Balancing Leadership and Management – Episode 133 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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How and Why to Start Thinking About Leadership and Management
as Complementary, Not Contradictory

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It’s really no wonder so many church leaders avoid wearing the label of “manager.” If you think back to some of the popular leadership maxims from the last few decades (think, Peter Drucker saying things like “so much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work,” or Warren Bennis’ assertation that the manager relies on control while the leader inspires trust), it’s pretty easy to see how we may have inadvertently communicated to people that leaders are winners and managers are losers.

And that’s not only unfortunate, it also creates issues in how effective our church staff teams can be. Management and leadership are complementary, not contradictory. Very few of us get to live completely on one side of that equation or the other. If we try, we’re likely to neglect a critical function of our role in leading our teams.

Success for a manager is getting the desired results for the organization. And beyond just getting results, a manager is responsible for developing and keeping the people who are getting those results.

Success for a manager is getting the desired results for the organization—and beyond just getting results, a manager is responsible for developing u0026amp; keeping the people who are getting those results. #unstuckchurch [episode… Click to Tweet

In this fourth episode in our series on building healthy and high-performing teams, Lance, our director of the Unstuck Teams process, joins Amy and me one more time to talk about how church leaders can up their management game. Specifically, we’re digging into:

  • Why nobody likes to be labeled a “manager,” why that’s a problem, and how to start thinking about leadership and management as complementary, rather than contradictory
  • A better definition of management, and the #1 responsibility of a manager in a church
  • Why developing and keeping the people who are getting the good results is really more of a management function than a leadership function
  • Practical steps that pastors and church leaders can take to up their management game
  • How to create better coaching conversations—what they look and sound like, how often they should happen (and what’s TOO often)
Just because someone is capable of DOING something at a high level, doesn't mean they are gifted to manage others to do those things at a high level. #unstuckchurch [episode 133] Click to Tweet Somehow many pastors have come to believe that leaders are winners u0026amp; managers are losers—but the truth this, leadership u0026amp; management are complementary, not contradictory. #unstuckchurch [episode 133] Click To Tweet

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Sean (00:00): Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Over the last quarter of a century, it hasn’t been hard to find resources and teaching on leadership. Management, on the other hand, has a different story. In fact, management has often been minimized, so it’s no wonder that organizations often have a difficult time managing the day to day execution of their vision and strategy. Today on the podcast, Tony, Amy and Lance are exploring how you can better manage your team to increase health and performance. Before you listen, make sure you have the show notes. You get them every week in one email along with our leader conversation guide, all of our weekly resources and access to our podcast resource archive. You can go to and subscribe. You may also want to learn about the upcoming webinar on creating healthy and high performing teams on February 24th at 1:00 PM Eastern. Visit us for more info. Now let’s join Tony, Amy and Lance for today’s conversation.

Amy (01:07): Well today we’re wrapping up our four week series of podcasts on developing teams that are both healthy and high-performing. And again, I’m joined by Tony Morgan and our director of Unstuck Teams, Lance Witt. So far we’ve discussed how to develop your staff, how to define your DNA and how to raise productivity. So today we’re going to wrap up our conversation by exploring management. I almost want to put air quotes around it — management — because Lance, not many people hear that word and get very excited. Tell us a little bit why management has gotten such a bad rap out there.

Lance (01:40): Well, let me back up just a little bit and tell you a little piece of my story because I think it will tie into your question. I remember when I came out of seminary, and like a lot of guys in my generation, I was trained in church history, in homiletics, and biblical languages, all of that stuff. That was helpful but not one thing about organizational leadership. And that’s where I lived every day as a local church pastor was dealing with leadership issues in my church. And fortunately, some guys came along like, you know, Rick Warren and a Bill Hybels and John Maxwell. And they began to raise and sort of champion the value of leadership. And I remember how hungry I was as a young pastor for that. And so for the past 35 years, I mean there’s just been a tsunami of leadership content. And in fact, we become obsessed, I think with, you know, good leadership and vision, and all of that matters. And then you take that environment and then you get some guys who are kind of leadership gurus, like a Peter Drucker, who when he talks about this, he says, “so much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Or you get a Warren Bennis who says, “The manager relies on control, but the leader inspires trust.” Well, when I hear quotes like that, I go no wonder no one wants to wear the label of manager. And I think inadvertently, but nonetheless, really we’ve communicated to people that leaders are winners and managers are losers. And I think that’s unfortunate. I think it’s time that we see that management and leadership really, they’re complimentary. They’re not contradictory. They actually go hand in glove. And I think it’s true for me when I was pastoring a church, and I think it’s true for every staff member listening to this podcast, that you have both a leadership function and you have a management function in your role. There’s very few of us who get to live completely on one side of that equation or the other. So I think the management discussion really is important.

