The Importance Of Giving Transparent Feedback As A Leader

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Too much is on the line for church leaders to fail to be transparent to staff. From a moral and ethical standpoint, the role of pastor mandates a duty to lead beyond the responsibilities of a “typical” businessman. One way this is accomplished is through clear and transparent communication. Too often, however, church leaders struggle with communicating feedback and taking steps toward conflict resolution.

Time and time again, I've heard the story of Youth Pastor Jake who is rocking along in his first ministry position. Because he’s new to ministry, he’s likely seen minimal-to-moderate growth in terms of attendance, spiritual depth, events, and programming, yet he feels pretty good about the job and all that he has been doing in his role.

However, right before Christmas he gets blindsided when he sits down with his pastor for the first time and has a negative review. All along, he had received minimal feedback from his pastor – if any at all – along with little-to-no direction. Now, he's completely deflated and likely even questioning his role in the church, worrying if he is going to be able to support his family as his job may now be in jeopardy.

This situation is not his fault. His pastor and all senior leaders have too much on the line to wait until a review to provide their feedback and criticism to a staff member. Pastors not only have a duty to the Kingdom but also a duty to the families that faithfully serve alongside of them to help them grow and develop in their vocation.

Here at Vanderbloemen Search Group, we have a collaborative and open environment. We have weekly meetings with all our staff where we celebrate our wins, work on big projects, and build vision and culture. Additionally, we have monthly departmental meetings in which our team leaders check in with staff, encourage teamwork and collaboration, and see how our daily work is helping meet both team and individual goals.

These meetings are regular check-ins that serve as a way to hold people responsible and increase transparency in order to bring the best out of each employee. While there is always a clear “leader” of a conversation, we never try and limit the voice and input of staff. Collaboration is key in all that we do. We don’t value “yes,” we value the truth. Real shaping and leadership development occurs within that truth.

Collaboration is key in all that we do. We don’t value “yes,” we value the truth and real shaping and leadership development occurs within that truth. Tweet:

Even with regular meetings and staff development times, we still hold two to three reviews throughout the year for each staff member. Due to the clear and consistent communication throughout the year, there are hardly ever any surprises during these reviews.

If Youth Pastor Jake had regular meetings and opportunities to receive feedback, he could have had a much better sense of the direction of his work and would not have been blindsided by the feedback from his review.

I still maintain that official reviews are an important part of a healthy church or organizational structure. However, “review times” should be seen as check-ins in which you take a break from the regular day and reassess where you are headed as an employee and what you have to do to meet the goals for the year. Staff reviews allow us to take a brief step back from working in the organization to work on the organization. The common denominators of any official review should always ask and answer the following based on clear, measurable goals. 

  • What has the individual done to advance the goal?
  • What has the individual lacked in when accomplishing the goal?
  • What has changed since the last time you talked about this goal and is the goal still relevant?
  • What can you, as the reviewer, do to empower the reviewee to better accomplish said goal? 

I'm reminded of what Paul cautions us in Ephesians 4:26, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." This carries over to how we should lead our teams by doing our best to communicate transparently and address conflict on a regular basis.

What would happen if the church pushed a culture of regular, constructive criticism? What is your process for conducting staff reviews?