We are quick to make judgements about people. Our first impressions can be completely wrong but we hold onto them anyway. Other times, the we may have known someone for a long time but do not realize they are not the same person they were years ago. For someone in a leadership role, there is a particular danger of viewing people one way and not realizing who they truly are and how they can be of help in our organization.
King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, describes some of the unfortunate ways that people see others.
13 Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. 14 There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. 16 So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long. (Ecclesiastes 9: 13-16, NLT)
These people greatly benefited from the wisdom of a poor person. They appreciated the rescue but did not appreciate the person. We are like these townspeople: quick to write people off, even if they have valuable gifts and insights. We see them a certain way and do not allow that to change as we begin to get to know them and what they offer.
Because of this oversight, we – and by extension our teams and organizations – may lose out on valuable skills and insight just because we have identified a person in one way so we do not think they have anything to add.
King Solomon continues:
5 There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake 6 when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. 7 I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants! (Ecclesiastes 10: 5-7, NLT)
Our quick judgements can create further damage when we choose to promote or demote the wrong people. This can be due to existing relationships or the desire to honour certain people. The unfortunate result is that we listen to the advice of the wrong person when there is someone much wiser nearby.
Most of us work with teams and volunteers in some way at some point in our life. This is especially true in ministry, when programs and services rely on staff and volunteers.
Get to know these staff and volunteers. This could be through personality tests, or at a minimum, putting in the effort to get to know each person well enough to see how they can contribute best. Intentionally take time with this in order to avoid making quick assumptions or writing someone off because of one or two missteps. Often the best outcome happens when people are in roles that suit them best, and it often takes time to identify these roles and responsibilities.
As you work with your teams and notice people are in the wrong roles, be brave enough to reorganize and reassign individuals to roles where they will excel and your team will be better in the long run.
I love to get things done, but I have realized that there are times where I am better off taking time to get to know people first. As we get to know each other, I will learn where someone can serve and give their best, and we will be able to communicate better because I know them and they know me.
Good organizations will have a regular system of evaluating people. The leader does a formal review every six months or a year to continue to help the person get better. In the evaluation, the leader can also discern if this person is still a fit here or would fit better in a different role. A system of regular evaluation is good, but the personal relationships are even better. As you develop good relationships with your key people, they will be brave enough to approach you when they want to learn or grow in a certain area or if they would like to try a different role. If open communication is valued and practiced, you will be more likely to continually give the right responsibilities to the right people.
So much of what we do in life involves working with people. Let’s figure out how to help our teams be the best by putting the right people in the right seats where everyone can contribute their best.
Get to know your people first, then get the work done.
Keep looking up,