has become a source of strength on this team.

Trust or verify: which is the best way for a team to process information? The answer is “Yes!” Both Optimists and Realists bring their strengths to a team – and complete it.

Growth Point“Trust the Information” and “Verify the Information” both offer strengths to a team.Scripture

Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it. (Proverbs 16:22, NIV)

Prayer Points

  • Are you naturally trusting of people and information – or do you tend to be more skeptical?
  • Consider those on your team. Try to identify those who process information with trust and those who have a stronger need for information to be verified.
  • If you’re an Optimist, think of a time when a Realist’s approach was helpful to you. If you are a Realist, think of a time when an Optimist’s approach was helpful to you.

Read more in our Team Transitions series

Transitions, Part 1: Constructive or Destructive?
Transitions, Part 3: Solving Problems
Transitions, Part 4: Managing Change
Transitions, Part 5: Facing Risk