Developing A strong Teamby Doug Cowburn
To Develop a Strong Team, Work on This!
Any team that wants to grow stronger over time needs to do a few things right. Teams are full of people, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and a myriad of other complications. To develop a healthy, strong team I have found a few principles that have created great team dynamics in the organizations I have worked in.
Start here. I am intentionally not putting this one last! The enjoyment factor on your team is a ‘make it or break it’ principle. As a leader, you have to enjoy what you are doing, you have to WANT to be there with the people you are leading. If these two things are not true, how will your team members ever be able to enjoy the work they are doing. This principle is even more true for a volunteer team!
Performance vs. Learning
Performance-based teams are run on success/failure metrics and accountability. They thrive on pressure from the leader or pressure from the other team members to be successful. The danger of performance-based teams is that often consequences end up being the motivating factor to do better. A learning team culture celebrates loss and wins with the same amount of passion. Wins are amplified and built on and losses are diagnosed and discussed in an open forum with no threat of consequences to the person who was leading the objective. Seth Godin says, “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.” On my teams, we welcome, covet, and learn from failures. This is what it means to have a “learning team.”
Develop Reliable Lanes of Communication
My staff team at EGC has experienced great successes when it comes to internal communication. We have been using an application called Slack. We don’t rely on email for conversation and decisions. Email was too slow. Having a chat-based communication system we can engage other members of the team quickly. Why did email fail us? Our team was slow to respond to email, but Slack worked great. How did we figure this out? Because we failed and were able to talk about how to get better at communication (see the point above).
Everything your team does needs to have a measurement attached to it, and your team needs to review that metric regularly. Does your kids’ team know the average attendance of pre-schoolers? Is that growing or shrinking? Do we disciple adults? How many have we discipled? Are we growing? If your team is meeting and not “doing” anything, I would ask, why are you meeting? Meetings need to produce activity and action. If you take an action, there should be a measure of success. Otherwise, how will you determine wins or losses and learn from them!
Have Productive and Designed Meetings
Lastly, as I alluded to above, meetings are important, and they need to be productive. To accomplish this, your team meetings need to have an agenda. An agenda says that you have prepared for the meeting and are being a good steward of the time each person is investing in the team. No agenda? No meeting! Here are a few recommendations that every meeting agenda should include:
- A record of past action items with a due date and an owner.
- A meeting agenda that lists who is running the topic, how long the discussion should take, and what the purpose of the discussion is (update, troubleshoot, etc).
- A facilitator. Every meeting needs someone to push the agenda, to get off rabbit trails, and keep the meeting efficient.
Any team needs to appreciate the need for rest. For many teams who work together every day, rest can end up being ignored due to other urgent needs. Here are some ideas to add good boundaries for rest.
- Do we check to make sure that we honor our team members’ family time in the evenings and on weekends?
- Do we make sure people are using their vacation time? (For Paid Staff)
- Do we offer sabbatical rest? (Do elders get a break, do pastors and ministry team members get another day off to honor their sabbath rest)?
- Do my team members have permission to ask for additional time off if needed?
Follow up questions: What do you need to focus on to make your team stronger? Are you having fun? How can you run meetings with your team that honors their time investment?
Doug Cowburn is the Executive Pastor at Elim Gospel Church in Rochester, NY, and works with Intentional Churches to help churches pursue the Great Commission. Doug is passionate about helping leaders and churches take bold steps toward health and growth.
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