Dr. Glenn Miller, host of the Leadership and the Church podcast, and CEO of Miller Management, is joined by his colleague Jenifer Ross, VP at Miller Management.
If you have someone on staff that is behaving poorly, how do you handle it? Do you ignore it? Show them love? Confront them? Or fire them at the first sign of trouble?
Often times, church staff starts to feel like family. So, how do we discipline or even fire a family member?
First, let’s start how we usually do with a new topic, defining the words. Webster’s definition of Grace includes words like mercy, approval, favor, and priviledge. Biblically we define grace as unwarranted or unearned favor. These all sound great, our host points out.
Then our host asks, “When and how do we show grace to staff during times of poor work habits or poor attitude?” We are a ministry after all! Our guest suggests that sometimes in ministry we make it harder on ourselves by giving too much grace to someone with poor performance. And that negatively impacts our staff and our constituents.
Now Webster’s definition of accountability: obligation or responsibility to account for one’s actions. For the biblical definition, our guest says that Colossians 3:23-25 has something to say about work performance.
We create accountability with written plans, deadlines, and honest conversations. “I have found that transparency creates accountability without folks feeling like you are micromanaging them,” says our guest.
Scenario One: Tardiness
Let’s break down one example. Say a person is showing up late to work everyday. We are a ministry all serving God. “How do you address that habitually late employee?” asks our host.
Luckily, our host has personal experience with this scenario. Her suggestion is “If that person doesn’t have people relying on them to get to work on time, this would be a good time to lean into the grace aspect.” Having a conversation and asking questions to find the reasoning for the why behind the actions is a great place to start. Most likely, there is a good reason; or at least it bring awareness to the person.
Scenario Two A: Bad Day
For another example, let’s look at a someone having a bad day. Surely we’ve all had those, but do we deal with each bad day? “Do you call them out for it?” our host wants to know.
Jennifer suggests that you “Let their role dictate this answer.” If they aren’t around people and can lock themselves in their office, maybe you leave that instance alone. But if they are the one who is answering the phones or interacting with people coming into your location, then a private conversation for those who are on the “front lines” is warranted. “Praise in public, correct in private,” applies to most of these situations suggests Glenn.
Scenario Two B: Bad Week/Bad Month/Bad Year
Now, moving into a bad day vs. bad week. As a manager, our guest says she would ask: “What is it that I can do to help make this better?”
Next, is it okay to have a bad year in ministry? Does tenure have any bearing? Our guest says that a year is too long to go without having a conversation. Once you know the heart of the matter – especially if it is something serious or medical with a family member – is there a way for the church to make allowances? Jennifer encourages us to ask those questions and extend grace when we can.
Too Much Grace?
“I need more grace in my life,” laments our host. But are there problems in showing too much grace? Of course that can have a negative effect on your constituents, and current staff. And in turn, how that reflects on the ministry. Especially high performance employees, ca become disgruntled. Disgruntled behavior – when it is left unchecked – can be contagious in a team and can create unprofessionalism.
Jesus provided grace and accountability with his disciples and with government. And we of course want to be more like Jesus.
Accountability Can Be Our Friend
Our host then asks, “Where does accountability help our staff?” Jennifer responds that it can create good parameters. She uses an example of railroad tracks. The tracks provide where we are going, and how fast we are getting there. Unfortunately when folks hear “parameters” their first thought is they don’t want to stifle creativity or innovation. But Jennifer reminds us that these tracks really provide you with the boundaries of your job.
“Accountability can be our friend. None of us particularly enjoy it. But it can provide tracks for us to run on. It can provide clarity for what we should and shouldn’t do.” – Glenn Miller
Scenario Three: When performance isn’t there
For our last scenario, what do we do when we really like the person, but the job performance isn’t there? Our guest says that we must provide accountability in these situations. She suggests providing training and measuring performance.
We also need to look at where they are in the organization. “Is there another place they could be that would be a fitter fit for their skillset? Or maybe we don’t have them on the right seat on the bus,” comments our guest. Once you find the right fit, they may even thank you for the move!
An impossible question is the final question. How do we show Grace in the exact moment grace is needed in ministry? And then, how do we build in Accountability day to day, week to week, and year to year?
Start with prayer – for our needs and for our staff needs – both personal and professional. “It gets our hearts in the right place as we create systems, standards, performance measuring tools, and set expectations for accountability.” We need to infuse Grace in our culture, states Jennifer.
Glenn leaves us with this final note: It is more graceful to include accountability. It sounds counterintuitive, but we are doing a disservice if we don’t show our staff both the good and the areas they need to work on.
Join us next week for part two in our Balancing Grace with Accountability series.
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Special thanks to our guest, Jennifer Ross, and our master of all things podcasting, Chris Miller, for this first episode in The Balancing Grace with Accountability series.