How to Maximize Communication While Minimizing Meetings

A number of years ago I was having coffee with my friend and mentor, Leon Fontaine. He had just taken on the role as CEO of the Miracle Channel on top of his already busy life as Senior Pastor of a 6-site mega-church and a high in demand conference speaker. I was curious as to how he could balance such a busy schedule and remain excellent in every role. For the next couple of hours he explained to me his reporting system.

I have to admit, I was amazed at the simplistic wisdom of a regular reporting system. It allows excellent management and staff accountability while minimizing the need for time consuming meetings. Although, I certainly was not as busy as Leon or pastoring a church as big and complex as Springs Church, I saw the immense value a reporting system could add to my leadership team. I left our coffee meeting and drove immediately to my office and began creating reports for my leadership team using Google Docs. Here are some of the insights I gained from Leon and from the previous 4 years I've instituted a reporting system.

  1. Require your staff and key leaders to report weekly. Failing to report in the business world is grounds for dismissal. It should be stressed to your team that you value their reports as much as a business manager would in the secular workplace.
  2. Ask only 7-10 questions. Don't make your reports too long or complicated. You want to make it as easy as possible for your team to report to you. After all, you want them to spend their valuable time working on their assignments, not on their reports.
  3. Ask ministry specific questions. Each leader's questions should be different and specific to their ministry and area of responsibility. When designing your questions for each specific staff member or volunteer, ask yourself, "What do I need to know?" "What do I regularly ask this person?" It is also important to ask questions that lead them to your core values. For instance, I highly value volunteer recruitment and team growth, so I ask each of my staff members this simple question, "Was anyone added to your team this week?" When a staff member has to answer this question each and every week in their report, they will constantly be on the lookout for new recruits and be focused on growing their team. Asking the right questions is a powerful way to lead.
  4. Always ask these two questions on everyone's report regardless of role or responsibility. #1 - How are you doing personally? The purpose of asking this question is to provide opportunities for your staff to share their feelings, stresses, and give you insight into their private worlds. There is nothing more frustrating for a boss than confronting a poor performing employee, only to find out that there is some extreme circumstance in their private life causing them immense personal stress and distration to their day to day activities with you. I think it is important to provide an opportunity for your staff and volunteers to share openly about their state of mind to avoid these types of surprises. Another important thing to consider is that people will answer this question vaguely with responses like, "good" and "ok". But what does that mean exactly? Good can mean "outstanding" and "never been better" to one person and to another it could mean "I could be great, but I'm feeling things slip a bit." So I decided to make this question multiple choice on a sliding scale and when I see this week to week I can judge each employee's change of scale. The multiple choice options are:

    • I'm stressed
    • I'm tired
    • I'm ok
    • I'm doing great
    • I'm excited and full of vision

    #2 - How are you getting along with your leaders and teammates right now? Again, it's frustrating as a leader to become aware of  a tension in the team when it's too late or when it blows up into a full scale conflict. I found one of the best ways to keep unity on our team is to regularly ask each member this question and again, provide multiple choice options for them to fill in. If I am alerted to something, I will probe deeper by asking the individual privately about their comment. The multiple choice options are:

    • Someone is causing me great anxiety right now
    • Someone is slowing me down and burdening me
    • We're okay and working together fine
    • Everyone is helpful and contributing to the vision
    • What a team! Couldn't do this without them

Here is a sample Google Doc Report I currently have all of my key staff and volunteers fill in each week: Sunday Service Debrief

Question: If you need further explanation or have any questions in regards to designing a reporting system, please comment in the "Leave a Reply" box below.