When principles of effective interviewing and counseling are followed, increased edification, motivation, and communication result.
Much good can result from both formal and informal interactions when principles of effective interviewing and appropriate counseling are applied.1 Formal, private interviews are conducted by leaders in CES with other leaders and teachers they lead. In addition, leaders and teachers have frequent informal conversations in many settings. In these formal and informal communications some form of counseling usually occurs.
Formal interviews in CES assist both leaders and teachers by promoting professional growth, personal development, program development, and improvement in gospel teaching.2 Interviews provide opportunities for leaders and teachers to review strengths and areas of needed improvement.
Following are some of the formal interviews used in the Church Educational System:
Assignment or program reporting
Interviews with missionaries who have a CES assignment
Probation or warning interviews
Performance appraisal interviews are held at least annually with each leader, teacher, and secretary. At the beginning of each academic year, the supervisor should make personnel aware of the appraisal process. Appraisal interviews should focus on basic duties and responsibilities within the CES commission.
Leaders and teachers are regularly asked to report to their leaders regarding their assignments, personal and professional development, and the development of programs they supervise (see “Reporting to Leaders,” p. 17).
The area director, or his representative, should regularly interview missionaries who have a CES assignment and review their work, respond to their needs, continue their training, encourage them, and express appreciation.
During formal interviews and in other informal communications, it is appropriate for CES leaders and teachers to counsel with each other about teaching effectively and administering appropriately. To effectively counsel others, we must first listen attentively, and then carefully consider any advice or recommendation before it is given. Leaders should be sensitive to and recognize that individuals may be reluctant to counsel freely and openly because of the leaders’ position. When the one being counseled senses that the counselor’s motives are love and a sincere desire to help, the counsel given is more likely to be well-received and applied.
Among the many significant principles and skills of effective interviewing and counseling, the following are particularly important for CES leaders and teachers: preparing spiritually, listening for understanding, promoting self-reliance, commending and correcting, and keeping confidences.
Preparing spiritually. As with all aspects of the Lord’s work, interviewing and counseling are more effective when both participants have prepared themselves spiritually.
Listening. Interviewing and counseling require a great deal of listening. They must not be dominated by the leader’s comments, but should provide ample opportunity for the one being interviewed or counseled to share feelings, observations, and goals. This can be accomplished by asking appropriate questions and then listening for understanding. Effective interviewing and counseling can foster an increase in both the quality and the quantity of future communication between the participating individuals.
Promoting self-reliance. Each individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own effectiveness and improvement. Leaders, teachers, and students should seek to be aware of their own areas of needed improvement rather than wait for them to be pointed out by leaders. Individuals should also call upon personal resources before asking others to solve their problems. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said, “I think an emotional dole system can be as dangerous as a material dole system, and we can become so dependent that we stand around waiting for the Church to do everything for us” (“Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, 86).
Although CES leaders and teachers receive much inservice training at faculty, area, and systemwide levels, they should “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves” (D&C 58:27–28).
Commending and correcting. A leader’s genuine, specific expressions of appreciation for the person being interviewed should be a part of any interview or counseling opportunity. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said:
“Rather than making cutting remarks one to another, could we not cultivate the art of complimenting, of strengthening, of encouraging? …
“Responsibilities have been divinely laid on each of us … : to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, … and to emphasize that good. There is not a man or woman who cannot become depressed on the one hand, or lifted on the other, by the remarks of his or her associates” (Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes , 104-5).
The Lord counseled, “Strengthen your brethren in all your conversation” (D&C 108:7). Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “We should, therefore, without being artificial, regularly give deserved, specific praise” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience , 78).
Equally as important as giving praise is the giving of needed correction and perhaps even reproof. Giving correction without also giving offense requires that the interviewer not merely speak the truth, but that he speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Correction should be timely and specific (see D&C 121:43). To withhold needed correction is not a manifestation of love; such correction requires moral courage. When needed correction is withheld, ultimately CES, the individual, and students suffer.
Keeping confidences. Through the course of interviews and informal communications, CES leaders and teachers become aware of many matters that are both personal and important. When ecclesiastical leaders become aware of such matters in their Church callings, they are obligated by their calling to maintain confidentiality. CES leaders and teachers are similarly obligated to keep such information confidential, sharing information only with those who need to know, and only after permission is granted. The ability to keep confidences is critical to the success of the Church Educational System. Failure to be trustworthy in such matters results in severe damage to relationships and to our work.
CES leaders and teachers must carefully follow local laws regarding responsibilities and liabilities for reporting abuse. Information on responding to and reporting abuse should be discussed periodically during inservice meetings.