Helping another person move into a new position is often thought of as primarily a training function. If we can only get the new person to have the right knowledge, they can get on with the job. Thus, orientation programs in most organizations are times to give input on organizational policies/procedures and a few basic skills.
While effective onboarding will use training and input, that effort is only the beginning. Quality onboarding helps a person to transition from one role or position to a new one. This is particularly true for team, country or area leaders.
Consider these transitions that a new field leader commonly faces:
- From being responsible for one’s own ministry to facilitating the ministries of others
- From a direct ministry focus to an indirect ministry focus
- From concentrating on one challenging role to harmonizing multiple roles with compounded demands
- From being concerned primarily about one’s own spiritual vitality to being concerned with the spiritual vitality of individuals with different personalities and traditions
- From being part of a group to being the leader of a group with multifaceted responsibilities
- From having measured freedom to state one’s own mind to being aware of the power of the new role and thus the need to take care in one’s actions or use of words, whether spoken or written
In the accepting a new field leader’s role, a person typically navigates the following stages (from Transition Model by Dave Pollock – Interaction International):
- Stability and Engagement: Life in the former ministry role has routine, relationships and significance. Leaving such a role means exiting many knowns, whether they are positive or negative.
- Leaving: Certain responsibilities and relationships are left behind when the new field leader role is assumed, even if it is part-time. Loose ends must be tied up, and former responsibilities delegated, some which the person cherished. During this stage the person grieves the losses even if one is excited about the new role. Relocation is possible, with all the potential ramifications for oneself and the family. Doubts creep in, and personal reassessment often follows.
- Chaos: The first days in the new position may be filled with disorder, confusion, and ambiguity. Many new details must be assimilated and learned. Even the most level-headed person can be thrown into confusion.
- Entering: After the first few days of becoming oriented, the realities of new responsibilities become clearer. Some aspects are delightful. Others are stressful and complex. But they won’t go away and are not someone else’s challenges. So the learning curve for surviving in order to thrive begins in earnest.
- Re-engagement: After some time, a rhythm and routine develop. Relationships are developed. The new leader begins to feel at home. Re-engagement often occurs in the second year of the assignment. The new leader knows what to expect from the organization and from others. Realistic plans can now be laid to facilitate personal balance, joy and family life.
In all of the above stages training and input can be important. But new field leaders also need times of personal retreat, reflection and meditation. Additionally, they need supervisors who can share perspectives and insights that are on target for present realities. And of course, encouragement and a listening ear are vital. Fellow field leaders (peer groups), coaches, and mentors are also important. Having access to resources on leadership, management and team development can facilitate growth and effective service. And an annual review can provide a time to make sense of the past and plan for the future.
So while training and input are a vital part of any onboarding process, the integrating theme is providing assistance to new field leaders so they can effectively serve as soon as possible. As the saying goes, “easy to say, tough to do.” But if you have a general outline of key transitional issues and resources, it becomes much easier to individualize the help for a specific person entering a specific field leader situation.
Some of you may have been doing this kind of onboarding, congratulations. Please share your program and insights. If this is new to you, you might have questions. Use the comment section below for either.