This continues our look at the book, The Starfish and the Spider.

All catalysts draw upon similar tools.

  1. Genuine Interest in Others. To a catalyst, people are like walking novels. Information that most of us barely listen to is pure gold to a catalyst. And we can tell when a catalyst really cares about what we¢â‚¬â„¢re talking about. And when that happens, we tend to open up and reveal more about ourselves. The conversation naturally becomes more interesting, and we feel that the catalyst really gets us. It¢â‚¬â„¢s at that point, when we feel understood, that we are most open to something new and we become willing to change.
  2. Loose Connections. Most of us have interesting personal conversations with a small group of our closest friends. But a catalyst is able to have these kinds of interactions with thousands; they actually thrive on meeting new people every day. Because they are generally interested in others, catalysts find these kinds of relationships highly meaningful.
  3. Mapping. When you talk to a catalyst, he won¢â‚¬â„¢t just be intrigued by your stories, he¢â‚¬â„¢ll also be mapping out how you can fit into his social network. Catalysts think of who they know, who those people know, how they all relate to one another, and how they fit into a huge mental map. They just don¢â‚¬â„¢t know more people, they also spend time thinking about how each person fits into their network.
  4. Desire to Help. Wanting to help is the fuel that drives a catalyst¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to connect people. It isn¢â‚¬â„¢t just part of being nice; it is an essential part of being a catalyst.
  5. Passion. The catalyst is the constant cheerleader of the decentralized system.
  6. Meets People Where They Are. There¢â‚¬â„¢s a difference between being passionate and being pushy. A catalyst doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t try to persuade people but rather relies on a much more subtle technique: meeting people where they are. When people feel heard, when they feel understood and supported, they are more likely to change. A catalyst doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t prescribe a solution, nor does he hit you over the head with one. Instead he assumes a peer relationship and listens intently. You don¢â‚¬â„¢t follow a catalyst because you have to – you follow one because he understands you.
  7. Emotional Intelligence. Catalysts tend to lead with emotions. To a catalyst, emotional connections come first. Once there is an emotional connection, then and only then is it time to brainstorm and talk strategy.
  8. Trust. It¢â‚¬â„¢s not enough to meet people where they are and to form emotional bonds with them; a catalyst must also trust the network. With a flattened hierarchy, you never know what people are going to do. You can¢â‚¬â„¢t control outcomes, and you can¢â‚¬â„¢t really reproach a member if he becomes errant. All you can control is whether people have personal relationships with each other based on trust.
  9. Inspiration. A true catalyst isn¢â‚¬â„¢t just a matchmaker, he is also an inspiration to others to work toward a goal that often doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t involve personal gain.
  10. Tolerance for Ambiguity. One of the most common answers of catalysts is, ¢â‚¬Å“I don¢â‚¬â„¢t know.¢â‚¬ They are not absent-minded. They often don¢â‚¬â„¢t know because there aren¢â‚¬â„¢t concrete answers to these questions. Being a catalyst requires a high tolerance for ambiguity. That is because a decentralized system is so fluid that someone who needs order and structure would quickly go mad.
  11. Hands-Off Approach. The most difficult and counter-intuitive element of being a catalyst is getting out of the way. In a command and control environment, you can closely track what is going on, but being watched and monitored makes employees less likely to take risks and innovate. At the same time, when left to their own devices, members of a starfish organization can become frustrated with the catalyst. ¢â‚¬Å“What are we supposed to be doing?¢â‚¬ they may ask. But it¢â‚¬â„¢s precisely this question that leads people to take charge, giving members a high level of ownership over the organization.
  12. Receding. After catalysts map a network, make connections, build trust, and inspire people to act, what do they do? They leave. If they were to stay around they may block the decentralization¢â‚¬â„¢s growth.

Obviously, the catalyst has a role in decentralized systems, but if we notice, this kind of activity is valuable in evangelism. The tools of a catalyst are similar to the tools of a Christ-follower wishing to reach their community. When Christ-followers exhibit these qualities, combined with the Spirit, people can be led to the feet of the Savior.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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