Mastering Your Ability to Fix Problems and Resolve Disputes

I spent the first 20 years of my career largely focused on dispute resolution. As a representative for insurance companies in third-party (liability) claims and litigation as well as in the practice of law. Time and time again, I was in the middle of a problem and needed to be an effective problem solver.

Early in my career, I worked for a company that used a slogan to teach and reinforce their approach to dispute resolution. They encouraged employees to “Master the Basics” and I believe those same “basics” apply to approaches to problem solving in whatever endeavor we find ourselves. Effective problem solvers are effective in their calling, no matter what that calling may be.

In considering the systematic approach to working through disputes and problems, consider the “basics” of:

  • Coverage – the policy has to cover the loss to move towards a resolution, otherwise the claim is denied. In more general terms, coverage is either authority or permission. You need to either have the authority to speak into a situation or permission to do so. Forcing your solutions into a place where you don’t have authority or permission creates relational problems and frustrations.
  • Investigation – ask questions to determine all aspects of the details surrounding the situation. Ask the questions without a bias to try to get to an pre-determined preference. Ask the questions and pay attention to the answers without accusation, coaching or presumption along the way. The questions are to solve problems; not to build a case or support your positions.
  • Evaluation – what are the options? Is there a 3rd way that is in between the cracks somewhere other than the two opposing forces that are most prevalent in a  dispute or problem? Have the facts fueled creativity in the creation of potential solutions?
  • Negotiation – working with people to steward relationship as you move towards a resolution. Hearing reactions along the way and paying attention to the emotion and perceptions along the way. Working towards agreement, not towards winning. Be willing to concede things as opposed yet valid points are intertwined in the disagreement.
  • Resolution – finding the closest thing to a “win-win” that you can. Attempting to move everyone forward with buy-in and preservation of relationship even where there is compromise. The best resolutions are typically where each party gives up more than they had hoped but has done so from a position that recognizes the value in that choice.

In most jobs, our title could be “problem-solver,” or at least it could/should be part of our job description. As such, it likely makes sense to be intentional about how we go about doing so and be as good at it as we can. “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

We Need More Dads

We are working from behind as there is a shortage of fathers. It doesn’t help our efforts to overcome this shortage that there is a lack of appreciation for the value of fathers. The problem compounds as generations are raised up with no dads. The results in society are catastrophic and even within the church the impact is significant. While the impact in society may be so enormous that there is not a plan that could successfully address it, the solution resides among the community of believers that call Jesus “Lord.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”

So, since the time of Paul in the early church, there have been plenty of “guides.” The original meaning of the word for “guides” is defined as tutors or guardian of boys. These guides were men entrusted with oversight of boys that would instruct them in their upbringing by accompanying them everywhere to supervise their morals. They taught the boys right and wrong.

That word which is used to describe the tutors or guides is also translated in other areas as “schoolmaster” in reference to the law. That is, the law is referred to as a “schoolmaster” which guides students by imposition of boundaries with enforcement of rules. The schoolmaster acts as a guide and the law plays that role, as well.

We can’t please God with keeping the law, however, but only by faith (Hebrews 11:6). It’s not the presence or adherence to the guide’s direction which we ultimately need, but it’s the few fathers that Paul refers to which brings value to sons. The countless guides are always limited to correction to enforce a standard of conduct. All they can do is discipline according to the behaviors they observe. Their teaching is performance based.

The deficit is not in a lack of guides that want to correct behaviors, but in the lack of fathers that want to invest in lives. The correction of others based in an interpretation of the law versus their behaviors is easy. Fathering is not.

Fathers are an originator of a legacy, not simply a guardian of conduct. Fathers invest life on life to raise up others that will invest in the same way. It’s life-giving and multiplying to transform sons into fathers in a way that a schoolmaster is not equipped or expected. Where the cycle of fathering and sonship is fostered, it will reproduce itself.

Movement Affords Traction and Traction Facilitates Momentum

When I was in my mid-30’s, I was stuck in a corporate position that didn’t seem to matter at all. My salary and bonuses kept going up as I managed my career, but satisfaction with how I was spending 40+ hours per week kept going down. I increasingly focused on time out of the office in whatever form I could arrange it.

I began to shift my focus, bought and business and started a ride that has been wild, as well as satisfying. There is nothing easy about the choices my wife and I have made since 2005 regarding businesses, ministry, jobs, etc., but we have been living. We seek God and His direction, come into agreement with Him as a couple and offer our “yes” before we have it all figured out. We try to live on and for purpose. We believe in purpose over position and significance over success.

What I have seen lately is instances where others, particularly young people, are attempting to live in a similar manner but get stuck waiting for the next thing that offers purpose. In other words, they are driven by purpose and passion at the expense of the practical. They are frustrated and stuck, not to mention broke. It’s concerned me as I’ve counseled with them and often I’ll offer the following:

  • You can’t enjoy any momentum in the pursuit of your purpose/destiny without traction. Something in motion tends to stay in motion. Satisfaction of purpose comes with the ever-increasing unveiling, not a singular realization of accomplishment.
  • Traction only comes with action. Over the past 12 years as we’ve given our lives over to Greater purpose, we’ve had to make choices that were not our ultimate target, but provided traction (and money) for advancing. Action provides opportunities.

When I was training as a 2d Lieutenant, we would be encouraged, “You’d better do something, Lieutenant; do anything, but you have to do something!” We couldn’t develop a situation that wasn’t in motion, and waiting typically only produced defensive and/or negative scenarios.

