by Nancy Austin
“Everybody wants to be part of a winning team.” That’s what a beloved college professor used to tell us. His point was this: build a winning team and recruitment will take care of itself; build a winning team and morale will not be a concern; build a winning team and momentum will be so high, you’ll be searching for something higher, broader, bigger with which to challenge them.
I agree. Everyone does want to join the team that is growing and upbeat, taking on new challenges, and accomplishing great things. So whether you’re working with a staff team or a team of volunteers, what are the critical essentials for building a winning team? Here is a crazy-quilt gathering of tested ideas on teams from the experts.
When a team is strong relationally, people enjoy serving alongside one another and serving each other. In his book Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey articulates that teams that trust one another are more productive and move faster. Conversely, without confidence in one another that promised actions will get done and outcomes will be excellent, it’s difficult to find joy in being on the team. In fact, absent that assurance, being on the team can actually demoralize our co-laborers. Trust is essential. To lead a healthy team we must personally close the gap between intention and reality as well as set the standard high for those we lead.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin…” Proverbs 18:24
Eric Geiger says, “For a team to be healthy, the team must hold convictions as to why they are doing what they are doing. When a team possesses shared convictions about why they are together and why they are on the planet, the work flows from deeply held beliefs. With a compelling why, a team will care deeply about their work.” We have the most compelling why there is: our task is to spread the story of redemption and see lives changed! But sometimes, our team needs us to rehearse the story and remind them of the deep meaning of the task. It’s easy to think we are cleaning up the parking lot, not creating an inviting space so that people can hear the transforming story of grace. And the same is true about wrangling students, providing oversight in KidMin, or directing traffic in the parking lot. As leaders, it’s our job to keep reminding them of their connection to the big picture.
“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm…” Isaiah 26:3
According to Michael Lukaszewski, “Every organization needs to know who is responsible for what. This is so much more than an org chart. My friend JR Lee says, ‘When you turn a blind eye to something not up to standard – you just created a lower standard.’” As leaders it’s easy to shy away from holding our teams accountable: they are busy people, maybe even volunteers, and it’s easy to list the reasons to let them off the hook. But when we do that we sell our people short and miss out on the best that is possible. So ask permission, and then ask the hard questions.
“With counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
A winning team speaks truthfully with one another. Sometimes the absence of disagreement isn’t a sign of agreement but of apathy. Our teams have to know that it’s okay to push back. “Healthy debate and differences create ‘aha” moments. One of the fascinating parts of being on a healthy team is to watch the momentum of a healthy debate. As one member challenges another, we sometimes make a ‘discovery’ that one perspective alone would not have engendered. Some of our better decisions have come in the midst of a rather heated debate among team members.” (Thom Rainer) An engaged and healthy team is free to speak truthfully even when that means speaking in dissent. Encourage your team to voice their thoughts, listen carefully, and move forward prayerfully.
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
BEFORE YOU GO
Have you successfully implemented these attributes? Or do you have other essentials you feel are missing from this list? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. After all, a winning team speaks truthfully with one another!
One Comment Add yours
Nancy, your whole blog entry was great, but there were two things that really stood out to me today. First, I appreciated the emphasis on the need to remind people of why they are doing what they do, especially things that may seem less connected to ministry to people. I love the example of not just thinking I’m cleaning up the parking lot, but am providing an inviting space for people to come to hear the good news. Second, your quote from JR Lee about turning a blind eye to something not up to standard and thereby creating a lower standard is very convicting. These are good reminders that really are important in building a winning team for the kingdom of God. Thanks for the encouragement!
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