A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do You Want to Make Sure Your Organization Fails? Follow These Ten Rules

This post by Mel Kleiman really resonates with me. I will list the ten rules to avoid and then comment on each as it relates to religious organizations.
10. Treat everyone equally. This may sound good, but your employees are not equal. Some are worth more, because they produce more results. The key is not to treat them equally; it is to treat them all fairly.

I am an unashamed egalitarian, but that does not mean that all employees are equal in reference to what they do for the organization. The simple truth is that some employees matter more than others and some jobs require more discernment as to who is put in that position than others. As an egalitarian, my task as a pastor is to treat everyone fairly. "Same" is not a synonym for "equal."

9. Tolerate mediocrity. A-players don't have to or want to play with a bunch of C-players.

If you want to make sure you get your institution to fail, make mediocrity the standard with low expectations and worse-- penalize your A-Team by forcing them to live with the results of such mediocrity. I knew a pastor who was so adverse to dealing with staff issues that he simply wanted to give the entire church staff a cost of living increase every year, thereby telling the people who really were working hard and doing well, that all their efforts really did not matter. All too often religious organizations use a distorted notion of grace as an excuse to tolerate mediocrity and avoid pursuing excellence-- a strange idea considering the many places in the New Testament that charge Christians to be faithful above all else.

8. Have dumb rules. I did not say have no rules; I specified dumb rules. Great employees want to have guidelines and direction, but they don't want to have rules that get in the way of doing their jobs or that conflict with the values the company says are important.

Churches in particular major in ridiculous rules. Indeed, some church folk believe that the answer to every problem is a new rule and a new committee. We organize ourselves to death and engage in paralysis by analysis; and while every organization needs organization and a certain structure and collaboration, my experience is that when institutions engage in creating a burdensome and cumbersome structure, and in the process of talking everything to death and having to collaborate with absolutely everyone, the end result will be the maintenance of the status quo until the situation gets so bad, the only way to keep the organization afloat is to enact very painful and difficult changes.

7. Don't recognize outstanding performance and contributions. Remember Psychology 101: Behavior you want repeated should be rewarded immediately.

See rule #9.

6. Don't have any fun at work. Where's the written rule that says work has to be serious? If you find it, rip it to shreds and stomp on it, because the notion that work cannot be fun is actually counterproductive.

One of the requirements in working for me is a sense of humor. I want employees who wake up in the morning wanting to come to work. Eighty percent of the time, if people don't look forward to work, it is the result of an unfriendly work environment. Moreover, it is important to foster the team approach to ministry, which means employees of a religious institution are not only accountable to their employers, but to other staff who depend on their job performance (again see rule #9). People who like their jobs not only like what they do, but they like the people they work with. In order to develop that I insist that staff members work with each other in an honest ways. Problems are dealt with immediately and not allowed to fester.

5. Don't keep your people informed. You've got to communicate not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. If you don't tell them, the rumor mill will.

Churches are notorious for acting like the KGB; and it is the pastor that sets the tone. Of course, there are certain things, especially sensitive personnel matters, that need to be kept confidential, but transparency in non-confidential matters is critical in helping to prune the church grape vine that is always being watered and fed by the church gossips. Three words are appropriate here: communication, communication, communication.

4. Micromanage. Tell them what you want done and how you want it done. Don't tell them why it needs to be done and why their job is important. Don't ask for their input on how it could be done better.

This is a real pet peeve of mine. Micromanaging employees is a recipe for their failure. It is tantamount to giving them the responsibility without the authority. It also leads them to questioning every decision they make and a lack of self-confidence in their abilities. A friend of mine, who manages employees says that he gives every person enough rope to either do the job or hang themselves. Indeed! When I put someone in a position, I assume they can do the job unsupervised after training and some experience. Of course, I am there to assist them and support them as needed, but if I have to look over their shoulder constantly, they should not have been hired in the first place. Autocratic employers have a trust problem. Not only do they not trust those around them, they only trust themselves. Autocratic pastors are bad for the church and fundamentally distort the the mission of the church as a lay driven organization.

3. Don't develop an employee retention strategy. Employee retention deserves your attention every day. Make a list of the people you don't want to lose and, next to each name, write down what you are doing or will do to ensure that person stays engaged and on board.

When I get a good employee, I will do whatever it takes within reason to keep her or him. If they need a raise to help make ends meet, I will do my best to get it. If they need more continuing education or an upgrade in equipment, I will seek after that as well. I will also give them more slack if they make a mistake (which we all do), than those who major in mediocrity.

2. Don't do employee retention interviews. Wait until a great employee is walking out the door instead and conduct an exit interview to see what you could have done differently so they would not have gone out looking for another job.

I regularly (three to four times a year) ask staff how things are going and what they like about working at the church and what they dislike. Sometimes I talk to them in my office, at other times I go to their office. Sometimes the discussion takes place casually in a hallway of the church. The point is I want to keep my A-Team in place, and I don't want them to be thinking of going elsewhere. I don't do this with my C-Team. Actually, I don't have a C-Team. They don't last long at the church.

1. Make your onboarding program an exercise in tedium. Employees are most impressionable during the first 60 days on the job. Every bit of information gathered during this time will either reinforce your new hire's "buying decision" (to take the job) or lead to "Hire's Remorse."

The biggest cause of "Hire's Remorse" is the dreaded employee orientation/training program. Most are poorly organized, inefficient, and boring. How can you expect excellence from your new hires if your orientation program is a sloppy amalgamation of tedious paperwork, boring policies and procedures, and hours of regulations and red tape?

To reinforce their buying decision, get key management involved on the first day and make sure your orientation delivers and reinforces these three messages repeatedly:
  • You were carefully chosen and we're glad you're here;
  • You're now part of a great organization;
  • This is why your job is so important.
My experience is that if a religious organization does not follow rules 2 through 10, their new employees will not experience rule #1.

It is true that the Church of Jesus Christ and religious institutions are different from all other organizations and institutions. Our doctrines and values should make us different and reveal itself in how our organizations operate. But there are some constants that are true of all organizations, and Christians neglect them at the expense of the gospel in the world.

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