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How to meet with your supervisor

The problem: You work at a church but you do not meet regularly with your supervisor or your meetings with your supervisor are ineffective. 

A study has shown that liking one's supervisor is the number one factor related to job satisfaction.  You can put up with a lot if you like your immediate supervisor.  Here is the summary quote from the book:

"The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive they are while they are there is determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor" (Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999, pp. 11-12). 

If your satisfaction and fruitfulness depend largely on your relationship with your supervisor, it is pretty important that you have good meetings with them. 

Below I have listed two main points about meeting with your supervisor. 

1. Ask to meet with your supervisor for 1 hour once every two weeks or 1/2 hour once per week.  The "open door policy" (My door is always open) isn't concrete enough and either wastes too much time or doesn't provide enough meaningful interaction.  Conscientious followers often don't want to waste the supervisor's time so they wait to ask questions until a problem has grown into a full-blown mess.  Instead set up a time to meet regularly. 

Jim Collins writes,

"If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.  The right people don't need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great" (Jim Collins, Good to Great. New York: HarperCollins, 2001, p. 42).

As a good follower / employee / church leader, you do not need help on every single task, but you do need to be pointed in the right direction.  If you are working 40-50 hours per week, having a 1/2 hour of direction is not too much to ask and makes a lot of sense.      

2. Have a numbered agenda of 5-10 questions that you wish to raise with your supervisor.  Provide the supervisor with a copy when you begin the meeting.  These items should include things you feel the supervisor should know, questions you have related to current projects you are working on, and hopefully something you can affirm your supervisor about.   Save most of your questions for that meeting rather than sending your supervisor a million emails throughout the week.  My supervisor would acknowledge each question and reflect more deeply on the questions he felt were most important or he was able to answer. 

The list of questions emphasizes that you are prepared and that you value the person's time.  It also gives them an idea of the issues that are on your mind.  They need not all be strategic, task-oriented issues.  You can also ask the person questions that are not urgent but are important.  Here's a sample one I remember asking a mentor: "what do you do when you hear that someone from the congregation has died - can you walk me through that?"

Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church, has an excellent post today entitled:My Five Rules For Meeting With A Mentor. My comments above particularly resonate with this quote from Perry's post:

I remember John Maxwell saying to me once, “I will mentor you, but you have to ask the questions. I am not preparing a lesson for you…YOU guide this meeting. If you want to know something–ASK. If you don’t ask anything then we don’t really have anything to talk about.”

Conclusion:

David Swanson notes the importance of meeting with mentors for your own productivity and satisfaction. 

"Those of us who itch for change are faced with the fact that, in most cases, it is the senior leadership’s prerogative to initiate those changes. This can be a frustrating reality for a young leader. Our options are to give up on large-scale change, disconnect from the church to attempt our own new thing, or drink a lot of coffee. Tea works too.

A couple of years into my time as an associate pastor I began scheduling regular breakfasts, afternoon coffee breaks, and evening conversations with some of our church’s Boomer leaders. These conversations were agenda-free. It was a chance to talk about past experiences, current challenges, and future possibilities for our church. The only measure of success was that coffee was consumed and good conversation was had.

Over time, as relationships developed, it became apparent that my ministry ideas were being met with more acceptance. Some of my new ideas even became conversation topics among our older leaders. It was deeply satisfying to participate in a strategic vision for the church that had begun as a conversation over coffee. Don’t underestimate the importance of investing in relationships" (Leadership Journal's blog Out of Ur Disarming the Boomers (Part 2) from January 17, 2008).

As the book title Never Eat Alone implies, relationships are key for getting things done both in the business world and in the church. 

Examples

I have listed a couple of examples below of agendas I made before meeting with mentors and supervisors. 

Example 1: Agenda for meeting with a senior pastor of a neighboring church that I had never met  in 2004.  I had scheduled the meeting to learn from him.

  • Where are you from? When did you start pastoring? What did you do before that?
  • What do you feel is going well at _________ Church?
  • What are the challenges?
  • Since we share the same neighborhood, what are the neighborhood issues for you all like parking, etc.?
  • How has your seminary experience prepared you for ministry?
  • Why the “team leader” title?
  • What “direction” is your church moving in?   

Example 2: Here is another example of a weekly meeting from 2002 with my supervisor (which I handed him a copy of)

  1. How are you? 
  2. Additional agenda items?
  3. I am beginning Family Camp planning for next year this week.  Do you have any advice?
  4. I received an email from D.T. about his concern about incorporating new people into worship teams.  Comments?
  5. We are furthering Ensemble Leaders Song Selection Criteria.  Is that proceeding well in your opinion?
  6. Family Carol Service.  We are ordering from a script to adapt (19.99-24.99 US) Group Publishing.  Just wanted you to know.   
  7. We have received two estimates on IT service maintenance. 
  8. I am thankful to G.R. for his major assistance these last few weeks.
  9. I tried a new strategy last week for announcements and it seemed to go well.   Input?
  10. J.S. is no longer attending our church.  He is attending ________ Church.   
  11. Prayer item: I need ________. 
  12. K.V. will be back visiting January 22.

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