Skilled leaders influence their team most effectively when they understand their team’s concerns. Read John 20:19-31.
It has been a week since Jesus’ crucifixion and a few people have reported that they had an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Most of Jesus’ followers, however, had not seen Jesus and were left with only the eye witness accounts. Jesus’ closest friends, His disciples, all but Thomas, were gathered together in a locked house for fear the religious leaders may still be looking to arrest them when Jesus simply appeared among them.
Jesus verified His identity by showing His disciples the wounds the Roman soldiers had put in His hands, feet and side during the crucifixion. The disciples were overjoyed when they understood this was actually the living Christ.
When they told Thomas that Jesus had been with them in the locked house, Thomas’ response to such an unbelievable account was that he would believe their story only when he had sufficient evidence. He wanted to personally see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and feet and put his hand into the wound in Jesus’ side. It was a week later in the same locked house when Jesus appeared to His disciples again. This time Thomas was with the others. Jesus went directly to Thomas and showed him the wounds that Thomas needed to see to believe. Thomas’ immediate response was, “My Lord and My God.” Once he had the evidence Thomas was fully engaged in Jesus’ mission for him.
Thomas’ demand for sufficient evidence has been immortalized as still today people can be branded as “A Doubting Thomas.” The following is an excerpt from a sidebar note in Zondervan’s Leadership Bible that leaders may find helpful when dealing with individuals branded as a “Doubting Thomas”:
“We give Thomas a hard rap by dubbing him “Doubting Thomas.” When he had doubts, when he struggled with his faith, he asked for evidence. When he received that evidence, his devotion was complete. At this critical moment in Thomas’s life, Jesus used the most powerful and consistently effective type of influence available. Jesus gave him clear, honest information, appropriately delivered. We learn from Jesus that we most effectively influence people by understanding their concerns and patiently addressing them.”
Will every team have a person like Thomas who needs to “see to believe?” Maybe, this is a common trait in a lot of individuals. Will every situation with your team turn out with the same success as Jesus had with Thomas? No. Can a negative team member drag down the entire team if they refuse to get on board? Yes. Is it worth a leader’s time and energy to try to get those who consistently demand more information fully engaged? Generally it is.
In my personal experience the information demanded by the “Doubting Thomas” is not much different than what is needed by the rest of the team. In verse 20 Jesus showed the other disciples the wounds in His hand, feet and side to verify His identity. Thomas was simply asking for that same information. By meeting the needs of the “Doubting Thomas” a leader often reinforces the resolve of the others on their team.
Do you have some individuals on your team that do not respond well to change? Are there some individuals on your team that always seem to be skeptical of the vision for the future and the plans to achieve the vision? Do you experience frustration as a leader when some team members just don’t have the faith to take action without proof that the plan will be successful? Skilled leaders can learn from Jesus’ response with Thomas which was to provide sufficient evidence, delivered in an appropriate manner to meet Thomas’ concerns.
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”