I am a fan of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. I find his writing to be so clever and creative. I’ve read through his books several times and still let out a hearty laugh at the characters. When I had the chance to watch Disney’s Christopher Robin, I couldn’t wait. The creative team did a good job of honoring Milne’s tone and original authorship.

There is a specific scene in the movie that I want to highlight here. It’s when the whole team is setting out on an adventure to help Christopher Robin. Right as they are about to walk through the hole in the tree to the adventure that awaits them, Piglet pauses. He is so afraid he’s not sure he wants to continue. In an amazing display of leadership, Pooh looks back, extends out his hand and says, “We need you.” To which Piglet replies, “You need me?!?” Pooh then replies, “We always need you.”

In that one phrase, Piglet’s fears were quelled. It gave him a sense of worth. It made him feel like he has gifts to bring to the team that are important. He felt seen, heard, and loved. And while he will continue to struggle with fears, at this point in time, he was brought along in a way that gave him life. He felt like he was part of something bigger.

On our teams, this is what we all want – to include those we lead. As a leader, we play a part in making that happen by how we come alongside our teammates on a regular basis, providing feedback.

What I have found, however, is that we are not always good at giving continual feedback.

I am often surprised to hear that most pastors do not receive regular feedback from people above them or have not (ever!) had a performance review! It leads me to wonder – who is pouring into our leaders, encouraging them, helping them to feel seen, heard and loved? Or simply, encouraged?

I think part of the problem is we think that feedback needs to be complicated or seems like a difficult task. For sure, going from zero to performance review is a daunting task, and also is something you should NOT do… yet. Instead, consider incorporating an easier model of continuous feedback.

In the 1980s, Management by Walking/Wandering Around (MBWA) gained traction. It was a way for managers to stay involved in a continual way and to be accessible to their employees. In the early 2000s, coaching became a popular concept, where the manager served as a coach, inspiring his/her team along. There have been other models before these two examples, and there will be more to follow. What I want to draw out is the simple practice of continual feedback that was gleaned from these models.

And, hold your breath here: You don’t need forms to accomplish this! You don’t need a designated process. It’s really a matter of treating people like…, well, people. Yep, it is that simple.

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few practical pieces to consider. Drop other suggestions in the comments!

You don’t need a formal process to offer someone a piece of encouragement, or to point out an area of concern. However, if you relegate your feedback to fist bumps in the hallway, the casualness of that approach waters down the effectiveness of what you hope to accomplish.

Highlight Strengths

Instead, on a regular basis, make it a point to find a way to encourage those that you lead – intentionally and specifically.

  • What strengths do you see?
  • How do you see God at work in and through them?
  • What gifts do they have?
  • What have they accomplished in the past week or two to which you can specifically call attention?

It can be short and simple; it does not need to be a lengthy conversation. And honestly, just asking about something shows you care – even you don’t say that whatever you’re referencing was done with excellence.

Approach Growth Areas Early

Where there are growth areas, step into these and start to reframe how you think about these conversations. It is not a point of conflict or a confrontation, rather it is having a hard conversation. And if someone has an area to work on, perhaps no one has ever told them about it – how would they know? Really, it is an opportunity to show love.

Start early, and don’t wait. If you wait until this growth area starts to spiral out of control, you may end up coming to the conversation with a lot of weight (and heat!) because your own patience has worn thin. Don’t let that happen. That’s not a good way to lead.

  • Be direct as well, don’t be passive or elusive.
  • Speak truth in love.
  • Be gentle, but firm where needed.
  • But above all be honest – with yourself and with the person you are talking to.

You may actually learn something that you did not know in these conversations.   

Delay The Notes

When having these on the spot and frequent conversations, don’t capture notes in the middle of the meeting. That does not help grow trust or strengthen relationships. It actually robs the joy of the conversation with your teammate. They feel processed, instead of the love that you hoped for.

Don’t Ignore

And don’t simply cut someone’s water off, hoping they slowly start to go away. Be a leader and step into hard situations. Always give someone a chance to improve. And be sure to check your own heart in these conversations. Is it really a growth area, or perhaps you just don’t like that character trait of a person?

On my teams, I regularly check in with them on how they are doing, try to follow up on events that have taken place, and when I see the gifts that God gave them on display, specifically and intentionally call them out. When growth areas or hard conversations are needed, I do them directly and immediately. I never want my teammates wondering what value they bring to the team. They need to know, as we all do!

Let me encourage you: Go do it – right now!

Be a leader that gives continual feedback to those you get to partner with in ministry. Be an encourager. Have the hard conversations where needed. And help your teammates feel like they, too, are needed for the adventure ahead. We want all the parts working together, towards a common goal, as we lead the way.

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Dan Spino

Discipleship Pastor at West Shore Free Church
Dan is of the church, but not from the church. He currently serves at West Shore Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA as the Discipleship Pastor. He has spent a large part of his career in Organizational Culture and Talent. And he has a love for helping the local church grow to be healthy, wanting her to be the best bride of Christ she can be.

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1 Comment

  1. Greg Scharf on April 3, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    Hi, Dan. Thanks for this. I’m just listening to an audiobook, Thanks for the Feedback. Worth reading. Best , Greg Scharf

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