The Thing About Talents . . .

old Bible of 19 centuries. . . I’m not talking about skills here, I’m talking about the ancient monetary unit referenced in the Bible — that thing that various servants either multiplied or held on to tightly for fear of losing it. Now I will never profess to be a master theologian, however I take my responsibility as the steward of a faith-based human service organization very seriously, and do my best to ensure my organization honors the teachings of what I believe to be, hands down, the best leadership book ever written.

As I interpret the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14 – 30), we are expected to multiply that which we are given. Many people know the portion of the scripture that says “Well done, good and faithful servant,” however they tend to leave off the remainder of that verse which says “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 24:21)

Now, I absolutely believe God will provide if we’re following his will; however, as indicated in this scripture, I also believe he expects us to do our part. What, exactly does that mean? As far as I’m concerned, that means if we are holding ourselves out as a faith-based organization, we ought to be doing it better than anyone else. We need to be tracking outcomes. We need to have a quality improvement plan (that we actually implement, not just create to check a box!). We need a corporate compliance plan. We need financial metrics. Not because some external body says we have to, but because it’s a stewardship responsibility.

Yes, I know, budgets are tight, staffing is thin, and you’d rather focus your energies on serving more people and not on doing paper work. The problem is, I just don’t buy that argument.  How do you know if you’re having the greatest possible impact if you have no measures of success? (And numbers served isn’t enough. Serving a lot of people who don’t get better really doesn’t achieve your mission, does it?) Absolutely, the scale of your quality assurance efforts should match the size of your organization. The dashboard of a $200,000 organization is going to look much different that of a $20 million organization, but there is real truth in the adage “that which gets measured gets done.”

I thought we measured a lot of things (which in fact we do), however at our most recent EAGLE Accreditation visit, we were challenged to stretch our thinking. EAGLE is the only comprehensive accreditation program for faith-based human service organizations (http://umassociation.org/programs-services/eagle/), and the team leader for our review observed that while we have a comprehensive quality improvement program, which includes lots of measures, we weren’t measuring what difference it makes that we’re a faith-based organization.  That would seem like an obvious thing to measure, huh?!?

I absolutely believe that our kids get better faster and our staff retention is higher because we are a faith-based organization, but in fact I have nothing more than anecdotal stories to validate that belief. Now it is true that the impact of being faith-based is a harder thing to measure than, say, unit costs, but I’ve also never accepted “hard” as a reason not to do something.

As we (and by we, I mean our Director of Operations) began to search for a way to measure the impact of faith, we came across the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale, (http://www.dsescale.org ) which is highly validated and we determined would be a good fit for our needs. We have done the baseline measure for our staff, and plan to roll it out for kids and families in the near future.  Given that our staff retention numbers far exceed the industry averages, as do our baseline staff scores on the DSES, I think my theory related to staff will prove to be correct, however truth be told it is really too early to know for sure.  And if the numbers don’t turn out the way I expect them to? Well then, we’ll have an opportunity to learn . . . and improve . . . and find new ways to multiply our talents to the honor of our mission and Him who calls us to be good and faithful servants.

What are you doing with your talents?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s