Every business and organization faces its own set of challenges, but how you handle them and move forward matters most. This month, we sit down with the Chief Operating Officer of T.D. Jakes Ministries and The Potter’s House, Frank Dyer, to learn how he had to rethink leadership during the pandemic and to discuss the principles that helped him guide the organization in the midst of adversity.
Tell us about yourself and your role as COO at T.D. Jakes Ministries (TDJM).
Dyer: Over the past 30 years, I have worked for several of the top 10 major corporations in the U.S., including JPMorgan Chase, Philip Morris, Bank of America, and Fidelity Investments. I have been the chief operating officer at T.D. Jakes Ministries and The Potter’s House since 2018, responsible for overseeing nine departments: Jakes Divinity School, digital sales, marketing, digital marketing, human resources, PR/communication, United MegaCare, Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I.), and business performance. This is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had!
What are your mission and metrics for success?
Dyer: Our objectives revolve around “strategic pillars” that include: brand elevation, ministry expansion, legacy building, and partnership building. I’m also really big on key performance indicators, which measure the efficiency and performance of various initiatives and growth efforts. The results help us guide our ministry into the future.
Change is inevitable. What advice would you give leaders to help sharpen their change management skills?
Dyer: Yes, change is constant and inevitable. The pandemic has shown that those leaders who have the ability to pivot will be successful. The key is to be adaptable and open to change by embracing and, at times, being the champion for change.
What three leadership principles helped you effectively lead during the pandemic?
Dyer: 1. Building a strong team. When the pandemic hit, we had to ensure that everyone in the organization was able to successfully transition to working remotely. I will never forget how our CEO called us into a strategy meeting the day that we closed the office. It was very much an “all hands on deck” moment. However, we came together, linked arms, stood strong, and decided from that moment to do everything we could to support our CEO, this organization, and each other. At that time, you could see the level of commitment by our teams to the continued success of our organization.
2. Communication. After we started working remotely, one of the first things I did was schedule a Monday/Wednesday/Friday meeting cadence with my entire team so we could (a) check on each other and (b) keep the lines of communication open. That shift alone helped to keep us in sync as we found a way to work within our “new normal.” Soon after, we also started a biweekly cross-functional meeting to facilitate alignment within all areas of the organization, and that meeting is still active to this day.
3. Compassion. The pandemic was a tough time for everyone, from both a business and personal perspective. Everyone had to adjust to multiple changes all at once, not to mention the mental and emotional effects of working virtually. As a leader, it is important to look out for your team. You have to care about your people. We are a family.
How has your leadership style evolved during these times? In what ways have you had to rethink leadership?
Dyer: My leadership style has evolved in that I have learned to become more flexible and open to ideas that are not traditional. For example, working virtually is not traditional for me, and it was a great lesson in learning to embrace change.
Working at this organization has also inspired me to develop more of a personal touch. For example, in 2019, we started sending out birthday cards to our staff, and I love being able to share in their celebration and recognize the people who are on the front lines.
Walk us through the decision-making process of how you overcame any challenges in having employees working remotely indefinitely or reopening the church doors.
Dyer: Within the organization, the executive leaders and managers were in constant communication to figure out the state of the emergency and the shifts that needed to happen so that our entire staff of 300-plus would be able to work remotely. The challenge presented therein was to understand what “remote work” actually looked like in real life, determine the technological shifts that needed to happen to make it possible, and ensure that our staff was able to be engaged and productive.
When the time came to discuss reopening the church doors, we were fortunate to have access to information from the local DFW medical community, the local government, and even the White House to help guide us in making that decision. To this day, we still attend several COVID-19 calls to stay informed about the state of the pandemic and to determine if we need to adjust our safety protocols.
Bottom line: Our congregation and our staff are family, and we care about our family. Safety is always the first priority.
What other tough yet critical decisions have you had to make during the pandemic? Describe your thought process.Dyer: Our ministry is known for holding two large conferences on an annual basis: The International Leadership Summit and Woman, Thou Art Loosed! When the pandemic hit, we had to make some very tough decisions about how to proceed with both of those events. That was a huge undertaking as we had to coordinate with our venues, speakers, participants, and thousands of attendees. However, as I stated earlier, safety is always our first priority. We ultimately decided to hold both events virtually, which actually turned out to be a huge opportunity for growth, especially within our IT space.
Have you ever had difficulty getting buy-in from stakeholders? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?
Dyer: Of course, but sometimes you still have to fight for what you know is right for the organization. In those cases, I find it best to present facts and data, clearly explain benefits, hedge objections, and keep pushing to support the initiative. Sometimes, I’ll even take the first step so I can set an example and demonstrate how the “change” will be received.
Has your team ever struggled to meet business goals? How did you address the situation?
Dyer: Thankfully, our organization has a really strong operational system in place. Through robust analytics in both digital and business performance, we are able to surface issues before they become an actual issue. We are constantly reviewing data, communicating, and watching trends.
How do you handle disagreements within your team?
Dyer: In any disagreement, communication is key, so I simply make people start talking. We all don’t have to be friends (although most are), but we do have to effectively and efficiently work together.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling to lead their team or execute critical decisions amid adversity?
Dyer: For those who are looking to grow in leadership, I would suggest that they find a mentor, learn everything they can about leadership, and find a way to “be in the room” — a place where they can learn and observe leadership. That was part of our CEO’s vision when he created the International Leadership Summit. It’s a conference designed for leaders and aspiring leaders, from both a business and ministry space, to “be in the room” and learn from one another. I personally learned to lead by watching others who have led. The irony is that you can learn leadership skills from both good and bad leaders. You can learn from their wins, and learn from their mistakes as well.
When it comes to decision-making, the key is to not be afraid of making a decision. Avoid analysis paralysis! Get the data, discuss with the necessary stakeholders, and make a strong, informed decision.