Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Kind of Staff Person Should You Hire?

Skills and competency are essential, but before you hire someone there may be a more important question to ask yourself
If you are the Rector of a program size church, one critical issue you face is the hiring of new staff members.  Of course, smaller churches have staff too, but these are different from the staff of larger churches.  Large churches often have staff members that have responsibility for significant areas of congregational program and ministry. 
Over the years, I have hired staff and assisted other clergy in this task.  Of course, there are critical issues such as position description, compensation, expectations and the like that are important, however I think there is a much more fundamental question that the Rector should has herself before starting the search process.  “Do I want to hire the best and brightest person for this work, or would I rather have a competent person who can carry out responsibilities, but who will remember that I am the best and brightest person in this organization?”  Let me explain.
I have noticed that there is a fundamental attitude in leaders about how they see themselves in relationship to the people they hire.  For people like Bishop Claude Payne, my boss for over nine years, the critical issue was hiring people who shine out in their work. (Let us call this kind of person, the A Type Leader.)  People like Bishop Payne operate with a broad sense of delegation, delegating authority as well as responsibility.  They expect staff to perform to high standards and to take the initiative when needed.  They believe that compliments and achievements of their staff reflect positively on them.
For other leaders, the attitude is quite different.  They are very concerned that they are seen as the center or primary person of their organization.  (I will call this person, the B Type Leader.) They also delegate, but mainly responsibility, not much authority.  Personally and emotionally, they are uncomfortable when members of their staff act independently or take the initiative.  They can be uncomfortable when staff members are complimented or shine forth. 
Now, I want to be clear.  I have known very effective leaders of both kinds, but what I am suggesting here is that it is best to know which kind of leader you are.  Otherwise, hiring becomes more difficult, and expectations are often unclear or miss-communicated.  When such things happen conflict results.  Conflict with staff is often the most difficult and costly things that can happen in a larger congregation. 
Further, not all potential staff members are comfortable with both these kinds of leaders.  Some, like me, function best with high autonomy.  I work best with an A Leader.  Others like a greater sense of security and direction.  These people prefer a B Leader.
Unfortunately, both A and B Leaders tend to think that they want the best and brightest staff and want them to shine forth.  On three occasions, a B Leader asked me to help prepare a short list of candidates for a parish position.  He told me that he wanted the “best possible” person and I assumed this meant an outstanding person in the area of ministry.  I was confused when the leader chose the person that I felt was least able on the list.  On the other occasion, the leader passed over my recommendations and chose a person that he felt was just better suited for that congregation.  It took me a while to figure out that I had a B leader. 
I can take this further to say that this B Leader had and continues to have conflict with staff members.  He tends to hire people perceived as the best in their field and then becomes unhappy when they are perceived by the B leader to be either insubordinate or disloyal. 
However, I have also known A Leaders that got into conflict with staff members, particularly staff members who were correctly perceived as highly competent, but who wanted clearer direction or were low risk takers. 
I may have said enough in this blog to help you understand which type leader best describes you and how you prefer to operate.  Unfortunately, experience has shown me that some leaders, even quite successful ones, do not necessarily have insight about their own behavior or expectations.  If you are a leader who is unsure about which of these two descriptions best suit you, there are at least three ways to get meaningful feedback on this.
First, give a copy of this blog to your spouse and ask them which type best describes how you operate.
Second, give a copy of this blog to a trusted and competent lay leader, and then ask her which best describes you.
Third, and perhaps the most insightful, give a copy of this blog to a former staff person and ask him which best describes you. 
Did I mention that feedback can sometimes be difficult?  Unfortunately, it is often the best road to insight.   

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