Periodic reviews and year end evaluations and feedback can be a nerve-wracking time of year. For church staff and their supervisors alike, knowing a performance evaluation is ahead can sometimes bring self-doubt and general uncertainty and anxiety. Yet, it is from these seeds of discomfort that growth occurs.
One of my favorite tools in my supervisory tool belt is Dr. Brene Brown’s Engaged Feedback Checklist. This ten item checklist, when used properly, will facilitate conversations about performance and constructive feedback. In her book, Daring Greatly, Brown says, “Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process, whether we are giving or receiving feedback. Giving feedback is not about shaming, blaming, humiliating, or harassing people, which leads to disengagement, it is about constructive, honest, and engaged feedback.”
Fostering a culture of engaged feedback in our churches is crucial because this is where learning happens. Churches will not thrive in these rapidly changing times if they are unwilling to construct a culture of engaged feedback. Below is my interpretation for utilizing each of Brené Brown’s checklist items in the supervision of church staff and volunteers:
- I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
Rather than the typical meeting in an office arrangement, try meeting in a neutral site with comfortable furniture, and arrange seating that is more next to than across from each other.
- I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
Separate the issue from the person, focusing on collaboratively finding a resolution rather than pointing out the perceived flaws of the staff member.
- I’m willing to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
Don’t prejudge or make assumptions. Listen to the other’s perspective with an open mind and invariably you will gain insight you couldn’t on your own.
- I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
Early in the conversation plan to highlight and celebrate accomplishments, small wins, achievements, areas of growth, and where expectations were met or exceeded.
- I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address challenges.
Prior to offering constructive feedback, demonstrate you are aware of the strengths, gifts, talents and skills they bring to the job. Come to the conversation prepared to share how the person has used those attributes in a constructive manner along with suggestions on how they might be further maximized for personal and ministry growth and productivity.
- I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
Failure to abide by this point is a key reason performance reviews have developed such a negative perception. Use words that don’t shame or blame, but rather demonstrate to the person that you genuinely care about their success and that the church and God’s Kingdom needs them to succeed.
- I’m willing to own my part.
Emphasize your role and responsibility in holding the person accountable and providing the necessary resources, communication, and backing for them to succeed. Where substandard performance or results occur, clarify what you could have done better to mitigate those results.
- I can genuinely thank you for your efforts, rather than criticize you for your failings.
Build into the conversation a time to thank them, both personally and on behalf of the church, for their efforts, passion, and contribution.
- I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
Emphasize that the purpose of your constructive feedback is their further growth and success, on a personal and professional level. Connect your constructive criticism to the positive outcomes of such growth and the potential future opportunities success might bring.
- I can model the vulnerability and openness I expect to see from you.
Share some of your own shortcomings and areas of growth you have targeted for the coming year. Ask the staff member to come prepared to share both constructive and affirming feedback on the supervision you have provided.
This checklist is a valuable tool during evaluation season and beyond by adding value to formal processes and increasing the productivity of the informal conversations in which feedback is given throughout the year. For more information, check out Brené Brown’s website, full of helpful resources: www.brenebrown.com.
Posted on December 4, 2018