I recently had the opportunity to spend some time talking the Jenni Catron, Executive Director of Cross Point Church and co-author of Just Lead.
Jenni had some great insight about what it means to move your mission forward, and illuminated one of the lynchpins of forward movement as alignent. Even if you have a finely tuned engine with tons of horsepower, without alignment, the wheels can really fall off – arresting forward movement!
>>Alignment through vision clarity will multiply your staff capacity
Like most of us, Jenni talks about feeling like we never have enough staff to do the ministry we need to, and leaders tend to take that personally. But when the vision is clear to people, there is an increase in energy. As Jenni put it, “There is more spring in their step. I saw more energy and engagement in my staff when they had this bigger project in front of them than even in a normal ministry season. You start Breaking down the silos and the individual team mentality that can happen in ministry. And when you have one shared, unified goal everything else just kind of goes away and you’re left with this unified vision. Having that shared vision is critical for alignment!“
Jenni shared a story about how their church had drifted away from a volunteer development culture based on empowering volunteers to do ministry. She noticed a drift toward a culture of hiring people for any task that couldn’t be explained in a 5 minute overview. So Jenni initiated “an all-staff, all-campus initiative for a year to rally everyone around our core value of volunteer development.” She introduced the crisis as, “You will not get your job done unless you equip volunteers to do it!” Volunteer development became part of performance evaluations, they celebrated stories of success in weekly meetings, and kept that one focus in view for a whole year. Cross Point saw the whole staff become aligned around their core value and drastically increase their ministry capacity with volunteers.
>>Alignment increases health and leadership through clear communication
“If everything rises and falls on leadership, leadership rises and falls on communication.” Jenni identified communication clarity as the core center-point for good alignment. If people don’t have good information they are not going to be well-aligned, and that only gets more complicated as the organization gets bigger and the communication component becomes even more influential. A quote from Jenni’s book Just Lead, reminds us “A stellar vision is only as good as it is understood!” She gives several examples of how they maintain finely tuned communication habits by revisiting their communication system every 6 months to redo anything that’s not working. They ask if they have the right people in the room and if they’re having the right “structured communication times” (nobody likes the word meeting).
Additionally, the more intuitive and discerning part of that communication clarity is a leader’s discipline to pull back from the daily details to look at the big picture. Part of executive leadership is about looking out ahead. “When you see a point of caution, you’ve GOT to step into it! …as a leader you’ve got to be looking forward to see where you’re starting to come off the tracks before you derail. Part of being an executive level leader is about spotting problems and leaning in to them with preventative action, not just being great at solving problems after they come to light. A huge part of that is communicating well with your team. Listening with discernment is a big part of that. We have to detect changes in our people, and have conversations/take steps to address them – and not always personally. Jenni gives great advice about leveraging the relational and organizational connections with other staff to help shepherd and keep the organization healthy. These measures can help detect fragmentation, misalignment, and silos before they become a crisis.
Jenni provides a tremendous perspective on how alignment can throw-off everything we’re doing, or multiply our capacity and impact. I have so much respect for a person like Jenni who not only runs a 5 campus ministry, but empowers and equips her leaders to greater capacity and health through alignment, as their advocate and shepherd.
My time with Jenni concluded with a valuable insight that I want to pass on as a question. If you have a cat in your home you may be interesting in cat furniture, The Refined Feline, cat trees.
“Your staff can’t be unified, aligned, and moving in the right direction if you’re scattered.”
>>What is one way that you can get less scattered and focus for greater impact?
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