Elevating Excellence

As the leader, it is your job to give direction and then send your team off to implement

 Early on, during one of our stage play tours, my boss did me a great favor. He got up in front of the staff and explained that if I told them something, I was speaking for him. It is my job to keep him in the loop on what I do and what I am planning. But it is also my job to make decisions and get things done.

Over time, the team gets a good feel for what the boss wants to have input on and what he or she wants the staff to just do. With clear lines of communication and a little time and trust, everyone will develop a good sense of where the proper lines are.

One additional and related problem occurs when the leader holds too much power—the staff will have a tendency to only bring problems to the pastor for him or her to solve. Again, why have staff if that is all that they do? Tell your staff that when they bring you a problem to also bring their ideas for solving the problem. You want to develop a staff that takes the initiative and brings solutions along with the problem. You want a team that offers fresh perspective and contributes meaningfully to critical discussions.

As I mentioned previously, one of my favorite television shows is The West Wing. It stars Martin Sheen and is about how the president and his senior staff interact. It offers great lessons in leadership and how a team should work together to achieve a common purpose. Lively discussions are an ongoing happening as staff members debate and argue for their positions. The point is not to fight but to try to find the right or at least the best answer you can. Just as the issues that get resolved by the president and his staff are, by definition, some of the world’s biggest problems, the issues that get resolved by the senior pastor and his senior staff are likewise the biggest issues facing the church. If the decisions are easy, the lower level staff is not doing their job.

Like the staff of The West Wing, you want your staff to be able to argue and debate and problem-solve, all without taking it personally. If two of your top staffers can’t have an argument over a course of action and then go to lunch happy, they are not right for the job. Real senior executives can separate the two things. They recognize that just because someone else has a different idea doesn’t mean that it is a bad idea. This includes the ability to debate and discuss options with the boss. Your staff must be able to articulate what they think.

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