How do you keep leaders from pressing the Eject button?

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Future of Cru
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After some good dialogue in my last post on the Civil Rights Movement, here is Post #5 in my series on the Future of CRU and it was inspired by a post Michael Hyatt tweeted out on retaining talent. It’s worth reading because this is such an under-appreciated element of leadership and in ministry especially.  Check out the full post here:

This is the graphic I want to highlight which lists 5 biggest reasons people flee their jobs. I have a few thoughts I’ll share below.


In organizational ministry, we spend tons and tons and tons of hours ($ money) on trying to get more laborers and more leaders to join the organization.  But much less time is invested in assessing whether we’re retaining the right people and if our culture is helping those new leaders succeed.  It sometimes seems like we like to just keep moving ahead with the more leaders and more teams part and we don’t enter in as fully to the question of retaining leaders.  This isn’t a unique struggle to just my organization, but it’s a challenge across the board.

Of those reasons above listed as to why people press the eject button in ministry – #2 – #4 are fairly common I think (#2 & #4 especially):  Failures in empowerment, Politics (Power Games), & Lack of Recognition are often just as much evident in ministry as in other places. I personally think those of us in ministry, if we’re experts at anything, we should be experts in empowering others, stewarding power humbly and serving others, and encouraging others with reminders that they are seen, known, and believed in.  These three areas can make or break any aspirations for a true “leadership culture.”  They don’t seem to come naturally and seem to require great intentionality.

I wrote a paper about 5 years ago about why Ethnic Minority Staff leave my organization. I came across the organizational data describing the breakdowns of how many left the organization and why and the largest category by far was “Calling.”  People felt “called” to go elsewhere.

My response?  Of course they are.  If you’re leaving a vocational missionary organization what else are you going to say?  My observation was that we don’t work too hard to track the real organizational weaknesses or even failures that might contribute to losing real leaders. We settle for sometimes spiritual answers when there are more tangible reasons under the surface. We may indeed be called at times to go somewhere else, but there are usually real causes that open the door for a sense of calling that leads to a different place.

For the future of CRU, we need to spend just as much time thinking about how to retain staff and leaders that represent the FUTURE of where we need to go as we do about trying to recruit new staff and leaders.  So in that light, we need to put in just as much time working to RETAIN Ethnic Minority Staff as we do in trying to recruit them. Same holds true for women leaders.  That means a commitment to understanding what true empowerment looks like, what power structures and dynamics are preventing leadership reproduction in these contexts, and in recognizing and rewarding those people most needed to move towards the envisioned future.

A lot of organizations and ministries would serve themselves by thinking deeper about retention and give retention of talent (leaders) greater priority.  Sometimes in ministry I think we get lazy and we start depending on people’s “calls” and we forget that fundamentally we’re a volunteer organization in many ways.  People, especially volunteers, respond to being empowered, believed in, encouraged, and healthy cultures in which power is being stewarded for others. It’s a shame when we take volunteers (in which I’m including all staff categories in) for granted.

Here are some Practical Steps:

1.  Learn how to help your people succeed out of who they are (empowerment)
2.  Learn how to navigate power dynamics to serve others
3.  Get to know your people and communicate your belief in them and where you see their gifts and talents making unique and significant contributions

What are the factors that get you to start thinking about where the grass might be greener? What strengthens your commitment to your current context?

Series NavigationWhere Were We? Where Are We Now?Organizational “Stuff”
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