Sue Smith CBA Board Chairman

During the slower pace this summer, one of the best decisions I made was to attend the Global Leadership Summit, which was broadcasted from Willow Creek Church. It was not only a respite from the responsibility of business; it was a program that re-energized me, preparing me to lead my staff well as the fall schedule ramps up.

One of my favorite speakers was Marcus Buckingham, a leading authority on strengths, performance, and engagement. His inspiration to us revolved around performance management and what that means to our businesses. Performance management defined would be the “business of growing your team’s unique gifts, ultimately increasing their performance.”


In our industry, we have employees who are seriously committed to the mission. That’s why they are with us. But, while loving Christ and His mission, or loving books and Christian content is a good start, expecting your staff to just naturally grow in their position is a naive posture as a leader. Casting your vision for your team, practically and consistently, will keep motivation high.

People naturally want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. One great way to do this is to share personal stories of how your team has carried out the vision. This means paying attention to these stories in action, along with taking the time to share in a meaningful way.


As we showcase our vision and draw attention to great individual team members, we are integrating the “we” and “me.” Research shows that the best-performing employees are made to feel special, made to feel unique, and are aware that their manager understands their gifts. Your team members want your attention so you can get to know them well. But, to be clear, they want your coaching attention, not your feedback.

Meeting with each member weekly provides the attention required to nurture their skills. Buckingham suggests a year of 52 little sprints with your employees. A good leader will ask in each sprint: “What are your priorities this week?” and “What can I do to help or support you?”

This strength-based check-in is frequent enough that it’s about near-term future work that the employee is currently dealing with. This kind of leadership demonstrates care at their level, not at various levels above their pay grade. It communicates, “I want you to get better at what you do.”


I want to be that leader. I want my team to know that they have the chance to use their strengths every day, to grow under my attention; for the sake of the business and for the cause of Christ.