Tony (03:52): You know episodes of The Office really haven’t helped us here either. I mean, when we think manager, we think Michael Scott or the assistant to the regional manager, which is, you know, even worse. So there you go. But, yeah

Lance (04:07): Well, thanks for putting that in our minds as the example of management.

Amy (04:11): Lance, maybe it would be helpful to actually define the term management. What do you mean when you’re talking about management?

Lance (04:16): Well, there’s a definition that I came across a few years ago that I think is helpful, and it just says this, that management is the process of reaching organizational goals by working with and through people, and you know, I think there are lots of qualities that good managers possess like you know, communicating well, modeling the values of the organization, caring for the individual team members that they lead, running organizational interference and removing barriers, listening well, providing good coaching. All those are great attributes, I think, of a good manager, but the number one responsibility of a manager is to get the results that the organization is asking from them. And a manager can use all those skills I just mentioned to help achieve that. But success for a manager is getting the desired results for the organization. And I think when you have a management type role in a church, you have to keep coming back to that —that a big part of what you do is managing toward results. And then I would add, in terms of definition, that the second responsibility beyond just getting the results the organization needs is that a manager is to develop and keep the good people who are getting those results. So there’s a results focus, but it’s also a lot about sort of the people development in the organization.

Amy (05:42): Tony, I think we agree churches haven’t historically done very well at management. And why do you think that is?

Tony (05:48): Yeah, a few things come to mind. First of all, I mean Lance is being helpful in helping us distinguish between management and leadership. Both are critical, but the fact is, and he just alluded to several aspects of management that really do still require some level of leadership capacity. And churches still tend to put their most capable doers in management roles even if they don’t have any of that leadership gifting or in this case, more specifically a wiring to be a good manager. And the key thought here is just because someone’s capable of doing something at a high level doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at managing others to accomplish an execute as well. A second reason is churches, once they identify people with management wiring, just don’t empower managers well. So rather than confirming clear goals and strategies and then empowering managers to drive the execution, we tend to tell managers how they should execute as well. In other words, we treat managers like doers rather than giving them the freedom to manage their team within a framework of accountability. And then a third thought that comes to mind here is we haven’t clarified that framework for accountability. So, in other words, we don’t have organizational alignment. We haven’t clarified mission. We haven’t clarified the vision for where we’re heading in the future. We haven’t clarified our organizational strategies, and we haven’t clarified our organizational goals. And when that organizational alignment isn’t there, when those foundational elements of where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, when that hasn’t been defined, it’s really impossible even for the best managers to prioritize their objectives and to then execute the ministry strategy.

Lance (07:51): You know, Tony, I love that point about, you know, not telling people how to do their job and how to execute everything. And just this week I was reading an article about, you know, sort of the millennials in the workforce and that a high value for them is autonomy and freedom. And so the article was making the case for giving very clear guardrails but then give a lot of autonomy and freedom within that in terms of how they get the job done.

Tony (08:20): Absolutely.

Amy (08:22): Hey, Lance, can you share with us some practical tips? You know, that pastors and leaders, steps they can take to up their management game?

