Working on Christian Reflections blog tour material: leadership

I'm working on material for the blog tour - the first leg of the tour is this coming Tuesday in Launceston, Tasmania.


One of the sessions will be on leadership.


It's common for modern leadership stuff to major on how leadership is all about culture, influence and persuasion. And those things are important.


It's common for Christians to major on Jesus' teaching that we should pursue servant leadership. And this is crucial for our ethics of leadership.


But fundamentally leadership is not about influence. Nor can it be fully defined by the concept of servanthood.


Leadership is about power. It is being in a position of power over others - to compel them to do things. And it brings with it a corresponding responsibiltiy to use this power rightly.


'Servant leadership' can guard against some abuses of power, but not all. Many of the great absolutist dicatators claimed to be 'servants of the people' and even dress in military or civilian clothes to demonstrate that they are not kings. But sadly this 'service' can be used to justify all manner of oppression - it's 'for the good of the people'.


By talking openly about power and authority, and seeking to discover what the Bible teaches about these topics, we are forced to think about justice and mercy. These things also are needed to restrain power.


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Urban church planting means lots of churches in close proximity (same parish?)

Cities are big, densely populated and diverse.


If we are serious about reaching cities with the saving message of Christ, we need more than a one-church-per-suburb parish system. We need to be willing to tolerate multiple ministries in close proximity. In fact we should proactively multiple ministries in close proximity.


There are simply far too many people and far too many different KINDS of people in any one urban area, to be be realistically 'covered' by a single church.






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Questions to ask to test your culture

Some more helpful stuff that came out of the Coaches Conference:


Testing 'engagement' in your ministry


There are three questions to ask to see what level of 'engagement' there is from the people involved in your ministry:



  1. What do people SAY about your ministry? Do they talk about the ministry informally? To outsiders? Do they say good things or bad things or incidential things?

  2. How long do people STAY with your ministry? Do people find it hard to stick? Do they leave after brief involvement? Or they they lock in and become part of the community?

  3. How hard to people STRIVE for your ministry? Do you create opportunities for people to participate? Do people readily accept these opportunities? Or do you have a volunteer crisis?


What kind of culture do we promote here?


What are the things we value? Prize? Celebrate? Expect? Approve of? What is the air our community breathes?


What are the things we look down on? Ignore? Critique? Censure? Care less about?






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Support Christian Reflections: make a donation

Do you get a lot of value out of Christian Reflections? I regularly get people from all over the place that they find the content stimulating and practically helpful in their Christian thinking and ministries.


A couple of times a year I reach out to you, dear reader, and ask you to consider contributing something small towards Christian Reflections. By making a donation towards my ministry with AFES, you can also support my online ministry through Christian Reflections.


Donations can be made through the AFES website here.






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Lesson to learn about expo stalls from National Training Event

NOTE: Sorry about the images not displaying properly. I’m trying to figure out how to turn off the automatic word-wrap setting on the new site. Don’t know the HTML to do it :-/


Churches might need to have expo stalls at local community fairs. Para church organisations like AFES groups and Bible colleges and mission societies need to have expo stalls for large Christian events, such as AFES’ National Training Event.


How do you do a good expo stall? Here are some good lessons and a few awards:


1. Attractive signage and cohesive space draws the eye: Prize to Ridley College

Top points for overall space presentation. They has this lovely purple and this podium-like pillar and solid, curved backdrop. Would’ve cost a lot, I imagine, but it was very striking and marked out the Ridley space well.


I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of this one, as I only thought of this blog post after I left NTE :-/


2. Have something really awesome to give away: Prize to Moore College
There are the basics, like pens and thumb drives and lollies. But something special and distinctive. Something that looks nice and is actually useful. Moore College’s funky little multi-coloured post-it note package was a stand-out:




image




And inside there was a layer of multi-coloured bookmark stickynotes and then a pad of larger standard stickynotes:


image


3. Too much junk cheapens your brand: Prize to SMBC
SMBC had chips, chocolate, frisbees, pens, highlighter-triangle-things, stress balls. And so many chips and chocolate. But the end result? Great place for stuff. But the delegates end up having a lower view of your brand:




image




4. Have a tsotchke that fits with your core purpose: Prize to SMBC
On the other hand, look again at the photo above. See that globe stree ball? THAT’S good. I mean, what has a pen got to do with world mission? But the WORLD? Well that’s got a lot to do with world mission. It not only has the logo of the college on it, but it embodies the mission.


