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The Right Staff Will Create a Great Team

Hiring the right staff is so important to the health and growth of your organization. Whether you you are a church, a small business owner or the CEO of a large company, the right people make all the difference.  I have had and currently have the pleasure of hiring and working with some fabulous people (both at South Hills and in my business life). I have also had the disappointment and headaches associated with hiring people who were not a good fit for my team. Below is an article featuring an interview from Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen with some great tips to finding and hiring the right staff for your organization. The article is church specific, but the most of the information is great for the business world as well.

“An Interview with Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen”
by Dan Reiland

As an executive pastor I’ve been hiring staff for over twenty years. I’m still learning. My experience is extensive, but I still make mistakes. Let’s be candid, hiring the right people is complicated. There is no formula or textbook that can give you the seven steps to create a “happily ever after” story every time.

Since I like to learn, I asked two friends of mine, Tony Morgan and William Vanderbloemen if they would agree to an interview. They both have considerable pastoral experience and also have special expertise in hiring as part of a professional search firm. VanderbloemenSearch

Both William and Tony have come to 12Stone to teach a leadership lesson to our ministry staff, and they have become trusted advisors and good friends. Let me introduce you to each one, and then share the interview with you.

William is the president of the Vanderbloemen Search Group. He has over 15 years of ministry experience as a senior pastor of three churches ranging in size from 350 to over 5,000. He has also served as a manager of human resources at a Fortune 200 corporation, and learned executive search from a mentor with twenty-five years of top-level search experience. William, his wife Adrienne, their seven children, and two poodles (one small who thinks she’s big, and one big who thinks he is a lap dog) live in Houston, Texas. In his free time, William enjoys running, working out, and caddying for his kids, who are now better golfers than he is. As an avid social networker you can contact him at

Tony serves on the leadership team of West Ridge Church near Atlanta. He’s also a strategist, writer and consultant who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. For more than 10 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at NewSpring Church and Granger Community Church. Tony used to be in local government for about ten years before he transitioned into ministry. In his last role, he was a city manager where he was responsible for a staff of 150 employees and a $20 million budget. Tony and his wife, Emily, reside near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children–Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke. You can follow Tony’s writing on a variety of topics including his disdain for country music at

1. Why is hiring the right people so difficult?

Tony – As pastors, we don’t hire that often and therefore we aren’t highly practiced at it. So, for many, that means not being very good at it. Further, our wiring as pastors tends to cause us to see the best in people and the good in general. That’s good, but we also need a discerning eye in order to assess the right skills for the right job, and be able to quickly spot those who are not the right fit.

William – People are afraid to make a mistake, and fear is a bad ingredient in the hiring process. For those I’ve met who are not afraid, they often rush into it and hire someone they know and feel comfortable with rather than doing a thorough search. In contrast, when you do a comprehensive job interviewing several top candidates your chances of making a good decision increase exponentially.

2. What are the costs and impacts of hiring the wrong person?

Tony – When you choose new staff members poorly you are often choosing to cause good people to leave your team. Maybe not right away, but the good ones will not stay if you begin to hire low-performance players onto your team. Hiring the wrong person causes loss of momentum. It’s destabilizing to the team, and you can easily lose 12-18 months of what could have been a highly productive season.

William – I recently read a study from the corporate world that said you lose a minimum of ten times the salary that you pay the person when you make a bad hire and need to fire them. I think it’s more in the church. The relational, political, and vision loss is so great that the total cost is nearly incalculable, especially the higher the level of responsibility. It’s almost better not to hire than to hire wrong.

3. What are the qualities you look for in sharp ministry leaders?

Tony – Off the top, I want to see a leadership gift, ability to build teams, and shared vision and values of the organization. Let me give you a fuller answer by directing you to a blog post that you might find helpful on this question.

William – First, I believe this is much more art than science, so it really depends on what the church needs more than a set list of characteristics. I consider hiring as important as an organ transplant. Using this metaphor, nearly half of what I do is finding the right donor list, but more than half is making sure I find the right tissue match. If I don’t, the body will reject it. That said, in general, I like to see spiritual agility, loyalty to the mission and leadership, and their past performance really matters to me. That is the best indicator of what they will do in the future.

