6 Steps To Delivering Constructive Church Staff Feedback
By: Jay Mitchell
One of the most important responsibilities we have in leadership is developing team members. For this purpose, one of the most effective and useful tools we have at our disposal is the delivery of constructive feedback at the right time and in the right way. It’s not hard to give feedback; however, if it is delivered at the wrong time or in a way that the person cannot hear, the feedback can do more harm than good.
Here are some steps to clear communication and efficient feedback among your church staff team.
As a leader, it is always your responsibility to initiate the conversation with your team member whenever you observe an area that needs improvement or change. It is not the job of your teammate to come to you to seek feedback on their own work performance.
Most staff leadership challenges happen when the leader sees an issue developing but ignores it- hoping it will fade- rather than addressing it right away. It won’t fade! It is your job to go to the person and address it directly and in a timely way. If it is something that is easily-corrected and you can deliver feedback in a constructive way, it’s best to initiate the conversation as soon as possible. However, if it is something that has been an ongoing concern or an area of frustration for you as a leader, it might be best to think through that conversation in advance so that you can talk about it without anger or frustration.
2. Be specific.
Describe exactly what you observed and your specific concern. What specifically do they need to change? Maybe a team member has developed a habit of interrupting others in a staff meeting. You might say something like, “In our staff meeting today, I noticed that three different times you interrupted someone while they were talking about their ministry plans.”
It’s really important to just state the facts and not assign a motive to the behavior or make assumptions about why they keep interrupting (ie. “Its seems like think this meeting is all about you.”) The truth is: you don’t know the why behind the behavior and it’s quite probable that they don’t know it either. Being specific and detailed can minimize the likliness of defensive behavior or tossing blame.
3. Describe the impact.
Describe how the behavior or action (or lack of action) impacted you or the organization. For example, say: “I love your enthusiasm, but each time you interrupted, it derailed the conversation.” It’s not always going to be that specific, but if you can identify how the behavior is causing problems for them or others, it will have a greater effect.
4. Ask open-ended questions.
Ask open-ended questions that will lead them to identify potential solutions for themselves. Open-ended questions will invite them into the conversation and lead them to take responsibility for the changes they will need to make going forward.
Here are a few ways you can draw them into the dialogue.
- Help me understand your thinking..
- What was going on when..
- Can you think of other times when this might have been an issue for you?
And then move to potential solutions:
- How could you have handled this differently?
- How could I/we have handled things differently?
- What would be helpful to you as you work on this?
Let them know you’ve heard their side. This is just basic active listening. “So what I hear you saying is…”, or “so in the future, when we see this happening again, we/you will…”
6. Follow up.
Set a time to follow up with the team member. This is a critical step. Once you’ve identified an area where you want to see improvement, you will likely need to revisit it a few more times. Set a time for a few weeks or a month down the road to talk about how its going, encourage them or challenge them as needed. Where you’ve seen changes, be sure to give them specific feedback on how you’ve seen them improve in the areas you’ve been working on together.
Giving constructive feedback is not always easy, but it is a crucial dimension of building an effective, growing team.
What is some constructive feedback that will help your team grow more efficiently this week?
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