Last time we saw the importance of having clear definition of a role or task with agreed expectations. How do we ensure that these expectations are being met?
A vital part of managing staff, whether paid or unpaid, is communication and support. There can be a tendency to ‘cast off’ a volunteer and let them ‘get on with it’, particularly in the midst of a busy schedule. But accountability is very important both for checking that progress is being made and to assure the individual of your commitment and interest. It also encourages reliability if someone knows that they are being monitored in a constructive way.
I once led a Stewarding Team in our church, many years before I served on the welcome team mentioned in part 3. I personally invited each member of the team to join me and assured them that I had asked them because I saw in them the gifting I felt was needed, typically in the areas of encouragement and hospitality. I had some pre-printed cards on which were written the particulars of the specific task for the day – maybe related to welcoming at the front door or stewarding in the meeting hall.
On occasion someone did not arrive for the appointed duty. What should I do? Ignore it and assume they had been busy? What if they had forgotten? Or perhaps they were ill? Seeing serving as an opportunity for someone to develop in their discipleship I felt that to take no action would be wrong. Here was an opportunity to enquire about their welfare – was stewarding putting a strain on family life etc? If, as was sometimes the case, they had forgotten or chosen to do something else it gave me the opportunity to point out that reliability is an important aspect of serving; failure to show up merely puts more pressure on other people. I did not see this as being ‘heavy’ but as an opportunity to help the individual to become a better person.
An important part of accountability is being able to listen. When helping to develop an individual it is not only important to bring encouragement (more about this later) and direction but also to get feedback and hear how things are going from their perspective.
When I appointed a member of staff I used to make sure that within 2-4 weeks I would have a review talk with them, being careful to listen. I would ask them how they were getting on and see if there were problems that could be resolved. I would also invite them to comment freely on any aspect of the ministry or working environment that they were in; often new people see things that we can grow blind to due to familiarity. So this gives an opportunity for making improvements by seeing a situation through fresh eyes.
I once appointed two members of staff at the same time and put them in a shared office. As I talked to them after a few weeks it was clear that something was not working well. It was only then that I realised that one was an external processor the other internal. While one wanted to talk out his ideas to help him think them through the other was, in effect, saying please be quiet so that I can think! The solution was to give them separate work areas and for me to be the foil for the external processor – I always believed in having my door open so that I was available to staff.
A similar principle applies to volunteers. They too can experience pressures of various sorts so it is important to give time and space to help them express these and to look for solutions together.
Next time we will look at team building.