Key #3 – KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
In this post I want to share a secret that can vastly improve your effectiveness as a leader in the church. Once grasped and applied, this one secret will have an almost magical ability to help you avoid hurting the feelings of those who serve with you in ministry. So, are you ready to learn this powerful leadership secret? Here it is:
PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT!
Profound, isn’t it? Actually, this observation is not as trivial as it may seem at first glance. I’m sure you are already well aware of how individuals differ from one another. But sometimes we get so focused on the tasks we want our ministry teams to accomplish that we neglect to give workers the individualized attention they need. Giving team members equal treatment does not mean treating them all the same.
“One size does not fit all” may seem to be just a cliché. In reality, learning to minister to a wide range of people who continually demonstrate the truth of that declaration is one of the most important lessons of church leadership. For example, in our church we are huggers. There is a point in the worship service where we all rise and greet one another, and our members love to show their godly affection for one another in that physical way. (By the way, we periodically teach our congregation how to hug appropriately so that nobody gets the wrong idea!). We very quickly learned that some individuals are natural huggers. Others are enticed by the love they see expressed and eventually overcome their uneasiness and become enthusiastic huggers. But for some, the approach of another person with open arms arouses nothing but an overwhelming desire to escape. We have learned that to not offer a hug to some of our members would hurt their feelings, while to even come within hugging distance would be a great offense to others.
It’s the same way with members of our ministry teams. That challenging word of correction that spurs one person on to do better, can depress and demotivate another. The level of oversight that communicates to one how much the leader cares about and appreciates what they do, is perceived by another as micromanagement and distrust of their ability to do the job. When a leader gets mixed up on who requires what, hurt feelings are sure to result.
That’s why it is so important that ministry leaders appreciate who their team members are as individuals. And that requires that we make the effort to really get to know each person.
Prov 27:23 Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.
We as leaders must work hard – be diligent – to discover how best to relate to each individual worker so that they feel affirmed rather than disregarded or unappreciated. As we work with our team members, we want to meet the standard set by our Lord in Isaiah:
Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned.
In order to “speak a word in season to him who is weary,” not only must I be sensitive to the signs of weariness (or disappointment, or confusion, or anger, or hurt feelings) in that person, but I also must know that individual well enough to select words that will effectively minister to them. God gives me the assurance that I can call upon Him to give me that insight. But I have no assurance of receiving that guidance if I refuse to make the effort to learn what that person is like as an individual. God honors faithfulness in those charged with the responsibilities of leadership, not laziness and neglect.
So, for each individual serving the Lord under my leadership, I need to be diligent to discover some things about them that will help me to effectively supervise and minister to that person without wounding their feelings. Here are some of the things I look for:
1. What is this person’s comfort zone with regard to the amount of attention a leader gives them? Too much attention, and they feel smothered. Too little, and they feel neglected, overlooked or unappreciated.
2. What level of detail and specificity is appropriate in the instructions given this team member? Some workers will require a step-by-step plan that tells them exactly what they need to do. Others get great satisfaction out of figuring out the best approach for themselves. These only need to be pointed to desired goal. They will work out for themselves the best way to get there.
3. What amount of praise and encouragement is needed to help each worker stay encouraged and motivated? Some will need constant affirmation. Others are fine with an occasional word of approbation as long as they sense that their contribution is valued. Remember that all of us need to periodically hear sincere words of appreciation.
4. How blunt can the leader be in giving correction? Some workers can be brought almost to tears by any perceived word of rebuke. With them the correction must be applied in terms that are very positive and affirming. Others can not only take, but may actually require, a very direct assessment of just where they have excelled, and where they have fallen short. Often such people receive rebuke with an “I’ll show them!” attitude that is positive and motivating for them.
By the way, individuals who demonstrate that they won’t receive correction no matter how it is given (the Bible calls them scorners or scoffers) may have to be released from the team. They cannot be allowed to poison the atmosphere with their rebellious attitude.
5. What makes this person glad, what makes them sad, and what makes them mad? Being sensitive to these things allows a leader to much more effectively minister to team members. For example, for me birthday cards are nice but not really necessary. For others, receiving such a card is a joyful reassurance of how much they are cared about.
6. What are this individual’s issues, their sensitivities, prejudices, and hot buttons? Are there hidden land mines that a leader must beware of in relating to this person? Be especially careful not to take liberties in commenting or joking about issues relating to gender, race, personal appearance, age, etc. These are areas where a person’s sensitivities may never be spoken of, but they are there nonetheless.
7. How comfortable is this person with taking the lead vs serving in an individual or supporting role? For example, people with the spiritual gift of serving typically love jumping in and doing a task themselves, but are much less interested in directing or even working with others. Such individuals often actively resent having other workers assigned to work with them, especially if they started handling that responsibility alone and have come to consider it as belonging to them.
These are just some of the things a leader needs to be aware of regarding the people serving under their leadership. You can probably think of others that should be on your own list. The key is to take the time and make the effort to pay attention to who our team members really are. If you will prayerfully consider questions such as these concerning every member of your team, that exercise alone will increase the sensitivity you must display if you are to lead and minister to each one without stirring up hurt feelings in the process.
Key #2 – KNOW YOUR GOAL
The next key to preventing hurt feelings: COMMUNICATE!