I remember once feeling terrible for going to Barnes & Noble during office hours while blowing off work, so that I could do some reading on filmmaking and production. I had to get all of my real work done, and instead sneaked out the back door, while everyone else was singing, "Happy Birthday," in the break room.
I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing.
Once I moved up from the bottom of the totem pole, I insist to the folks that I oversee, to take time to develop themselves.
I made it to my car and pulled out of the parking lot, without getting busted. No one hangs out in the parking lot in summertime, so that part was easy.
Finally, I was able to get out of the hot Texas sun and into the air conditioned haven that is Barnes & Noble, to expand my mind grapes. I had gathered up a stack of books and magazines that I was looking forward to read for free sorry Barnes.
At that moment, one of the main pastors at the church I was working at then, walked up to me.
At that moment, I looked up much like I probably would have a couple decades ago from the bench outside of the principal's office, with that dumb look you make, when you're caught with your hand in the cookie jar.
"Hey, whatcha up to?", the pastor asked.
I nervously told him that I was doing some reading that was directly related to my job. I then added that I had finished all my work back at the church, and I wasn't doing anything wrong. I then concluded by stating that I had never done this before, and that this would be the first and last time.
After I finish, the pastor responds by saying, "Developing your craft, I love it!"
He then turns to the intern standing next to him, who I hadn't noticed at all. The pastor then tells the intern, "You should be doing this," then turns back to me and asks, "How often do you get out to expand yourself like this?"
I told him that I did so about once a month, to which the pastor simply replied, "Cool." They then walked off.
Since that incident, I have never felt bad about this kind of thing. In fact, once I moved up from the bottom of the totem pole, I insist to the folks that I oversee, to take time to develop themselves.
When developing my teams, whether volunteer or staff, I am looking for them to grow in three specific areas. I want them to grow in their craft. For example, are they getting better at running a camera, designing a T-shirt, playing a guitar? Or I want them to grow in networking.
Outside of our organization, are they being mentored by anyone, are they talking with peers in their field, or are they mentoring others? I want them to grow in leadership development. Are they reading or writing blogs, going to conferences, teaching, or reading books on the subject of leadership?
I think there are many ways to develop your teams, but for me, I want to push in these three areas, because I have found them to get us a letter grade ahead.
Will people take advantage of the free time and go to a movie instead? Yup. I assume they will. But that sort of thing shows up in the work, and eventually takes care of itself. I use a lot of these principles for our volunteer teams too, even though the work day aspect doesn't factor in.
Here are some quick tips on what NOT to do:
Don't expect your team to do it on their own.
Can you simply ask, "Hey everyone, make sure you are working on your craft, networking, and leadership development on your day off."
Instead, we allow flexibility for our team to meet with people on their teams and networking, enjoying workshops, going to conferences, etc. We read books together and discuss leadership principles during office hours. We have a goal as a team to meet with one of the following who is not on staff once a week; team members, peers from other churches in San Antonio, mentors, or mentees.
Don't stress everyone out.
There are two types of stress. The useless kind is coming down on mess-ups like a ton of bricks, to where you would say, "How dare you not hit a home run!" Saying something like this, or thinking like this, will just make people want to stop swinging.
If you're doing this, you should stop.
I have made this mistake in the past, when an avoidable problem is happening at that moment, and I want to fix it right then and there. But now I recognize the need to pull back, as it's not worth it to me. I'd rather keep the family together.
The useful kind of stress, though, by contrast is to compel people to want to be more. I want them saying in their own minds, "I am going to hit a home run." The stress of wanting to step up to the moment should not be seen as a bad thing. I want people excited, instead of nervous. It's the same biological feeling, but is a world of difference. Most professional athletes will answer the question, "Were you nervous?", with "No, I was excited." I am shooting for that goal.
Don't let uncommitted individuals onto the team.
This is how you answer all of the questions of, "What if they go to the bowling alley, instead of meeting with their network," or "My volunteers will only show up to one service, and won't come to rehearsal."
Once you do this, you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
Make the door to get in harder. In our ministry, if you can't commit to rehearsal and all services Saturday night and Sunday morning, then this isn't the ministry for you.
From there, you can then politely direct them to a ministry that they can serve in, that will work with their schedule.
Don't do every request.
If everything is important, then nothing is important.
For our ministry, it is totally inappropriate for high level worship leaders to be expected to lead worship for a children's event. We only have so much time and money.
The hard thing isn't deciding which things are worth your time and which aren't. That's easy.
The hard thing is choosing between something great and something great. If you do every request, you will drain your money, burn out all of your volunteers and confuse everyone to what is important and what is not.
Usually what happens is the thing you excel at starts getting second treatment, because it's seen as easier for you, which means you can put it off.
But it's a dangerous game to be solving everyone else's emergencies.
What is important to your church? Your people? If you are too far down the path of burnout for your team, get your thoughts together and talk with your leadership. It's totally within reason to explain to them this is our budget of time and energy, meaning we can only do so much. So what would you like to cut? They will help you work through it, if they care about you and your ministry.