Am I Good Enough?

Can I supervise someone more gifted or more knowledgeable than I? This question came to me in the form of a potential case study submitted by a participant in my upcoming 3 day workshop on staffing and supervision.

Many a supervisor has failed at the act of supervision by convincing himself that he is not qualified to supervise someone more gifted or talented that he. The question itself reveals a flawed assumption about the task of supervision. Supervision is not primarily about teaching or training someone to do their job more effectively. Often we do provide some training along the way, but that’s not the primary task of supervision.

Supervision is about setting performance expectations, and providing feedback about an employee’s performance against those expectations.  Supervision is about aligning the performance expectations of the collective staff team so that the team takes the congregation someplace meaningful with its collective efforts. We do this by creating clear expectations about what each role entails and by setting annual performance goals.  Then we provide ongoing feedback about how someone is doing in the role and an annual review of performance progress.

As a supervisor it is NOT your responsibility to teach employees how to perform better in their roles. It’s the employee’s responsibility to figure out how to become more effective in the role. Your role is to make certain that you’ve clearly communicated your expectations and your impressions about how they are doing compared to your expectations.  Your job is to support and encourage their growth, not to take responsibility for the growth.  You can provide these elements of supervision even if the person is more gifted or skilled than you are in a particular area of ministry.

The biggest area where I see pastors fail in this regard is in the supervisory oversight of musical professionals. We convince ourselves (and some or our musical staff enjoy contributing to our downfall in this area) that we couldn’t possibly supervise a minister of music or an organist because we don’t know as much as they do about music. You really don’t need to know much at all about music to provide effective supervision to a musical professional. Your role is to establish performance expectations with regard to how the music department is run and to establish clear expectations about worship leadership outcomes. Most heads of staff are infinitely qualified to set performance expectations in these areas.

A good supervisor of a gifted staff team member does not let herself become intimidated by the employee that she supervises. An effective supervisor affirms the giftedness of the employee, nurtures the development of those gifts, and makes it absolutely clear how those gifts are to be deployed in service to the larger mission of the congregation.

Photo Credit: Pouch Designs

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