By Allen White
Photo by Romolo Tavani
While every small group pastor is unique, most fall into one of four types of small group pastors. Having talked to thousands of pastors over the years, I have found some change their strategies very willingly, while others are very reluctant. Some are ready to take the hill. Others prefer to analyze the approach before they take the hill. Whether your style is ready, fire, aim or ready, aim, fire, the way you are wired reveals a lot about how you lead your groups. While no one fits perfectly into any one category, in general, pastors are closer to one approach over the other three.
Are You the Innovator?
Innovators are quickly attracted to new ideas. In fact, they become easily bored with the strategies they’ve implemented. Often, they will switch to a new strategy before they’ve allowed the current strategy to bear any fruit. They thrive on change.
Innovators are a lot of fun to be around, but since they have an idea a minute, they can quickly overwhelm other people. They tend to change approaches so often that their followers can become fatigued. Eventually, they find that their latest and greatest new ideas are met with an eye roll instead of a drum roll.
If you’re an innovator, you tend to be impulsive. Because you come up with idea after idea, often you can be accused of being flaky. Innovators tend to be great starters, but poor finishers. They need people around them who will keep them focused, allow them to play in the lab, but keep things consistent for those they lead.
If you live on the bleeding edge, you just might be an Innovator.
Are You The Shepherd?
Now, before you get all messianic on this one, let me give you a few insights. The Shepherd’s chief concern is how their decisions will affect people. Often their concern is to the point of not making a move forward at all. They would rather take a pass on a great idea than rock the boat in any way.
Shepherds are highly relational. Often a shepherd becomes a small group pastor because he or she was a really great small group leader. They are great at managing the relationships they can handle, but there is a threshold for the number of group leaders they can effectively lead.
These folks are very reluctant to change, especially if they perceive a change would adversely affect people in any way. They would prefer to ignore new strategies than embrace them.
Often a shepherd is the victim of the Peter Principle: everyone is promoted to their own level of incompetence. This means the shepherd was an awesome small group leader. They might have even been an amazing small group coach, but when they are put in charge of the whole thing, they keep the number of small groups small and manageable. After all, how could they personally care for 50 or 100 or 1,000 small group leaders?
Shepherds perform best in smaller churches with a couple dozen groups. In larger ministries, they would quickly become overwhelmed and would need to learn leadership in a completely different way. Their focus would need to change from connecting with every group leader personally to being personal with a small group leadership team, who along with their coaches, would care for the group leaders. This is not impossible, but it’s unlikely.
Generals are ready to charge the hill. They’re not quite on the bleeding edge of Innovators, but they are right behind them. Generals don’t need a fully proven and complete strategy to move forward. They just need the marching orders and the green light. They are ready to go.
Generals easily abandon ineffective strategies. If something over a given period of time doesn’t produce the desired results, then that method will quickly be replaced with effective new ideas. Generals are not impulsive like Innovators, but they are impatient with things that don’t move at a steady pace. Sometimes things that are working on a small scale are abandoned before they’ve been given the opportunity to flourish. But, at other times, the General calls the right shot and refuses to waste his or her time and energy on something that is not bearing fruit.
Generals are early adopters of new ideas. When they see a strategy that has potential, they are ready to take action and make it happen. Sometimes in their haste to take the bull by the horns, they run over people and even lose a few in the quest to accomplish the goal. Shepherds are horrified by the temperament of Generals.
Generals need the insights of Innovators. They’re not going to come up with all of the new ideas, but they will execute like nobody’s business. Generals would be wise to hire an Analyst to help with the details. Generals see the big picture, but often jump over several steps to get there. If an Analyst (below) is subject to perfectionism, the General is subject to what I call “Good-enough-ism.” A wise General would also hire a Shepherd to stay in awareness of the emotional condition of the sheep especially during major transitions.
Analysts are, well, analytical. They carefully and deliberatively study a strategy before they make a move. While their due diligence can be admired, they often can become stuck in the paralysis of analysis. This is partly due to need to see the whole picture before they get started, which unfortunately is rarely afforded to pastors trying a new approach. They also tend to be perfectionist, so they do not want to make mistakes. This often causes them to miss opportunities.
