5 Ways to Help Your Staff Leader

At the end of weekend services, a decision was made that, in my opinion, caused a complete train wreck. Annoyed, I headed into my leader’s office the next day to explain what happened and why the decision was wrong. After 15 minutes, he politely interrupted me and said, “I agree with you, but we had to make that decision because of some other factors.” As he unpacked the reasoning and the direction he was given, I realized the weekend train wreck wasn’t too bad, all things considered.

As I left his office, I realized I needed a new approach to my meetings with leadership and wrote down five ways I can help my staff leader.

1. Listening

Many times we go in with guns blazing to lecture our point. Instead, we should listen to our leaders. Asking simple, non-sarcastic questions can open up our leadership to explain reasoning that will help you to formulate factual, relevant and kind responses. “How do you think the weekend went?” or “I noticed we decided to make this call, I’m just curious as to why and how you felt that decision helped us or hurt us?” Your tone is everything in these questions. If you truly come across as seeking and wanting to listen, you will succeed in hearing a response that helps you.

2. Speaking in affirming tones

Under listening, I spoke to your attitude and tone. This is key, always speak to the positive. To the best of your ability, in everything you do, uplift the situation. A major theme park teaches this as a core belief. Even requests for when the park closes are responded to with “We are open until….”Making the response a positive to how long they are open, instead of when they close. Let’s say someone attacks you and says “the sound is too loud, can you turn it down?” Instead of saying no or answering negatively, affirm them by saying, “Thank you for letting us know, I will make sure our leadership hears your request. We have been asked to keep the atmosphere engaging and energetic, but I hear your concerns and we will strive to do better in the future.” Then ask a few questions about where they were sitting, what they felt and experienced. Don’t lecture them on their answers or tell them why they experienced what they experienced. Just take a couple minutes to gather the info. This is hard to do, but when you master it, it’s effective in affirming every situation. When you are able to take this approach with your leadership, it will show you are a problem solver, someone seeking to understand the problem and fix it.

3. You don’t have all the details

Understand you may not have all the information. Do your best to communicate and execute with the information that you do have. It’s natural for humans to operate as if they are fully informed and know everything. This is why, long ago, people thought the earth was flat. Scientists of that day even thought they proved it. However, the truth is, we don’t know everything. We rarely have all the details and facts. Even when we think we have all the details, we may still not fully understand it. When I’m given a directive, I don’t try to fill in all the blanks which could be perceived as if I am shooting down the idea or directive. Instead, I try to understand enough to successfully communicate what is needed to the team. Trust is my starting point. I trust that my leaders have my back and are working on any details that I may need to further inform the situation. That leads me to number 4.

4. It’s ok to dis-agree and push back

Points one through three should be mastered before you attempt to push back. Push back is an art. You want to be honoring when you push back and if you can’t, then don’t push back. Lay out your thoughts, what you think may happen and then your alternative ideas. If you can’t present an alternative idea, don’t push back on your leader’s idea. Push back without another idea, is just complaining. You don’t want to be a complainer, you want to be someone who ideates. Trust me, the process of your ideas getting shot down will help you understand the directive better. Occasionally you present an alternative that helps improve the situation and addresses your concerns. Good leaders will either tweak the directive to address your concerns or adjust to your idea all together. But if they don’t, remember number 3. You may not have all the details. It’s important that when you leave that office, you are fully on board and will execute the idea as if it’s your own. Don’t grumble, complain or say that you’re being made to do it. Even though you may dis-agree with the idea, it’s imperative that the team does not feel that. As far as they’re concerned, your leader’s idea, is your idea.

5. Track data

This is the most important way to help your leader and it’s often missed. Once a decision is made, implemented and put into action, use a method to track the results of the decision. At minimum, follow-up behind the decision and take notes on the results. Track tendencies, successes and mistakes. If a speaker tends to want a handheld mic instead of a headset, notate it and be ready for the next time. If a decision results in success, notate it. If it results in issues or mistakes, note that and be ready to discuss. This data can be very helpful to your leader. When presented in a respectful, unbiased way, this data can shape the next decision and help your leader to move forward in a productive and informed way.

All five of these ways to help your staff leader are a form of communication. Lack of communication is the number one complaint I hear from churches. If you are able to bring these five principles into your meetings, you will see results that help your team and allow you to become an effective communicator.