The Power of the “One to One” in Developing Leaders

When I left my church of 4,000 members as an Executive Pastor to receive my first call as Pastor of my own congregation, I knew that I needed to do everything I could to be as effective as possible.  Whether I was comfortable with it or not, one if the things I knew I just HAD to do is ask for a 360 review–feedback from my Senior Pastor, my direct reports, volunteers that worked with me.  So I went on a perspective-finding mission, asking the same question to people that had engaged with me as a leader in ministry in a myriad of ways, and I asked:

“If there was one thing I could change about myself or the way I lead to benefit God’s church, what would it be?”

I asked 8 different people–and 6 out of the 8 all said the EXACT SAME THING (Holy Spirit work, right?)

“Follow through,…follow through…don’t overpromise and underdeliver, …follow through with what you say you’ll do…”

It was a difficult experience, but helpful–and it made me wonder why that pattern of leadership had been present in me and had evidently cause minor to major frustration at times.  As I was reflecting a bit on that, I remembered my Myers-Briggs profile is ENTJ, which is known as “Commander,” and one of the major points of conflict for a leader with my type is that we are actually a bit naive to believe that people will follow through and be self-starters to accomplish what one lays before them without guidance or checking in.  As I did some soul-searching, I knew that there was a part of me that was averse to being known as a micro-mangager I often found myself muttering, “well if that person would have just done what I told them to do…”

…but over this past year I realized that the failure was less on them and much more on me as their supervisor, developer, shepherd, and vision-caster.  It was on ME to follow-up for our organization’s health and moving forward, not just on them.

Then I learned the power of the one-to-one meeting from Manager Tools.  A short, 30-minute meeting every week with each of your direct reports that is split into three segments:  first ten minutes, THEY set the agenda on whatever they’d like to talk about (troubleshooting issues, questions, needing support, wanting to talk about personal issues even); second ten minutes, YOU set the agenda on what needs to be discussed, and then the last ten are spent talking about the future.  Every week–not skipping because there doesn’t seem to be anything important to talk about–every week, meet without fail.  It’s relationship building, trust-deepening, and forces both supervisor and directee, pastor and staff person to move the ball a littler farther down the court each week.

What I’ve learned this year is that these meetings are not micro-management, but management at its best–always asking, “How can I support you in your work and help you follow through?” keeps both of us accountable to our common mission, and not left on the sidelines to figure it out alone.

Look for interviews in the near future where I ask staff members who’ve experienced this to reflect on why the one-to-one is so crucial to our work together, and how now, they’d never want to go a week without it!

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