Lance (08:29): Yeah. And I think this first one I’m going to mention is probably like it’s the shining neon, lights flashing kind of point I would make when it comes to management. And that is making sure that everybody has clear priorities and goals, really clear expectations. A lot of churches I work with just sort of live in the whirlwind of, you know, Sunday’s always coming. And then we tend to kind of get into this default mode of running everything on autopilot, and I think we have to step back from that and go, my job as a manager is to make sure that everybody that reports to me that their priorities are really clear, and that’s my job. That’s not their job, it’s my job to make that happen. I would also say that it’s important to have consistent one-on-ones with your direct reports. You know, I think minimally once a month. I personally always kind of like the rhythm of every two weeks. And again, the meetings don’t have to take forever, but I think to have consistent, effective one-on-ones is really a good thing. And then this seems like it’s a simple thing, but it really will up your management game. And again, it goes back to something we talked about earlier, and that is take really good notes and then have a place where you can easily find them and access them. It’s just an important good practice for every manager because it helps you to follow through. And when you’re managing a bunch of different stuff and spinning a bunch of different plates, really being able to keep up with the details and you know, have followup conversations and check-in accountability, all of that comes out of really having some good notes and being able to easily access them. And then the last thing I would say, you got to learn to do this if you’re going to become a good manager. You have to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations with those you lead in the church. And you know, sometimes I’ll talk about in the church, we suffer from this disease I call terminal niceness. You know, we’re very polite, we’re very kind, we’re sort of nurturing by personality, diplomatic, we relate well to people. But the problem is that sometimes our diplomacy and terminal niceness leads to a lack of clarity. And then we don’t say things that will actually help people get better and improve their performance. So one of the mantras I find myself repeating a lot is, “As a manager, you must learn how to be both kind and clear.” And most of us don’t have a problem on the kindness side of that equation, but we do struggle to be clear and direct and straightforward. So Amy, I believe pastors, if they could get more intentional with these three or four kinds of practices, they really could help improve the performance of their teams.

Amy (11:22): Yeah, for sure. You know, Lance, one of the things you talked about was one-on-ones, you know, coaching conversations. So Tony, if part of good management is having good coaching conversations and we recognize there’s this whirlwind, right, of Sunday’s always coming, how do you suggest leaders go about creating good coaching conversations?

Tony (11:42): Well, that’s a good question, Amy, and honestly, I don’t necessarily think I’m good at this. And so I’ve learned a little podcasting trick through the years. Maybe you’ve noticed this in previous episodes. When I don’t know the answer to the question, I flip the question back to Amy. So watch how this works. Amy, that’s a good question. Good coaching conversations are part of good management. What do I do well in coaching conversations and what do you think I should improve?

Amy (12:15): Seriously?

Tony (12:17): No, seriously. I’m curious to hear your perspective on this.

Amy (12:21): Well let me rattle off some of the things that I think make up good coaching conversations first before I attach your name to it. First, I agree with Lance. They should be regular, meaning there should be a regularly scheduled meeting at least once a month where the manager gives an employee focused attention to talk through how things are going. And by the way, I don’t know, Lance, what you think of this, but I don’t think they should ever be weekly because if you have to meet with a team member every week, either your goals aren’t clear for them or you don’t trust that they’re going to be doing, what they should be doing, or there’s some talent deficiencies. Do you agree with that?

Lance (12:57): Yeah, I actually really do. And again, I don’t think it’s about frequency. I think it’s about really getting to the stuff that really matters when we do meet. And I think you can do that a couple of times a month, at least once a month.

Amy (13:09): The second thing that I think makes up a good coaching conversation. I’m a big fan of Ken Blanchard’s, One Minute Manager principles. I think he calls them the one minute praise and the one minute reprimand. The terms I used when I was a manager was what gets noticed gets repeated. And the flip side of that is you get what you tolerate. So in other words, when you see a team member doing something, don’t wait for a meeting to talk about it. When they’re doing it well, call it out. What gets noticed gets repeated. And it can be private, it can be public, but it’s when you look them in the eye and tell them what you saw and how great they were, and guess what? They’re going to do it again. So that’s one. And on the flip side, you know, if they’re doing something unproductive or behaving in a way that’s counter to what they ought to be doing, great managers look in the mirror, actually, and say, I’m getting what I’m tolerating. So I would just say move in, privately for this one, and give the one minute reprimand. And again, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy conversation. You know, I had a gal on my team, hopefully she’s not listening, and she was wearing flip flops to work. And when I had a few minutes, I just took the right moment and I just said, “Hey, by the way, don’t wear flip flops to work anymore. I know you’re trying to increase your influence around here, and part of that’s just dressing professionally.” So it didn’t have to be like this laborious set up, this have a seat. It was just, you know, direct, I guess clear and kind. Lance, that’s how I’d say it. Lastly, I think good coaching conversations include great questions and listening. So great managers ask great questions and then they zip their lips and let the employee do the talking. I think as managers, we’ll always have time to respond, but if you’re always interrupting or you just start telling them things, I think you’re really shortcutting that team member’s discovery of solutions and problems that they’re facing.

