Improving Team Performance And Church Leadership


It is inevitable that as a leader you're are going to need to have conversations with church leadership that center on their poor performance or on a work habit that is interfering with the results of their job. They may arrive late for meetings, turn in poor quality work, not meet agreed upon deadlines, or not have the knowledge to do their job properly. It is your responsibility to help your church leadership perform to the best of their ability and to do this you must sometimes have a difficult conversation with them.

No one likes to have these conversations, but they are necessary if you want to achieve the desired results. Planning out what you want to say in advance will ensure the effectiveness of your conversation.

The bottom line is that we want to give your staff every opportunity to succeed. My motto is “no surprises” – meaning if we need to transition someone off our church leadership for ineffective performance – then I want to make sure that we have given them opportunity in advance to correct their performance. It is not appropriate for someone to hear that their job is ending because of their poor performance and for them to say “I had no idea I was not performing well.” Also having a proper process in place will help provide a layer of protection to your church if a terminated staff member would try to take legal action.

Keys to an effective performance improvement conversation

      • Prepare! Do your homework and get all the facts before meeting with the church leadership team member. Do not base your discussion on second hand information or assumptions. Get the facts.
      • Focus on the problem behavior – not the staff member. The problem is a behavioral issue, not a personal one. The conversation should be about inappropriate or ineffective behavior which impacts performance and the organization.
      • Involve the chruch leadership team member in the discussion - Don’t just talk at her/him. They will “buy in” to solutions that they create far more quickly than your solutions.
      • Be crystal clear. This is a serious issue requiring change. Be direct, specific and do not talk in generalities, especially when talking about the consequences.
      • Document the conversation. Write down details of your conversation and keep a separate file for each person you are having performance improvement conversations with.

Step One: Candid Conversation

State exactly what the problem is and what impact it’s having.

State specific consequences if this problem continues to exist and reinforce the impact on the team and the rest of the church leadership and volunteers.

Allow the staff member to help develop an action plan for improvement. Encourage them to come up with their own solution but be prepared to help them shape the specifics of the plan.

Reinforce their commitment and close.

**If after having the above conversation you are not seeing improvement in the staff member’s performance in the agreed upon timeframe then follow through with the remaining steps.

Step Two: Verbal Reminder

Schedule a meeting with the person to review the conversation from step one.

Step Three: Verbal Conversation and Written Reminder

In this meeting the church leadership team member receives a written document that outlines the points of your earlier conversations. It should be signed by both the staff member who is under performing and their direct report. Generally the person is giving 30 – 60 days depending on the situation to improve their performance. It should be clear in the written document that if improvement is not made then the staff member’s role will end. It is strongly recommended to have a third person in the room with you for this conversation.

Step Four: Transition

If there has not been adequate performance improvement then it is time to transition the person off staff or into another role depending on the severity of the performance gap.

One last word of advice - Do what is right- tell the truth. As part of church leadership ourselves, we are entrusted with the stewardship of dollars and lives. We are kidding ourselves if we think that avoiding honesty is the best thing for the person or our church.