Analysts are going to let someone else (or a lot of somebodies) try an idea and then evaluate their results before they serious consider making a change. They are inspired by Innovators and Generals, but are also frustrated that their emotional make up doesn’t allow them to venture out to the cutting edge of things.
The good news about analysts is they save their ministries and their people from the trial and error that others might recklessly inflict on their people. The other side is their reluctance and often skepticism holds them back from what they could achieve. An Analyst who is coached by an experienced small groups pastor can make great progress with a much lower level of risk.
The Analyst would be a great team member for a General or an Innovator. They could certainly offer balance and consistent follow through to their leader. Analysts work well as the leader in a more traditional environment. A General or an Innovator would blow up a traditional environment. An analyst would be careful to study changes and move only when it’s advantageous within the organization.
Which Type Are You?
No one fits neatly into any one of these categories. In fact, it would be good to consider which type would be your secondary approach. For instance, a General-Innovator will lead much differently than a General-Analyst.
Lead with your strengths. Don’t try to lead like someone else. God wired you the way He intended to. Lead with your strengths, then staff to your weaknesses. If you’re an Innovator, you will always leave out details. Hire an Analyst. If you’re a Shepherd, then either lead a small flock well or work for someone who needs your relational skills to keep things in balance.
Have you ever worked with a flaky youth pastor, or an uncaring care pastor? Has your church, business, or organization left precise tasks to someone who settles for “good enough?” They aren’t necessarily bad people as they are in the wrong roles or are attempting to live up to an unrealistic set of expectations.
Your flaky youth pastor may just be the next visionary leader in the church. Visionaries are rarely organized or schedule. Do you fire him and get a boring youth pastor, or do you staff around his weaknesses?
Your uncaring care pastor is quick to size things up, yet impatient with the process of counseling others. Since those in need probably won’t quickly shape up, the uncaring care pastor needs to be reassigned to a project where he can charge the hill rather than stroll through the meadow.
What if you knew what you were going to get before you made a hire? What if you looked at the best staff you had and determined what personality traits they had, so you could determine who to add to your team? What if your small group had better insights into each other and became more understanding of each other?
How high is your XQ?
Time Magazine asked this question in their June 22, 2015 issue. The answer actually goes back for years. Yet, people analytics is not as commonly used as it should be, especially in the church world. The new trend toward studying Behavioral DNA is significant for hiring the right people, leading them, and helping them to understand each other.
Human-resources professionals in major companies are now looking for the X quotient in hiring, promoting and even terminating employees, according to Time. The article coined the term “XQ” or “X quotient” simply because there is no other way to quantify it. Maybe that’s the point.
In order to fight employee turnover, increase productivity, and raise customer satisfaction, companies and organizations are turning to expensive, time consuming solutions like Cattell’s 16 personality factors, the Hogan Personality Inventory’s seven scales, StrengthsFinder, or the Caliper Profile’s 22 traits. Online resources such as Infor claim to analyze over a million job candidates a month. Why does this matter? Can’t you just go with your gut?
People analytics will help you in an important range of team dynamics.
1. Adding new staff or team members.
Whether finding qualified candidates is feast or famine, more than a strong resume is required to find the right fit. People with the right schools, degrees, and experience may or may not fit the bill. The metrics from People Skills, who I’m certified with, point to the core of who the person is, how they go about things, and how they will fit with the current members of your team. While anyone with determination can work hard to fulfill any role, eventually that person will burnout and will probably take the team down with them. If you put a highly relational person in a cubical with a computer for data entry, they will last for a while, but they will either wander away from the cube to find people or they will find another job, even lower paying, where they can interact with others. Behavioral DNA has much to do with job satisfaction and performance. Having this info at the beginning of the interview process will help you to select the right candidates and can confirm some things you are probably already sensing.
2. Improving staff and team interactions.
John Maxwell says, “People don’t see things are they are. We see things as we are.” If I am a very driven, performance oriented person, then I see people who are highly relational as being slackers. I think: “Why can’t they just cut to the chase? Why can’t they make a decision? Why do we have to have another meeting about the same thing, again?” But, they aren’t like me, nor I them.