And when you think about it a little more, even the stress ball thing kind of works.


5. Have a stall that people can interact with: Prize to OMF


Something intriguing and playful, that draws you to the stall and leads to productive conversation with the stall owner. OMF has this great visual display of bowls of white and brown rice. The amount of rice represented the population, the white rice represented the ‘reached’ peoples and the brown rice ‘unreached’:




image




6. Have a very clear next action… and make it seem easy by using an app: Prize to Geneva Push


What’s your goal for people who stop to talk with you at your stall? What’s your next action for them? Geneva had the goal of getting people to give their contact details and sign up for the email newsletter.


And for some silly reason everything feels easier when it involves an iPad interface. And the stall has an iPad on a stand that you could plug in your email address to subscribe then and there.






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Ministry New Year’s resolutions: I really should spend more time…

Almost all of these could be an area of improvement all at once (almost all)! But is there one or two you particularly plan to focus on this year?



  1. Spend more time with my family?

  2. Spend more time with non-Christians?

  3. Spend more time in thinking, study and sermon prep?

  4. Spend more time in prayer and Bible reading?

  5. Spend more time debating with other pastors on Facebook?

  6. Spend more time discipling and raising up leaders?

  7. Spend more time planning about the future of your ministry?

  8. Spend more time getting the admin and structures and finances in good shape?

  9. Spend more time working on improving on ministry skills?

  10. Spend more time in hospitality?

  11. Spend more time being a practical help to others?






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Ministry work hours 8: The Value of Counting Hours

As the previous blogs in the series have stressed, I’m not persuaded that work-per-hour thinking is the best way of thinking about ministry work.


But I do think there is a place for keeping a timesheet and counting hours. Here are just some of the benefits of this secondary grid for evaluating our ministry work:



  1. It forces us to see what we really actually do. Just the very act of measuring things normally makes us better at using them.

  2. It helps us budget our time better. When you realise how much time is lost in meetings, or how much time is spent on the sermon - or how little - you can make some more strategic decisions.

  3. It helps you budget time longer term too: when you add up how much time something takes, you can work out how you might re-distribute that time. Often when we stop things we just let other things expand to fill the vacuum, or we just take on things mindlessly. It might be better to proactively replace that thing.

  4. It helps us say ‘No’. It is easier to say No to new requests, projects or appointments if you see that you literally have no more time available. To say Yes would require you to get rid of something else.

  5. It can help others in your life: your wife my feel you are working too much, but when you have an objective timesheet, this may turn out to be merely her subjective impression… or it may be accurate and help her persuade you to slow down!

  6. It helps you see patterns of busy seasons, quiet seasons, unproductive seasons.

  7. It holds you accountable to work and to rest.






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Mirrors 24th January 2014

I observed that Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible 4 are not about the scary domination of technology, like the Matrix, but rather about when it doesn’t work. Well for some reason I succeeded in posting the 31st January Mirrors this morning and not posting the 24th January one. Oh well here it is. Two for the price of one.



  1. Is Facebook failing because the News Feed is too full? I’m not so sure. Any internet usage assumes you will miss a large part of what you could possibly catch.

  2. Leaders need to be careful how we use and define language.

  3. A helpful gender-specific insight from Charlie Pickering: ‘domestic violence’ isn’t a thing that just passively happens. It is men being violent to women. It is odd how we mustn’t talk about differences between genders… unless we must…?!

  4. Busy isn’t respectable any more. I don’t think it ever WAS respectable. Some of these reactionary posts, like posts about poor technology usage, can overstate the problem and so over-prescribe the solution. But they do make helpful observations.

