Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).
When I first arrived in Kansas City as a church planter I struggled to get my bearings. I led in the military and in the corporate world. But ministry was a different challenge. Six months after the launch of Restore I found myself sinking. I was stuck as a leader. My attitude sucked and I was ready to call it quits because it didn’t appear (at least to me) that I was wired to lead in a church plant.
A trusted friend suggested I go to each of the leaders on my team and ask them to help me grow. While the idea of being vulnerable wasn’t pleasant, I knew it was the only way to get to the next level. What I learned in my feedback conversations was both painful and illuminating. Since then I’ve been able to navigate my weaknesses better while building on my strengths. Had I not allowed my peers to be honest with me, I am not sure I’d still be in ministry.
What about you? Asking for feedback–honest feedback–can be scary for everyone. We really don’t want to be honest and you really don’t want us to be honest. Most of us are going to hold back from telling you what we really think. Unless you give us permission. So give us permission. Assure us that while being honest may be uncomfortable for the both of us, we are helping you and you are grateful. Tell us you’ll listen and nothing we say will damage your relationship. Tell us you appreciate our wisdom and insight. And you need to really mean it.
Now you can’t ask everyone for this feedback. This is a sideways kind of thing. Ask your peers–people you’re doing life with. But once they’ve agreed to meet with you ask hard questions like:
- What are my weaknesses as a leader?
- Where do you see me faltering or failing?
- What’s the hardest part about working with me?
- What are my strengths as a leader?
- What do you see me doing that I need to stop doing?
- What will it take for you to follow me?
- What am I not doing that I need to do?
- What do I need to do to take my leadership to the next level?
And then give us permission to talk. Follow this pattern:
- “Tell me…”
- “Tell me more…”
- “Ok–what haven’t you told me.”
I write down what I hear so I can process it all later. What you do with all the stuff you hear is up to you. For me it’s gold. I learn and grow from it.
Once the conversation(s) are over be sure to establish the loop by asking others or asking for feedback later. (I ask people for feedback at least once a year.) Build this into the rhythm of your leadership life.
If you lead a team I want to encourage you to foster a culture of feedback. I am convinced if more planters would ask for feedback and establish these loops our teams would be healthier and our churches stronger.
Oh–one last thing. Don’t expect honest feedback if you really don’t want it. If this becomes a charade of merely going through the motions then don’t bother. You’re not really looking for feedback.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever asked for feedback from your teammates? How did it go?