Crafting Lenses

By John DeBoer  |  April 8th

Last year, many leaders gathered around Trevor Throness to receive a helpful tool or “lens” to use for having purposeful conversations with staff members. We developed a matrix based on three mindset expectations (or values) of the school and three descriptions of productivity to guide focused coaching conversations with individual staff members. It is a tool for understanding who the “star” employees are (and aren’t). Not surprisingly, these conversations require honesty and courage. At King’s Christian Collegiate, we have found this tool useful and enlightening. Many staff have responded positively.

I’d like to suggest two other lenses that you can develop to clarify and sharpen your understanding of employees. In The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni promotes the ideal team player as someone who is humble (understanding their role within the context of a greater purpose), hungry (diligent, hard-working), and smart (people smarts). I suggest deciding what each of those three characteristics look like at your school. Create a three circle Venn diagram and work through your staff with a leadership team, deciding where to place each person on the diagram. Hold a high standard for each of the characteristics in order to bolster your discernment. Challenge each other. And ask what the place of faith is in each of these categories. A simple and hard and lights-going-on process.

A second tool begins with the idea that we live in a VUCA world–volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. At no time in human history have we had more ability to be connected, and at no time have we been more disconnected. There are five quotients we need from employees to work with hope in this reality:

  • IQ (intelligence)
  • EQ (self-awareness)
  • PQ (seeing problems with perspective)
  • RQ (resilience)
  • SQ (spiritual)

To be a “star” (not sure I like that term!), an employee needs these five intelligences. What are three to five assessment questions you could ask under each category? Or you could ask a person to rank these five intelligences for themselves from strongest to weakest. A good coaching conversation is sure to follow.

Two vital questions remain. How can I use such tools to connect with employees while defining organizational benchmarks? More importantly, how can I use such tools to support and coach employees toward best practices for our work with students and colleagues?

I welcome your feedback, conversations, and questions. Better yet, perhaps these are good topics for a cohort morning of conversation, research, and development. John can be reached at