  5. A fun review of Michael Bird’s new systematic theology. Keep an eye out for when the reviewer picks up on and critiques Bird’s particular theological quirks.

  6. Which of these outdated web features does your ministry’s website still have? Some of these (like auto play) are so obvious it’s not funny. But then others are too trendy to be true. The over-simple, user-action website is annoying to me. It is no help to the consumer who wants to know about the people, the history, the values of the organisation. When a website is too basic and iPhone-ish, I feel like it is a bit junk-food.

  7. What if you realise that you need to give some additional feedback during a staff member’s annual review? The basic rule is there should be no surprises at an annual review. But what if you really ought to say something?






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Campus ministry at UTAS - Part 1: Fellowship Groups not Bible Studies

Over the next month or so, I’m going to talk through some of the aspects of how we do the campus ministry at the University of Tasmania, called ‘University Fellowship of Christians’. I have people asking about how we do things from time to time, and so I figured it’d be helpful to put it all down in one place.


Fellowship Groups: not Bible Studies



Our small groups are not small group Bible Studies or gospel communities, but rather they are missionary prayer groups. About half of them might do Bible studies as a part of their meeting time, but this is not compulsory. What is compulsory is that they spend time in evangelistic prayer:



  • They run from 30-90 minutes.

  • They have from 3-15 people.

  • They are groups mainly around faculty/course or residential college.

  • They pray for their non-Christian friends and classmates, for other campuses using AFES’ monthly PrayerNet bulletin, for world mission, using a range of resources, such as the CMS Prayer Diary.


A Missionary Society Not A Church


We are very clear that we don’t intend to be a local church. We are not able to provided holistic pastoral care for our students. We are not aiming to meet all their discipleship needs.


Rather we are a missionary society on campus, who is focussed on engaging students in evangelistic mission AND training up Christian leaders.


So we don’t run growth groups, that might double-up and overlap with the growth groups students might attend with church. We don’t want them dropping out of church because ‘I already get that on campus’, not do we want them avoiding our campus small groups because ‘I already go to a growth group at church’. Our groups are doing something different and unique.


Evangelistic Prayer, Evangelism and Overseas Mission


It is my conviction that one of the best ways to start getting people thinking and acting evangelistically is to get them to start regularly praying evangelistically. It is hard to look at your classmates from a merely worldly point of view if you are praying for their conversion each week.


More than this, the group begins to function as a small form of evangelistic accountability. When you ask for prayer as you invite a classmate to the evangelistic course, you are also prompting the group to ask you next week how you went!


In the same way, one of the best ways to get people to seriously consider full-time ministry and overseas mission is to get them to pray for the great and plentiful harvest. I want students to be heavily exposed to world mission through involvement in our ministry. And I think praying for world mission is more powerful than short-term mission trips.


Pastoral Care, Socialising and Training

It’s not that we neglect to care for the people in our groups. We give training to our group leaders to provide pastoral care to their group members, we encourage them to plan social times and do one to one ministry.


We do these things because even though we are primarily an evangelistic and leadership training ministry, we are still a CHRISTIAN ministry. We do not want to neglect the spiritual welfare of others, simply because it is not our core mission.


We also have a larger structure, ‘Faculty Clusters’ that provide some of these things. More in a future post.






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TED take-down

Nathan blogs critically about some of the weaknesses of the TED Talks. He raises good points, as well as giving an example of how TED can figure as part of a larger and deeper ‘conversation’.


Must admit I’ve never gotten into the TED thing. Partly for the reasons Nathan articulates for me. Partly because I’m just not a visual person. Nathan writes at the end:



Another interesting thing about the popularity of TED, by the by, is that it (along with the rise of YouTube tutorial videos and vlogs) represents a movement back from a predominantly written culture to an oral/visual culture – if you’ve ever checked out the comments on YouTube you could say a pre-literate oral/visual culture. This has interesting implications for people whose job it is to communicate something to such a culture, and its possible this means being a bit more creative in how we present stuff, preferably without wiping out depth and complexity.



