When it comes to leading people, it’s helpful to think about two aspects of every leadership conversation…
First, there’s the (horizontal) aspect; who makes the decision at the end of this conversation? Is the final decision way over on your side as the leader, or is it way over on the team member’s side? Or do you want the decision to be somewhere in between?
Second, there’s the (vertical) aspect; how much discussion takes place between you and the team member? You might have heaps of discussion about an idea or option, or you might have very little discussion at all.
The diagram below presents four possible alternatives when leading. We call them the four leadership styles. They follow a particular path where the more you want a mutual decision, the more discussion is required.
It’s about making sure good decisions get made.
If you’re the leader, you’re probably making loads of decisions. But if you were to grow, you couldn’t sustain being the decision maker for all those things. There would be even more things.
So it’s not just about making good decisions – it’s about making sure good decisions get made when you’re not in the room.
So start now with the decisions you are making, and ask yourself what are the principles and guidelines that shape HOW you’re going to make that decision. Then, get someone else, tell the the principles and the issue and see if they would make a good decision or not.
Start deliberately delegating decisions and the principles to guide them.
If you’re going to ask someone to take on a responsibility, make it short. Not the responsibility… but the “ask”.
If you make the “ask” long and wordy, it will communicate that this task you’re offering them is so huge, so massive, so immense, that you have to take a long time to ask them. Instead, make it short.
“Hey Bill, could you lead a growth group night in a few weeks?”
Don’t say anything else. Just stop there. Let them answer. If they say no, that’s fine, all the words in the world probably wouldn’t have changed their mind anyway.
If they say, “Maybe” you can ask them what their concerns are, and you can address those concerns.
If they say yes, you can then go through the details they need to know.
If you make the ask BIG, then you’ll only freak them out by the apparent BIGNESS of the task.
This is a really important question to consider as a leader. When something doesn’t go to plan, after you’ve planned it, and delegated it… what’s the problem? Where do you go for answers about what went wrong?
The only question to ask yourself (as the leader) is, “How well did my team understand what I wanted?”
Please note, this is not “How clearly did I communicate it?” or “How many times did I explain it to them?”. It’s a consideration of how much they actually understood it… how clearly were they able to verbalise it back to you?
Regardless of how many times they’ve heard it, if their version of the expected outcomes is not the same as your version… it’s not a outcomes problem, it’s a leadership communication problem.
Leading, delegating, starting, serving… they all require a little bit of dreaming. Sometimes, they require a lot of dreaming.
What would you LOVE to see happen… don’t worry about “how” it will happen just yet… just imagine.
What would you love to see them do when you give them this responsibility? What are they dreaming it will look like? Is their dream big enough? Or is it bigger than your dream?
If you’re encouraging people to join with you in serving Jesus, do they have a big enough dream about what could be?
If you’re in Christian leadership, its your job, your responsibility, to keep asking and encouraging people to give their time and effort to ministry. So much so, that it can feel like every interaction and phone call is a request.
On one hand, you have to be ok with that. If you don’t call people to step up to do the good works God has prepared them to do, there’s a good chance they won’t. Thank God for your role of getting people on the ministry field.
On the other hand, it gives you a great opportunity to surprise people with the opposite. Just call to say hi. Chat. When they ask what you’ve called them about (as they probably will) just say, “No reason. I realised that almost every time we’ve chatted has been about something that needs doing, so I just thought I’d call and say hi. That ok?”
The secular world only cares about motivation; they want motivated people. People with drive and self-persuasion.
But Christians don’t want just motivated people. We want people with specific, godly motivations.
As an example, you could work for something like WorldVision for any number of motivations. They wouldn’t really care what those motivations are – just that you’re motivated.
But just to help do the washing up at church… If you don’t have “responding to Jesus’ love” as part of your motivations, I don’t really want you joining in.
There’s an important aspect to delegating something… After you delegate it… STOP DOING IT!!
If you’ve delegated a task or responsibility to someone, you can check how they’re going, you can ask them to keep you updated, you can give the suggestions about how they can get it done, but you can’t do it any more.