The person I’m looking at is probably looking back at me saying, “Why doesn’t he take time to really get to know people? Why does he only care about the work and not the team? Why doesn’t he take time to make sure everyone is on the same page before charging forward?” It’s two sides of a coin. Well, actually, it’s 16 sides.
By taking your team through people analytics, they will gain a better understanding of themselves as well as why other people on the team bug them. In fact, Behavioral DNA gives teams a language to filter and interpret other people’s behavior. They begin to view personality differences in a more amiable way. While there are certainly people with personality disorders, personality differences are a far cry from disorders.
3. Setting people up for success.
A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein goes, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Putting right people in the wrong roles is a recipe for disaster. But, the right people in the right roles is magical.
If someone has the personality of Attila the Hun and is given a role to precisely detail the steps of a process they invented, it won’t work. You need a detail person to document the process, and you need to allow Attila to charge the next hill. If you take someone who doesn’t want to rock the boat and put them in charge of innovating something, it will never move forward. The innovation will rock the boat, which is exactly what they are trying to avoid. There are many more examples. Think about the folks who are thriving in their role, then think about the folks who are withering in theirs. What’s the difference? It could be misapplied people analytics.
Whether you lead a staff, a team, or a small group, the X quotient is significant to the effectiveness and harmony of the group you lead. An understanding of their X quotient will help determine the appropriate role for each person and the way they go about it. As the Time article says, “A meticulous thinker is no better or worse than a big-picture mind, but it’s pretty clear which one you would like to have doing your taxes.”
4. Use People Skills.
A friend of mine, Vicki Barnes, developed the People Skills inventory about 25 years ago. By validating the findings with other well-known people analysis tools, she developed an easy, affordable solution for human resources professionals, non-profit organizations, churches, and even small groups. The one hour staff, team, group, or volunteer training offers a great alternative to lengthy online profiles and assessments which essentially provide the same information.
By Allen White
Do you have a group member who tends to get along with everyone else? They don’t rock the boat, and certainly don’t tip the boat over. They are loyal and steady. You can always count on them. Yet, you don’t always know what’s going on inside of them, because they wouldn’t want to trouble you with that. The group member we call the Peacekeeper.
In this series of posts, we are looking at the different personality types of group members and how they affect the dynamics of groups. Based on Vicki Barnes book, The Real You, we have identified four core types: the Producer, the Planner, the Promoter, and today will will consider the Peacekeeper.
We see Peacekeeper behavior in several people in Scripture. The Apostle John would certainly fit in this category. He was the disciple whom Jesus loved. John had a warm that resonated with others. He also took the longest to write his Gospel. While Matthew, Mark (writing for Peter), and Luke put our there Gospels in the first half of the first century (give or take), John’s Gospel didn’t appear until nearly the end of the first century. (Scholars can debate away, but this is what they taught me in Bible college).
Another example of Peacekeeper behavior is Abraham, formerly known as Abram. When Abraham had to go down to Egypt as recorded in Genesis 12, he was worried the Egyptians couldn’t resist Sarah for her beauty and would kill him to get her. Abraham instructed Sarah, “Hey, let’s not make any waves in Egypt. Instead of telling them you are my wife, just say that you are my sister instead.” Sarah went along. Now, this caused quite a bit of trouble later in the story when the Egyptians found out the truth. But, Abraham saved his neck.
When Abraham and Lot were living together with all of their families and herds, it became clear they needed more space. Rather than telling Lot where to move his family and herds, Abraham gave Lot a choice. Of course, Lot chose the best land. Abraham, being more passive, really didn’t care which land he had as long as Lot was happy.
Now, none of us are limited to our core personalities. Abraham’s faith grew. God declared Abraham to be the father of many nations. When God called Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain and sacrifice him, there was no hemming and hawing. The next morning, they got up and went.
