Build on Strengths to Improve Effectiveness, Bishop Says


Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Area traveled to Western Pennsylvania March 31 to help Conference staff and district superintendents learn more about leadership based on identified individual strengths and look at ways to build teams of people with different strengths for more effective ministry.

Prior to the daylong session with Bishop Hagiya, the Cabinet, staff, and Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton used StrengthFinder 2.0, an assessment tool developed by Gallup, to identify their talents.  

For continuous improvement, individuals in any organization, including the church, should work on developing their talents, rather than focusing on deficiencies, Bishop Hagiya pointed out.   He cited examples in corporations, sports and the church, and presented statistics to reinforce the point. 

"Recognizing talents, building on them, and finding ways to develop skills in areas of lesser strength can make a big difference in effectiveness," Bishop Hagiya said. By building teams of people with different strengths, an organization can continuously improve, he added.

While working toward his doctorate in organizational leadership at Pepperdine University, Bishop Hagiya researched the traits, qualities and characteristics of highly effective United Methodist clergy for his dissertation. He earned the degree in 2012. 

Abingdon has published a book based on his research entitled Spiritual Kaizen: How To Become a Better Church Leader.  Kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates as change or correction for the better.

Bishop Hagiya more recently completed a Harvard-Kennedy School course on adaptive leadership. In addition to his duties as Bishop, he is the executive director of the Bishop Jack and Marjorie Tuell Center of Leadership Excellence in the Pacific Northwest Conference and, for the last 25 years, has remained an adjunct professor at Claremont, where he earned an M.A., M. Div., and D. Min.

Clergy excellence has been the focus of several Cabinet-Staff discussions since September of 2014. The group has developed goals to work toward continuous improvement in areas deemed vital to equipping churches for disciple-making.

"Highly effective people put together talent and a high skill level. They know how to read themselves and others," he said.  Through coaching and training, church leaders can improve their effectiveness in ministry. For example, someone may not have empathy as a dominant theme or strength, but still need to do pastoral care.  "Empathy is a talent; it can't be taught," the Bishop said. But you can teach pastoral care in a way that they can understand what is required. And you can teach listening skills." 

Training alone, however, Bishop Hagiya added, is not working. Focusing on behaviors, perhaps forming new habits can make a big difference. "It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of being," he said. 

"Clergy excellence begins with passion and call," he noted. But each individual and group must know who they are, where they are going, and have someone to help them on the journey.