4. Describe a big hiring mistake you have made as a pastor in the local church.

Tony – I had a situation where I was hiring someone for a director level position in a specialized role. His resume said he was exactly what we needed. But some red flags came up during the interviews. He said he was a detailed and systems guy – which the job required. All other indicators, however, including his profile testing, said he was much more of a people person. The mistake I made was that I did not pay attention to my gut. I didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit promptings, the assessments, and what I was intuitively picking up in the interviews.

William – Well, I’ve made the classic mistakes. I’ve hired too fast and fired too slow. But one that comes to mind is that I hired three guys right out of seminary at the same time. They were my dream team, or that was my dream. They were sharp, but highly inexperienced. They were talented, but I didn’t realize how much training they would require and I didn’t have the margin to give it to them. I wasn’t able to carry out that responsibility and that was a big mistake.

5. Do you recommend talking about salary up front, or deeper into the process?

Tony – For me, the issue is about being called, and the salary factor comes in later. It’s about the right fit and whether or not God wants them on the team. If it’s a fit, I might consider adjusting the compensation, if we can, in order to get the right person. But it raises a red flag if the person is too interested in the financial package too soon.

William – It depends on the situation, but in general, I agree with Tony. I want to know if they are called, rather than in it for the money. On occasion, however, there are circumstances that call for discussing salary up front. For example, if a large gap is anticipated between what we offer and what they expect – we might at least address that in general up front, but then do real details later.

6. You both are pastors, but also serve as part of a search firm. In what ways does your company help us hire the right people?

William and Tony – The first one is time. Most pastors we talk to just don’t have the time to do what it takes to hire well. The second is that we are in touch with a broader base of people to choose from. One more benefit is that we’re good at it. We have much more time at bat. We are practiced, so we have developed some skills that most church leaders haven’t had time to cultivate. We help you avoid costly mistakes.

Thanks to both Tony and William. This is such an important topic! Hiring smart is the first step toward building great church staff teams!!

As a side note; we have used VanderbloemenSearch here at South Hills and have love the results. I highly recommend them!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”  – Larry Bossidy


Handshake – Howard Schultz and the Choice of Adding Value to Others

Howard Schultz employee

Howard Schultz makes adding value a priority

Adding Value to others is crucial in every area of your life, business, family, friends and even the stranger you meet today. Adding value to others is always reflected back to you.  This next excerpt from my new book Handshake is on Howard Schultz and the priority he gave to valuing everyone in the Starbucks organization.

Between 1987 and 1992, Starbucks, under Schultz, opened 150 new stores.  By September of 2009 Schultz was operating stores in more than 50 countries, through more than 16,000 stores around the world.

Schultz always said that the main goal was, “to serve a great cup of coffee.”  But attached to this goal was a principle:  Schultz said he wanted “to build a company with soul.”  This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail.  Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage.  Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.  These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover.

… Starbucks has achieved what many thought impossible under the umbrella that if you add value to people, value will be added to you.  In a society that is self-driven, adding value to people may seem like a waste of time. Those who think that way have no clue to the power that comes from this practice.  When you determine to be “others” minded, you have made a decision that will alter your life.

Listed are some of the benefits you will learn in this chapter regarding adding value to those around you:

a)    You deposit success into others

b)    You build your network

c)    You build loyalty

d)    You build longevity

e)    You create a winning atmosphere

f)    You increase your level of influence

g)    You will receive a great return on your investment

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.
— Flora Edwards

Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring


Take the time to hire the right person

I remember a time in my organization where we were looking to add to our staff.  After reviewing many applicants we narrowed the field down to three.  After more contemplation and grueling interviews, we made an offer to what we “thought” was our best choice.  He accepted the position and we began moving forward.  He seemed to everyone on the executive team as the person that would add the greatest value to our organization and he seemed to be a fit for all of us.  WOW…where we wrong.

