Those of us in pastoral leadership or leaders of teams have had on occasion to provide feedback to those under our care. Sometimes that feedback is in the form of correction, direction and maybe even an outright rebuke! For me those conversations are never fun but I’ve taken some of my experiences (both good and bad) and have put together a few thoughts before you have your next “we need to talk” conversation with someone under your leadership.
#1 – Check your motive. Before you can begin to have a meaningful conversation with someone whom you feel needs correction it is critical to check your motivation or intention. Intention is so important, while intention can’t be seen its affect can be felt by the person you are speaking to. Only you truly know your own intention and in ministry if your intention is not love then your mission and conversation becomes misaligned it will only be a few sentences in before you’ll be headed to a ditch! Is your intention to restore this person to wholeness? Are you genuinely trying to help? Or are you mad and just want to give them a piece of your mind? Is your intention to give them tools to advance or become better? Or are you trying to prove that you are better, smarter or in a position of authority over them? If your intentions are wrong the outcome won’t be right!
#2 – Speak inside “The Teachable window” I believe that anytime you need to coach or correct there is what I like to call a “teachable window” The teachable window is usually the closest time to the action or conduct where both parties are cool, calm and in a space physically and mentally to have the conversation. For example if I had someone on my team who got lighting levels wrong during services the best time to discuss would be immediately after the last service and perhaps a follow up right before the next service. Talking to them 3 weeks after it happens would be outside the ‘teachable window’ as likely they (and I) forgot details and specifics. Having a conversation too late can mean that you miss that optimal teachable moment. – It works if you are trying to have the conversation too soon as well. I remember an ATF staff meeting some time ago. We typically have all the ATF staff meet in my office for our weekly meeting. On this occasion a member of my staff made an inappropriate comment in the middle of the meeting. I was steamed! I wanted to ‘lay a smack-down’ right there an then… the old Kemtal would have! Instead we carried on with the meeting and a few hours later I called that staff member back to my office privately. The time gave me a chance to ‘cool off’ and get my intention right. It was still close enough to the action that the situation was still relatively fresh and the staff member was able to learn in an environment was healthy, supportive and safe. Having the conversation privately allowed their defenses to be down and real growth to happen.
#3 – Is your tone congruent with your heart? – You have probably heard the phrase its not what you say, but how you say it. This is especially true when having tough or corrective conversations. If your INTENTION is love, restoration and to see the person grow your tone when speaking with them must reflect that. It also means that you must open your ears and listen. People need and want to be heard. In the example above with my staff member that made the inappropriate comment in the middle of a staff meeting, his intension was not bad at all. Part of what made that conversation a success was that I was able to hear him out and agree upon a correct course of action going forward.
#4 – Check your ego. It’s a nice way to say give up your need to be right, superior or to prove yourself in anyway. Healthy confrontation and feedback is never to ‘one up’ the person you are dealing with. Be humble enough to hear the other person out and in some cases its ok to give them the benefit of the doubt.
#5 – Begin with the end in mind. Before you start your conversation think of what the desired outcome is. As you begin get to the point quickly. Dancing around a subject can actually increase anxiety in the person you are talking to. A great tip I’ve used in the past is I’ve actually written down a “conversation starter” that commits you to follow through on the feedback but sets the tone for the conversation. For example: “I’m so thankful I get to sit down with you face to face. I wanted to discuss a serious concern I have regarding your attendance and want to work together with you on a solution….”
Finally, as in all good feedback conversations follow up is important! As leaders there will be times where we need to bring correction to a member of your team. If you ever catch yourself using the Christian cliché “I’m just speaking the truth in love….” While you are correcting or giving feedback, then you’re doing it wrong!