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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


Building a group of climbing companions

reaching the topwith a team

Having the right team exponentially increases your chanses of a sucessful climb

Exert from In Search of Higher Ground

Whatever your Higher Ground may be, starting a business, advancing a career, financial freedom or whatever your dream is, your greatest asset and richest experience will always be people. Never underestimate the need of people in your life. I have a friend who runs a very large organization and has multiple people under his supervision. Recently while talking with him, he told me that he has made a habit of investing in people’s lives. Over the past 25 years he has written on the average of 40 handwritten letters per day. Letters to friends, colleagues, employees, executives, customers, family, and anyone else who came to his mind. I began to think about all of the people he has invested in. People that he has encouraged when they were down, said thank you for a job well done, and said congratulations when they had accomplished a task. He has undoubtedly built a large network of people that believe in him, because he first believed in them.

With all of the investing he has done in people’s lives, I wonder if when a need arises in his life, how long it will take for people to rally to his side? If he needed financial assistance, wanted to build a team, needed advice, wanted to open a door that seemed to be shut, or was in need of a favor, he could very easily have hundreds of people by his side ready to help when he called out. Why is this possible? Because he has invested in people’s lives…

My friend has not made the tragic mistake that many make. First, he has not burned any bridges. In other words, his life has been spent living with integrity and investing in people’s lives. People often burn bridges with others and soon they find themselves without a bridge to cross. (We will talk more about how to build bridges a little later in this chapter.) Second, he has not looked at one person and said, “I don’t need you, or you don’t matter.” He has realized that every person is loaded with potential. When you negatively or positively affect people, you not only are affecting them, you will ultimately affect who they influence…

Everyone has potential to do great and wonderful things. They are unique creatures of God that are made to do wonderful works. The job of someone who “connects” with others is to help them understand and believe in their abilities. To help them realize they are a well of fresh water that is waiting to be tapped.

When you think of the familiar saying, “What goes around, comes around,” you tend to think of negative actions. If you are dishonest, lie or cheat, in the end it will come back to haunt you. But have you ever thought of using this familiar saying with a positive action? For instance, if I sow seeds of success in other people’s lives, then according to this adage I will reap success for my own. This is true! If you will help those you are connected with succeed in their lives, you will never lack success in your own.

Until Next time,

Chris Sonksen


“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

When Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people

Don't give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard.

Regardless of your profession, you will always deal with difficult people. People that rub you the wrong way, get under your skin and stand on your last nerve. People that bring more joy into your life when they exit the room, then when they enter. The question is not whether you will have these people in your life; the question is how you will handle it?

In dealing with these types of people the objective is not about who is winning or losing or who is right or wrong. The objective is about understanding. Stephen Covey once wrote, “Seek first to understand, before trying to be understood.” These words possess the solution to dealing with difficult people. Because even when a person is wrong, they still felt there was a reason for them to get upset.

Here are a few tips that may help you when dealing with difficult people:

1) Don’t join the fight
Difficult people can often yell, be sarcastic, be critical, and say harsh words to you or about you. Do not join in their game. Don’t give them the satisfaction of lowering yourself to their standard. You have to do what’s right even when they do what’s wrong.

2) Let them talk their feelings out

They may need to vent a little and you may need to listen. You may not agree or you may feel they’re in the wrong, but their emotions won’t be satisfied until they’re expressed.

3) Seek to understand
Why is it that they act the way they act? What is it inside of them that creates this problem? Are they insecure? Do they need recognition? Are they hurt from a past relationship? People act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs about themselves. Understand this and it will help you along in the process.

4) Ask them for advice
People love to hear themselves talk and they love it even more if their opinion is being valued. If there is a problem, ask them what they feel the solution is and what steps need to be taken to resolve the problem. Even if their solution makes no logical sense, it will allow them to be involved in the resolving process.

5) Apologize when necessary
You need to take a hard look inside of yourself and discover if there is anything that is creating a problem or causing difficulty for the person. A good leader always looks in the mirror before they look out the window. What part of the problem might you be contributing?  Is there anything that you could own and take responsibility for?

People are your greatest asset and it’s your job as their leader to keep your people moving forward with optimistic energy. People are going to be difficult, personalities are going to clash, because that is a part of life. But, if you will work hard at working with people, then people will work hard for you!

Until next week,

Chris Sonksen

“Instead of giving people a piece of your mind, give them a piece of your positive attitude.”

– Ben Franklin

Tips for coping with critical people – Part 1

Learning to cope with criticism

Learning to cope with criticism

One of the most difficult challenges facing leaders is learning to cope with criticism.  The greater your influence grows the greater the criticism grows.  If you’re going to be a mover and a shaker, if you’re going to attempt great things, if you’re going to deal with people at any level you will, without a doubt, face criticism.

With the reality of the inevitable critic it would be to every leader’s advantage to discover ways to cope with criticism.  If you do not discover a method for handling criticism then you are destined to continually struggle as people serve you their hard hits of judgment.  No matter how much we would like to believe in our personal confidence we are all vulnerable to criticism and we allow it to become a stronghold in our life.

Here are some ways to help you in coping with critical people:

1)  Face the critic within
A team of sociologists studied a small community and discovered that each of them admit to criticizing those around them.  The same group of people interviewed, were appalled to discover that they themselves were often criticized by those closest to them.  The result of the study was that each person must realize they are being criticized but more importantly they themselves are critical about others.  This is a hard reality!  Each one of us, criticize to some degree.  The first step in overcoming the critics around you is to face the critic with in you.  Admit your problem and then begin correcting it and you will be on a road to coping with the hardest of critics.

2)  Don’t tune them out
Your critics may have something valuable to say, they may have some truth behind their complaint.  E. Stanley Jones was quoted as saying “Critics are the unpaid watchmen of my soul.”    Criticism can help you, if you will take less time being offended and more time being creative and discover the hidden gems behind the hurtful comment.  However, you must be smart enough to know when someone’s criticism is meant to hurt you and has no truth in it.  These are the ones that you must tune out!  Remember their criticisms say more about them than about you.

3)  Filter the amount you let in
It is easy to focus ourselves on the one negative comment and ignore the ninety nine positive comments.  I am guilty of this myself!  I will step off a stage, after making a presentation, have a hundred people tell me how wonderful it was, but when one person makes a negative comment I begin to focus all my energies on figuring out why this person doesn’t like me.  It is a horrible trap to fall into.  Be careful not to allow one person to dominate your time and energy because of their critical spirit.  Know what you need to listen to and know what you need to tune out.
4)  Host a complaint session
If you have someone who is continually criticizing you, set up an appointment with the person.  Go into the meeting with humility and simply say “I know you have some concerns about me and I wanted to give you an opportunity to share them one on one.”  Make sure in the meeting to limit their time to complain.  Don’t let it turn into a bashing session on you.  After they have shared their concerns, address them confidently and humbly.  Ask the person at the end of the meeting to work with you, by not sharing these complaints to others, but by partnering with you to overcome the possible problem.

Next time, I will continue giving you practical ideas for coping with critical people.  Work on the four ideas I gave you with those critics that surround you.  If you’re a leader then you have no choice but to discover ways to cope with the inevitable criticism.  Learn how to deal with it now and it will save you a lot of personal heartache.

Until next time,



“In the end, criticism discredits the critic.”
Denny Duron

“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