Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

Character, Chemistry, Competence

November 21, 2019

You are the salt of the earth. . .
Matthew 5:13

As part of the strategic planning process, the diocesan staff has been undergoing an intense process of self-examination and evaluation of our fruitfulness. We have been guided in this effort by our consultants at The Unstuck Group. They have given us a simple leadership assessment tool that has become a valuable lens for self-evaluation and team assessment. 

This assessment tool asks us to reflect on our lives and ministries in 3 distinct realms and rate ourselves and one another on a scale of 1-10: 0-3, low demonstration; 4-7, moderate demonstration; 8-10 high/exceeds expectations.  

The first area for evaluation is our character, which is foundational to everything else. Assessing our character includes taking stock on our morals, ethics, core values, attitudes and behaviors. How honest are we, and trustworthy? Are we a positive example to others, patient, disciplined? Do we allow others to shine? How well can we manage our own anxiety? Are we quick to anger, overly impulsive, defensive when corrected, always running late? These are all issues of character.  

The second realm is chemistry, that intangible quality of working well on a team. Chemistry is often described as emotional intelligence, the ability to read a room and get along with all types of people. It includes an awareness of the impact of our behavior and words on other people, having sound judgment, asking good questions before providing answers. Chemistry can best be measured by how people feel in our presence--are we a draining or energizing influence? Do we bring joy into the room? 

The third realm is competence, which is essentially how good we are at our job. It includes things like self-motivation, diligence, an ability to prioritize, having a strong work ethic and desire to learn. Business writer Patrick Lencioni in his book The Ideal Team Player includes the notion of hunger when evaluating competence, our eagerness to grow, our openness to new ideas and ability to innovate in our areas of responsibility. 

Character, Chemistry and Competence: we all have gifts and growth edges in each of these realms. Most of us are stronger in one of the three areas and weaker in another. To grow in character, chemistry, and competence requires continual self-assessment, and feedback from others.

Tending to our character is, as Brian McLaren put it, the daily practice of producing the person who will wake up in your body tomorrow. “In a world like ours,” he writes, “your character, left unattended, will become a stale room, an obnoxious child, a garden filled with thorns. . . . Well tended, your character will become a fragrant garden, an artist’s home . . . You will be good and deep company for others and yourself.”  

Tending to our chemistry goes deeper than stating where we fall on the introversion/extroversion scale. Nor is it to be equated with people-pleasing or conflict avoidance. Healthy chemistry requires a willingness to genuinely care about the impact we have on other people and tend to the relational dynamics that makes team-work possible. The more responsibility and authority we assume or are given, the more essential chemistry-tending becomes, for we have disproportionate power to set the tone of a community or group. 

Tending to our competence is particularly challenging in ministry settings. In part, because of our reluctance to hold one another accountable and establish objective metrics for our work and in part, because there are so many variables to take into account. For that reason, it becomes all the more important to clarify our purpose and what our work is, so that we can establish realistic goals from which to evaluate our competence. 

If you would like to learn more about this assessment tool, please contact me. For we are all called to grow as disciples and leaders, and practices of self-examination and accountability help open us to the Holy Spirit’s active presence in our lives. The simple truth is our churches will only be as healthy and vibrant as the people who lead them. As the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told a master class of aspiring young architects: “As a river can rise no higher than its source, so you can create no greater buildings than you are. So why not go to work on yourselves, so that you become what you would have your buildings be?”

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