I’ve talked to all kinds of church leaders serving in all kinds of churches across the country about building the right teams with the right people to make the unique vision that God has given them for their church become reality. Inevitably the conversation seems to always drift towards talking about this one particular person on their team. The question has come up so frequently that you probably have this person on your team as well.
The conversation usually goes something like this, “I’ve got this one person on the team. They’re really talented, they’ve produced some good results but there’s something about them.” Sometimes the church leader will be courageous enough to be really honest and say, “I’m not sure I even like them being on the team anymore. Sometimes I even find that I make excuses to myself and others for their behavior.”
They seem to do just enough to stay around. They’re dysfunctional but not overtly so. The fear of exiting them from the team is heightened often in a church because they have relationships with some important people and letting people go in a church setting seems to always be messy, sometimes even risky. Then there’s the energy and time that would be spent to find someone new and get them up to speed. Many church leaders in this situation end up feeling stuck.
Then the final question comes, “I’m not sure what to do with them. What do you think?” Well, you’re not alone, everybody has this person on their team…and I’m glad you asked. But one of the things that separates good teams from great teams is great teams deal with these people instead of letting them stay around forever and hold the team back.
The key indicator that you have this person on your team is that they don’t take personal responsibility when the conversation comes up.
When you’ve tried to talk about this with them in the past they just deny it. It’s not just that they see things differently than you do, they refuse to see what you see. Often in church world we do this to ourselves. We do a better job of letting stuff build up over time and not coach specifics in real-time so we’re left to discuss vague generalities instead of measurable specifics.
Another common response when the conversation comes up is deflection. They start rattling off a list of excuses that deflect responsibility of their behavior to their circumstances or other people around them. The tough thing is that if you listen to them long enough there is often a shade of truth in their deflection and some of their excuses begin to make sense. Which usually leads to them staying on the team a little longer.
Another way people respond poorly is by “shooting the messenger.” When confronted with feedback they aren’t ready to hear or are unable to accept it’s not uncommon for people react in a manner that is disproportionate to the conversation. That often comes out in anger.
Talking to this kind of person won’t help the situation. Many of you have tried and it hasn’t gotten you anywhere. You can’t coach this kind of person because they don’t want to receive any coaching. So, what do you do when you have this kind of person on your team?
When dealing with these kinds of team members you’ve got to come to terms with what they actually need from you as their supervisor. They need you to provide clarity and specifics on what it is you expect them to change, as well as clarity and specifics on what is going to happen if they choose not to make those changes. They cannot be successful unless you provide that to them. That’s your job. There a number of natural consequences that they may experience including being placed on a 30-day performance improvement plan, a suspension, or it could even be as severe as losing their job.
Give them a choice
Once you provide them with options you’ve given them the power to make a choice. At that point, they get to choose whatever they want. That’s their part. They can change their approach and their behavior and avoid discipline or not. Whether they choose door #1 or door #2, it’s their choice, and you’ve given them the opportunity to be a part of the team or leave the team.
If they don’t follow through, you need to. Simply put, do what you said you were going to do. If they choose to continue their poor behavior and approach, they are communicating to you that they no longer want to be on the team. So, give them what they want.