What People Want at Work, Part 2

Dan Reiland
Dan Reiland (Facebook)

We all report to someone, right? So we can all relate, in some way, to being staff. Part 1 of this miniseries focused on a great boss. This post focuses on a great employee.

In my leadership as an executive pastor, I’ve been hiring the best staff possible for a long time. I know how tough it is to find those eagles! I’m so grateful every time we bring a great leader onto the team. The same thing is true when inviting volunteers to step up to significant leadership.

Let’s do a quick review from Part 1. Here are three characteristics for both boss and staff member. I added Scripture for just one area—humility—primarily because it sets the stage for nearly all other areas.

1. Love Jesus

  • Humble spirit (2 Chr. 7:14; Dan. 10:10-12; Ps. 147:6; Prov. 3:34; Matt. 23:12; Luke 14:11; Eph. 4:2-3; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5-7)
  • Servant heart
  • Hears God’s voice

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2. Growing Leader

  • Secure
  • Learning
  • Practicing

3. Strong Character

  • Trustworthy
  • Lives by the same standards they expect of others
  • Discipline to do the right thing

What do people want in a great staff member?

(What kind of leader do you want on your team?)

This article is written with a 60 percent or more weighting toward staff than volunteer leaders, but it’s easy to translate to both.

I began by interviewing several bosses with ages ranging from late 20s to early 50s. I asked traits they desire least in any staff member. They all answered with striking similarly.  I’m calling the composite “The Foul Four.”

The “Foul Four” traits in staff members:

  • Excuse-maker
  • Complaint-giver
  • Negative thinker
  • Entitlement-believer

These need no explanation. As soon as you see the words, you know exactly what they mean and can think of a person that fits each category. Are the “Foul Four” skills or attitudes? They are all attitudes! That is an important insight. The key question is: Will you allow any of this on your team?

The good news, though we are all susceptible to at least one of these, is that we don’t have to live in any of them. I know which one is my weakness, so I watch for it. By being aware, I’m in the game to intentionally not live there. Yes, I might slip, hopefully very briefly, and then quickly rise above.

5 Characteristics in a Great Team Member

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:15-17).

1. They bring leadership energy to the table. At 12Stone Church we say about a great new staff person, “Someone just showed up.” You don’t have to be in our culture to immediately get a feel for what that means. We all know how wonderful it is when someone else jumps in and brings leadership energy into the room. They help make things happen!

A great staff member is driven with passion for the mission.In the healthy sense of the word, they are driven—or, perhaps better said, they are self-motivated. They take responsibility for their own inner motivation rather than being carried by the efforts of others.

Great staff members understand how to bring leadership intensity without being an intense person. You know when to hit the throttle and you know when to ease up. No one wants to be around an intense person, but leaders must at the right times lead with intensity.

Great staff are proactive. Leadership energy means you take initiative about the right things. Simply being proactive alone isn’t the answer. Anyone can be fast.

It’s being out in front about the right things that makes you good.

2. Their consistent self-leadership results in noticeable maturity.

Great staff are self-aware. One of the best examples of people who are not self aware is every really bad singer that auditions on American Idol. You’ve probably seen some of those horrible moments! Scary, huh? They really can’t see themselves! They so desperately want to be something they are not.

It’s true for all of us; we can’t see what we can’t see. So we all need people who can speak into our lives to help us see ourselves accurately. This helps us embrace the right position with the right attitude.

Great staff manage emotion well. Life and leadership doesn’t always go your way.

  • You lead in proportion to your faith.
  • You control in proportion to your fear.

When you are angry, you give up influence. When you’ve lost control of your emotions, you have quit leading. If someone can push your buttons, they can steal your leadership. People like to watch an explosion, but they don’t like to be near one. Emotions are stepping-stones to either spirit or flesh. Be careful!

Great staff are OK when a teammate gets more than they do. They are able to authentically celebrate the blessings of others.

3. They absorb pressure with grace and composure. It’s natural to want to get rid of pressure—or at least make it lighter by taking the matter to your boss. It’s natural to want a feel for what your boss would do. Sometimes you have to. That’s OK. But the best leaders absorb as much pressure on their own as possible. You become absolutely invaluable if you consistently step in, step up and handle the pressure-filled situations, whatever they may be.

Great staff lead well at home. There is something I call “the personal pressure ratio.” If there is too much pressure at home, you can’t lead well at your job. If there is too much pressure at work, it can erode things at home. The goal is to offset your total pressure level enough by keeping pressure low at home. Focus on what you can control, and you can’t always control things at work. It’s just too big. If you pour energy into the priority of a good family life, that will help you lead better at church!

Great staff lead up well. I recommend 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell.

  • Leaders who don’t lead up have too little fire or too much fear.
  • Playing it safe or political isn’t smart. It’s not about getting what you want or even just winning your agenda; it’s about the good of the church. That allows you to relax if it doesn’t go your way.
  • Leading up means lightening your leader’s load.
  • Do your job. Do it well.
  • Tell your leader what they need to hear, not what you think they want to hear.
  • Go the second mile.
  • Stand up for your boss whenever you can.
  • Leading up requires that you be prepared every time you take your boss’ time.
  • Don’t make your boss think for you.
  • Bring something to the table.
  • When asked to speak, don’t wing it.
  • Learn your boss’ communication style.
  • Offer ideas!
  • Give a return on your leader’s investment.

Great staff members solve problems. Leaders solve problems! Do you remember the 1994 movie Speed with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? They had a problem! There was a bomb on the bus. Once the bus went 50 miles an hour, the bomb got armed. If it dropped below 50, it blew up. There are rules. No one leaves the bus! What do you do?

The incredibly tough problems we face seem like they have no solution. That’s where great leaders step up and rise up. You carry the pressure; you figure it out!

4. They are socially adept. It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of strong and natural relational abilities. This is especially true in the church, where every situation is relationally driven. The following attributes are simple to understand but tough to live consistently. Leaders who are good with people live them well.

Great staff are encouragers. You are likeable and people want to be around you. You naturally speak with uplifting words that are fully genuine.

Great staff are positive by nature. You avoid gossip at all costs and assume the best about others. You quickly give the benefit of the doubt, and when problems arise you lean into solutions.

Great staff possess a sense of humor. You take God seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. You smile and laugh easily, and you’re not a “thin-skinned” person.

Great staff members have a personal peace that enables them to pay attention. Great people skills do not require you or me to be a genius. It’s more about common sense and paying attention, but paying attention requires a sense of personal peace. To possess this peace, your walk with God needs to be solid and consistent. If you are off with God, you will likely be “off” with people.

5. They are really good at what they do. We all want to be on a winning team, and winning teams have staff that are gifted at what they do.

Great staff possess talent and skills that are recognized and requested. One sure way to gain confidence in your capability is that an increasing number of people ask you to help lead using the special skill set that you have.

Great staff members see the big picture. Effective leaders not only have great clarity about what they do, but they know why they do it. They see how all the parts work together. This helps prevent tunnel vision that creates silos and poor teamwork.

Great staff members have a competence that leads to greater capacity. To get hired at 12Stone, you need to be good at something—really good. But that’s not what actually makes our staff highly valuable. They become highly valuable to the team when they demonstrate capacity to lead at the next level! That’s true for all of us. We are expected to lead at our current level, but the success of the mission depends on our ability to lead larger.

Like Part 1, this is a lot to master. The good news is you don’t achieve all this overnight. What are the two to three areas you need to begin with? Start there, and keep growing!

Dan Reiland is executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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