You’ve tasked someone you supervise with accomplishing something, and it’s not getting done. That’s when things can get awkward really quickly. Sure, you’re in ministry together, all equals in the body of Christ. But you’re also in authority over them and suddenly you feel like a mom saying, “Why didn’t you get your room cleaned?” And they feel like a kid in trouble, whose primary goal is now to dodge you. Both supervisor and the team members dread those supervisory meetings.
There’s a good reason you are sometimes uncomfortable supervising others. That’s because there is a necessary relational disconnect when it comes to accountability for outcomes. You are talking about black and white results, but with a living, breathing, multi-faceted person. Outcomes are important. So is the person.
So how can you balance accountability to mission and goals while also coming alongside to help develop personally those you are supervising? How can you do both well? You guessed it… coaching.
Two hats: supervisor and coach
The first essential step is to separate the coaching sessions from the supervision sessions. If you try to perform both functions in the same session, it gets muddled and you often don’t get done what you want to accomplish. So begin by separating supervision meetings from coaching meetings, and make that distinction clear for those you supervise.
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 that progress, and also to give a performance review. But it’s clear to both parties what this meeting is: a performance update and assessment of someone you are overseeing.
Then between those three supervision appointments is where you want coaching conversions. These are more frequent and more focused on developing their personal and leadership skills. Here the other person takes the lead with the agenda. They already know what they are trying to accomplish. Their task at hand now is processing and determining what kind of help or support they may want or need. And you as a coach help provide that support and encouragement.
In this way, you’re working 75% of your time in a developmental mode, and 25% of your time in supervision mode.
5 Ways to Maximize the Development of Your Team Members
1. No fault zone = No fear zone
When people feel afraid, they hide. It’s been that way since the Garden of Eden. As a supervisor, if you want to know what’s actually going on, you need to do your best to create an environment free of fear. That way, when things go wrong–which they at some point definitely will–those you are supervising well tell you about it. One important tip for creating a no fear zone is steering clear of blame. Things go wrong. It’s inevitable. When they do, looking for who is at fault is not generally a helpful tactic. Rather, avoiding an atmosphere of blame frees people up for the trial and error necessary for growth. Without freedom, there is no growth.
2. Celebrate strengths
Always start with people’s strengths. Everyone has areas where they shine, and those need to be acknowledged on the front end. If you’re uncertain what those areas are, use StrengthsFinder, DiSC, or some other assessment instrument. Celebrating strengths creates the necessary foundation and confidence to grow in additional areas. They need that stepladder to build from.
3. Level up
Find out where they want to grow. You may be able to see it a mile away but unless they agree, they aren’t ready to tackle that area with any degree of effectiveness. Ask questions to help those you supervise determine areas they feel they need or want to strengthen. No one is good at everything– and no one can be. But usually people can spot one area where, with some additional support–they could strengthen their leadership skills in ways they would want to apply them. Yet remember that those areas need to come from them, not you.
4. Connect the dots
One strategy that can be helpful as you assist people in finding areas they want to improve is to identify the challenges they are facing on their current projects. What is getting in the way of them meeting their goals? Often that’s the critical spot of leverage. For instance, maybe someone has the hard skills necessary to accomplish their goals, but they are getting bogged down in interpersonal conflict or lack of buy-in from others. Wouldn’t they like to be able to navigate those situations better so they can accomplish their goals? If so, that’s an important point of leverage–with some built-in motivation.
5. Bring it home
Be sure to get practical and concrete. If a person wants to grow in a particular area, what do they actually need to do? What steps can they take? Take time to explore options with those you supervise. Ask questions like, “How can I be helpful to you in your development?” You might be surprised at some of the ideas you can come up with together.
So if you want to stop dreading those supervisory meetings—and if you want those who report to you to stop dreading them—try the approach above. I think you’ll be pleased with how well it works. And the bonus is that as their supervisor you’ll not only help people meet their objectives more effectively, but you’ll be developing them in their own personal leadership as well.
Learn the Coaching Essentials
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