Tag Archive: orientation

Me and The Syllabi Syndrome (too much too fast)

The Syllabi Syndrome is the overwhelming experience of being presented all your work in a short period of time. Maybe like me you experienced this in college. It’s the first week of classes and each professor provides you their class’s syllabus. But you take more than one class. So, over your first two days of classes, you have 5-6 syllabi (I learned the plural of syllabus is syllabi in college).

Bolded deadline dates from your five classes looks intimidating. That overwhelmed feeling is Syllabi Syndrome. When experiencing said syndrome it doesn’t matter that all the work is not to be completed in a week, but instead over a four-month period.

Instead, you see and feel the expectations of five professors all at once. And you think to yourself, “How I am ever going to get this done?”

The Syllabi Syndrome is not limited to the freshman college experience. It’s for all of us who have entered a new situation, and in that new situation, feel like there’s so much to be done. So many people to meet. So many details to follow-up on. So many expectations!

I’m suffering from Syllabi Syndrome now. I have a new job. New church. New home. New city. New state…you get the idea. So, to self soothe and perhaps provide some practical takeaways for some of my readers who are in a similar situation (or will be), I’d thought I give some thoughts about how to maneuver through it.

When you’re faced with a lot of “new” in short period of time and feel the need to find a pathway to performance…

  1. Take a deep breathe. Literally and figuratively. Literally, long deep breaths have many positive effects. You can read about those through smarter people than me. And figuratively, create some margin to back away from the tyranny of the urgent.
  2. Set simple systems. Don’t take it all on at once. Set short-term low goals. If you have two thousand pages to read, well, you have four months in your semester to read it. So, take 120 days divided into your 2,000 pages to be read, and you have your short term low goal of reading 16 pages per day.
  3. Get commitment clarity. Avoid committing to anything that’s not required. When people give you things to do, seek clarity. Am I required to this? If so, what’s the timeline? You may learn what you think is required or expected is actually closer to a suggestion.
  4. Remind yourself you’re not indispensable. Particularly if you’re having the syndrome feelings in a new job. Remind yourself that you haven’t always been here, and in most cases, they were managing without you.
  5. Look for sympathy, better yet, empathy. Find people who have been in the same situation and get a little perspective from them. They’ve been there the previous semester. They’ve been the new guy or gal on staff. They know what it’s like to drink from a fire hydrant. And they also know the fire hydrant eventually runs out of pressure.

So, if you’re experiencing this made-up syndrome like I am, then join me in using these steps to get out of it.

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The Critical Nature of Staff Orientation & 100 Day Reviews

©aleksandarfilip / Dollar Photo Club

Everyone I know who does this, does it differently. But not everyone does this.

When you don’t go through orientation and an early review, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to gather fresh ideas and insights. It allows you the opportunity to build relationships and ensures that everyone who works with you is on the same page.

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On-boarding Staff Process

As a hiring manager or leader, there are two reasons you might need to review this post:

1.) You don’t hire new employees often, so you have no system and can’t easily remember all the steps that need to take place each time you do have an opportunity to hire someone.

2.) You’re hiring a lot of new employees, so you need a system and documentation to keep the on-boarding steps consistent.

The goal is to make sure everyone is doing their part to welcome and prepare for new employees. Being prepared on day one and having an orientation in place says a lot to the new employee about your church or organization.

On and Off-Boarding 

On-boarding and Orientation Task sheets need to have the tasks a new employee will need in the first six months. On ones I’ve created I have headings of: Before they arrive;  First day; Week one; First month; and 120 days. (At the bottom of this post I’ve listed examples of tasks to include on yours.)

The goals is for those we assign these tasks to is to  complete the task in the time frame (“before they arrive, first day,” etc). You need to determine which key departments and/or persons need to receive the first e-mail, alerting the staff of a new employee’s anticipated arrival. Then, those people review it to see what they’re responsible for making happen.

This document can be online shared document o so the person responsible can easily see and then mark off what they’ve done. and can be as simple as the person in charge keeping a document and emailing out assignments.

I think it’s also helpful to show the new employee the actual on-boarding sheet. This way they can see what will be done for them, or downloaded to them, and they also can see who they’ll be interacting with for the task.

An on-boarding document can be very simple and only have a few tasks, or it can scale to a very complex matrix of all that a new employee will need to be exposed to as they begin at your church. Start simple, and as you discover more needed and repetitive tasks, add to it.

I’m also a fan of an off-boarding document. It serves the church and the person leaving. It can include things like “Remove them from website,” “return keys and church credit card,” “complete exit interview,” and of course, “host a party.”

A good on and off boarding system will allow your church to not miss any important details, be consistent from employee to employee, and help a supervisor to not have to start at ground zero each time (“what do I have to do with a new employee?”

Sample on-boarding tasks:

  • Communicate to church the new arrival
  • Order needed tools for them (business cards, computer, furniture, etc)
  • Prepare personnel paperwork for them to complete on day one
  • Make buildings keys
  • Provide key dates for them to be involved in for first 60 days
  • Add them to New Member Class invite
  • Set-up key meetings (1:1 with pastor, ministry leaders)
  • Take picture and write bio for website
  • Establish goals for day 60 and 120
  • Order church credit card
  • Provide them access and training for Church Management System
  • Provide tour of buildings


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