Tag Archive: teamwork

Hard Conversation Pointers for Members and Staff

face to face

The Latin term for confrontation means – “to turn your face toward; to look at fully.”

For many people, confrontation is something they do passively while walking away from another person, or a reply they make to a tweet or email. But as leaders in the church, we can’t afford to confront cowardly (or sinfully).

In their book Boundaries, Face to Face, @DrHenryCloud and @DrJohnTownsend suggest that “boundary conversations” are “motivated and driven by love, and also are focused and have an agenda.” These are two important components of a confrontation conversation that has boundaries.

It’s critical for church leaders to have hard conversations well. If not done well, such conversations may contribute to festering sin, and might also create a chasm between you and the person being confronted. If that happens, it will make it difficult for you to worship together and do church life together.

Before you decide to initiate a hard conversation like this with someone, determine two things:

  1. Is this something you can overlook? (Proverbs 19:11) Many would-be confrontations can be stopped at this point. Ask yourself – is this person doing something that is wrong, or is it simply something I don’t prefer? If it’s the latter, choose to overlook.
  2. Are my reasons for the conversation motivated and driven by love? In other words, is it driven and motivated by a greater good?

If you’ve determined the offense should not be overlooked, and the confrontation is motivated by love and the greater good, then make the choice to confront the person within these boundaries:

  • Determine your agenda. Be specific. Deal with the most pressing issue, and then stay on agenda. Non-focused confrontations deal with too many issues and instances, and rarely get to resolution.
  • Call the meeting at a time that gives you the best chance for success. Try to be flexible, and adjust to their timing if possible. If they’re not a morning person, than avoid breakfast meetings.
  • Pray… for the other person, their receiving of the message, your attitude, and for God-honoring resolution.
  • Prepare your delivery. Most experts agree you have somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes to set the tone of a conflict conversation, and that tone is determinative of the outcome. Prepare well for that thirty seconds.
  • Know your desired outcome. Know what equates to success in this confrontation. Allow room for the other person to speak into this, but know what you hope to achieve.
  • Make sure you get to the last 2%. This is the hardest part of the conversation. This is the part that may take people aback. But the last 2% is the reason for the conversation. Say what you need to say. Make sure it’s delivered clearly. Without it, you’ve just engaged in a hard conversation that was all preface.

When you’re done, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I say anything un-becoming as a Christian?
  • Did I stay on agenda?
  • Did I say the last 2%?
  • Did I listen well to their response?
  • Did we mutually determine a next step to deal with the issue?

Happy hard-conversating.


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Consensus Or Input — Clarity For Your Meetings

When inviting feedback from a group, are you seeking consensus or just input?

Help and support signpost

 Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

Knowing what you want, and communicating that expectation to the group, is an important task for a leader to do well.

Many leaders invite dialogue from a group of people, as if they’re looking for consensus among the group for a decision. But in reality, the leader only wants their input, not their consensus. This is often done unintentionally but it can be a fatal leadership mistake.

The group hears a leader say, “I want unanimity amongst all of you.” But then the leader leaves the group, goes back to his/her office, considers their opinions, and declares a decision on his or her own.

Seeking feedback and input in order to reach a decision point is perfectly fine, but only if the people from whom you sought feedback know what role their feedback is going to have.

A leader must be clear about what they desire from the groups they’re dialoguing with.

Consider one of these opening comments at your next group-think sessions:

“I need to reach a decision. I’ll ultimately make the final call, but your input would help me formulate my decision. Will you provide me feedback?”


“I value and trust your opinions, and I want your help in reaching a decision. Whatever the consensus of this group is when we leave is the action I’ll take.”

I think either statement is appropriate for a leader to make, but let the group know their role in the decision making process.

Another serious leadership gaff is to provide a group the opportunity to give feedback for a decision you’ve already made. At best, it’s poor relational intelligence. At worst, it’s lying.

If you’re going to make a decision unilaterally, that’s fine, but own up to it.

Practical Takeaways for everyday church leadership:

  1. When seeking input, be transparent with your intentions.
  2. Don’t ask for input if you’re not going to use it or at least consider it.
  3. If you’re making your decisions Lone Ranger style, own up to it.


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If You're Going To Miss, Call "Help!"

Help me please!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

One of my standard comments to prospective employees or new staff* is:

I realize you’re going to fumble the ball sometimes, but just don’t fumble without first calling “help.”

  • It’s one thing to miss a deadline. It’s another to not let people know in advance who may be able to help or do damage control.
  • It’s one thing to make an error in judgment. It’s another to let those you report to be surprised by the error at the same moment everyone else in the church is.
  • It’s one thing to not have the skills or knowledge to complete a task. It’s another to be irresponsible by not collaborating with people who can help provide those skills or knowledge. (Click here to read a previous post on collaboration.)

Mistakes will happen. But ignoring or concealing them until the 11th hour isn’t fair to your church or place of business.

You’ve got to determine what’s more important: your pride, or the objective you’re trying to achieve.

Like I have, you will fumble the ball. But when you see the fumble coming, call for help, and see if someone else can take the ball.

Is there a project you’re already behind on?

Is there an assigned task you don’t think you have the knowledge or skills to complete?

Call “help!”

Calling “help” doesn’t necessarily mean you walking away from the task. Sometimes, it just  provides others a chance to collaborate with you. Other times, a team leader may determine to reassign the task.

I’ve fumbled the ball, both literally and figuratively, and it doesn’t feel good. But it feels worse when I’ve looked up to the sideline and seen willing, competent people who could’ve helped me if I’d asked.

*Read more about onboarding and orientation for new staff in a recent post.

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