He’s right. And I find it a challenge. The internet photo and video stuff leaves me cold. So shallow and in the case of video - time consuming and dull. I don’t get the point of Instagram and I think most video content is scrappy. But he’s right: so much of the internet is visual. So I’m consciously seeking to understand and counteract my personal preference!






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Mirrors 10th January 2014


  1. Phillip Jensen has some good thoughts on the pros and cons of outsourcing:



    • While it is fashionable to speak of outsourcing, there’s nothing new in it - nor is it an evil that must be resisted. The whole of society is built upon outsourcing. Without outsourcing, people have to live in a subsistence economy, where each citizen grows their own food, builds their own house, makes their own clothes and provides everything for himself or herself. As soon as we move to any division of labour we have started the process of outsourcing. From the division of domestic duties, to the selling of goods with neighbours, to the trade between businesses, society is built on outsourcing.

    • Bottom-line rationalists rarely consider the long-term intangible effects of their behaviour. Working at home through the internet and email may be efficient but not so in developing long term personal relationships. Little emoticons in emails are not as good as a smile, a frown or the twinkle of an eye. The quality of relationships cannot be outsourced. When the quantity of our life is consumed by the business of providing for our outsourcing we have become the slaves of industry and are outsourcing life itself.




  2. This is such good advice for young preachers:



    I have often observed with most regret upon this subject is young persons carrying the things that are really true and excellent to a certain excess or high pitch that is beyond nature, and does not tend in the least to promote conviction, but rather hinders it. When men speak of virtue or true goodness, they are apt to raise the description beyond the life in any real instance, and when they speak of vice and its consequences they are apt to draw the character so as it would apply only to a few of the most desperate profligates, and the miserable state to which they reduce themselves. This rather seems to fortify the generality of persons to whom these descriptions do not apply, in their careless and secure state.





  3. Thom Rainer lists five chronological phases of a pastor’s ministry:



    • Honeymoon

    • Conflicts and Challenges

    • Crossroads Part 1

    • Fruit and Harvest

    • Crossroads Part 2








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Mirrors 3rd January 2014


  1. A thoughtful Christian review of the theories of life, media and society evoked by the recent Hunger Games film.

  2. I personally like Love Actually, but I agree with this article that it is hardly a ‘romantic’ comedy.

  3. We don’t let our daughter have Barbie dolls. But maybe we would if she had the body measurements of a real woman, as these remakes demonstrate.

  4. Kevin de Young gives us a history lesson on Saint Nicholas and how we became Santa Claus.

  5. Mike Jolly gives some advice on using Facebook, including:
    It’s also important to reflect on the experience to see if it’s even something you enjoy. Many people find Facebook depressing, boring and upsetting. It’s important to bear this in mind before signing up.


  6. The Briefing has linked to some helpful articles about gay marriage. Getting the government to ‘stop interfering in people’s private lives’ sometimes leads to a greater degree of interference down the track.






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Mirrors 20th December 2013


  1. Some people are poisonous, some people are venomous. Both are danger, but each are different.

  2. I love Challies’ mooshy posts about his wife. 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Wife (and also 18 Things… My Kids)

  3. Stu gives us some language for talking about different kinds of preaching gifts, without implying one kind of preacher is ‘better’ than another: convention preacher vs congregation preacher.

  4. Dave Moore rightly disagrees that gospel workers must have secular work experience to be good ministers.

  5. Haha: one more Challies gooey post about his wife. This one is lovely - “She strengthens me”.

  6. Are you able to contribute a small amount to our mission work on campus at UTAS? We are currently running a fundraising drive.






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Don’t sentimentalise biblical metaphors for church and ministry

In this great session from Andrew Heard with the FIEC in the UK, he pulls apart the way we sentimentalise biblical metaphors for church and ministry.


We think shepherd/pastor involves a gentle, cuddly, counselling model of ministry. But in the Bible the shepherd was the ruler, leader, protector of his flock.


