Monday, August 05, 2013

Bringing Out the Best In Your Team: Part II

First published on Facebook on Monday, June 17, 2013.

Last time, I introduced the topic of strategic synergy, the invisible ingredient that divides prevailing churches from pathetic churches. I defined strategic synergy as the ability of a group to significantly outperform even its best individual member in the shared quest to fulfill the mission. 

Here are a few more thoughts: 

Bringing a team together is vital (you already knew that). Making sure you have the right people on the bus is mega-vital (yes, of course). But leveraging the potential of the team is the defining challenge. It is far more important than most of us realize. Here is another way to say it: Merely assembling the right parts is not sufficient. The relationship and interaction among the various parts is what creates synergy. 

Take a mental snapshot of the people on your staff. Their differences probably outnumber their similarities. They are different in age, gender, religious background, ethnicity, and personality. Some are single while others are married. She has kids; he never has and hopes he never does. That young kid is a people person; the old guy gets excited about job descriptions and numbers. One person was trained as a pastor while someone else worked in the marketplace and slid into ministry through the side door. One person came from a home where mom and dad teased each other and pranked the kids and life was a party; the person across the table was raised by parents who demanded perfection and spooned out heaping portions of criticism. A flip chart page could not begin to contain all of the differences between a staff of people who come together to lead the church. 

Is the diversity good or bad? The answer is YES. How wonderful is the chance to rub shoulders with and learn from someone who grew up threading up his dad’s 16 mm movie projector for Bible studies at the church when he was barely big enough to lift the projector, and - 40 years later - is still reading & experimenting & praying & learning & growing and doing everything he can think of to reach another family for Jesus? And how could you not be inspired by the energy, optimism, and godly naïveté of someone who is 30 years younger, wears studs in his ears, has paraphrased the entire New Testament in his own words, and hangs out with and prays for people whose culture is pretty much foreign to anyone with a job? In other words, everyone wins when each person in the room truly respects, honors, and values the unique perspective and life experience each person brings to the table. Most important, the lost person wins. The kingdom wins. The gospel spreads, lives are changed, and darkness is pushed back a little more. 

The flip side to this diversity is the frustration of working with people who don't see the world as you do. They make decisions so much slower (or faster) than you prefer. Their theology, on some points, boggles your mind. Their church experience is opposite of yours (a long, painful stint in a traditional pew, or maybe sipping caffeine while the preacher teaches from a bar stool). Here is what you need to know: Diversity is good, but frustration is inevitable. But put it all in kingdom perspective: When discussions and planning and working side-by-side grow out a common passion for reaching the next person coupled with a genuine respect for one another, the frustrations actually morph into better decisions, deeper friendship, and greater effectiveness for the kingdom. And more joy than you ever imagined. But each person in the room has to work on the relationship. A lot. Don't underestimate how important it is to keep on working on the relationship. 

The Italian prophet Patrick Lencioni lists six rules for building an effective team. Read his wisdom, and discuss each point with your staff. 
  • The leadership team is small enough (three to ten people) to be effective. 
  • Members of the team trust one another and can be genuinely vulnerable with each other. 
  • Team members regularly engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues. 
  • The team leaves meetings with clear-cut, active, and specific agreements around decisions. 
  • Team members hold one another accountable to commitments and behaviors. 
  • Members of the leadership team put the collective priorities and needs of the larger organization ahead of their own departments.

Did I mention that being part of a well-functioning team is fun? But it is all too rare because too few leaders are spiritually and emotionally healthy or they lack the commitment to look for the best in one another, enjoy the ride, and do whatever it takes to create strategic synergy. It is an unusual honor to serve God with a team that loves God, loves each other, loves the saints as well as far-from-God people, and synergizes to advance the kingdom. What's holding you back from being unusual? 

In my next blog, I will talk about some of the specific things we have learned about working together. 

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