This individual wasn’t a fit at all.  The value I hoped that he would add just wasn’t there.  If I could do it all over again I would not hire that individual and I would have saved us money and time and even some hurt feelings.  One of the greatest decisions a leader must make is hiring the right person.  I have heard it said that “people are always the problem and they are always the solution.”  If you want to move forward with your organization and you want to go to the top, it will be strongly dependent on the people you hire.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid in your hiring process:

Don’t hire out of desperation
Often we put the word out, go through the interviewing process and find that there isn’t much out there.  So we are left to settle for the lesser of two evils.  We end up throwing good judgment out the window and make a hire in desperation to fill the need.  This move will, in the end, cost you more than if you had waited.  Be careful not to make this fatal mistake.

Don’t ignore your personal feelings or gut reaction
If you don’t like a candidate in the initial interview – when the person should be at their best – chances are you won’t like the person later.  I am not saying everything rises and falls on your first meeting, but don’t be afraid to go with your intuition.

Don’t hire someone who has the ability but lacks the people skills
I always say that you can teach someone to run a computer or to organize an event, but it is very difficult to teach someone people skills.  I would rather have someone who needs a few weeks of training to get caught up, but is great with people, than someone who is technically advanced but socially unfit.  Be careful not to let your good judgment be blinded by someone’s great ability.  Their inability to connect with others may cost you more then they can achieve.

Don’t be vague
When you hire someone don’t be in such a hurry that you become vague about their roles and responsibilities.  It is important that they know exactly what they are getting into and what is expected of them.  If you are not clear about your expectations then you will be setting the relationship up for frustration.  Be clear, put it in writing and hold them accountable to it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“You can buy a man’s time; you can even buy his physical presence at a given place, but you cannot buy enthusiasm…you cannot buy loyalty…you cannot buy devotion of hearts, minds or souls.”
Charles Frances

Team Building for a Thriving Church


Seek the best players for the team

Seek the best players for your team

Once you have established the dream or vision for your church, the team to match the dream must be assembled or re-assembled. You should strive to get everyone on your team moving together (Clarity, Movement, Alignment, Focus). A key thought to remember is, “What you pay attention to grows”, so “If you don’t staff to your purpose…your purpose (church) won’t grow”. The first step in this process is to evaluate your team.

Following are some questions to ask…

               1. Is this the team that can carry out the dream?

               2. Are there players on the team that need to be adjusted?

               3. Do each of my team members have

– Character

– Competency

– Chemistry

 4. Is my team assembled according to my purpose and process?


Here is an analogy to consider, each staff/leader you have sits in 1 of 3 positions:

1. They are on the right bus

2. They are on the right bus but in the wrong seat

3. They need to find a different bus


What happens when a leader allows a member of the team to stay in the wrong seat or on the wrong bus?

 a. Stronger members begin to pick up the slack for the weaker members

b. Stronger members begin to resent weaker members

c. Stronger members become less effective

d. Stronger members begin to question the leader’s ability


When you determine that you need to hire new team members, the next step is to determine the kind of players you are looking for. Never be afraid to go after the best. Strong leaders want to be at a place where they can stretch their leadership muscles. Don’t allow your insecurity, uncertainty or ego get in the way of adding high level players to your team.


Some things to consider about potential team members are…

 1. They are results driven

a. They know how to get things done

b. They flat out produce

2. They are highly influential.

a. They attract people

b. People like them

c. People want to serve under them

3. They add value to you, the team and the church

4. They attract other leaders

a. They don’t just attract followers…they attract leaders

5. They build teams

a. They can build a blue print of how their team will look

b. They can get people on board and moving in the same direction

6. They know how to equip and resource

7. They provide inspiring ideas

8. They can problem solve

a. The higher the level of player you have the less problems they should be solving (push problems down to the lowest level possible)

9. They possess uncommon positive attitudes

10. They are committed to the vision

a. Highly committed to the purpose and process

11. They have loyalty


Finally, here are some suggestions for interviewing and hiring a new staff member

 1. Ask a lot of questions and host multiple interviews with the various people on your team (if you “Hire hard you will manage easy”).

