How to Filter Opinions

Leading change in any organization is difficult. It presents many challenges, obstacles, and complexities that have to be skillfully navigated. It also unearths a plethora of opinions from the people in the organization, including many that stand in opposition to the change that is being proposed.

So, how do leaders make sense of all these voices and sift through all these opinions?

That’s a question that Carey Nieuwhof has helped me answer in his book Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition.

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Nieuwhof writes, “As a leader you need to find a filter. You have so many voices coming at you that you may not be sure whose voice to listen to. Since loud can easily be mistaken for large, and volume sometimes creates the illusion of velocity, the filter you develop is crucial.”

Nieuwhof suggests two questions that can act as a filter:

  1. Is there a biblical argument in what the person is saying?
  2. Is this person the kind of person we are going to build the future on?

The first question assumes that you are so engaged in the Word of God on a regular basis that you are able to discern whether or not someone’s opinion is rooted in the Bible.

For the second question, Nieuwhof asks five related questions that are designed to help you discern whether a person is indeed the kind of person who will help the organization (i.e., church) move into the future:

  1. Is their vision primarily based on the past or on the future?
  2. Do they have a spirit of humility? Are they open or closed to the counsel of other people?
  3. Who is following them, and is this the kind of group that you would want around the leadership table?
  4. Are they focused on themselves or the people you are trying to reach?
  5. Do they offer positive alternatives that will help build a better future than your current vision or change?

Nieuwhof summarizes his approach like this: “In the end, a good filter will help you and your leaders navigate the sea of voices you hear. Without one, everything sounds compelling. With a good filter, you’ll keep people who are both passionate about creating a biblical community and are the kind of people you can build the future of the church on. So develop some questions that form your filter. The questions you ask will shape the future you live.”

This advice has been extremely helpful to me as a leader who is in the midst of leading significant change within my congregation. If you adapt these ideas to your context, you can also create a filter that will help you sift through the many voices you hear each day.

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