When I was a young deputy team lead at the office, I would occasionally be the acting lead when my manager was on vacation or traveling for work. I didn’t have any real concept of the all the issues she handled on a daily basis, but it felt as if the sky was falling every time she stepped out.
All the other team leads and program leadership would demand a multitude of answers or tasks immediately, which I would need to research or get someone on our team to work right away. Then, I spent the other half of my time chasing down our own team members to get the answer or follow up on the work they promised to deliver.
I don’t know where I first learned about it, maybe it was the mission field, but there’s this concept in the Church called “Return and Report”. There’s even a How To video on the Church website called How To Lead. So, I was in our team meeting one week and discussed this with them, but never said: “I learned this at church.”
I talked about how our status meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss ongoing and new work, and for us to agree on timelines and commitments. If they didn’t like the direction or didn’t want to do something, then they needed to be upfront with me and discuss it during the meeting or afterward – not just say one thing and do something else. And whether they had started the assignment or not, they then needed to return and report about their progress or lack of progress on the agreed upon date.
My part was to help clarify tasks, protect them from too much work or ridiculous expectations from management, and then help them get unstuck in whatever way I can. Having myself (or our lead) chase them down for answers, made it harder for everyone to do their assignments.
You might read this and think that I should have been more dictatorial. However, no lead in their early 30’s should ever start by dictating to scientists and engineers with 20 years more experience, who also happen to be the nation’s experts in their field. At least not until things start to really go South … but I digress.
The point that day was: We all have a lot of work to do. Some things we like to do more than others. But I sure as heck can’t protect them from the unpleasant stuff if I spend too much time chasing them. So, stop being engineers for a few minutes, and realize there’s still a program to run with all the status reports and customer questions that come with it.
And for some strange reason, it seems that every new engineer fresh out of college we have to train in the same way. Those “new hires” that get these concepts, progress much faster – because every engineer more senior than them is suddenly impressed.
- Ask questions
- Don’t stay stuck
- Communicate your progress
- Meet/exceed your deadlines (and if your deadline is unclear, ask!). Because remember, your mentor is just another engineer who just wants to get back to doing the fun work, and whose communication skills are only a hair above yours.
So, to take that full circle: How can we do better as we serve in the Church? Return and report. Ask questions and don’t be too proud to ask for help. Don’t stay stuck. Wave a red flag when you don’t know how to do something.
Communicate what your challenges are as the Primary president or the Nursery Leader. Don’t think that your problems are obvious to the others, and they are just ignoring you.
Like every other management position, the bishopric (lay clergy) can only fight the fires they know about. (However, I’d like to also acknowledge that a calling in the bishopric is MORE than just a management position. It’s a lot of things – but many relate to managing the business of the congregation. And if all of us can pitch in to make the machine run better, then maybe the bishopric can spend more time focusing on more than just the mechanics.)
And whether it is at home, at church, or at work, there are some additional great tips in the video:
- Allow everyone to report — that might mean everyone reports quickly, and then necessary discussion happens afterward
- Congratulate good performance
- Keep each other motivated
- Remember that it is normal to occasionally not meet commitments. The goal is to motivate each other to succeed, not ridicule each other for our failures.
- Ask what the challenge is preventing success, get ideas from the group (a great consensus building activity)
- Emphasize the importance of completing the task or keeping the commitment
As I served in leadership positions at my Church in parallel with taking on responsibility at work, I learned there are a lot of similarities. The motivational tools are different from the paycheck at the office and a church’s volunteers, but many of the same principles apply. One of those principles being: respect your team and your assignment enough to “Return and Report”.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.