Coaching Your Staff IS NOT Counterproductive
Almost inevitably when I talk about taking a coaching approach to developing leaders—listening, asking good questions, allowing people to come to their own conclusions as they listen to God—I get someone saying, in essence, “Well, that’s all well and good with volunteers. But I’m in charge of a church staff. I’m their supervisor. I need to make sure they get things done.”
It’s true. You do need to get them to do specific things, and it’s part of their job. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in your staff as people.
I understand the tension, I used to lead a fairly large church staff myself. Supervising and coaching can be combined in a way that enriches the other: developing new leaders while doing the work of the ministry. Yet there is a tension to that relationship and a need for intentional balance.
When Supervising Goes Wrong
A supervisor needs to do things like define the job role, decide how employees will be measured, hold the person accountable for results, clarify goals, and evaluate process. A coach, on the other hand, needs to draw out and help support the person’s own ideas. My observation as I’ve reflected on how people lead paid staff is that they over-supervise and under-coach. The more you wear the supervisor hat, the more you create the temptation to micromanage.
Develop a New Rhythm
The first step is to separate the coaching sessions from the supervision sessions. If you try to do them both at the same time, it gets muddled and you often don’t get accomplished what you want to accomplish—in either area. It works well to create this type of rhythm: Schedule three supervisory appointments per year: January, May, and September. Functionally, your church is on a trimester system. In between supervision appointments, schedule those nine monthly coaching appointments.
For staff-level people, you probably only need to have three supervisory meetings per year. Every four months, they can come prepared to share what’s been accomplished in the last four months. They can also provide their priorities and specific goals for the next four months. The supervisor of course has the chance to speak into those goals, and also give a performance review.
Between supervision appointments is where you want your three coaching conversions. Those coaching conversations already come to you with the agenda because the staff-member already knows what they are trying to accomplish. The task at hand now is processing and determining what kind of help or support is needed. In this way, you’re working 75% of your time in a developmental mode, and 25% of your time in supervision mode.
Obviously, one key to making this work is clearly laying out which conversations are which. Not only do you need to know when you are wearing a coaching hat and when you are wearing a supervisory hat, but the staff person needs to have that expectation made clear to them in advance as well. Establishing a clear and consistent natural rhythm is paramount.
The Supervisor Hat
The objective when supervising is accountability to desired results. The focus is on the employee/employer relationship. Supervisory meetings ensure that staff are spending their time on projects that are an effective contribution to the mission and vision of the church. Let’s say that your church mission is to Love God, Love Others, and Make Disciples. A supervisory meeting agenda would cover these topics:
- What projects have you completed in the last 4 months?
- In what ways did this help our congregation Love God, Love Others, and/or Make Disciples?
- How are you measuring that growth?
- Create measurable goals and objectives for upcoming projects.
- How can we support you better in this work?
As a supervisor, you speak into their time management, effectiveness, and help them align their work to your overarching vision.
The Coaching Hat
During the coaching appointments, be sure you’re clearly wearing the coaching hat and the agenda is totally their prerogative. They already know what they’re supposed to be accomplishing; they have clarity on what they’re responsible for. During these sessions, they determine what is most helpful to process with you.
Instead of giving advice or directives, ask, “So what have you already thought of?” Unpack their answers fully before giving any input. You don’t need to do their thinking for them. They are not looking to you for answers. They are responsible for their own thinking and actions to do what needs to be done. By holding a very clear coaching posture, you can help them use these times more effectively.
A coaching meeting will be filled with questions like this:
- What can I celebrate with you?
- What challenges are you facing?
- What are you learning?
- What do you want to discuss with me?
- How can I be praying for you?
The Value of Coaching Your Staff
The agendas are different but they are not in competition with each other. The supervisory meetings ensure progress is being made the coaching meetings are more developmental. In this way, you are investing in your staff as employees and as people.
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