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09 Aug '14

A nasty job done well

Posted by T.J. Addington
There are times when leaders, whether boards or senior leaders must tackle what can be fairly be called a nasty job. It may involve dealing with moral failures, financial downturns and the resultant decisions that must be made or moving someone out of an organization. Or perhaps dealing with a recalcitrant board member or individual who is hurting the organization. It is a nasty job because it is delicate, will not be received well, could have significant repercussions and on the surface it looks like there are no great outcomes and significant risks - but it must be done.

No one signs onto leadership for the nasty jobs but they are part of the equation from time to time. It is easy to become discouraged when faced with a messy situation. And not without reason as many messy situations are handled in a messy matter further complicating the picture. But that is not a necessary outcome. It is possible to handle nasty jobs well and in the meantime honor people and protect the organization. Here are some thoughts in dealing with messy or complicated situations.


  1. Never act in haste unless you must. Take the time to ensure that you understand the situation as well as you can. Hasty action is usually a result of our own anxiety and will often have unintended consequences.
  2. Never act alone. The more messy the situation the more important it is to have multiple counselors. You may also want to find a trusted outside counselor who you trust as they do not have a stake in the situation or outcome.
  3. Work a process. To the extent that you can, engage in dialogue with the individual who you need to deal with (if it is an individual). When we are anxious we tend to make assumptions, send letters and emails. Try to stay in dialogue and be clear with the individual what you need, don't say things that don't need to be said and keep the circle of those involved as small as possible. You can make the right decision but fail in running a good process. It takes time to get to where you need to go so be patient in the process.
  4. Make prayer central. It is amazing how sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's counsel can help navigate tough issues. There is power in a groups wisdom when each member of the group is also listening to the Holy Spirit along the way. You may be surprised at the insights He brings to the process.
  5. To the extent that you can, and depending on the circumstances, treat individuals involved with utmost respect and fairness. In messy situations it is easy to get angry and express that anger but in dealing with it this is rarely helpful. 
I have been a party to helping many churches and organizations deal with messy and sometimes nasty jobs. it is a great gift when the end result is one of success because it was handled well. That is always the goal when faced with a nasty job: Can we handle it well!