Selection* of Field Leaders, Part III (*Second Stewardship Practice)

 Finally we come to the phase of interviewing and announcing the appointee to the position for this second stewardship practice.  Yet even in this phase, we often overlook important actions, diminishing our stewardship of all involved.

Phase 3: SelectionAppointing the right person in the right seat of leadership

A.   Pray for discernment.  Interviewing is a tough task.  Anyone who has done multiple selections can always point to failures.  But if they are prayerful, they can also point to times when God led, sometimes against conventional wisdom.  Pray as a team of interviewers.  Pray as an individual.  Pray for one mind.  Have mission personnel impacted by the decision pray, but don’t turn prayer into a cliché.

B.   Check expectations.  The realities of the position’s situation have been scrutinized; the position description has been developed or revised, but there may still lurk some unexamined expectations.  Answer questions such as these:  If this field leader is effective, what can we expect to happen at the end of one year?   If this field leader is healthy, what can we expect to happen personally and within his/her family?  Expectations must be thoughtful and realistic so that they can rise to encourage rather than become an obstacle and “back pack” for discouragement.

C.   Match the person with the role. 

  1. Be sure that the candidate matches the overarching qualifications of the role.  Once minimum qualifications are met, the challenge is finding the best person for the role.  Do not be content by soliciting a warm body or coercing a person into accepting the role.
  2. Many selectors have found the “Strength ID” concept from Gallup to be helpful in taking a new look at a position.  Although books have been written on selection and strengths, I have found the original rendition in Chapter 3 of First, Break All the Rules by Buckingham and Coffman to provide an actionable overview.   If you have developed an holistic competency profile for a field leader role, it would be a helpful resource here.
  3. Do not assume that even the best candidate will perfectly match the field leader position.  So there may also be a need to adjust the role and responsibilities to a real life candidate.  This is call “role sculpting”.   This doesn’t mean the responsibilities can be forgotten, especially if diligent effort in the previous steps has been completed.  It means that someone else will need to assume them.

D.   Conduct a two-way interview. 

  1. Arrange a planned interview process with times for asking questions as well as fielding questions from the candidate.  Making the interview a safe place for the candidate to ask questions can provide insight into the person’s health and perspective.  Questions will also help the candidate keep in check his/her expectations as well as to raise concerns. Such interaction will reduce major and disruptive surprises during the first few weeks on the job.
  2. The better the interview questions, the greater the potential that the candidate’s responses will help the interview team assess the match with the position.   Spiritual and moral issues can be inadvertently exposed by the answers.  Helpful techniques for developing interview questions are found in “behavioral interviewing.” A good introduction can be found in the valuable classic, Interviewing: More than a Gut Feeling, by Richard S. Deems).
  3. Watch out for individuals who can sweep you off your feet with “right” sounding answers.  Behavioral interviewing questions force such individuals to share real life experiences, not just lofty opinions or spiritual platitudes, a real danger for Christian organizations.  The interview team will want true spiritual depth and maturity, not the verbal mirage of them.
  4. Complete any role sculpting before announcing the person.  Be sure it is accurate and that delegated responsibilities have an assigned person, who has agreed to assume them.

E.      Communicate the selection.  This might be a series of communications, in writing and in person.  Make a quick “press release” type communication to keep the grapevine in check.  Subsequent communication can focus on the new field leader and future directions.

F.      Commit to effective onboarding.  After a person accepts the role, immediately begin to work with them on the next steps, both procedural (e.g. moving, handing off current responsibilities) and developmental (e.g. new skills, perspectives, operations).  Have a general onboarding process (e.g. in-depth orientation) ready so it can be personalized and activated.

Conclusion: 

“Your ability to choose effective people will not only determine your ultimate success as a leader, but will greatly influence the amount of energy you expend to achieve success.  … I believe that people decisions are the most important and difficult decisions a leader will make.”

From Hiring with Excellence by Pat Macmillan, pp 18-19

Your Response:  Give us your comments to Phase III or any of the previous two posts.  Join the community interested in the effective and healthy field leader.

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