Monday, December 6, 2010

Ten Great Ways to Kill Your Church Staff - or just about any staff for that matter!

For those leaders who want to keep and develop talented colleagues, here are the 10 most common ways to accidentally eat them alive - and how to avoid becoming sharks. (For those leaders who want to get rid of troubling staff members, this is certainly the way to do it.)

1. Demand perfection and conformity: If you are an insecure leader you will tend to demand unrealistic expectations. Secure leaders seek out competent staff and free them to work toward their potential. Leaders can learn from them and even be challenged by them as they become vocational colleagues.

2. Overfunction and of course micromanage: Insecure leaders tend to be willful, lacking the ability to respect and establish appropriate boundaries. They take responsibility for what is not theirs and foster overfunctioning, herding and groupthink by offloading their anxiety on others and imposing it on their staff. Effective leaders treat their staff like professionals and encourage them to function at higher levels of maturity.

3. Play the game of 'divide and conquer': Ineffective leaders don't develop their staff into a team of colleagues. Instead, fearful of losing control or influence they participate in reactive secrecy, sharing information with some while purposefully withholding it from others. This results in staff member confusion and the perpetual staking out of territory. Good leaders understand that specialization doesn't have to result in compartmentalization. They encourage teamwork by developing a culture of trust through integrity.

4. Neglect a theology of calling: A key question is, "Does the church call the staff, or does the pastor "hire" the staff?" Answered one way it looks like the staff "belongs to the pastor." Answered the other way, it reframes the relationship between the congregation and staff. Mature pastors foster a theology of vocation and allow the congregation to participate in the call of staff. They also allow the staff and congregation freedom to work out these relationships.

5. Don't plan the corporate worship service together: A great way to isolate staff and fail at cultivating a shared culture is to not have a weekly worship planning time together. Staff members' participation in leading worship also validates their vocation in the eyes of the congregation. The benefits of doing so include - spending significant time together, cultivating a shared corporate theology of worship, opportunities for prayer, reflection, confession, while tapping into the various talents and expertise that each staff member can contribute. All this helps develop a diverse culture of shared values and perspectives.

6. Maintain a dysfunctional personnel committee: Ineffective leaders often don't spend enough time developing this type of committee into an asset for the staff and congregation. Smart leaders cultivate healthy congregational resources and a high functioning personnel committee encourages everyone to aim for higher standards across the board.

7. Try to make staff members responsible for other people's functioning: Take this as a sure sign of fear and reactive behavior when the pastor/leader insists on making staff members responsible for the behavior of others. (a youth leader held accountable for the actions of the church youth, or a church educator pressured to increase the numbers attending classes). Effective leaders encourage staff to be good stewards, but don't hold them accountable for the decisions or behavior of others.

8. Lower expectations and standards: Ineffective leaders settle for less. Wise leaders cultivate the perspective that their congregations deserve top quality staff. There is no good reason to settle for mediocrity, and in doing so you will actually lose the best people first. Effective leaders choose personal maturity over experience and invest in the long-term. (It takes several years to get to the top of your game and a string of short-termed staff tenures get the congregation nowhere.)

9. Neglect your own spirituality: Leaders can only enhance the spirituality of the staff and congregation to the extent that they are growing and maturing spiritually themselves. Staff knows when the leader is not studying, not spiritually centered and when they are not feeding themselves.

10. Don't invest in your staff's professional development: Effective leaders are intentional in cultivating their staff by providing vision, providing the necessary budget for individual development, providing a sabbatical leave program and by nurturing a learning environment that encourages and challenges everyone.

Finally, here are a few reminders (by church staff members) of ways that leaders can keep a good staff:

  • provide challenge, vision, courage and a spirit of mutual accountability
  • stimulate an environment of theological reflection throughout the staff
  • become an enabler - helping your staff live into their vocational callings
  • be a team leader and team player, living out your own calling to provide vision accompanied by appropriate action
  • be a true servant leader and model redemptive relationships
  • be an effective educator and keen learner, investing in the future and encouraging your staff to do likewise
  • support your staff and value their input while inspiring and encouraging their vocational activities
  • have a pastoral spirit toward the staff as they are true colleagues and not mere "hires"
  • protect and champion the staff from the willful and destructive members in the congregation (be less fearful about losing a few troubling church members than about losing good staff)
  • never ask the staff to do things you as a leader are not willing to do yourself
  • never, ever, take credit for their work!!!!!
Adapted from Israel Galindo and his great book Perspectives on Congregational Leadership - Applying systems thinking for effective leadership

Enjoy the challenge,

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