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Team development
Sitting in a very visible place in the lobby, I will work on email or something. And as I sit there, I’ll have a steady stream of staff, interns and residents come over and say, “Hey, can I grab a few minutes with you?”

Individual Staff Level Development, Encouragement

I truly believe that If I’m doing constant evaluation of staff, rather than annual evaluation, it actually makes the annual examination perfunctory and useless.

(To get a rundown of “Bigger Group Level” and “Smaller Group Level” staff development and encouragement, read Phil Taylor’s first part to this piece, published Tuesday, November 26.)

For a look at the individual level staff development and encouragement possibilities, here is a rundown of things done at Mosaic Church.

One on One Meetings with Direct Reports: The Executive Pastor (Phil Taylor) meets with each department leader (director level) at least once a month formally, and those department leaders do the same with their team. These times are used to catch up on what that team member is working on in their area of responsibility.

Because our team is such a hard-working and self-motivated group, they don’t generally need much more than encouragement. But occasionally, there is a corrective need or small redirection. 

Unscheduled time with Direct Reports: Over the course of any given week, I’m in contact through text, by phone, email and quick meetings in the hallways, with just about every one of my direct reports.

Weekly Encouragement: Once a week, my calendar includes reminders for me to encourage two staff members with some kind words. My assistant schedules this out for me, so that over the course of a year, each staff member and lay elder receives one or two texts or phone calls, just to say “I’m praying for you,” or some other encouragement.

It’s too easy to only talk business. I want our team to feel like they really know that I’m praying for them.

General Availability to All Staff: Every staff member knows that they have the right and freedom to schedule a meeting with me at any time and for any reason, personal or professional. Because they have great department leaders (directors), I find that not many need to grab time with me very often.

When there is a conflict that needs to be worked out, though, or they are dealing with something above their director’s skill set or experience, I get called in to assist and I’m glad to do so.

Intentionally unscheduled time: Once a week, my assistant has time in my calendar that is meant to be unscheduled time for any staff member to just “grab a few minutes with me.”

I usually sit in a very visible place in the lobby, and work on email or something. And as I sit there, I’ll have a steady stream of staff, interns and residents come over and say, “Hey, can I grab a few minutes with you?” I find that two hours of unscheduled time often saves me five to ten hours of individually scheduled meetings, because not everyone needs an hour with me, they just need 10 minutes.

Dinners with staff couples: Over the course of 12-18 months, my wife and I grab dinner with each staff couple (staff member and spouse) just to connect and look into marriage health, etc. Sometimes we’ll add on something fun like mini-golf.

In a ministry context, it’s super important to connect with the staff’s spouses, as well as the staff member. For our single staff members, I’ll often invite two or three out do dinner at once with us. We also make sure we get casual time over dinner, with every new staff member and spouse.

Encouragement for staff kids: Last year, I started something new. I mailed a handwritten note to all the kids of our staff, along with a gift certificate for ice cream or movies, depending on their age. It was fun to hear back from some that it was the very first piece of mail they had ever received.

In the note, I took time to tell them how awesome their mom or dad was and how much I liked working with them at the church. In addition to this being a fun thing for the kids, the parents really felt supported by me. When you care for someone’s kids, it sends a huge message to them and garners quite a bit of loyalty and credibility. This will become a yearly thing for me from here on out.

Conferences: Individual staff members are encouraged to find and attend conferences that would be of unique developmental benefit to them. The church covers these costs for them within reason. No more than one a year in most situations.

Resources: The cheapest way to develop staff members is to give them the freedom to buy books that they want, to read to get better at what they do. There are no plane tickets, car rentals, meals or registration fees to pay for. It’s just a $10-20 book. As such, I tell our team all the time to buy and read anything and everything that they think will help them grow in their roles, and to do that learning on the church’s time and dime.

What about Annual Staff Evaluations?

You may notice that there is no “Annual Evaluation” built into this rhythm. That’s intentional. I believe in “Constant Evaluation,” rather than “Annual Evaluation.”

There is a quite a bit of research being done right now demonstrating that the traditional annual evaluation model is broken, unhelpful and creating a lot of sideways energy. This is especially true with millennials, which is about half our staff at this point.

Here are a couple of articles (written by others) that summarize my feelings on the matter.

https://www.thebalance.com/performance-appraisals-dont-work-1918846
http://www.growthengineering.co.uk/annual-performance-reviews-dont-work/
https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/5-Employee-Feedback-Stats-That-You-Need-to-See
http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-performance-reviews-overhaul-0424-biz-20160421-story.html

I truly believe that If I’m doing constant evaluation, rather than annual evaluation, it actually makes the annual examination perfunctory and useless.

Since our pay raises for the last five years have all been an effort to catch up to industry standards, there was not a clear need to tie an appraisal to a raise. This may change in the future.

In the next year, I’d like to see if I could bring some additional tracking to my style of constant evaluation.

I’m open to push back on this front, but I believe that I have coached, developed, and grown a highly motivated, highly satisfied, hard-working team that has scaled well, as we’ve grown from 1,200 to 3,300 people per weekend, while watching our giving more than triple from $1.5 million to more than $5 million, all in less than six years.

So, I tend to point to the team and say, “It seems to be working well, they are killing it!” The fact that we have an extremely low turnover rate, would indicate anecdotally that the staff are happy with things as well.

My leadership of the staff team continues to grow. I’m a lifelong learner, so I’m always looking to see how others are doing it and trying to figure out what makes sense for our context.

I don’t believe I’m an expert on this by any means, I’m just another learner. Send me your ideas for staff development at backstagepastors@gmail.com.

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