The whole point is delegating isn’t just to bring more people “in”, rather the big point of delegating is to free yourself up to do OTHER things.
Good delegation should create new opportunities… for you to do other good things.
… very next step to take.
They might have to call someone they’ve never spoken to before. They’re happy to do it. They’re keen to make a cold-turkey phone call. They know what they need to say, and how to have the conversation.
But they don’t know where to get the number from.
This is when you find out if they’re a self-starter or not. See a normal person will sit on his/her hands, not sure what to do, not sure how to get the number or who to call or whether they’re even meant to know it. They get something like writers-block; helpers-block. Or worse, they will feel like a failure… and they might even feel bitter towards you for setting them up with an impossible task.
A self-starter will go outside-the-box and get the number. They’ll work out a solution and if that doesn’t work, they’ll come up with another one. Heck, they’ll even call 10 people and end up getting the persons’ address and having the conversation on the front porch.
You know what happens then? Leaders stop delegating to the normal person and they only delegate to the self-starter.
Shame… when all the leader had to do was ask, “Ok, what’s the very first thing you’re going to have to do?”
This is a pretty simple one. If you’re appointing someone to do something that you’re normally responsible for, you don’t just explain that to them. You need to explain it to everyone else too.
If you’ve asked someone to organise a weekend away, you have to tell everyone that they’re doing it on your authority and they they are the organiser.
If you’ve asked someone to take over the kids program, you have to tell the parents that they are the go-to person if they have questions.
Otherwise, people will assume you haven’t appointed them, and they’ll just keep going back to you.
If leadership means making decisions, raising up new leaders means… delegating decisions.
If you want more people involved, you need more teams/groups for them to join. If you want more teams/groups, you need new team/group leaders. If you want to see and develop more leaders, you need to give them things to choose. You need to give them the opportunity to make some decisions. Slowly give them more and more authority and responsibility… until you have a leader.
This isn’t hard, it’s just risky. Say, “Hey, we need to work out a growth group social event, and I’d like you to decide what we do! The decisions up to you. I can give you some suggestions, and I can give you feedback on any ideas you have, but I want you too choose. Ok?”
Tip: make sure you give more than 2/3 suggestions and include things you WOULDN’T do.
A job is… “I want a coffee table with four legs, 1200x900x500, in wood.”
A brief is… “I have a coffee every morning and I want to out it down in something…”
A brief is a problem, a need, something that requires a solution.
This is what we should be giving our leaders, our MTSers and especially our designers; problems and the responsibility to implement solutions.
So don’t ask your designers for a postcard… Tell them you need to give people something so they know about the Christmas Carols night. They might still come up with a card… But at least it was their idea, and not just your job.
(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)
Leadership is not the ability to control people. Because you can’t control people.
Some business (corporate) leaders think because they pay their people they should be able to control them – they think they should be able to specify outcomes.
In fact this isn’t just what some bosses think – it’s what some employees think too. They think they have to do what what their boss says because they’re paid.
But your boss doesn’t control your actions. You do.
Payment is just a motivator. It’s kinda’ like a bribe so that you’d be motivated to go to work rather than go to the beach.
So, in the end, employees and church volunteers are very similar. You can’t control either of them.
People’s actions flow from relationships and motivations – regardless of whether they come in the corporate world or church world.
The great reality is that Jesus’ death and life provides a motivation that outdoes any pay, position or person.
About 12 months ago I took an architect and a couple of our Committee of Elders to a 1970s warehouse and pitched the idea that by the grace of God we could use it as a home base for our church activities. They showed amazing trust in my intuition, they helped work out how to communicate it well to our church, and they pitched-in heaps. God showed amazing grace in getting it all finished too. It was a wild ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s some reflections a year out…
(If you don’t know about our HBC Hub, it’s for all our non-Sunday activities… we don’t do church there at all. It’s just for meetings, lunches, Women’s Bible Study, night time seminars, evangelistic series, welcome nights, anything… just not “sunday church”)
- There are ONLY 3 types of spaces you need in a church hub – these were the things I was looking for in the 80 or so places I looked at;
- car parking spaces,
- informal spaces (meeting rooms, conf rooms, cafe, entry, hot-swap desks, etc),
- utility spaces (kitchen, toilets, storage, photocopier, stationery, etc).
