A couple years ago, Forbes Magazine ran an article titled "People Leave Managers, Not Companies." The basic premise behind it was that employee engagement and retention was rooted less in the company they work for and more in who they directly work under. Employees who had a healthy and positive environment from their manager were more likely to stay, be productive, and be happier in their work. But when employees left, they more often than not left directly because of their supervisor.
The connection to ministry is unavoidable. Those who are senior leaders in a ministry, whether you're the lead pastor of a church or the director of a para-church ministry set the environment where those we serve alongside will either thrive or disengage. Whether you realize it or not, even though God called the team you work with, they serve primarily with you.
If you want to make a positive impact on those you serve with:
1. Don't be a jerk - Easy enough. A jerk makes it all about them. A jerk can't celebrate the successes of others. A jerk gets jealous of high performing team members. Jerks make terrible leaders because they're more interested in protecting themselves, elevating themselves, and generally make everything about them. Making a positive impact on your team means you're building them up, cheering them on, championing their success.
2. Listen well - The people you serve alongside carry a lot on them. They deal with the ups and downs of ministry. They carry burdens at home. They get tired. Make sure you take time to listen, sometimes even let them vent. As much as possible, keep an "open door" policy, especially with those on the team.
3. Allow input - Few things can discourage a team like a leader asking for their opinion, only to do the opposite. Sometimes you'll have to take the least popular course. But more often than not leaders ask for input when they want affirmation. In business too often employees feel like cogs in a wheel, and it's often no different in ministry.
4. Champion them - Sometimes in leadership your job is to be a grease trap. You're the filter that catches all the crap that gets thrown your way. That's part of the deal you signed on for. But when you're the filter, you're helping keep your team clean from the critics and grumps. Most of the time the criticism levied at ministry leaders are matters of preference or personal opinion. As the leader, your job is to filter that and keep it away from your team. And in doing that, you're their champion, defending them and deflecting any unwarranted criticism.
5. Value honesty first, loyalty second - On a team where no one feels like they can share, or be honest about concerns, it doesn't take long to get awkward. It gets worse when there's an expectation (or demand) for loyalty. The first thing we should desire is truth. We need someone to tell us our great idea will blow up because it's terrible. We need our team to remind us of our need for prayer. Loyalty is a byproduct of trust. Never forget that.
6. Follow through - Your team is looking to you. They're depending on you. They're loyal to you. They're excited to serve with you. They're committed to your vision. So follow through. Return the phone calls. Don't blow off meetings. Spend time with them. Keep things going forward towards the vision. Reject passivity and being content to exist.
What would you add to help build a positive team environment?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.