I’m eight months into leading West Park Church, a church of several hundred in London, Ontario, Canada. And I’m a US citizen, totally new to Canadian culture. When I arrived I had to adjust not only to a new church and a new staff but to a new culture as well. Fortunately I prepared myself for the transition by reading several books about on-boarding, the process of adjusting to a new job. One book, You’re in Charge, Now What suggested a process to help a new leader define reality with his or her new staff. Whether you are new to a ministry or business leadership role or not, consider using this process with your staff to learn fresh insight about your work setting.
Within the first month I asked one of the longest tenured staff members lead a discussion with the entire staff during a staff meeting. I gave the team instructions and then stepped out for about 45 minutes. He lead them to complete these statements in a candid sharing time. Here are the statements.
- We expect this from you…
- You need you to know this about us… (including what we believe we do well and where we need to improve as a staff)
- We want to know this about you and here are our concerns…
- Here are the burning issues now facing the church…
- Here are the major obstacles now facing the church...
After I left he recorded everyone’s responses on our conference room’s white board. When I returned, I read through each one and asked questions for further clarification. Here’s what I learned.
- They wanted me to show that I cared for them through prayer, feedback, and truth telling.
- They expected consistency and integrity.
- They wanted to be taught, trained, and challenged.
- They wanted to know what they could do better.
- They wanted clear communication and clarity about their respective roles.
- They wanted me to know that they worked hard and supported each other.
- They wanted to know what was important to me, my boundaries, my personal struggles, and whether I wanted them to reply to every email I sent.
- They wanted me to know that the church at the time faced financial challenges and trust issues.
- They wanted me to know that I might face resistance to bringing change in the church.
This simple process provided an invaluable, honest, and simple way to help me define reality through the eyes of our staff. This experience helped me craft appropriate action plans to bring essential change for staff development and to the church at large.
My first eight months have been a joy and we’ve made great progress. This unique listening session helped set me up for success.
What tools have helped you define reality in your setting?