The church I lead is in the process of hiring two new staff members so I’ve been reading blogs, articles and books on hiring this summer. There is a ton of incredibly unhelpful stuff out there, but also some great things that applies greatly to churches. One of them is It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz.
I think people applying for a job should do a better job of interviewing the boss they’ll work for and understanding the church culture, but churches need to have a clearer hiring process as well.
Here are 11 things I learned from It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best:
- Success is rooted in relationships, in the people around you. You are hiring to make your church more effective, to move the gospel and the mission forward. Hiring should take a large part of your time if you have open positions. Yes, use other staff members or hiring firms, but you can’t delegate the whole thing. You must spend time on it if you are the leader.
- Humans aren’t programmed to make great people decisions. The first step in surrounding yourself with the best is to recognize—and correct—your own failings. Churches are notorious for being too nice and overlooking their tendencies. It is amazing to me how much of this book was about how to get past your personal biases. We have them and they hinder us from effectively finding leaders, volunteers and staff members. Studies show that adults gravitate toward those with whom they share something, whether it’s a common nationality, ethnicity, gender, education, or career path—even the same first-name initial! It is important to recognize these in ourselves and put a team around us to help us make these choices so we don’t fall into traps.
- Overconfidence in predictions is a pervasive human bias that has a dramatic impact not just on our financial or weather forecasts but also on our people decisions. I can easily make a choice right away based on my bias and be wrong. All leaders do this. We need to make sure we stick with our process that we laid out and not jump forward too much. One of those he pointed out was, “Unconsciously, we make choices based on what we already know.” Again, our bias gets in the way.
- Most of us are bad and slow at getting the wrong people off the bus. This is true of almost every church. Our goal is to serve, care and love people so it makes sense this would be a struggle. Yet, when this choice must be made, we must make it. For the sake of the church and the person. If they aren’t meeting expectations, it isn’t good stewardship to keep them in a role. If they need help or coaching, we need to do our best to make that happen. Sometimes though, a person’s time is done and they need to get off the bus and that is okay.
- Why hiring matters. At most companies, people spend 2 percent of their time recruiting and 75 percent managing their recruiting mistakes. Take the time to make the right choice, even if it means your ministry suffers some in the short term.
- Should you hire from inside or outside of your church? It is popular now to hire only from inside a church and sometimes this is the right move. Sometimes, you need an outside perspective to shake things up or take things in a new direction or add an element you don’t have on a team right now. Most churches though, do not evaluate the same. We simply don’t work as hard to evaluate insiders—not only in cases of CEO succession but in all appointments—and this is especially true when things are going well.
- Schedule interviews correctly. Don’t simply schedule an interview, make sure it is at a time when you are awake, alert and can focus. Great decision makers never schedule endless back-to-back meetings, and they never work hungry.
- Interview 3 people for a position. My expectation was that a larger pool of people interviewed would increase the stick rate, and that happened up to a point. But after three or four candidates, it rapidly declined, confirming that too many options generate suboptimal decisions. So three to four seems to be the right number, just as it is with the interviewers you involve in your key people decisions.
- Most people assume that the best hiring strategy is to find the best performers in a given field and get them on your team. I found this fascinating in that someone can be a star at one company or church, but not at another. The DNA, culture and systems of a church can often help someone and if those things aren’t at a new church, their star can diminish. This is important to keep in mind. Also, you don’t always need a star.
- Identifying potential should be our first priority. Most people look for a proven track record, and that is important. A proven track record is also attached to someone usually set in their ways, committed to one way of doing things and sometimes you have to untrain someone. This reminder of looking for what someone could be is crucial.
- Team effectiveness explains perhaps 80 percent of leaders’ success. Leaders, if you needed a reminder of why hiring matters, this is it.
If you’re hiring, you must read this book. I haven’t found a more helpful book out there on the topic.