Context Staffing



Building an Ideal Staff Team - Complement Yourself


By: Justin Anderson

Last week we started a series about how to build your ideal staff team. Since we are primarily a staffing agency (in addition to consulting and coaching), I thought it was high time I gave you some real staffing content. There is no greater predictor of success in your ministry than having the right team around you. And there is no greater predictor or constant misery than having the wrong team around you. We’ve all been on bad teams, and they are truly miserable. There is no camaraderie, things get awkward and progress towards your goals is painful. There are few things more important for you to focus on than choosing the right team.

Last week I tried to talk you into multiplying yourself by hiring an assistant. I assume you’ve done that, nice work. In future weeks, I’ll talk about how to onboard and effectively use an assistant, but not today.

Today, I want to talk about how to complement yourself in your hiring. I don’t know all of you personally but I am going to guess that you have weaknesses, at least one or two. I have several. For instance, I am not a detail person. I care deeply that details get done and I hate it when things fall through the cracks, but someone else besides me needs to be minding those cracks. I am also not a good manager. Anything that requires me to do the same thing over and over is not going to happen. As a pastor, I was never very good at the pastoring part of being a pastor. I love people, but I handled counseling situations like Bob Newhart on MadTV.

So when I build my teams, I know that I need someone to handle the details, someone to manage the day-to-day, and someone to take care of the people. I can take care of the vision, communication, and creativity, but I can’t and won’t do it all. So how do you build a team that complements you? Here are five things to think about when you are building a complementary team.

1. Know Yourself and Be Honest

You will never build a complementary team if you aren’t clear and honest about your own strengths and weaknesses. I have interviewed hundreds of people over the years for my teams and for Context Staffing. One of the questions I love asking people is, “What is your Superpower?” By that, I mean what is the one thing that no matter where you are, it always produces fruit? Rather than asking about strengths, which are many and frankly, relative, asking about the one clear superpower gives me an idea of what people really do best. Sometimes I disagree with them, but I think most of us know what our one real superpower is. So, what is yours?

The more clear you can be about that, the more you can lean into that strength and allow your team to lean into theirs. The other question I always ask is, “What is your kryptonite?” Every superhero has a Kryptonite, whether it’s an actual Kryptonite or a haircut or paperwork, everyone has something that they are just flat-out bad at. I hear more people equivocate about this question because generally, people don’t like to admit their faults. But the more clear you can be about your kryptonite, the better chance you have of hiring a complementary team.

2. Know Your Mission

This may seem straightforward if you are a church leader, but I want you to do the work to write down as clearly as you can what your mission is. You might be tempted to give a good Bible answer and say something like “make disciples” or “glorify God” but again, I want you to be as plain, precise, and honest as you can be. “Glorify God” is definitely something you need to do, but is it really your mission as a church? Not really, at least not in a way that allows you to think clearly and organizationally. If your answer is to “make disciples”, great, go do that. If that’s really your mission, how are you staffing around that?

Do you have a discipleship plan, strategy, or pipeline? Are you tracking how well you are doing that? Are you staffing to make sure people are growing as disciples? Whatever your mission is, you have to staff to it. And, more specifically for this post, you need to staff to it in a complementary way to whatever you bring to the mission.

3. Hire People Who Know Themselves

This one is very similar to the first, so I’ll keep it brief. You need to hire people who know who they are (and are not) and are really ready to lean into those strengths and weaknesses. If you hire people who think they can kinda do anything, you will not get the best of them and your team will suffer. If you identify that you really need some extroverts around you because you get worn out by people quickly, then make sure the people you hire are self-described extroverts and can own that for their jobs. Conversely, you need to make sure they know their weaknesses and are humble enough to readily and happily admit them so they won’t try to drift into other areas of responsibility.

4. Be Clear about Expectations (and be prepared to be disappointed)

This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. When you hire someone for the express purpose of complementing you in some way, you need to be as upfront as you possibly can about that. If you hire an administrator so that you don’t have to handle any details, but you aren’t clear about that, they will eventually become frustrated at your lack of attention to detail. There is something in all of us that values the things we bring to the table and values people who don’t share our strengths. When you hire an administrative person, you need to be crystal clear that you expect them to handle all of the details and that you are planning to handle none of them. If you are hiring a people person, you need to be clear that they are being hired for that express purpose and that you are going to handle 1% of the people stuff at most.

Not only do people need to understand the value they bring to the team, they need to understand that you don’t intend to carry any of the load. I would really recommend that you exaggerate this in the hiring process. You will inevitably do more than you tell them, but set the bar really really low and they will only be pleasantly surprised. I once told someone that I was hiring to take on a pastoral/counseling load and that I wasn’t planning to even make eye contact with people going forward. I meant it as a joke but man were they horrified for a moment. Be clear about this, and then prepare to be disappointed when they show up in your office one day complaining that you never handle any of the details.

5. Empower Your Team

Whatever you hire someone to do, you have to empower them to actually do it. This means that you have to give away the authority, responsibility and accolades that come with their role. I’ve seen some Lead Pastors hire an associate to handle pastoral care and then get jealous and defensive when people constantly want to go to the other pastor for help. You can’t have it both ways. If you hire an admin and really empower them, you should expect to look dumb once in a while for not knowing any details. I love it when something is happening on my team and I don’t know anything about it. That’s the best. It means that I've hired the right people and they feel empowered to get stuff done without me.

If you want to have a high-functioning team that can really accomplish your mission, you need to build a complementary team. Be honest about who you are and then build around yourself. You can’t do everything and you shouldn’t try, but the right team can make sure that your church or nonprofit accomplishes its mission.