6 Critical Reasons for Developing the “Middle” of Your Teams

Look at leadership development and you see the focus of most conferences and materials is on leaders at the top, or leaders on the front line. This is great – I love to work with senior-level teams and leaders, and have spent decades training volunteer group and team leaders for churches and businesses.

But many groups – especially Non-profits – really need to develop the middle, and the opportunities are endless!

So what about development for the MIDDLE? People have skills and experience beyond entry-level leadership and yet do not desire, are not ready for, or not gifted for – top-level posts. Where are the development strategies for these emerging leaders?

My “Leaders at Every Level” process is designed to develop and support leaders at every level of your church, non-profit or small business.

Here is why it is so important to DEVELOP THE MIDDLE layer of your organization:

1)     This is the pool from which you will draw many of your inner circle leaders in the next 4-5 years.

2)      An investment here has a huge trickle-down effect, as these leaders become better at passing along the DNA of your organization.

3)      You can see whether these leaders can reproduce the investment you have made in them. Can they, and will they, shape the people below them the way you are investing in them?

4)     It is a testing ground for greater responsibility. You can takes risks here and let leaders fail without causing too much pain in them or the organization. Yet they have time to learn and recover from failure before advancement to higher levels.

5)     Turnover drops dramatically and is directly proportional to the investment you make in people. After a few years people wonder if they are stuck, so they either level off (and just hang on to a job) or move on to better opportunities for growth. If you want turnover, ignore the middle. Here is some great info from The Wharton School that validates this point in business…but I think it is even MORE essential for churches and Non-profits.

6)     When top leaders move on or die or retire, there is no “crisis” because you have a built-in succession plan!

 

So what is your strategy? Share your ideas for development in the middle and I will forward them along. This is a great challenge!

Read more from Bill here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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The Beautiful Mess of a Successful Leader’s Leaving

My friend, Rob Wegner, announced to our church in September that he is leaving.

Nineteen years ago when I joined the staff at Granger, a new church meeting in a movie theater and averaging less than 300 each weekend, there were only five people on staff. And Rob was one of them.

For the entire time I’ve been at Granger, Rob has been a rock star. He’s been foundational to our movement and at the core of our vision. He’s lived a life of integrity every step along the way. His beautiful wife, Michelle, has been by his side leading and supporting through every mountaintop and valley experience. I will be forever grateful for being able to live and work in Rob’s shadow for nearly two decades.

I will talk more about Rob on another day. But today, let’s think about how a church should respond when a respected and honorable leader chooses to go somewhere else. And why is it that so many churches get this wrong?

Here is a typical cycle…

  1. John, a leader at First Church, has served faithfully for a number of years.
  2. He decides he wants to do something else, and might even say, “God is calling me to do something else.”
  3. The pastors and leaders get their feelings hurt that he is leaving. It feels like, “John doesn’t want to play on our team any more. He took his ball and his bat, and now he’s going to play on a different team.” It feels very personal.
  4. Emotions run very high. Words get said. Insinuations are made. People are reactive. Focus goes toward what John doesn’t like or why John isn’t staying.
  5. Others in the church take sides. “Yeah, we agree with John!”
  6. All the right words are said publicly, but in the hallways of the church, a cloud has developed over John’s departure. Some of John’s work over the years begins to be discounted. His motives are questioned.
  7. John leaves feeling like he got kicked in the gut. He was trying to do the right thing but feels like he’s abandoning the people he loves and damaging relationships he cherishes.
  8. The remaining leaders feel like they got kicked in the gut. Their associate for so many years is going off to do something else and is beginning to talk about what why he wants to do something different. It stings.
  9. For months, every time John’s name is brought up, there is a tinge of pain and discomfort.
  10. John leaves feeling like he not only walked away from a ministry where he gave a part of his life—but he also lost some dear friends.

Ugh. Why does it have to be this way?

The truth is, it doesn’t. But the alternative takes really hard work. I talked about this more at the Innovate Conference last month. Here are a few quick thoughts:

To the church…

  • It’s okay to be sad.
  • You have to sequence your communication carefully.
  • You will be emotional, but rise above it when you are making decisions.
  • Err on the side of grace. Even though you are sad they are leaving, do everything you can to bless them.
  • Focus on the years they have served at the church—not the days or weeks after they said they are leaving.

To the individual leaving…

  • Don’t convince yourself you are more righteous than the people you are leaving.
  • Be humble and gracious.
  • Say “thank you” in every conversation.
  • Don’t try to fix the church in your closing conversations. If you couldn’t fix it as a staff member, you are definitely not going to be able to fix it on your way out.

There is so much more to be talked about, which I will do next month. But for now, just let me say that if you want to see someone who gets this and is leaving well—watch Rob Wegner. He has walked with care and love and a high regard for his family and church every step of the way.

These situations are going to be messy. A “good leave” is not defined by lack of mess. It is defined by how both sides respond to the mess and work through it with love and grace.

Have you watched some bad departures? Seen any good ones? I’d love to hear your story.

Read more from Tim here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens

For more than 17 years, I have been on staff with Granger Community Church. It has been a privilege to watch the church grow from a congregation of 350 meeting in a movie theater–to a world-impact ministry reaching more than 6,000 locally and tens of thousands around the world. Outside of my family, the most important place I invest my leadership, time and energy is to the staff and congregation at Granger.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Josh — 11/19/13 3:47 am

I had the honour of being part of an amazing transition of Pastors when briefly serving at a church before planting where the Pastor spoke for 10 weeks in a row just for five mins each service on how to receive a new leader, what could be expected/challenges/living with grace etc. It was genuinely amazibg to watch as he brought in the new leader weeks early and they transitioned the last bit togethed

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.