 2. Ask questions about their current or former places of employment (pay attention if they speak poorly of their former boss or work place. If they do—take caution! If they speak poorly of them it is a matter of time before they speak poorly of you).

 3. Ask them to prepare a layout of what they will do the first 6 months to a year if they were to get the job.

 4. Ask them for ideas of how their ministry (if hired) would fulfill the process (in their opinion).

 5. Make sure you have a clear job description, expectations and purpose and process.


Until next time,

 Chris Sonksen


 “The team on top of the mountain didn’t fall there”

Author Unknown


What every staff member wants from their leader Part – 2

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of your staff

Any great leader realizes that their personal success or failure is highly dependent on the success or failure of their staff.  You always rise to the level of those you surround yourself with.  A leader also knows that the level that a staff rises to falls on their shoulders.  It is the responsibility of any good leader to bring out the absolute best in every team member.

Last time we took a look at the first five things that every staff member wants from their leader.  Let’s review them quickly:
1)Your staff wants to be treated as leaders with high value and potential, not as “hired hands.”
2)Your staff wants a commitment to “adult-adult”, open and mature communication.
3)Your staff wants clear expectations.
4)Your staff wants to be rewarded for their work.
5)Your staff wants training for personal and professional growth.

Those are the first five things that your staff wants from you.  Now let’s take a closer look at the remaining five:

6)  Your staff wants opportunity for increasing their responsibility.
If your staff member doesn’t want to grow in their level of responsibility then you might need to re-evaluate them.  Good staff members want to grow in their responsibility because they want to grow personally.  Give them opportunities to increase their duties and their level of authority and watch how the great ones will rise to the top.

7)  Your staff wants to be able to vent disappointment, disagreement and frustration without condemnation.
You must learn to have an open door policy.  You want your staff to feel at ease speaking with you as the leader without feeling like they will be judged or condemned for their feelings.  Work hard on your communication skills with your staff.  If you do this, you will help to build bridges in your organization.

8)  Your staff wants the resources needed to accomplish their work with excellence.
This is a giant issue, especially when it comes to non-profit organization.  In our attempt to save money we minimize our staff by providing inadequate resources to accomplish the work.  Make sure that you set your staff up for success.  If they fail it won’t be because you didn’t provide them what they needed to succeed.

9)  Your staff wants loyalty from you.
Be loyal to them.  Build a place of trust in their life.  They need to feel that they can share anything with you in private and it stays with you.  They need to know that you have their back and that you are on their side.

10)  Your staff wants leadership.
You must be the leader, not based on title but based on the influence in their lives, the vision you provide and the winning atmosphere you create.  You are the leader…so lead.  Learn everything you can about leadership, read every book, attend great seminars, but at any cost learn to lead.  The future of your organization and your staff’s success is counting on it.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen


“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines
instinct with boldness and effort – it is ready to climb.”
Pat Riley

Tips for coping with critical people Part – 2

The Wright Brothers faced criticism throughout their experiment in aviation

The Wright Brothers faced criticism throughout their experiment in aviation

This week we continue with part two of an article I call “Tips for coping with critical people.”  We must realize that within any occupation or position of leadership criticism will always follow you.  Sometimes the criticism is constructive and meant to help you become a higher quality leader or individual.  Other times the criticism is meant to hurt you and is motivated by a person of insecurity or envy.  Either way you have to be prepared to handle criticism properly, because there is no escaping it!

In my book “In Search of Higher Ground” I point out that the Wright Brothers faced criticism throughout their experiment in aviation.  For most people it was a crazy notion that someone could fly.  People actually thought that the human body could not withstand going faster then 100 m.p.h.  The Wright Brothers obviously succeeded and today we all reap the benefits of their ability to overcome criticism.

