|Say "No" to sandbagging|
|Written by Tom Ehrich|
If you ever doubted the importance of training church leaders before they start leading, remember the last time this scenario occurred:|
Leadership meeting is winding down. People are about to relax. Chair asks, “Is there any other business?” Suddenly, with no warning, a member throws a huge issue onto the table. All of the work people have done to remain focused and open is undone. Chaos ensues. The member smirks.
It’s called “sandbagging,” and it’s a no-no. In a corporate setting, such behavior could lead to termination. In a church, the leadership group must enforce good norms.
That’s why you train leaders: not to make them experts on leading, but to show them best practices and healthy norms and to build consensus that these practices and norms will guide their work. If someone misbehaves, the group will respond to restore the desired equilibrium.
What are best practices to avoid sandbagging?
First, take the time to build, communicate, and confirm a solid agenda. Give people plenty of time to add items and to question items.
Second, focus meeting time on making decisions or having critical discussions about items whose background and documentation have been distributed in advance. Don’t use leadership meeting time to disseminate information. Use it to respond to information previously sent.
Third, don’t end your meeting with the anything else? question. It is members’ responsibility to get their items on the agenda beforehand. In an emergency, a member can ask at the start of a meeting for the group’s permission to add an unexpected item. The member should have good reason for doing so, and laziness doesn’t count as a good reason.
Fourth, assign a member at each meeting to function as a “process observer.” His or her role is to monitor the group’s process, to call out poor behavior, and to remind the group of its norms.
Finally, when sandbagging or some other destructive behavior does occur, the leadership group’s top leaders should discuss it afterward and take action to discourage it from happening again.
These five steps should be part of leadership training, so that all can agree to be held accountable.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of On a Journey, and the founder of the Church Wellness Project www.churchwellness.com.