Living a life grounded in purpose is good and right, but not at the cost of practical in most cases. One step leads to the next and provides along the way. Said another way; you have to work to eat. Those that ground their convictions in Biblical truth can’t forget that we are called to work; it is part of the blessing. Our hands have to stay on the plow even if it isn’t the field we will ultimately own.

Understanding in 3D

When we are students, the degree to which we learn something is often determined by a taking an exam. Our knowledge is tested as we are asked to answer questions which demonstrate the degree to which we have mastered the subject matter.

If you are a follower of Jesus, the quiz comes every day and it’s not for the sake of the knowledge. It’s for the purposes of the One that is offering the information in the first place. Followers of Jesus aren’t invited into an academic exercise; they are invited into life change and life transfer.

Jesus taught by experiences and imparted by proximity. He was living life with people, teaching them in the moment of living to give them a depth of understanding that exceeds the limits of information. It had to be that way because what He was teaching needed to go viral through their capacity to learn and their capacity to learn was their capacity to reproduce. The quiz for them was in their ability to give it away.

For too many of us, our attempts at discipleship are limited by our reliance on information. That information, which is vital to our learning but not conclusive of our mastery, is only the first step. The understanding comes in the implementation. The mastery comes in the multiplication.

Time and time again in the practice of law, I saw the depth of a passage that was in the Bible. The exercise of the knowledge in the lives of real people who didn’t agree with my beliefs opened the doors for me to multiply those beliefs. The grace, love, hope and encouragement that are talked about time and again by Jesus took on 3D perspective as I encountered real needs and needed real help in the application of the real Truth.

With eyes to see and ears to hear, we are invited into relationship with Jesus as He ministers. We minister where He ministers by agreeing with Him in the ways that we know are His way from His Word. Our knowledge of Him is put to work in our relationship with Him and our understanding is developed through our experiences with Him. Those opportunities are every day; in our families, in our workplaces, on a train or at a restaurant. Wherever people are, He is interested and we are invited.

The First Thing Fuels the Other Things

I was running on empty lately because I was running from my own ability. I have been invited into good things, eternal things, but I was applying temporary efforts to an eternal equation. The cost of the disconnection was my own relationship with the One that extended the invitation in the first place.

Our ability is fueled by our source. If we are the source of all that we seek to do, the well is perpetually running dry. We can get things done for as long as the weekends, whiskey, vacations, television, computer, exercise or other indulgences afford us the chance to escape. Those escapes, however, provide a stop-gap re-charge to a reservoir that is destined for empty.

The only way to realize the fullness of life in the living of life is by connection to the Source of life. Connection to the Source is intimacy, not knowledge. In fact, the intimacy is what fuels the understanding that is required for interpretation of knowledge.

He’s a Father. He birthed us from the design that He had for us. The plans for our lives are connected to eternity. As my friends David Terry and Marc Owings say, we are hardwired straight from the factory. Our hard wiring is for connection to the One that put the wires there in the first place.

Eternal purpose requires eternal supply. Temporal supply to an eternal purpose yields a diminishing return. In other words, even ministry and the stuff that we do “for God” requires God to fuel it. His fuel is relational connection. It’s intimacy.

Intimacy with the Father fuels everything. It fuels friendships and marriage. It fuels family and work. It fuels purpose and destiny. Intimacy with the Father is the point. The rest of the stuff is secondary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and second things are thrown in. Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

The first thing is Him. He is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We when are routinely engaged in an intimate relationship with Him, that stuff comes out of us. When that stuff isn’t there, we are probably our own source. Even when we are trying to do His stuff. Doing His stuff without Him was never the plan.

 

Honest Interaction Equips the Ones that Do the Work

A simple, yet unique and amazing, thing happened the other night. I was speaking and a man politely interrupted with a clarifying question. He asked me what I meant by something I had just said and I clarified the point for him as well as for everyone else who might have not been clear. The man’s question initially seemed to come from a place of objection, depending on how I answered.

It was particularly unique and amazing in that I was preaching at our church. Right in the middle of the sermon came this potential objection. That was a greater level of conflict than you see in most sermons as the pastor typically goes unchallenged except at lunch behind his back or via email to inform him of his error. This was actual relationship. This was healthy.

I read a book by Patrick Lencioni over the weekend called “Death by Meeting.” In this excellent book he describes as a business fable, he makes the point that, business meetings are boring and non-productive because they don’t have any conflict. Everyone is saying all the right things except in the meetings after the meetings where the objections are raised with no way for collaborative problem solving.

Isn’t this true in church? Haven’t we resigned to the mundane predictability of three up songs, two down songs, announcements, offering, message and altar call or something similar? Haven’t we completely resigned ourselves to the passive consumer sitting politely as a critic of the show?

The only thing that’s likely to occur from our current patterns is either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We are left to judge the excellence, or lack thereof, of the quality of the music, the content, humor and delivery of the speaker and opinions regarding the lighting, smoke, child care and parking. Too many thumbs down and we take our tithe to the show down the street.

I’ll submit that the early church, the model we were given, was a community of dialogue and even disagreement. Conflict affords the working out that is necessary for the equipping. We don’t mature passively, we grow experientially.

Why are we so afraid of the participation of the ones that are being equipped for the work of the ministry? If they don’t get equipped in the gathering, then where? A class? A program? How’s that working?

It’s time for the church goer to be the church doer. The only way that will happen is that the working out of faith and belief is given a voice and a safe place to figure it out. That safe place of working it out won’t be at work. It’s either in the gathering or the gathering may need some re-engineering. Engineering back to the blueprint.