In virtually all of my coaching relationships and other work with church leaders, the biggest issue they face regarding staff and volunteers is “communication.”
Does that surprise you? Probably not.
One of the most important responsibilities of leadership is seeing to it that good communication is happening at all levels of the organization. Easier said than done, though. Have you ever heard the expression “being treated like a mushroom?” Mushrooms are fed a lot of “crap” and kept in the “dark.” Many times church staff members feel like they are being treated like mushrooms. Not good.
The bottom line is that continuously communicating with everyone is critical to an organization’s effectiveness. But, actually, getting this done consistently is very difficult. Like many of the other leadership and infrastructure-building difficulties, communication must be systemic – happening almost automatically at all levels of the organization.
You guessed it! With communication, like all other things, we will “plan and execute.” We will develop a documented “Communication Plan,” implement it and measure its effectiveness. And, of course, once the plan is in writing, we will “communicate” it to the whole team.
The Communication Plan should include communication guidelines/requirements at all levels of the organization.
A typical plan would include these six elements:
- Announcements – A vehicle for routine employee announcements should be established and utilized as much as possible to get the word out to everyone frequently. Almost anything of interest to the team that is public knowledge can be communicated via e-mail or an internal website bulletin board.
- One-On-One Meetings – On a frequent and informal basis, leaders should meet individually with each of their direct reports. This can be done in an actual sit-down meeting and/or through routine interaction throughout the week. Regardless, there needs to be a forum for team leader to team member communication.
- Routine Staff Meetings – Team leaders should schedule and conduct routine team meetings. The two most critical aspects of a “staff meeting” are that they are regularly scheduled and on everyone’s calendar well in advance and that an agenda is sent to the team before the meeting begins. I’ve asked many leaders if they have a “routine” staff meeting, and they immediately respond with a “yes.” But when I ask when the next one is scheduled, I more often than not get a response like, “We try to have them every week or two.” In other words, the leader hasn’t committed in the form of a standing appointment on the calendar. The team must know they can count on a regularly scheduled forum for communication and coordination with other team members. The agenda piece is good practice. People need to know what will be discussed and have the opportunity to add things to the agenda if they want.
- Quarterly Communication Meetings – All organizations of any size should have a periodic forum for presenting information from leadership to the rest of the organization. In the past, I’ve done this via a “Quarterly Communication Meeting.” Around mid-month of the new quarter, a meeting is held with all employees. Again the meeting is scheduled in advance and has an agenda published ahead of time. Communication in a large group setting like this one is mostly “one way” and should have more of a “state of the business” feel to it. There can be a brief Q&A time, but resolving anything or making a decision in a forum this large is not easy and is not the point of this communication method.
- Annual Meeting – One of the quarterly meetings (1st quarter of the new “business year”) can be utilized as the “annual” meeting. Again, the previous year is discussed in a state of the business format, and the plans for the coming year are presented.
- Feedback – Another important aspect of good communication includes allowing employees to give feedback to their leadership. In larger organizations, this can be done via a suggestion program of some sort. Smaller organizations can implement something less formal, sometimes having a feedback segment to a regular staff meeting like a roundtable agenda item.
As important as communication is to the mission’s success, it should be given the attention that many other aspects of the business are given. Having a formal Communication Plan can help the leader to get it done.