And we think the family metaphor implies the small, casual, informal Western nuclear family of a couple with 2 kids. But what of the family with 9 children? Such a family needs to be highly regimented and organised, with good routines and delegation in place. And yet it is not somehow less a family for that.






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An idol isn’t an all-consuming object of worship

Modern evangelical theo-psychology has over-defined idols in a way that doesn’t make sense of historical idolatry or human sin. Take for example Keller’s definition from Counterfeit Gods:



What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give



Just as Calvin said the human nature is heart is a perpetual factory of idols, so modern evangelical pop-psychology is a factory of idol-talk. And I think it’s run away from itself. Ten years ago sin was wrongly defined as fundamentally ‘selfishness’. Now it defined as fundamentally ‘idolatry’. Both are inaccurate.


In the first place, idolatry is first bad because it is a sin of false religion. Religious idolatry is wicked, even if there is no emotional engagement with it. It is wicked to perform acts of worship to a false god, even if I don’t especially care about that god. I worry that in leaving the literal definition of idolatry in favour of metaphorical psychologising, we will stop rebuking literal idolatry.


But more than this, idols are PLURAL in the Bible. Idolatry is not monotheistic. To look to one God to be at the centre of our life and consume our hopes, desires and service is a monotheistic thing. Idols did not demand that exclusive service in ancient paganism. Idolatry does not demand the kind of monotheistic worship.


Indeed idolatry can be quite emotionally distant. I don’t need to be all-absorbed by the idol. I USE the idol. Give the sacrifice in order to get a benefit. Idolatry is more pragmatic than monotheism.


In the Old Testament, idolatry is compared the the adultery of sleeping around, not the modern adultery of falling in love with a mistress. idolatry is not finding a ‘new wife’ in a false god, but running after petty pleasures from multiple partners. So do we turn aside form God and find another idol to meet all those needs? Maybe. Or maybe we drift from fix to fix, in a series of idolatrous one-night-stands.


Now you COULD say that this is because there is an underlying ‘heart-idol’ that leads us to restlessly run from thing to thing. But at this point I wonder whether we’ve left biblical talk about idolatry behind and invented a whole new layer of evangeli-psychology. Is ‘idol’ the right category for this underlying evil drive. Or is the word for that just ‘sin’?






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Seizing the ‘gospel opportunity’ of a conversation about same-sex marriage - Part 2

I wrote this post yesterday and it has disappeared. Let’s hope it works this time.


So your non-Christian friend asks you about same-sex marriage. You take Peter Jensen’s advice to heart: this might be your only opportunity to talk about the gospel with them: what are you going to say?


Well after quickly talking about your belief in objective, biological gender difference and the legitimacy of basing sexual ethics on biological gender and procreation (Part 1) ... what are avenues to talking about the gospel?


1. Objective gender and the gospel: unity in diversity


I think the best one with regard to gender diversity is to talk about how Christian theology as a whole holds together unity and diversity on many levels. We don’t believe in a fragmented universe. Nor do we believe that things will ultimately all merge onto a single unity. We believe in a diverse but unified reality.


It’s interesting that some religious and spiritual views that believe in an ultimate One, use trasvesticism and homosexuality in their religious practice as a way of blurring distinctions and so moving back to the one.


God himself is three persons in one essence. He made the world, not an emanation from himself, but a free and distinct creation out of nothing. That creation has many different parts two it but is one creation. Humanity were made male and female but were to unite together as one flesh. The hope of heaven is also to be brought under one head, Christ, but still to remain a distinct new creation.


So gender difference is not a problem that must be fixed by trying to create an undifferentiated androgynous humanity. It actually reflects something of the nature of God, his world and his plans for salvation.


2. Heterosexuality and the gospel: diversity, affection, intimacy, faithfulness and fruitfulness


Heterosexual sexuality provides a picture of the covenant love of God in a unique way, that homosexual relationships cannot: the diversity-in-unity of male and female, the affection, the intimacy, the covenant faithfulness, and the potential for creative fruitfulness in child bearing.


