I was recently listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley, from North Point Community Church. If you’ve never listened to Andy I highly recommend him because of his great teaching style and his focus on church leadership development. He has an ongoing leadership series that is very well done and is just a snippet of all the things this church does well.
In his podcast he talks about the importance of asking questions and how leaders inadvertently communicate their values and what’s most important to them by the questions they ask. If a leader asks questions that support the church’s values they reinforce the behaviors they are looking for in employees. Employees respond to the questions that are asked of them and if, for example, their leader is constantly asking questions about accomplishing employee goals, an employee will understand that this is important and will work to complete their goals. A leader needs to be deliberate in the questions that they ask in order to drive employee behaviors.
6 Questions Leaders Should Always Ask
1. Who Needs to be Sitting at the Table?
The bible says in Proverbs 11:14, “where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety..” This is a verse with a lot of wisdom and churches should use teams of the right people to help ensure decision making is sound and made with consideration of all perspectives. One of the keys to doing this is making sure the people who need to be involved in the decision are around the table. For example, when planning a big church event, I like to include people from the facilities department because of the natural logistical support that is needed and planning without that input can create difficulties in implementing a plan.
2. Where are We Manufacturing Energy?
A common occurrence with any organization is starting something that is great but perhaps loses steam and momentum over time. This means it wears itself out and leaders sometimes pretend to be excited but it is a forced excitement. So the question needs to be, is there anything we’re trying to get others excited about that we don’t care about? Are we doing this because we’ve always done it or are we doing it because it is a good use of our time and resources? For example, If your church has put a on variety show for several years and the planning team tracks attendance data and realizes that the attendance isn’t what it once was, it might be time evaluate continuing this event or if the event needs to be changed or improved to attract attendees. If the planning team loses the steam and passion for an event or program it might be difficult to make others excited about it.
3. Where Do Employees Make the Greatest Contribution to the Organization?
Organizations need to be constantly evaluating job descriptions to ensure that employees are in positions that are the best fit for their interest, skill set and experience. As employees grow and develop they will naturally be ready to take on more responsibility and leadership should be constantly pulling employees up behind them. And as leaders we need to be evaluating those things we do that add value or those things that we should be delegating to others and focusing on where we make the biggest contribution. For example, I worked with a business owner of a multi-million dollar technology company who shared with me that after years of business growth he continued to review accounts payables every week. This responsibility that was critical to the company’s success early on limited his ability to focus more time on organizational strategy.
4. Who is Not Keeping Up?
As organizations grow it is important for leaders to be constantly managing employee performance and identifying those employees that may not be keeping up. This is a sensitive thing, especially in a church, but sometimes jobs outgrow an employee’s abilities and leaders need to be able to make adjustments so that the organization isn’t affected. One of the necessary questions is whether we are working around people because we like them, they’ve been around for a long time or because we just don’t want to deal with it. Andy made a great point in saying sometimes churches get the business and the mercy side of ministry confused and this doesn’t benefit anyone. In the classic book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. This constant evaluation helps to keep organizations moving forward. Some people can be great employees but have a limited capacity. For example, I had an assistant once who did a great job until my responsibilities increased which naturally increased her job tasks. I got to the point that I stop giving her work because she was so overwhelmed that I felt bad for asking her to do anything. This went on for about a year before I realized the job had outgrown her. The decision and conversation was difficult but in the end it was a relief to her and I found someone who had more capacity to fulfill the job requirements.
5. What Have we Fallen in Love with That’s No Longer the Best Way to Blank?
It is only natural for us to get emotionally engaged with what we do and that unfortunately affects our perspective and our ability to recognize when change is needed. We need to separate our emotions and objectively look at what we do and how we do it to ensure it is fulfilling the mission of the organization and meeting church objectives. For example, If your approach to youth ministry is not attracting teens in your church, it may be time to gather a think tank and reassess the program and ask the question, if we brought in a new youth leader, what would their approach be?
6. What Would a Great Leader Do?
When we reflect on the style and approach of great leaders that we know, we pull ourselves out of the sometimes selfish and mediocre mentality. Taking the time to study some of the great leaders before us can help us stretch out of our comfort zone and give ourselves permission to do those things that a selfless leader, with no personal agenda -other than to do what is in the best interest of the organization, would do. For example, when faced with a difficult decision, ask the question, if it’s not about me, what would a great leader do?
Churches are only as strong as those who lead them and understanding those things that can contribute or take away from their focus is critical to churches fulfilling their mission. Taking the time to consistently ask the questions to keep that focus will help to ensure your leadership team is guiding your church to all that God has called it to!