This was a phrase I picked up from Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership, at about the same time I was reading of the same principle in Giuliani’s Leadership. It bothered me a little. In fact, it still bothers me a little.
It is clearly a truism – both authors quoted examples of where focussing on a particular area caused performance in that area to improve – but doesn’t it reduce endeavours to a numbers-game? What about the things that really matter?
The one area of my life where I’m currently in a leadership role is the fabulous Welcome Team at my church, ChristChurch London. When the church was planted, just over 5 years ago, one of the commitments the leaders and core team gathered around was the commitment to be the friendliest church in London. They had all had experiences (as I have) of being able to walk into a church, sit through the service, have a cup of tea and leave again without having a single conversation or interaction with another person. This, they decided, would not be a characteristic of CCL. And they’ve kept that commitment.
They’re fantastic. I said that before I joined the Welcome team, and I’ll say it again now. They really work hard and intentionally to try to ensure that everyone entering the church on a Sunday gets a warm welcome, and gets a dedicated person helping them to find a Life Group, meet people, engage socially and generally get plugged in to CCL life.
But we have benchmarks along the way – how many new people did we get ‘Let’s keep in touch’ cards from this month? How many people did we get off our lists because we’ve handed them over to the care of a Life Group leader? How quickly are we getting people from ‘stranger’ to ‘plugged in’?
I’m a leader of one of the small teams within Welcome. Each Sunday we are assigned to a different area of responsibility – greeting at the door, sitting with people during the service, meeting them afterwards, taking them out for coffee beforehand – and it seemed to me that things were getting a little stale. We showed up, we went through the motions, we went home. So I introduced prizes each week – this week’s will be for getting a ‘keep in touch’ card or buying a new person a drink after church (the church reimburses us for this).
It’s working. My new people immediately started responding, and the long-term team members seemed to get a bit of a boost from making it fun and a challenge again. The tasks will get harder as the team’s capabilities increase, but I don’t want the focus to be just on the prizes. It needs to be on the people.
One of my team members said this when we were chatting about it once:
People are not statistics, and the tendency to look at the stats and say things like ‘oh, we don’t seem to have built people into life groups very quickly these last couple of months, do we?’ doesn’t reflect either a true picture of what may be going on on the ground (an exciting influx of internationals, for example, or a lot of new team members, or some of the more needy and broken people we really want to help as a church actually coming to us and needing more welcome time before they find their feet).
Asking questions like ‘why is this statistic showing a downturn?’ can also lead to asking other questions, like ‘what are we doing wrong?’ which, especially when other factors aren’t taken into account, can not only be very damaging to team morale but have a bad influence on our decision making, as we scramble to change trends around that are actually happening because of wider reasons that we may not want to change (stop those needy people coming in, they make my figures look bad!).
So while I want my team to meet and welcome lots of people, I don’t want them to feel pressured to ‘process’ them through the system. If it is taking a while to tick the ‘In a LifeGroup’ box, I don’t want to automatically see that as a failure. Maybe they are really shy and taking a lot of nurturing. Maybe they have never been to church before and are doing an Alpha Course before deciding whether they even want to follow Christ or not, let alone worship with our particular part of His family.
All people are different, and need to be treated as individuals, not statistics. The welcome team, thankfully, attracts the kind of volunteers who don’t need to be told this; they already care more about hearts than statistics.
It is a useful reminder for me, though. What gets measured gets done, so be very careful to measure the right things.