Leaders, whether on boards or those who lead organizations and teams, have a responsibility to deal with "known issues" that they face in the organization. Often we choose not to do so because we would rather hope that they will go away. And we are averse to dealing with people or issues that might cause conflict. Unfortunately, they often do not go away but rather become larger.

Take a team member who is not in alignment and is therefore disrupting the rest of the team. Choosing not to deal with that staff member allows them to disempower other teammates, create friction and/or conflict and bring down the level of synergy and cooperation among the team. This is a no-win situation and can easily result in your best team members choosing to opt out rather than deal with the conflict.

There are also instances where team leaders and organizational leaders exhibit behaviors that are highly problematic, but boards are notorious for choosing not to deal with them. After all, they are the leader, and they may be doing great things for the ministry, so who are we to make an issue of it. Often, however, those behaviors are hurting the staff behind the scenes, and eventually there is a good likelihood that it will "blow up" in a fashion that creates chaos in the organization.

In the aftermath of such situations, I have often asked board members whether the behaviors they saw in the leader they were responsible for overseeing would be acceptable in their own workplace. Often the answer is "no." Why I asked were they then acceptable in the church or organization I am working with? There is never a good answer except that they chose to let it ride, hoping it would get better. The fascinating thing is that they usually knew but chose not to act until it was too late and great damage had been done.

The same can be said for issues like a declining financial base or financial choices that, if not addressed, will cripple the ministry. Ministries are notorious for simply believing that God will provide when in fact, we need to make realistic decisions based on wisdom even as we ask God to provide. When we ignore ongoing deficits or spending that is not in line with what we can reasonably expect to come in, it creates a crisis eventually. In one church I worked with, there had not been a balanced budget for almost ten years, and finally, the leader had to leave in order for the elders to bring the financial situation under control and into a healthy spot which took three years and a fair amount of trauma.

It really does not matter what the problematic issue is - there can be many but the job of leaders, whether on boards or others, is to be acutely aware of threats to the ministry and deal with them appropriately when they become aware of them rather than waiting until they become a crisis. Usually, I find that leaders were, in fact aware but chose not to act at the time they became aware. The aftermath was rarely pleasant.

If you are a board member or a leader, make a list of any known issues you have that are a potential threat to the ministry and start having conversations about how you are going to handle it. It is never too early to have the discussion, and it will likely help you stay healthy in the long haul.

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  • Aug 09, 2015
  • Category: News
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