86. How are you managing people?

Isn’t it funny how particular words mean different things in different cultures and organisations?  Being a visionary organisation as YWAM, the word pastoring didn’t initially

sit with us so well.  We are about reaching the world, denying self and completing the great commission. Where is the accomplishment in looking after people’s needs?  We DO care about people but often it’s not considered THE priority!  Another word that we don’t gravitate to is management!  We are quick to share the difference between leaders and managers – and of course we all aspire to be leaders!  It somehow sounds so much more important.  The truth is, most of our leadership is management – its dealing with people, its helping them find their place, its finding how we can function in team effectively, its working through change and transition, its sitting with people and hearing their story, their frustrations and their dreams.  We are called to manage visions, manage things and manage people.  This letter may overflow into several but here are some key management principles for you to think about that I have edited from the book ‘the truth about managing people’ by Stephen Robbins:

  1. You get what you expect:105 Israeli soldiers were participating in a combat command course. The four instructors in this course were told that one third of the specific incoming trainees had high potential, one third had normal potential and the potential of the rest was unknown. In reality, the trainees were randomly placed into these categories by researchers conducting the study.  In spite of the fact that the three groups should have performed about equally, since they were randomly placed, those trainees whose instructors were told had high potential scored significantly higher on objective achievement tests, exhibited more positive attitudes and held their leaders in higher regard than did the others.

This is the power of expectations at work.  If we believe people to be capable of certain tasks, they do their best to prove us right.  Leaders who expect more get more.  There’s obviously a fine line here where you can push people too far and put pressure on people by expecting too much – so we do have to get this right.  But generally, people need that push to step up and see their potential being realised.  So, we have to learn how to believe in people and see the talents they possess come to full potential. Jesus was a master at this, and was able to believe in some uneducated fishermen and see them rise up to be world changers.

Our expectations as leaders affects our behaviours towards others – we tend to give more opportunity to the people we trust and have expectations for; we give more time to invest in them; give more feedback, more emotional support, more challenging goals and basically better training.

Some of the most encouraging feedback I have received over the years is appreciation from those that I have believed in.  For them to feel believed in, they have to hear it from me and experience it by receiving support from me, even when they make mistakes and fail.

  1. There is no ideal style of leadership or management:We are creatures of habit and once we have established a mode of management we tend to use it with everyone! If we limit the styles down to directive or supportive styles, you probably prefer one over the other and use it all the time. However, the styles are situational. That means every situation calls upon an appropriate style to go with it.    Directive leaders let their staff know what is expected of them, schedule work to be done and give specific guidance as to how to accomplish assignments.  Supportive leaders come alongside staff, are friendly and show concern for their needs and are available to help and encourage them to do their best.  Jesus related very differently to the woman caught in adultery and to the Pharisees.  We don’t hear him say to the religious leaders, in a soft calm voice: “Where are your accuses, does no one accuse you?  Neither do I, go and sin no more.”  He spoke in a more directive way because that is what they needed.  If you have a staff person with lots of experience and strong abilities, you don’t approach them with a directive style.  If you do, you underline your lack of belief in them and don’t spur them on to grow.  Similarly, if you have a staff person lacking experience, it will be frustrating to just receive encouragement without clear demonstration and instruction.
  2. Hearing isn’t listening:We are all aware of the story of the husband reading his paper and ‘listening to his wife’ responding with grunts and hmms, only to find his dinner thrown into his lap! We can all hear but do we listen? Here are seven well known behaviours associated with effective active listening skills. How good are you at them?
  • Make eye contact – you can’t be doing something else and really listen at the same time.
  • Give appropriate non-verbal encouragement – show we are with them by responding with nodding our head and giving positive facial expressions.
  • Avoid fidgeting – it’s hard to talk when someone just can’t sit still or has an annoying tap, click of the pen or kicking of feet…
  • Ask questions – if we are really listening, we will hear what isn’t being said as well as what is and be able to encourage them to share more by asking questions.
  • Paraphrase – we can too easily say – I know what you mean, when in actuality, we have come up with our own interpretation that isn’t in line with what the speaker is saying.That’s why we need to feedback what we have heard using our own words and receive agreement from the speaker or be put right with the real meaning.
  • Avoid interrupting – some people take a lot longer to say something than others and if you are a quick processor, you may have the temptation to finish their sentences, put words in their mouth and stop the flow of the speaker.

You know if this is a strength or not.  If we are going to work with people well, then we will need to develop this skill of listening.  It doesn’t come overnight, so persevere.

