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The Leader’s Dilemma


Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

Dan is one of many outstanding mentors for our Leader Groups – leadership collaboratives for senior leaders of large churches, focused on helping leaders break through their toughest challenges and leadership lids.

by Dan Reiland

Hiring a staff member can be stressful.

It’s a big decision, and you never know for certain how it will work out.

Smart leaders will do everything possible to make a wise choice when hiring, not the fast choice. When it comes to hiring, fast seems expedient, but more often than not, it’s expensive in the end.

It’s been my responsibility as an Executive Pastor for many years to make good hires and to lead a team that makes good hiring choices. I’ll admit that on occasion, this process keeps me awake at night. It matters that much. Building a great team is an art. You will make mistakes, I have, but there is much you can do that will help you choose wisely.

Of course, there is much more to it, but if you are on the go today, here are eight Quick Tips that will help keep you out of hot water when hiring.

   1. Know what you want.

When I’m coaching leaders in hiring, I hear this phrase far too often. “I’ll know the right person when I meet them.” That may indicate good instincts, but it’s not a good strategy. Be very clear on what you are looking for before you begin your search. If you don’t know exactly what you want when hiring, you’ll be tempted to change your mind in the moment based on emotion.

Stick to your hiring criteria

When it come to hiring, never lower your standards. It’s easy to lower your standards when you are under pressure and need some help. But hold steady and wait for the right leader. It’s better to continue with an unfilled position, even with some extra work to do.

After you write a clear, concise bullet point job description, write a list of criteria (standards). Here’s an abbreviated example: 7 years experience, at least 2 years in a church of 500 or more, college degree, carried primary responsibility for a minimum of 40 volunteers, strong people skills, etc. Write down what you desire and stick to it.

Always make team-based hires.

Hiring staff was never meant to be a solo endeavor. We all have blind spots, personal biases, and favor certain personalities. We like who we like!

You can easily remedy personal bents and hiring biases by working with a team of 3-5 people who will do all the interviews. Each person then interviews the candidate with a specific set of questions.

Always interview more than one good candidate.

A good rule of thumb for smart hiring is make it a goal to have at least three viable candidates to interview. By viable, I mean leaders that you would seriously consider hiring. Not one sharp leader and two that you would never consider. This practice dramatically enhances your process because with three great candidates, you quickly see which one is best for your team.

Make your reference calls. I know not all reference calls are fruitful, but make them anyway — touch base with friends who might know the candidate. Sometimes that one call can seal the deal or save you from great heartache.

Use personality testing. There is no need to bombard your candidates with several tests, but one or two is a wise practice.

Invest maximum effort in matching people to your staff culture.

You can’t overestimate the significance of team culture when hiring a new staff member. The candidate may be a sharp leader and have an amazing track record, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful on your team. Take plenty of time to get to know them as a person and a human being, not just someone filling a position.

Don’t sell the virtues of your organization.

When hiring, don’t sell the virtues of your church team, just live them, the candidate will pick them up quickly. Of course, you can speak favorably about your staff team and the culture you enjoy, but you must be honest about the shortcomings that need improvement.

Be direct and very candid in your interviews.

When you interview a potential staff member, don’t hold back. Ask candid questions. Ask the tough questions. This isn’t the time to be polite and reserved. Kind and respectful, yes, but don’t take an easy and surface approach. As you consider hiring someone, you need to really know this person, and they need to know the real you.

Pray and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

It’s OK to trust your gut, but as I mentioned earlier, that’s not enough. You need a process and a team. And equally, if not more so, you need to pray and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

God cares about who you hire; it’s His church. Ask Him who He wants on your team!

More resources from Dan Reiland can be found on his website https://danreiland.com/

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