- (I’m really glad we didn’t use space for private offices. It can make it hard to have some conversations, but that’s what the meeting rooms are for. The space is too valuable.)
- Commercial building requirements are generally twice as ridiculous as residential ones.
- Labour is generally 4 times the cost of materials – so pray for helpers.
- Some helpers are great at one type of job, some are great at doing many. Get people doing their type of thing.
- People generally need to be given permission to start. If you find a good starter, he’s a God-send for helping others.
- It’s worth getting professionals to do jobs that everyone will look at in years to come… like setting the plaster on the gyprock.
- I’m glad we put the money into glass doors and extra glass panels in walls; it lets in heaps of light and it means there are no “unseen” meetings. Everything’s above board.
- Getting the right materials and tools on site at the right time took 80% of my time.
- While in the midst of it, I was very emotional. I was constantly on edge about how people would judge it, and if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even when they said they liked it, and they couldn’t wait, I still heard them as if they were complaining it was taking too long. Every question people asked sounded like an attack – but it wasn’t!! My ability to hear them positively went out the window. Towards the end of the project I took a week off before I became a complete wreck. That taught me a lot about my potential to mis-hear people’s intentions.
- Moving the staff coffee machine was the best way to get the staff to leave the old office.
- Some people clean well. Other people clean perfectly. Don’t get the former to do the last sweep, and don’t get the latter to come everyday.
- I wish I’d made the conference room a bit more square shaped. It’s 12m x 5m. It works. And I don’t think we really could have changed the layout, but it’s the only part I’d like to alter.
- The first thing we bought for the hub was a $300 leather sofa suite… 1 week before I even went to the Elders for approval. Having that sofa in the building the whole time meant a lot to me. I feel like I should leave it there when we move out.
- When you ask for donations, be clear that you will only take the things that you want. If people want you to take it on principle that it’s a donation, don’t. It’s amazing how many broken items were “offered”. Ask for people to donate new things, not old things.
- Have a list of things that you want to get, but you don’t have the money for… some people will only want to pay for those type of things. May as well let them.
- Have a celebration at the end. Rejoice in all the ways people have helped… time, skills, even the money that was donated and the praying that was done for it behind the scenes. We got people up and interviewed them simply on the basis that they gave money. It felt a bit weird but they sacrifice was just like all the others, so why not thank God for them?!
Do you ask the Pre-school teacher in your church to run your crèche? Or the full-time photographer to take photos for church? Or the web designer to make your church website? Or the architect in your congregation to design your church?
1. You don’t have to use them. They may not be the right person for the job you want done. Don’t commit to using them until you’re sure they can do what you have in mind.
If you do decide to ask them to volunteer and use those skills
2. Clarify whether its paid or unpaid. If you have no intention of paying them, be clear, upfront, honest. Give them an out.
3. If your not going to pay them, make sure your not “the client”. This is really hard, but so important.
You want to coach them to think of it as their own project, not “for church” or “for you”, but their own. A bit like if a photographer was talking photos of her family, or a designer was designing his own wedding invite, or a Pre-school teacher was looking after her cousins.
Why? Because its their church they are serving.
In the end you want them look at what they’ve done and be proud to put their name to it because the believe in the cause they did it for, not just because its another “job”.
Sometimes when we delegate, we can be tempted to only focus on the positives. e.g. How great it could be! These cool things will happen! etc.
But an important part of coming to one mind as you hand over responsibility is outlining the consequences. e.g. If you don’t get this done on time, lets think about what’ going to happen. Or, If you fall into sin and don’t repent, there will be the potential of public rebuke. Or, If you don’t call these 3 people regularly, they could very well feel abandoned and leave church, and/or Christianity.
It’s not a fun conversation to have. But the fact is you already have an idea what the consequences are; positive and negative. You know what’s at stake, and how many other things rely on this project.
If you don’t talk through the consequences, then you’re not being clear with people on the importance of the role, and you’re not helping them take ownership of it – warts and all.
If they can’t handle the warts, don’t give it to them at all.