By Jeff Matas
Doug Talley is retiring from Indiana Ministries. In some ways, that sentence doesn’t seem real. Doug has been at the helm of IM for 14 years; I have worked alongside of him for 12 of those years. His fingerprints are all over the ministry. March 1st, I’ll assume the role of state pastor. Doug will be with me for that month to ensure that all the details are in place before his retirement. I was blessed to walk with Doug for a dozen years. He has been my boss, a mentor, and most importantly a dear friend.
I want to share some of the lessons that I have learned from Doug:
A leader must be secure in who they are
Doug and I share some commonalities. We are both driven to accomplish the mission. We are optimistic at our core. We are both competitive. Our staff gatherings are known for their laughter, games, and fierce competition. It doesn’t matter whether we are at Top Golf, playing a board game, Rook, ping pong, or volleyball, Doug and I want to win. And we’ve been known to trash talk. We like the same food. When we are on the road, chances are what I order for a meal is what he’s going to order. But there are key aspects of our personalities that are very different. Doug is a planner, a detail person to the nth degree. He will have a presentation, or a sermon written and ready to go weeks before the due date. I’m not a detail person. I will write a sermon the week it’s due. When Doug submits his goals to the board, they are so detailed and thorough, they provide the board with everything they need to know and things they didn’t know they needed! When I submit my goals to the board as the new state pastor, they will not get that kind of extensive detail. With Doug’s high attention to detail and how I’m wired in the opposite direction, we could drive each other crazy. It could be a real problem. But the reality is, we work great together. Why? Doug trusts me. He knows that even though I operate differently, I get the job done. I have proven that over and over for a dozen years. He doesn’t micromanage. He doesn’t look over my shoulder.
We are also different in our strengths and gifts. Doug is intellectual and smart. He is a gifted teacher and a voracious learner. He is so much better than me in distilling information and communicating it to people whether it’s an IM training session, a church board meeting, or from a pulpit. He reads, he prepares, he plans, and when it’s time to teach, he nails it. I’m okay at it, Doug is in another league. My strength is casting vision, preaching, getting people motivated and on board. I lead with my heart, and I wear my passion on my sleeve. Both of us are humble and have a healthy sense of self. It would be easy for me to get insecure when I see Doug so well prepared, informed, and teaching. It would be easy for Doug to be insecure when he sees me operating out of my strengths. Here’s the thing, our differences complement each other. Together we can do so much more than if we both shared the same wiring and gifts. It’s an important lesson to learn when building a ministry team. We are naturally drawn to people who are like us, who share the same traits, gifts, and strengths. We understand people wired like us. It’s easy. But teams that are composed of people that share similar gifts and strengths also share the same weaknesses and are missing the same gifts. They are imbalanced and will not be as effective in accomplishing the mission.
A leader must be a person of integrity
Doug Talley has impeccable integrity and character. Many leaders will share everything they know and hear with their circle and members of their team. Because of his relational reach, his network of friends, his integrity, Doug knows a lot of what’s going on in our tribe. I can tell you that I don’t know all the stuff that Doug knows. He guards his relationships with others, and he protects the conversations that he has. I respect that more than I can say, and I know that what I share with him stays with him. This trait should be more common in the church, but unfortunately it’s uncommon. Doug possesses that uncommon trait.
Pour into your staff and invest in them
Throughout my time with Doug, he has intentionally given me opportunities to grow and develop. Through the years, he invited me to do various roles and opportunities that he would normally do. He knew that I probably wouldn’t do them as well as he would—at least not initially—but it was important to him to provide me opportunities to grow and develop. An insecure leader holds everything tightly and is reluctant to turn over roles and responsibilities. They are fearful that the job won’t get done as well, or that others will get the spotlight and praise. Doug allowed me the opportunity to learn and grow.
Have a compelling mission and vision
The first time I met Doug, he was the new state pastor and was presenting the budget to area pastors. I wasn’t excited to make the trip from Anderson to the west side of Indy to hear a budget. I don’t remember the budget. What I do remember was his vision for what he wanted state ministry to become. His vision was so compelling that—instead of making a beeline to my car to beat the traffic after the meeting—I stayed to meet him. I wanted to thank him for having a vision for state ministry that was focused on church revitalization. I told him I wish I had a partnership with state ministry when I was leading church turnarounds. His vision was so compelling that I started volunteering my time helping with church revitalization (on top of my day job). A year later, I left a large church to join Doug at IM with Doug’s promise of “two years” worth of funds to support me on staff. I’m sure it was a head-scratcher for many. It wasn’t a vertical career move up the ladder. Why would I take such a leap of faith? I risked at it all because I believed in Doug’s vision for state ministry.
Love those you lead
I saved the best leadership lesson for last. Doug loves his staff. He shows us that he loves us. He demonstrates his love for us. More often than not, when I leave the office or we go our separate ways after we are on the road, he will give me a hug and say, “I love you.” I can’t tell you how much that means, and how much that has impacted me throughout the years. When you know that your boss loves you, you’ll go through a wall for him. You trust him. You will do your job and do it with excellence because of that love.
Doug Talley, at the end of March when you walk out IM’s office for the final time, you are getting a hug. You’re going to hear how much I love you. You have been a giant along my path. I wouldn’t be here without you. You have selflessly opened the doors of opportunity for me. You will always be my brother and friend. And I am forever grateful.