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Play to Your Strengths

Is the phrase “play to your strengths” overused enough to count as a cliché? Probably. Do I find it valuable anyway? Definitely.

Here’s what got me thinking about this phrase most recently – reading Phil Cooke’s blog post about building great teams. Read the whole post here, but here’s a relevant section when thinking about your church staff:

We don’t know how to deal with high-achievers.
The key to managing high achievers:
–  Treat them differently than low achievers.  Your low achievers may be wonderful people, but they’ll stifle your high achievers.  Reward achievers and give them more incentive.
–  Give them the resources they need, and then get out of the way.  Don’t thwart sharp people.  Let them rock.
–  Separate them from low achievers.  (Nothing drives high achievers more nuts than having to work with low achievers.)
–  Pay them what they’re worth.  Don’t be petty with salaries when it comes to your best people.  Above all – don’t treat all your employees to the same salary scale.
–  Give them deadlines.  Don’t be afraid to add pressure.  High achievers thrive on pressure.

I think those are gutsy recommendations. It can be difficult to do some of these things. But the theory behind the approach is really just  one way of applying a principle we all know we should do: play to our strengths. If the best people on your church staff are your strength, treat them like they’re special.

Best yet, when we start applying this approach systematically, there can be surprises. What if we designed teams based upon our strengths? Is someone on your team better at creating to-do lists and someone else better at delegation of tasks? Break those duties up appropriately.

Or what if we created a church IT system that relied on our strengths?

One of our ACS Technologies clients I’ve gotten to know fairly well is James Panosh from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Naperville, Ill. Some of you probably met Jim at our 2011 Ideas to Impact Conference, where Jim was one of our attendee teachers.

Jim is the kind of guy who’s always making sure systems are working well. He’s so interested, he got a doctorate in education focused on instructional and performance technology. He’s is director of operations at Our Saviour’s, where he’s worked since 2005, but he’s not an IT guy — “My interest is in using applications appropriately,” James told me. “Sometimes the right technology is felt tip on a flip chart. I tend to look at the functionality.”

Jim believes in playing to strengths – and he also realizes the importance of doing your homework. When he was doing his research on the type of church management software platform he should use, he looked into what IT systems at Our Saviour’s.

“I found, quite frankly, that our Internet connections have been one of the most stable things we’ve experienced in this organization, from a technology standpoint,” James said. Compared with systems like phones and servers, the Internet was consistently the most reliable.

After that realization, James decided to get his church software off of his own, trouble-prone servers.

“It was very easy to say, look, things can happen no matter what. You could lose that connection to your data if the internet goes down—but we don’t lose any data,” James said. “I kept returning to that point. Losing connectivity is an inconvenience; losing data is a disaster.”

What are some of the ways your ministry plays to your strengths, whether it’s relating to church staff, church IT, or something else?

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