Developing Leaders

Do These 6 Things If You Have To Have A Hard Conversation with A Staff Member/Leader

I once heard Shawn Lovejoy say, “I’ve never met a leader in all my years of coaching whoever told me, ‘I think I dealt with that issue too soon.'”

He was specifically talking about protecting the vision for the church, but I think it applies across the board of church leadership. In general, as pastors we are hesitant to get out in front of problems out of fear of losing momentum, causing relational problems, or people leaving the church.

There’s probably no area under our leadership that is more difficult to be proactive in than dealing with performance issues with a staff member or volunteer leader. We notice performance is slipping or morale on the team is running low because of a noticeable performance issue by a peer, but instead of dealing with the problem head-on we avoid it. Maybe we drop hints or assume it will get better without a hard conversation, but it never does. Problems don’t go away they grow, and a strong leader understands that.

If everyone on your team knows you won’t confront a person who is a problem, that person is no longer the problem, you are. I’m not saying it’s easy. It can potentially be painful, and in some cases, your fears of someone leaving the church may come true, but the only way for you to lead your church in the God-honoring way he is calling you to is to confront issues that need confrontation. (My brother Jason wrote more about confrontational conversations in this post)

If I told you that right now you could confront an issue or person that has been a nagging problem on your team, and you could be confident that there would be no lingering collateral damage, who/what would you address? Unfortunately, I can’t promise you a peaceful resolution, but I can guarantee you that it won’t get better without strong leadership, so whoever you just thought of when I asked the question, is who you need to confront whether it’s easy or not.

So let’s look at 6 keys to having a hard conversation with a leader:

1. Resolve that it has to be done

The longer you wrestle with the need for it, you won’t be in the right mindset to actually have it. You need to get to the place that you believe that it is absolutely necessary for you to have the conversation. And guess what? If you are thinking about a person or situation right now…you need to have the conversation. The longer you leave it festering, the worse it will get.

2. Put yourself in their shoes

Can you be honest enough to see that their issue may have been improper or insufficient training or resourcing on your part? Are you able to step into their shoes, play out the conversation that needs to take place and hear their rationale?

The desired outcome of the impending conversation isn’t that you win, it’s that we find resolution and the problem gets solved. So the more I can see all sides before us sitting down the better prepared I am to work toward the desired outcome.

3. Document the issue(s)

There may be a lot of frustration in your head, but if you can clear all of that away for a few minutes and try to document the actual issues clearly, there may only be one or two things. Be specific. Don’t write down “lazy.” Document times where they’ve been late, left early, or underperformed and didn’t meet the expectations. Include any previous conversations where these issues were discussed, and a course of action was agreed upon.

4. Pray

Ask the Lord to go before you. Ask Him to prepare the other person for the conversation. Ask for the grace to deal with the person and not the issues alone. Listen to His voice to guide you in anticipation of what you would say and not say.

5. Just do it

Schedule the meeting (maybe that should have been another point, but don’t just pop into their office or catch them in the hall after church on Sunday.) Put it on the calendar and let them know you want to discuss a few things that aren’t going as well as you’d like, or need improvement. This will help them be in the right mental, and emotional state is necessary for a productive conversation. Talk through your concerns and give them space to respond. Try to stay on topic. Don’t let the discussion get pulled into areas that aren’t relevant to the issues at hand. Make sure that the concerns you documented previously are discussed. Talk about specific corrective actions. We can’t just agree that “things will get better.” For everyone to be able to move forward, we need to leave knowing that “you will be to the office by 9am every day unless other arrangements have been made” or “she agrees to meet with her team at least once per month.”

6. Document the solution

If the issue is serious in nature or they are a paid employee, the agreed upon solutions need to be written down and each of you needs to sign it. This is the only way you are protected if a future conversation is necessary to end their employment or make a more substantial change.

If you are dealing with a volunteer, send them an email within 24 hours of the meeting. In the email spell out what you remember from the meeting and what the two of you agreed to. Ask them to respond to let you know they agree to this summary or if they have changes to make.

I realize some of this may sound like overkill or a more corporate approach than what you signed up for in ministry. But I promise these steps will help you have the hard conversations necessary to keep moving forward.