A homosexual relationship might express the affection, intimacy and faithfulness, but it cannot show the diversity-in-unity in the same way, nor naturally show the creative overflow of love in childbearing.


In celebrating the unique two-become one, affectionate, faithful, intimate and fruitful relationship of marriage we can show how it is a unique picture of Christ and the church.






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New Geneva responsive site and new Geneva promo vid

Yesterday at Multiply13, I launched the 3rd Geneva Push website redesign. The site now highlights more than ever its role as a warehouse of resources. The design is more bright and friendly, rather than grungy and the website itself is ‘responsive’ - so it looks/behaves like an app when viewed on your phone or tablet.


We have also a pretty new promo video*:



Our vision for Australia from Geneva Push on Vimeo.


*Fun fact: the girl I’m talking to the video is my younger sister Alice.






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Ministry New Year’s resolutions: I really should spend more time…

Almost all of these could be an area of improvement all at once (almost all)! But is there one or two you particularly plan to focus on this year?



  1. Spend more time with my family?

  2. Spend more time with non-Christians?

  3. Spend more time in thinking, study and sermon prep?

  4. Spend more time in prayer and Bible reading?

  5. Spend more time debating with other pastors on Facebook?

  6. Spend more time discipling and raising up leaders?

  7. Spend more time planning about the future of your ministry?

  8. Spend more time getting the admin and structures and finances in good shape?

  9. Spend more time working on improving on ministry skills?

  10. Spend more time in hospitality?

  11. Spend more time being a practical help to others?






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Ministry work hours 8: The Value of Counting Hours

As the previous blogs in the series have stressed, I’m not persuaded that work-per-hour thinking is the best way of thinking about ministry work.


But I do think there is a place for keeping a timesheet and counting hours. Here are just some of the benefits of this secondary grid for evaluating our ministry work:



  1. It forces us to see what we really actually do. Just the very act of measuring things normally makes us better at using them.

  2. It helps us budget our time better. When you realise how much time is lost in meetings, or how much time is spent on the sermon - or how little - you can make some more strategic decisions.

  3. It helps you budget time longer term too: when you add up how much time something takes, you can work out how you might re-distribute that time. Often when we stop things we just let other things expand to fill the vacuum, or we just take on things mindlessly. It might be better to proactively replace that thing.

  4. It helps us say ‘No’. It is easier to say No to new requests, projects or appointments if you see that you literally have no more time available. To say Yes would require you to get rid of something else.

  5. It can help others in your life: your wife my feel you are working too much, but when you have an objective timesheet, this may turn out to be merely her subjective impression… or it may be accurate and help her persuade you to slow down!

  6. It helps you see patterns of busy seasons, quiet seasons, unproductive seasons.

  7. It holds you accountable to work and to rest.






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Mirrors 24th January 2014


  1. Is Facebook failing because the News Feed is too full? I’m not so sure. Any internet usage assumes you will miss a large part of what you could possibly catch.

  2. Leaders need to be careful how we use and define language.

  3. A helpful gender-specific insight from Charlie Pickering: ‘domestic violence’ isn’t a thing that just passively happens. It is men being violent to women. It is odd how we mustn’t talk about differences between genders… unless we must…?!

  4. Busy isn’t respectable any more. I don’t think it ever WAS respectable. Some of these reactionary posts, like posts about poor technology usage, can overstate the problem and so over-prescribe the solution. But they do make helpful observations.

  5. A fun review of Michael Bird’s new systematic theology. Keep an eye out for when the reviewer picks up on and critiques Bird’s particular theological quirks.

  6. http://ift.tt/1g5HbGt;>Which of these outdated web features does your ministry’s website still have? Some of these (like auto play) are so obvious it’s not funny. But then others are too trendy to be true. The over-simple, user-action website is annoying to me. It is no help to the consumer who wants to know about the people, the history, the values of the organisation. When a website is too basic and iPhone-ish, I feel like it is a bit junk-food.

  7. What if you realise that you need to give some additional feedback during a staff member’s annual review? The basic rule is there should be no surprises at an annual review. But what if you really ought to say something?






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