It is easy for leaders at all levels to become so busy with their own work that they neglect one of their fundamental responsibilities - growing their staff. For those of us who lead, staff development is not an ancillary but a primary part of our job. In fact, our ministry success is deeply wrapped up with the quality, focus and capacity of those who work under our leadership. Not only that: leading others is a stewardship and they have a right to expect that we will help them become all that they can be in the positions they are in.

This is not about micromanaging - a demotivating activity for staff. Nor is it about telling them how to do what they need to do - if one needs to do that one has the wrong staff. Rather it is about understanding the wiring of staff members and through dialogue and discussion helping them maximize their gifts strategically in the role they play.

Good leaders are exegetes of their staff. They seek to understand how each individual is wired, what motivates and demotivates them, where their strengths and weakness are, their emotional intelligence and even the shadow side of their personality (we all have one). Without a basic understanding of these elements of personality one cannot help others grow and develop. That is why staff development is a very personalized art and why leaders need to take the time to get to know those they supervise in more than a superficial way.

One of the greatest gifts we can give staff is time with them in dialogue regarding their work. There are three specific things that I look for: focus, strategy and relationships.

Focus is all about helping staff keep the main thing the main thing and not become distracted by activity. Activity does not equal results. Results come from a clear and focused set of priorities that is translated into schedule and activity. Can your staff articulate what is most important in their work and do their schedule and priorities reflect those big rocks they have articulated. Further do they have the correct big rocks? Lack of focus is one of the primary reasons for less than satisfactory results for all of us.

Second, do they have a strategy that makes sense? Is their strategy designed for addition (based around what they can do) or multiplication (getting others involved)? Does their strategy maximize the opportunity or leave things on the table? Socratic dialogue around these issues can sharpen their thinking and help them to leverage their time and efforts for the best results.

Third, how are are they doing with other staff and volunteers? Relationships are the coinage of ministry success. Helping staff grow in their ability to work with others productively, handle robust and candid discussion without defensiveness and resolve conflict and differences are non-negotiable elements of ministry success. Don't wait till there is a crisis to press into relational issues. They matter all the time.

An extended conversation around these kinds of things on a monthly basis will help you surface issues, talk through challenges, keep the focus sharp and help your staff report think more strategically. If we neglect this kind of time with direct reports we will inevitably pay for it. It is one of the best investments we can make because our ministry success is directly tied to the ministry acumen of those we lead. Make the investment monthly and you will reap the benefits in a big way.
  • Sep 28, 2011
  • Category: News
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