Tony (15:03): Okay, Yeah. I get all that. That’s all good stuff, Amy But you’re not answering my question. You sound like one of these presidential candidates right now. So the question I asked is, in coaching conversations, what do I personally do well and what might I need to improve?

Amy (15:20): All right, well, two things come to mind immediately. You are great at asking and listening. I swear, you are a savant and Lance, you probably are too, with just the art of great questions. The second thing is you’re great with words of affirmation. You kind of know my wiring, and you have caught me doing things well and you let me know, and it’s been really encouraging. And I guess one more. You give me stretch assignments. You are comfortable with my uncomfortableness I’ve learned over the years. And while that can be intimidating to me, I am also developing new muscles at work, and I guess you’re coaching me to something bigger because of that.

Lance (15:58): Hey Amy, before you give him the areas he can improve, just be really careful. This could be a career limiting move on your behalf.

Amy (16:05): Thank you.

Lance (16:07): You are very wise, and I know you will give great answer here. I can hardly wait. I’m taking notes.

Amy (16:14): Listeners, next week if it’s Sean or Lance who’s hosting the podcast, this is my moment. Where can you improve? You know, we don’t have regular time on the calendar together to connect where you can ask me some pointed questions about how work is going, how things are, but we are a remote team and being virtual, we do connect regularly. But if there’s one thing, and it’s not really your wiring, so you’d have to choose to do it, but to actually have those regular coaching conversations each month.

Tony (16:44): Okay, that’s fair. I can appreciate that. But in these coaching conversations, what are the questions that we should be asking, Amy?

Amy (16:52): Sure. What are you excited about right now? I think that you discover what people are passionate about. What’s challenging you or bugging you? What do you wish you could be spending more time doing? I think is a good question. You know, as managers, you have this role of removing obstacles. You said that earlier, Lance. So a question like what changes in areas outside of your control could be made to help you be more effective, or just simply what’s in your way? What’s a distraction for you right now? And maybe how could I support or lead you better? You know, that doesn’t have to be every time you meet with them. But that’s a great question to pull out every once in awhile just to ask, like you just did, how can I lead you better? Well, thank you. I’m little distracted from that question. But, thanks to everyone here who has followed along throughout this series. We really hope it’s been helpful to you as you continue to develop a healthy and high-performing team for your ministry. And Tony, as we wrap up these whole series of conversations, do you have any final thoughts?

Tony (17:53): Well, Amy, I’m curious, do you have any final thoughts this week?

Amy (17:58): No.

Tony (17:58): Well, that didn’t work twice in this episode.

Amy (18:00): Once a podcast.

Tony (18:01): Well, first of all, Lance, I’ve loved having you involved in the series, and let me say it again. I’m really glad that you’re a part of our team now and specifically around Unstuck Teams. I mean, this is just valuable information, but I’m also grateful for the process that you’ve helped us to develop so that we can engage with churches. And then, for each of you, I hope these four topics, they’re critical in helping teams get unstuck. But I hope this series has been an encouragement to you in your leadership. And just as a reminder, you don’t have to go at this alone. Our new Unstuck Team’s process helps you and your team address these topics and many more. And because of that, we’d love to talk with you about providing some on the ground coaching to raise both the health and the performance of your teams. And you can learn more about this at

Sean (19:02): Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Unstuck Teams webinar on February 24th at 1:00 PM Eastern. To learn more and sign up, you can go to the If you’d like to explore more about how the Unstuck Teams process could benefit your church, visit us at Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode and a brand new series. Until then, have a great week.

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