Four Strategies For Better Understanding Your Church Leaders

Posted by Aaron Buer on August 16, 2018

So much of leadership is unlocking the potential of the people who follow you, whether those people are staff direct reports, volunteers or even your kids.

For me, leadership is foundationally relational. It’s all about knowing how my people tick.

The more I understand their passions, motivations, fears, and dreams the better I can empower and motivate them.

The question is: How do you get to know your people on that level? How can you get inside their heads and understand their hearts?

There are many great tools and practices out there. Here are four of my favorites.

1. Personality Profiles

Something that I’ve found helpful in understanding the people I lead is personality profiles. Our church staff has chosen the DISC test.

If you’re unfamiliar, the DISC is a type of personality test that categorizes people into four basic types - Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive, Cautious.

It isn’t the most comprehensive personality test but it provides a great baseline of understanding.

And the best news is that you don’t need an MBA to understand it.

There are obviously many other personality testing profiles.

Another of my favorites is the Meyer-Briggs, which is far more detailed.

My point here is that your team, staff or whoever you lead, needs a common language of understanding and comparison.

My suggestion would be to choose one and stick with it, dive in and learn all you can about each other.

The DISC profile helps me communicate more effectively, predict responses, build balanced teams and hire more strategically.

If you’re interested in leading your people better, invest in learning your people’s personality.

Oh, and if you’re into the DISC, I’m an “I” and if you’re into the Meyer-Briggs, I’m an INFP.

According to the internet, so is Luke Skywalker.

So basically, I’m a Jedi Master.

What’s up now?!?

2. The Enneagram

Speaking of personality type systems, the one I’m currently obsessed with is the Enneagram.

Now, some people have an understandably cautious reaction to the enneagram because it just looks weird.

My friend's husband refuses all conversation about the enneagram and refers to it as “witchcraft.”

Until recently, I treated the enneagram much like essential oils, which would be a roll of the eyes and a snarky,

Oh, you’re one of THOSE people. And, no I would not like to drink oregano oil as a remedy for my sore throat.

Then, I read this book:

The truth is, I’ve never had anything capture who I am and how I tick like the enneagram.

It was spooky.

To be clear, there are still a few concepts within the enneagram system that weird me out but overall, I’m very impressed and looking forward to capitalizing on what I am learning about myself and my team to lead us to greater effectiveness and unity.

Side note: The enneagram has also helped me understand some of the tensions my wife and I experience because of different personality types.

I’m not saying it will save your marriage but it might help you understand your spouse a little better.

If you’re willing, give this book a shot. It might just blow your mind and help you understand your people like never before.

Oh, and if you’re into the enneagram, I’m a 3.

3. The Five Languages of Appreciation

Alright, enough about personality tests and profiles.

Let’s talk about something else.

In the last couple of years, I have come to understand that not every form of appreciation lands the same way.

For example, if you were to write a thank-you card to my friend Kirk, he probably wouldn’t even read it. He just isn’t moved by mushy words in a card.

And, if you buy me a gift, you will be sorely disappointed in my reaction.

I’m kind of the worst. Just ask my wife the day after Christmas.

So you hate it?
No, I like it. I really do.
Maybe you should tell your face.

The truth is that everyone desires and receives appreciation differently.

As leaders, it’s our job to keep our people encouraged.

When they do something great, we should show them praise and appreciation.

The huge “aha” moment for me was when I realized that I was giving all my people the form of appreciation that I most desire.

Unfortunately, for some of them, that was not even close to what they needed or desired.

If you’re interested in speaking the appreciation language of your people, I would highly suggest this book.

Another strategy that we’ve used to better appreciate our people is to simply ask them what makes them feel the most appreciated.

For example, at the beginning of every year, we ask our volunteers to fill out a little form that looks something like this:

My favorite candy is ________.
My favorite Starbucks drink is ________.
My favorite way to spend a free day is ________.
My favorite pop (soda for the east coast and coke for the south) is ________.

It’s like a cheat sheet for appreciating your people!

When you bring in their favorite things, you look like the most thoughtful person ever. Try it.

4. Stories

The last strategy I use for understanding how my people tick is stories.

Every time we hold an off-site meeting, which is three or four times a year, we include a significant conversation that digs into our past and or what is actually happening in our lives.

These conversations help build unity and trust but also give me, as the leader, a clearer picture of who my people are and what has and continues to shape them.

Here are a few examples of the conversations we’ve used:

  • Share 3 most impactful moments from your life. The most impactful moment from your childhood, teenage, and adult years.
  • Share about the 3 most influential people in your life and how they impacted your life.
  • Share something in your life that is a celebration, something that is a challenge and something you’re dreaming about doing.
  • Of all the strategies I’ve shared in this post, stories are the most impactful and they are the most cost-effective.

    You don’t even have to buy a book! All you need is a comfortable environment and time.

    Wrap Up

    When it comes to leadership, understanding who your people are and what makes them tick is crucial to unlocking their potential.

    How do you grow in your understanding?

    Well, I would suggest some sort of personality profile and/or the enneagram, learning the appreciation languages of your people and listening to their stories.

    If you’re interested in making some progress here, order one of the books I mentioned and schedule a day long off-site meeting to share stories.

    We’d love to hear your ideas about understanding your people as well. Feel free to share your brilliant ideas in the comments. Thanks for reading.

    Topics: Advice

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