Don’t give them a voice in strategic direction and they will …. #LEAVE
by Jay Mitchell, Executive Search Consultant, Vanderbloemen Search Group
In our work as search consultants at Vanderbloemen Search Group, much of the focus of our job is identifying people who have the potential to be great long-term team members for our clients. Hiring great people is a great first step, but it’s just the beginning.
Once you have a great team member who is producing excellent work and serving effectively, the next – and more important – challenge will be retaining them for the long haul. In interviews, we always ask our candidates to talk about why they are leaving their current position or why they left a previous job. In many cases, their reasons for leaving are simply about readiness to take on a new and expanded role or a sense of calling to a new ministry. These are the good stories!
However, sometimes we hear about toxic staff environments, unhealthy leadership cultures, and lack of intentionality in support and development of the team and individual that have led a highly gifted leader to look for a healthier place to serve. The stories are remarkably consistent and instructive.
So if you want to lose a great staff member, here are some ways to do it:Don’t give them a voice in strategic direction. Talented people don’t need to have the final say on the direction of ministry, but they do need to be heard and have their ideas taken seriously. If you want to lose a great staff member, marginalize their opportunity to speak into your vision and direction. Don’t give them freedom to fail boldly. Great leaders aren’t afraid to attempt something bold to reach people for Jesus. Bold actions will sometimes fail, and the best leaders will learn more from that failure than they would have if they never tried. If your team members are afraid of failing because your culture doesn’t allow for it, they won’t take the risks necessary to accomplish a big vision. Don’t create a safe place to talk about difficult things. The best teams embrace healthy conflict and provide a safe place to disagree and debate ministry initiatives or even relational conflicts. Healthy conflict can take place behind closed doors, not dissolve into personal attacks, and remain confidential. Once conflict gets resolved, the team agrees to support the decision or resolution as one. If you want to lose a team member, take the conflict public or don’t allow anyone to disagree with you. Micromanage them. The best teams are filled with people who know what is expected of them in terms of results and goals and are given freedom to accomplish those goals without having someone checking up on them or looking over their shoulders. Having to account for every moment of time, or explain every ministry decision will suck the life out of talented people. Talk about them behind their back. Nothing will kill a team faster than hearing that their pastor, supervisor, or elder board is talking about staff members behind their backs. I’m not talking about the normal, healthy evaluations that take place as part of the process of building a ministry, but the unhealthy gossip or criticism of a team member to other staff or congregation members. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, do it immediately and face to face, with a plan to resolve the situation or concern in a healthy, God-honoring, and productive way.