Clarity is a common topic of this blog because its presence or absence has a major impact on the satisfaction level of staff. I spoke recently with a newer staff member of a ministry organization and I asked him what had surprised him. His answer was the lack of clarity within the organization which has caused him a great deal of frustration in his role. Since there is not adequate clarity and he cannot read the mind of the senior leader he lives in a fairly unempowered culture. He is not alone. 

New staff are often the best barometers of how much clarity an organization has since those of us who have been around awhile know the unwritten and unspoken rules and think there is pretty good clarity. Those coming into the organization, however don't know the unwritten or unspoken paradigms by which the organization operates and it often bites them when they cross an invisible line.

In my book, Leading from the Sandbox I talk about the major pieces of organizational clarity: mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and culture. However there are other areas of clarity that impact staff in a direct way as well such as the following.

What decisions am I allowed to make without getting permission first? Clarity on this issue is a big deal. Most ministries are permission withholding rather than permission granting within boundaries. If I think I have authority in an area and find out otherwise, it is highly disempowering. This assumes that there is clarity in the large areas (above) and that there is a clear annual plan with objectives that can guide the decision making process. In the absence of this you cannot empower staff.

If I don't have permission to make decisions, what is the process I need to go through? Interestingly, even in many large ministry organizations the answer is that one needs the sign off of the senior leader because they are the arbiter of what can or cannot be done. It is really about their preference rather than about organizational clarity. Or, one must get permission from the Executive Pastor who is the only one who knows what is in the mind of the senior leader. Again, not an empowering ethos.

On what basis do I make decisions in my area of responsibility? If this is not clear there is a serious lack of organizational clarity. The reason that many even qualified leaders in ministry must get permission is that there are no clearly stated guidelines as to how they are to make decisions. Again, it often comes down to the 
preference of the leader which means that one either has to read their mind or ask their permission.

When there is not clarity on these kinds of issues or when the clarity is "ask the senior leader," good staff often choose to leave as they are living in an unempowered work culture. In fact, as I listened to one staff member recently  who described the culture of the organization he worked for I suggested that his time there might be shorter than he planned on because of the gap between his leadership gifts and the relatively unempowered culture he was in. If so it is a loss for the organization he is working for.

Providing maximum clarity is job one for a leaders. When it does not happen they have disempowered their whole staff.

  • Apr 22, 2013
  • Category: News
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