Before I give you a few more tips on dealing with criticism, let’s review the points in last week’s article of Leadership Matters:

Face the critic within (Take a look inside of yourself and discover the areas where you are critical)
Don’t tune them out  (Be sure to listen and decide what could be helpful)
Filter the amount you let in (Be careful to allow only certain voices to have a place in your life)
Host a complaint session (If you have someone who continues to criticize, host a meeting with them and talk it out)

Here are a few more “Tips for coping with critical people”

1)  Put things in perspective
The hard part of living with critics is that we care more about what they say then we would like to admit.  One way to help you avoid letting the criticism beat you up is to keep it in the proper perspective.  Is what they are saying true?  Are they only saying it because they are envious or insecure?  Keep in mind the source of the information and allow what is good to impact you and what is bad, you throw it out.

2)  Beware of the critic’s triangle
Most critics complain to several people before they complain to you.  Much like gossips, they review your performance in front of your colleagues when you are not present.  You can detect these kinds of critics because they make remarks about others when they are with you.  You may be tempted to let down your guard because these people make your feel as if you are one of their dearest confidants.  When you are surrounded by this kind of critic, be careful, they will subtly and carefully hurt you in more ways then one!

3) Don’t let criticism kill your dreams
Perhaps the deadliest poison to your dreams is criticism.  We allow what people say to dictate our attitude toward our own aspirations.  Think of Walt Disney, he had a dream to create a theme park called “Disneyland.”  He was rejected by over 450 lending institutions and many criticized his ideas saying “it will never work Walt, give it up.”  He never allowed the critic to kill his dream and now millions have benefited from his ability to overcome the critic.  Stay focused on your dream and don’t allow the critic to slow you down!

Criticism can be a wonderful tool in shaping your potential or it can be a destructive tool destroying your soul.  Be careful in dealing with criticism, learn from it and move on, but don’t ever let it slow you down!

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen

“If you don’t have a few people laughing at your dreams,
it may just mean your not dreaming big enough.”
Dale Galloway

“Selecting the right players for your team”

“If you have a Mt. Everest Dream you will need a Mt. Everest Team.”

“If you have a Mt. Everest Dream you will need a Mt. Everest Team.”

Maybe you have heard the statement “If you have a Mt. Everest Dream you will need a Mt. Everest Team.”  It is true!  If you have a desire to achieve greatness in your life, you cannot do it alone, you will need a Team.  The level of that Team will determine the level of your success.  You may be the greatest leader in your field, have tremendous people skills, communicate well and know how to motivate people, but without the right team you cannot win the game!

Whenever I am viewing a potential team member or re-viewing the current team members I ask myself the following questions.  These questions serve as a guideline to determine if they are the right player for me.

1)  Do they believe and support the Vision?
If you have team members with different vision, then the vision becomes blurry.  There must be a clear vision that you provide and a support and belief in that vision from each team member.

2)  Do they share the same Values?
Your team members must share in the values of your organization or you will continually have difficulty in your relationship with them.

3)  Is there loyalty to the leader, the team and the organization?
We often make the mistake of excusing a lack of loyalty because the individual possesses certain gifts or talents.  Take caution!  If they are not loyal then the relationship is ultimately doomed!  THEY MUST BE LOYAL!

4)  Do they add value to the team?
The organization must be better because this team member is a part of it.  If they don’t bring value to the table then why are they there!!  Remember a great team member is an asset not a liability.

5)  Do they possess the desire for personal growth?
You don’t want team members who have no desire for personal growth.  Ask them what books they have read lately, what seminars they have attended, do they have accountability partners.  Each team member must be on a path for personal growth.

6)  Are they self-motivated?
If they are not self starters you don’t want them.  You need people who don’t need you to constantly tell them what to do.  Find people who can get the job done!

7)   Do they have natural people skills?
You can teach someone a trait but it is difficult to teach someone people skills.  In my profession people skills is absolutely necessary.  If you decide to place someone on your team without people skills then be prepared to continually clean up the mess they make.  Good people skills are priceless to a team!
These are the seven questions I ask myself when observing current or potential team members.  Use these questions as guidelines and they will help you to create your own Dream Team!!

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen


“The main ingredient for stardom is the rest of the team.”
John Wooden