The Three Characteristics of Quality People

What is the most valuable resource to your organization?

There are lots of different answers—all of which might be important, but let me go ahead and tell you the right answer—people. The people are the most valuable resource in any organization.

In my context, we rely heavily on people who serve on the church staff and others who serve as unpaid servants out of a commitment to the mission and vision. Money is important and nice to have. Facilities are key as well. But the overwhelming need in any organization is people and the right people can overcome a lack of any other resource. So how do you know if you have the right people?

Here are the top three characteristics that define quality people* as the greatest resource.

1. Quality people are committed to the mission.

The mission of the church is to be a vehicle for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This includes ushering people into relationship with Jesus, encouraging people to follow Jesus, and equipping them to fully live into this mission. Quality people deserve the opportunity to speak into the vision of how this mission plays out, but there is no room for personal agendas. We can discern together how best to get there, but if you are more interested in promoting your “stuff” (I’m hesitant to name examples of the stuff here), then you will always create sideways energy keeping those who are committed to the mission from moving further faster.

Quality people strive to live out this mission in their own personal lives.

2. Quality people exhibit a positive and encouraging demeanor.

Quality people demonstrate a friendly demeanor. They understand that this is a team effort. They are positive, flexible, teachable, and generally excited to be a part of the team. And when things do not go as planned, they want to know what they could have done differently, rather than pointing the finger at others or crossing their arms with a “told you so” smirk across their face.

Alternately, you know the “expert” in the group. You know the “negative Nancy” in the group. Those who are completely inflexible and always right—who never exhibit any signs of remorse, mistakes, or teachability—are poison to the team. The interesting thing, is that those without the right demeanor can be some of the best talkers around the mission. But their true colors will eventually show through.

There are lots of dynamics that play into an individual’s demeanor and many times he or she may not even be self-aware of how he or she comes across to others. Others simply don’t care how they come across. Poison.

3. Quality people are ambitious.

Have to be careful here, because those with a detrimental demeanor can also be very ambitious. Their ambition looks great at first, but it will cost you in the long run.

Quality people do not just rely on you as the leader or the systems you have created to produce the work. Instead, they create solutions to roadblocks of the mission on their own and their ambitions leads them to filter potential solutions, updates, and tweaks through the values of the organization. They bring their ideas and do not simply consume whatever is being fed from above. They think, create, and challenge.

These are the top three qualities I look for in people as we develop leaders to build a faithful and successful organization.

How about you? How would you describe the quality people in your organization? What am I missing?

* Disclaimer: By using the term quality people, I do not mean to pass judgement on anyone being more or less valuable as a person. At the same time, I often witness leaders operate out of a naiveté that all people are quality people “deep down” and, although I think people can develop these three specific qualities, I have found that energy spent moving difficult people toward being quality people is not energy well spent. I try, however, to love and serve all.

Advocate, Apathetic, or Curmudgeon?

A few weeks ago, one of our leaders here at Matthews United Methodist Church closed a meeting using a concept with which I was previously unfamiliar. He spoke about a principle used in business called NPS, which stands for Net Promoter Score.

The NPS illustrates the level at which people are promoting your service, product, or whatever you offer to the public. This system is vital for gaining feedback that decision makers use to improve the overall experience for their target audience. The NPS all begins with one question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our service/product to a friend or colleague? An organization then takes the responses and places each into one of three categories:

Those who answer with a 9 or 10 are Promoters.

Those who answer with a 7 or 8 are Passives.

Those who answer with a 0 to 6 are Detractors.

This system of evaluation and pursuing feedback hit me right in the heart! The NPS is a great revealer of passion. Promoters radiate passion. And people follow passion. I immediately began to wonder how many people I lead would be in the 9-10 range as promoters of both their relationship with Jesus Christ and their love for the local church.

Everyone who professes the label “Christian” and is somehow affiliated with a local church needs to answer this question for him or herself.

So here is my churchified equivalent applying the NPS principle to my world:

On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to speak about your relationship with Jesus when given the opportunity and, secondly, invite a friend to attend your local church?

Those who answer with a 9 or 10 are Advocates.

Those who answer with a 7 or 8 are Apathetics.

Those who answer with a 0 to 6 are Curmudgeons.

So where do you fall on this CAS (Church Advocate Score)?