The Peacekeeper shows mercy and compassion. They are more likely to see all sides of an argument. Now, by seeing all sides, they sometimes have trouble taking sides or making a decision. I have a dear friend who asked me what color she should change her carpet to. I later found out she had been asking this question for more than a decade. The last time I visited her and her husband, they had moved to a different house. I said, “Well, you didn’t need to change the carpet after all.” Being a Peacekeeper, her response was, “Oh, Allen.” If she’d been a Producer, the carpet would have been changed immediately, and she would have knocked my block off for saying something like that. If she had been a Planner, she would have studied carpet types carefully, and the science behind mood and its relation to color. If she had been a Promoter, she would have chosen whatever bright color she felt like.
Peacekeepers are natural mediators. They are slow to form a prejudicial decision. When Producers like me want to fire up their bulldozer and “git ‘r done,” the Peacekeepers are a good people to check in with before the Producers start running over everybody.
Quite a few years back, another dear friend of mine and I were choosing a restaurant to take a group of seniors to up in the Mother Lode near Sonora, California. There was an Italian restaurant there I had been wanting to try, but my dear Peacekeeper friend suggested something else. It was more of a coffee shop with an extensive menu. We went her way. At one point in the meal with about 40 of us gathered around a huge table, I heard her say quietly, “Isn’t this nice. Everyone found something they really liked.” She was a Peacekeeper extraordinaire.
While Peacekeepers are great listeners and mediators, they can be easily overwhelmed, yet they won’t let you on to that. They may appear calm on the outside, but you may be rocking their boat like crazy on the inside.
When it’s all said and done, we should all strive to be more like the Peacekeeper. In fact, as we mature and grow as a person, all four of these personality types should even out in our lives. But, only if we grow.
Read more from this series:
Planner: What if Dr. Luke Was in My Group?
Producer: What if the Apostle Paul Was in My Group?
Promoter: What if the Apostle Peter Was in My Group?
By Allen White
Have you ever had a group member who just exuded enthusiasm and ADD? Did they chase rabbit trails and pull thoughts out of left field during the discussion? You may have a Promoter in your group.
We see classic Promoter behavior in the Apostle Peter. Impetuous and sometimes flaky, Peter was the only one who jumped out of the boat at Jesus’ invitation to walk on water. When Jesus announced his coming death, Peter rebuked Jesus, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” to which Jesus rebuked him right back, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:22-23). When the soldiers came to take Jesus in the Garden, Peter drew his sword and cut Malchus’ ear, which Jesus quickly healed. Then, in the temple court, before the cock crowed three times, Peter denied Jesus. Yet there was another side to Peter’s brass enthusiasm.
On the day of Pentecost, when the crowd thought the 120 in the upper room were drunk, it was Peter who stood up and explained, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” (Acts 2:14-16). Peter’s off the cuff proclamation that day resulted in 3,000 people being added to their number. There was no time to prepare a sermon. There was no time to create an outline. There was only time for a disciple empowered by God’s Spirit to open his mouth and be willing to speak. This time Peter got it right.
In this series of posts, we are looking at the different personality types of group members and how they affect the dynamics of groups. Based on Vicki Barnes book, The Real You, we have identified four core types: the Producer, the Planner, the Peacekeeper, and today will will consider the Promoter.
The Promoter is the life of the party. In fact, a Promoter’s motto could be “If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.” Now, before you take that thought too far, what I mean is a Promoter can have a great time with family and friends, but can also have a great time standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Promoters have never met a stranger and are easy to like.
They have an idea a minute, which lends to their ADD temperament. Promoters are great starters, but poor finishers. After all, how can you take something to completion if you have an idea a minute. Before one thing is even half completed, they are chasing their next idea!
Promoters are great for adding enthusiasm to a group, rallying the troops, and recruiting new members. Promoters are not so great at staying on task, starting or ending on time, or maybe even remembering they are leading on a particular week. But, if you take a Promoter’s idea, pass it on to a Producer to execute, then add a Planner’s eye for detail with the Peacekeeper checking in with everyone, your group can be a great team.
Be selective about what you delegate to a Promoter. You will see them as flaky, and they will feel frustrated. But, put them in their sweet spot of brainstorming and encouraging, and then you’ve got something.
Read More About Why Your Group Members Might Bug You
Planner: What if Dr. Luke Was in My Group?
Producer: What if the Apostle Paul Was in My Group?
Peacekeeper: What if Father Abraham Was in My Group?