the shape of leadership

Bridging the Gap

Evaluating the effectiveness of your staff

Dan Hunter on October 11, 2017

You’ve felt it, maybe while you were eating in a restaurant, shopping at a store or overseeing someone’s work. We have all experienced it. It’s the gap — the one that exists between someone’s performance and someone else’s expectation of that performance.

In that gap is frustration. And the bigger the gap, the bigger the frustration. It’s the same whether you’re in the marketplace, the corporate world or the church bubble.

Staff members may think they know how they’re doing based on their ideas of their performance. But, if they’re not told how they’re doing based on their leader’s expectation, then, let’s be honest, they don’t really know how they’re doing. That creates a gap of frustration on both sides. The only way to fix it is through communication.

Staff evaluations are, in their purest form, communication. They provide clear feedback, give improvement direction, celebrate great performance, and set new expectations. But they are essentially just clear communication.

Implementing an evaluation system into the culture of your church staff helps ensure the gap between someone’s performance and someone else’s expectation of that performance is as minimal as possible. Remember that you can’t expect what you don’t inspect. Staff evaluations don’t need to be complicated; they just need to be done.

Evaluation Tools

Build ongoing systems into your staff routine. Consider building the following checkpoints into your calendar.

Plan a monthly alignment. Meet monthly with each staff member to look over his or her job description and evaluate progress.

If you haven’t already done so, group the job descriptions into a few general topics that include all the specific responsibilities under the appropriate topic. As you walk through each individual topic on the job description, ask for updates, share observations, give direction and offer assistance.

This will serve as consistent realignment for what you expect and what you are asking.

Conduct a biannual grading. Spend this biannual meeting grading job performance and evaluating effectiveness.

Prior to the meeting, ask the staff member to do a self-evaluation by assigning a grade of “A,” “B” or “C” to each topic on his or her job description. “A” means “going above and beyond what is expected.” “B” means “meeting expectations.” “C” means “falling short of expectations.”

You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.

Ask the staff member to come prepared to provide a reason for assigning each grade. Let him or her know you will be assigning grades as well. (Come prepared to share your reasons for each grade, too.)

This will serve as a measuring stick for seeing how well your perspectives on performance and expectations match.

Schedule a yearly debrief. Spend this yearly meeting assessing each staff member’s job fit and evaluating his or her leadership.

Prior to your meeting, give the staff member a form to think through and fill out. The form should include a general-purpose statement establishing it as an evaluation of the individual’s current leadership and overall development. It should also include three categories for evaluation: strengths, weaknesses and solutions.

Define strengths as, “Areas in which you are doing well as a leader.” Define weaknesses as: “Areas in which you are doing poorly as a leader.” And solutions should answer the question: “How can you enhance your strengths and develop your weaknesses?”

The strengths and weaknesses categories should include three different spaces each for them to respond in detail. The solutions category should have six different spaces for them to respond in detail (three for strengths and three for weaknesses). Come ready to dialogue on the staff member’s written perspective and what you agree on or think differently on in all three categories of the form.

This will serve as a development playbook that will direct each person on how to improve their personal leadership and team fit.

Evaluation Rules

Avoid miscommunication and potential problems. Here are five rules to remember.

  1. Be honest. Provide the good, the bad, and the ugly, even if it’s uncomfortable.
  2. Be realistic. Balance the reality of your church with the dreams of your vision.
  3. Be clear. Make sure challenges and goals are specific and measurable versus general and vague.
  4. Be inquisitive. Ask for and listen to concerns, struggles, problems, assessments and insights.
  5. Be thorough. Come ready, cover everything, and keep detailed records afterward.

Proverbs 11:14 reminds us, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory” (NASB).

Regardless of how natural this may come to you as a leader, staff evaluations are necessary for both you and them. They will become better as a result. You will become better. And the church will grow.

This article originally appeared in the October/November/December 2017 edition of Influence magazine.


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