  1. Choose the right communication channel:Some channels are rich, in that they have the ability to handle multiple cues simultaneously, facilitate rapid feedback and be very personal.For instance, face to face talk scores highest in channel richness because it offers multiple information cues of words, postures, facial expressions, gestures, and intonations.  It also provides immediate feedback of both verbal and nonverbal. And of course, it brings the personal touch of being right there for people.The telephone is another rich channel but less so than face to face communication.  Impersonal written media such as bulletins and general reports rate low in richness. Email and memos fall somewhere in between. Evidence indicates that high performing managers tend to be more media sensitive than low performing managers.  It’s not just coincidence that more senior managers have been using meetings to facilitate communication and regularly leaving the isolated sanctuary of their executive offices to manage by walking around.
  2. What makes teams work? To perform effectively, a team requires four different types of skills.
  • A team needs people with skills in the area of focus. Whether you are running a training programme, a city ministry, a preschool or relief and development ministry, you need some expertise to know where to start and how to continue with a clear understanding of the desired outcomes. You can have great relationships but if you don’t know what you are doing, where you are going or how you are going to get there, you will flounder.
  • A team needs people with problem-solving, decision making and planning skills. These are the classic management focuses of past, present and future. There needs to be an ability to process issues as they arise and implement actions that are agreed by the team.  These are the issues that fill every team meeting agenda.
  • A team needs people with people skills. For a team to be team it requires relating together, good listening, feedback and conflict resolution. We are more than a bunch of cogs that need turning.  The morale and level of relationship in the team will affect the longevity of team members commitment.  Studies have shown that there is a right mix of personalities that encourages good teamwork which includes: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability.
  • A team needs people with skills in spiritual leadership. It takes time for a team to learn how to worship together, intercede and hear God together, and minister to one another with authenticity. Drawing out a sense of the word of the Lord from the team is vital and requires being reminded of it on a regular basis.
  1. Numbers are important in team. Study has shown that the most effective teams are either very small, up to 4 or 5 or very large. My experience bears this out. We have enjoyed a large team in western Europe with around 25+ people being involved. It has brought a wonderful diversity of giftedness, personality, culture, gender and age.   However, in order to keep the large group on track, it has required a smaller core team of 4 or so where decisions are much quicker and easier.  You see Jesus having a core team of Peter, James and John and himself among the twelve.
  2. The three most significant factors for team performance:
  • Managing resources: Having adequate resources is obviously important. One of the continual challenges in YWAM is finances for staff, running costs and new projects. So, learning how to trust God, communicate, network, and fund raise are important.
  • Managing the vision: This involves keeping everyone on board with what we are doing and where we are going.The vision can be clear but it’s the processes that need to be put in place that enable the team to know their role, have high commitment and work towards the goal day by day.
  • Managing people: in voluntary organisations the hiring, firing and performance evaluation is fraught with difficulty. We tend to have to make do with the people that come our way and without an extrinsic motivation of salary, we have a challenge of discipleship and wooing people into growth and development. Even when someone isn’t doing a great job, if there is no one to replace them, we tend to tread very carefully.  However, as managers we must be committed to encouraging, spurring on, investing in these people to do the very best they can.
  1. 2 +2 doesn’t necessarily equal 5: I love the story of geese and the lessons we can gain from how they work together. One of the facts is this – ‘As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. Flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.’ We refer to this as synergy. The output of the team is more than the individual parts. However, the fact is that teams often create a negative synergy or in other words, 2+2=3.  This occurs when individuals put out less effort when working with others, than when they do alone.

In the late 1920’s a German psychologist named Max Ringelmann compared the results of individual and group performance on a rope pulling task.  He expected that the group’s effort would be equal to the sum of the efforts of individuals within the group.  For instance, three people pulling together should exert three times as much pull on the rope as one person and eight people should exert eight times as much pull.  Ringelmann’s results, however, didn’t confirm his expectations.  Groups of three people exerted a force only two and a half times the average individual performance.  Groups of eight collectively achieved less than 4 times the solo rate. More may be better in the sense that the total productivity of a group of four is greater than one or two people but the individual productivity of each group member declines.

What causes this?  Perhaps it’s a belief that others in the group aren’t carrying their fair share, or because the result of the group cannot be attributed to any single person.  So, here are some implications for team leaders: a. When working with a team, clarify clear roles for each team member. b. Give specific feedback to individuals in the part they played.  c. Create a high enough goal that moves the team beyond their individual achievement but not too large to overwhelm them.

There is so much to learn in managing others but perhaps the bottom line is the principle Jesus gave to us – he came not to be served but to serve.

Happy managing or should I say ‘Happy serving’,


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