Self-awareness is key. I’m afraid that too many Apathetics and Curmudgeons view ourselves as Advocates. “I love my church,” we claim. But how many of us can point to a real life conversation in which we share the story of our faith or invite someone we know to a worship experience or small group environment? Raising CAS self-awareness is my problem to figure out and I will continue to do so as I encourage people to advocate for how God is continuing to deliver on His promise of hope in our world.

The CAS is a concept that the organized local church sometimes misses. We tend to simply do what we do and give little attention to evaluation expecting everyone involved to be an Advocate just because they should be. We are then shocked when people fall into the Apathetic or Curmudgeon category. We, as church leaders, must determine and evaluate people’s level of passion about their faith and their view of the local church. One responsibility of the local church is to be a vehicle leading people into relationship with Jesus. If those we lead are not exuding passion, then the vehicle is sputtering, and we need to know why. Then do some maintenance on the vehicle.

By the way, if you qualify as a Curmudgeon, I strongly recommend you spend your energy finding a local church about which you can be a strong Advocate.

To better understand the NPS concept, check out this video.

Follow The Trickle

In leadership, when we begin to investigate the cause of a problem, many times we fail to dig deep enough. We tend to point at a cause that is only one layer, perhaps two, beneath the surface. But sometimes the well of causation is much deeper. We are busy and we know people are expecting a fix; which is part of our job. As leaders, we are fixers. So we often recommend a solution that seems obvious to most onlookers when it is offered.

But we should resist.

In his book, The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg describes the career of Paul O’Neill. Prior to being hired as the CEO of Alcoa (where he catalyzed in increase in company revenue from $1.5 billion to $23 billion by simply focusing on the keystone habit of making Aluminum smelting plants safer) O’Neill served as the deputy director of the United States Office of Management and Budget. One job with which he was tasked in this role was analyzing federal spending on health care so America’s high infant mortality rate at that time was of particular interest to him. When one would suggest an answer to this problem, however, O’Neill was not satisfied with the solution. Duhigg writes, “Whenever someone came into O’Neill’s office with some discovery, O’Neill would start interrogating them with new inquiries. He drove people crazy with his never-ending push to learn more, to understand what was really going on.”

In terms of high infant mortality rates, one would think that medical facilities or personnel would be to blame and, therefore, the solution would arise from that same arena. Simply upgrade the facilities or improve the education of medical personnel and there you have it. Problem solved. Not so fast though for Paul O’Neill.

Premature births was one of the biggest causes behind infant mortality. The premature births were caused by malnourishment of mothers prior to pregnancy. Malnourishment of mothers prior to pregnancy was caused by a lack of knowledge when it came to nutrition. As you can see, the government discovered a need for women to be educated about proper nutrition prior to becoming sexually active. However, O’Neill also discovered that high school faculty were not educated well enough on basic biology to be able to teach proper nutrition. Duhigg explains, “In the case of premature deaths, changing collegiate curriculums for teachers started a chain reaction that eventually trickled down to how girls were educated in rural areas, and whether they were sufficiently nourished when they became pregnant.” And voila, better education of future high school biology teachers is the solution to the high infant mortality rate. Who would have put those two together at the begging of the probe into America’s high infant mortality rate?

However, in the institutional church, we quite often jump to solutions without adequately exploring the trail of causation. For example, we assume that people in leadership simply need more education. Rather than digging deep to understand the root cause of the issue at hand (whatever it may be), we assume that if the leadership were better educated, then these types of problems could be avoided. So we have a lot of PhD’s (please note that I believe quality education is vital and it should always remain a high priority for all people) but yet the mainline church continues to lose traction.

This notion also plays out through other “easy” solutions such as updated technology (again, a good and useful tool), more contemporary music (also necessary in many contexts), a snazzier color of carpet, different flavors of ice cream, and so on. But perhaps, rather than simply piling on formal education, updating technology, or blindly jumping onboard with the current trends, the church would reap a greater benefit from more people who are willing to follow the trickle.

So did tweaking the collegiate curriculum work? Today the infant mortality rate in America is 68% lower than it was prior to O’Neill’s initiative.


How have you seen organizations choose the quick, or even presupposed, fix? What would it have looked like to, instead, “follow the trickle?”