It has been said that “you are just 2-3 hard conversations away from your next level.” Who do you need to have a hard conversation with? Don’t put it off. Work these steps and allow the Lord to grow your leadership as you tackle the hard things. Your team will thank you.

Developing Leaders

A Plan Any Pastor Can Use To Create More Leaders In Your Church

God loves to use previous generations of leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders, and when the church is at her best, we’re really good at it.

You probably learned how to preach under the tutelage of a pastor who trusted his pulpit to you for a Sunday night or midweek service. Even though at the time you believed your preaching quality was high, you squirm when you listen to old recordings now. Imagine what your pastor was thinking at the moment. They had to make the conscious decision to empower you when they could have done the job better themselves. You probably learned how to lead by heading up small fundraisers and mission trips, no doubt causing headaches and leaving messes for your pastor to clean up, but they knew there’s no substitute for experience. Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.” quote=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.”]

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the church, as we know it, was a needle in a haystack. It was a few hundred people in a small radius. In the years that followed it multiplied to thousands and then millions worldwide. Obviously you can’t overstate the role of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God in the expansion of the church, but it would be unwise to ignore the leadership principles modeled by Jesus as well.

Jesus the “healer” was miraculous. Jesus the “Savior” was gracious, and much attention is given to those qualities of Christ, but Jesus “the leader” was intentional. He knew how to recruit and develop a team, and his leadership qualities are often overshadowed. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone praise the delegation skills of Jesus, but He was remarkable. Think about it. Before he attempted to accomplish anything publicly he hand-picked a small group of disciples. He explained his teaching to them and gave them a front row seat to his miracles. Jesus knew that leadership development is more “caught” than “taught.” He understood the power of observation.

What If I Don’t Have the “Right” People?

Any conversation about delegation and leadership development inevitably leads to questions about the quality of the current leaders on your team. The easiest scapegoat if you lack quality leaders in your pipeline is to blame the talent pool. If you had better people you would be able to better develop them, right? When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you because they’re not the finished product you’re looking for. You dream about a future when the right person will help grow your church, but what if you already have the right people? I believe you do.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.” quote=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.”]

1 Corinthians 12:18 is a very convicting verse for all pastors, especially those who struggle with believing they’re missing the “right” people. According to the Apostle Paul,

1 Corinthians 12:18
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

God has provided exactly who you need to accomplish exactly what you’re supposed to do now. In the future, changes will probably need to be made, but that doesn’t limit what God can do now with the people you already have around you. So look around. Evidently, God believes the people with you are the right people for right now. The good news is God has already sent the right people; the challenging news is He leaves it up to you to steward them well. Like me, you’ve spent time desperately praying for God to send the right person through the doors of the church, but what if God already sent them and you’re just looking at the wrong doors? What if God sent them through the doors of the children’s or student ministry? If you look closely, there is probably a teenager with a smart phone who could make a video for your church or a teenager who seems disinterested but loves to play the guitar. The quality might not be great, but with time, opportunity, and investment, the upside is.

Delegate or Dump?

I’ve never met a leader who didn’t desire to delegate responsibilities to someone else on their team, but if you’re not careful delegating looks more like dumping. So how can you empower and effectively delegate? Many great resources have been written to help leaders delegate, but my favorite is a simple five step process we use with our team.

I do. You watch.

This is the first step. You are modeling the tasks that needs to be completed. Your protégé isn’t really helping at all; they are just shadowing you. Be sure to communicate the “why” during this step. By communicating “why” you are not just handing off tasks but you are training them to think as you think, and that’s the key. Those who serve under you may never do things exactly as you do, but if they do something for the same reasons you would, you’re beginning the process of reproducing yourself.

I do. You help.

This is the part of the process where someone else is working alongside you. Go slow! I realize it’s hard. You could move much faster by yourself and probably be more effective, but that would defeat the purpose— they wouldn’t know how to do the job when you step away. Don’t solve problems in your head, solve them out loud. If you let them witness how you solve problems, they will solve future problems without running to you.

You do. I help.

