It’s a new year, and many churches use this time to review goals, set new ones, and evaluate team engagement. At Life.Church, we talk a lot of the gift of feedback—we see it as a gift because giving and receiving feedback is truly one of the greatest ways to sharpen and grow your team. But, having feedback conversations isn’t always easy.
Each year the staff at North Point Ministries, one of our Open Network resource partners, sits down with each of their team members to have a focused, one-on-one feedback conversation. As a result of these sessions, the team at North Point has seen both increased staff engagement and sharpened leadership skills. They shared with us how this foundational conversation is structured and how you can set the scene for receiving helpful feedback.
Setting the Scene for the Feedback Conversation
- Set the tone for the conversation. Let your team member know that the conversation is a safe place. You want them to be totally honest, and share everything they want to say—even the “last 10%” they may feel tempted to hold on to because it’s awkward or may hurt someone’s feelings. Remind them that they won’t be punished for what they say.
- Listen as openly as possible. Think of this as emotionally neutral information gathering. So ask clarifying questions or ask for specific examples if needed, but try not to defend or explain your actions.
- Don’t push it. It takes time to develop a culture of trust and transparency. So don’t be surprised if employees are reluctant to share honest feedback the first few times you ask these questions. Try again in six months, then again and again and again.
- Take action on what you hear. Your direct report(s) will be more honest over time if they can tell that you really heard their feedback and are trying to improve. When applicable, ask how you’re doing (e.g., You told me it frustrates you when I micromanage your work; did I do a better job on this last project?).
Questions to Ask
Now that the table is set for the conversation, here are some sample questions the team at North Point uses to uncover helpful information and perspective from their teams.
- What have I done or said that has hindered our personal or professional relationship?
- Do you feel like you have the latitude you need to make decisions that are important to your role? Do you receive encouragement from me that motivates you?
- Do you ever feel like your voice is not heard or your opinion is not valued? What can I do to help make this the best place you’ve ever worked?
- What are 3 things you wish I would continue to do, do more, or stop doing?
- What’s it like to be on the other side of me in work situations? Personally?
- What is my blind spot as a leader?
Take the Conversation to the Next Level (Literally)
Push feedback up the organization by implementing skip-level meetings. In skip-level meetings, each employee meets with his/her leader’s leader (i.e., “skipping” one level of the organizational chart).
The structure of these meetings is pretty loose; there’s no prescribed list of questions. The conversation is simply a way to make sure information and feedback don’t get bottlenecked with any one person, and for giving those in leadership a chance to hear what day-to-day work looks like for every member of the team.
Depending on the size and structure of your team, skip-level meetings may not be practical. But consider adding volunteers or attendees to your organizational chart and then “skip” a level to hear directly from the people impacted by your ministry. For example, if you don’t manage any other staff members, but you do manage 10 volunteers who teach Sunday school at your church, “skip” over the volunteers and have coffee with one of the men or women who regularly attends Sunday school. You can hear their perspective and get to know what it’s like for them as an attender.
We know that “when the leader gets better, everyone gets better” and creating a feedback culture enables us to do just that. Increasing staff engagement through these one-on-one feedback conversations takes intentionality, but it’s worth it. Engage your team, listen for feedback, and take action. Do this consistently and you’ll see results.
Special thanks for North Point Ministries for providing the content for this article. Get additional information about the resources they offer through the Open Network by visiting their partner page. And, if you’re interested in learning more about how to create an ongoing culture of development and feedback for your team, check out our free app, Develop.Me.
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