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Elevating Excellence

Here are some of the attributes that I think you should be looking for when seeking your go-to person:

1.  You will, naturally, look at the typical factors: Educational backgrounds and prior work experience are of course very important. Remember that everyone is a result of the sum total of his or her experiences. You need to consider the total person.

2.  Being a lawyer, I am admittedly biased, but I do think that a legal education and background can be very helpful for someone running a ministry. The reason is that lawyers are trained to collect and analyze information, pros and cons, and then make a decision. If you do hire a lawyer or former lawyer, look for those whose background is in the business/deal-making side and not as a litigator. The reason is that litigators are trained to be confrontational and to fight, whereas business lawyers are trained to find a way to get things done and to solve disputes, not create them.

3.  Hire senior executives who speak multiple languages.  I’m not talking about Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. I’m talking about the ability to seamlessly transition and flow between diverse settings and circumstances. Every day brings a diverse group of people who I need to be capable of communicating with and understanding. To do that effectively, I have to be fluent in the “language” that is being used by my audience. The point is simple—I cannot do my job if I cannot flow between these diverse settings and adjust to the language spoken at each.

4.  Finding truth-tellers is another vital characteristic in a senior executive.  At first blush, you probably think of course my staff is honest—and they are. The issue is the ability to respectfully disagree with the leader and be able to articulate why.  Your staff is useless if they won’t do it. You need independent thinkers who will contribute to the dialogue and debate and help the organization’s leader find the right answer.

5.  Just as important as truth-telling is the ability of your staff to have the debate and when it is over and the decision has been made, for everyone to say, “Great, let’s go get it done!” without any feelings about who won or lost the debate.  If your people have a hard time embracing decisions they didn’t make or decisions they didn’t agree with, you are going to have a management problem. While management by consensus can be effective, at the end of the day decisions have to be made, respected, and acted upon. The goal, at the end of the day, is results.

6.  Seek out senior staffers who excel at building relationships and alliances both within and outside of the church. One of the most valuable things that my counterparts and I bring to the table is the value of our contacts and relationships, many developed over years of work. That list of a few thousand names and numbers in my iPhone has significant value. To build those relationships required a significant commitment and investment of time and energy.

Moreover, if your people are good at building relationships, it also means that they know how to treat people well. This is hugely important. To begin with, your staff is a reflection of you. If your team treats people badly, the people your organization works with will make similar assumptions about you and your organization.

7.   I also believe that your organization needs to be conscious of diversity in hiring. Diversity can pay significant dividends. The world is becoming increasingly diverse, and your organization can benefit from it as well.

So, as you build the team, look beyond academics and experience to the intangibles of people who are multi-lingual, comfortable across a variety of settings, will tell truth to power, and know how to build and maintain relationships.

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