Give up control. Empower them to make decisions. Let them know they are in charge of the task. Depending on their confidence level it may be hard for them to lead you, but force them to do it. The best way to learn something is to teach it. So have them tell/teach you to do it as if you are brand new. Remember, anything you accomplish while they are unaware they won’t know to do themselves or teach someone to do later. Ask a lot of leading “why” questions. Things like: why do you do this first? Why is it important to do this here? They will be able to articulate things they need to know and explain later.

You do. I watch.

In this stage, you are only the fire extinguisher. It’s their job to do and your job to let them do. This is the hardest step for most leaders because they are going to go slow and they are going to make mistakes. Let them. If you can endure this stage, you are more successful than 95% of leaders. The pay off in the next stage is directly proportional to how effectively you can take your hands off in this stage.

I’m out.

Congratulations, you have officially developed a new leader to complete tasks and lead on your behalf. You’ve taken one more step out of doing and into leading. You are now free from the task that you used to do. Stay out of completing the task but stay close enough to offer regular affirmation and encouragement. Now that you have successfully handed something off, what’s the next thing you can train someone else to take off your plate? Whether it was teaching, healing, rebuking or pointing people to the Father, it’s interesting how similar the accounts of the disciples’ ministry are to those of Christ in previous years. Evidently, they were always close enough to take good notes. So, here’s the challenge for you: who’s watching as you do? Who’s helping you do? Who are you helping do? Who are you watching to insure they can be trusted? Answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing leaders around you.

This post was taken as an excerpt from our book “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.

Developing Leaders

5 Questions You Need To Keep Asking Your Team

In a recent survey reported in Forbes magazine, staff members and subordinates were asked what they wished their boss would do better. The number one answer by far: “Communicate with me.” To be fair, I bet those leaders are communicating with their team members; they just aren’t talking about the right things.

Sometimes Pastors don’t think of themselves as “the boss,” but we are. Even if you don’t have a paid staff, in the church, you lead volunteers who serve in “staff” type roles. So what would our teams say about our communication? I’m not talking about sermons; I’m talking about individual interaction and communication.

If the only communication with our team is what we want to talk about, then they probably don’t look forward to meetings. They don’t only want to hear what we have to say; they want to be able to share with us as well. They don’t want to just talk about “work,” they want to know that you care about them as individuals.

With that in mind, let me share with you 5 questions that I ask my team on a regular basis.

1. How are you doing in life: Spiritually, Emotionally, Physically, Intellectually?

This is more than the trite “how are you doing” we might ask while passing someone in the hallway. I genuinely want to hear about their current spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual state. Sometimes their answer is “I’m doing great” and that’s enough. But other times I’ve had the opportunity to help hold them accountable in areas they feel they struggle such as physical goals, or recommend a book that would help with an emotional issue they were walking through, or pastor them back to spiritual health.

2. How can I pray for you?

When I know how they’re doing, I know how to pray for them. One of my highest privileges as the pastor to my staff is to lift them up in prayer. It doesn’t have to be monumental prayer requests. I want the chance to pray for the health of a sick child, finances to purchase a new home, or the emotional distress of car trouble. I want them to know they aren’t having to shoulder their burdens alone.

3. What do I need to know about the areas that you lead?

This can include so many things. Maybe they had a recent “win” they want to celebrate with me, or maybe there is a volunteer causing trouble and they aren’t sure how to handle it. Perhaps they are considering a change in curriculum or have a budget concern. No matter what it is, this is my way of keeping a pulse on their area before larger problems arise and I might be caught off-guard.

4. What are you working on right now?

This is not a micromanagement question. I’m not as concerned with if they are doing tasks as much as if they are managing their present responsibilities with an eye toward the future that will help us be successful. Depending on their answer I may be able to redirect their efforts toward things that will serve the church better.

5. How can I help you?

Not every leader is comfortable asking this question. They think it makes them look weak, gives authority to those under them or exposes a flaw in the leadership. However, the opposite is true. It requires strength to admit that you may have made a mistake or overlooked something or to position yourself as a servant to those you lead. If there something I can do for one my team members, I want to do it, and I want them to know that I want to do it.

The answers to these questions help me know my team better. Over time they come to know that I’m genuinely interested in them. They open up to me. They trust me. What more can I ask for!