How do you build a team where people genuinely love each other, are real with each other and focused around shared goals and results. How do you build a team that is magnetic and effective? I’m talking about the kind of team no one ever wants to leave and the kind of team that achieves championship level results? I’ve experienced teams like this, sometimes as a teammate and sometimes as a leader. Here are a few strategies for building an amazing team in your context.
Amazing teams require real and authentic relationships. Relationships and trust are the foundation of any team, church or organization. In my experience, you just can’t build a team without a lot of quality time together. This means weekly team meetings, regular one-on-ones, eating together, off-sites, and maybe even trips together. It might not be all of these things—perhaps your team is remotely connected. However, you just can’t build a team without shared time together because relationships take time.
So, if you want to build an amazing team, you have to organize everyone’s schedule around shared time.
Great teams care about each other. They’ve taken the time to understand how each other are wired—strengths, weaknesses, personality, etc. Shared understanding builds empathy. If I believe that you’ve taken the time to understand how I’m wired and what my preferences and passions are, it does something in my heart toward you. I start to believe that you’re for me and it’s much easier for me to be for you when I believe that you are for me.
The best way to create shared understanding is through stories. For teams that I have been a part of and led, team off-sites designed around sharing personal stories and testimonies have been incredibly powerful in creating shared understanding. In addition, personality and work style inventories have been helpful as well. Currently, my staff is finding the Working Genius to be particularly beneficial.
When it comes to building a team, there are certain experiences that are more valuable than others. Shared memories are incredibly valuable. Powerful shared memories can be both positive or negative experiences. The point is that a great team has history together. An amazing team can say, “Remember when…” These memories are like glue for teams.
Here are a few examples:
- Leading through COVID together. Ugh, that was so hard! But, we created a bond by leading together through very difficult circumstances.
- Serving in the community together or participating in a mission trip together.
- A meaningful off-site together.
If you want to build an amazing team, create shared memories together and as a leader, tell the stories! You’re looking for those “remember when…” moments. If you have a new team, focus on fun experiences together to build shared memories.
Something powerful happens when a team rallies around a shared goal, especially if the goal is consequential. This is why sports teams often bond at such a deep level. There is something about rallying together and winning or losing as one. It’s a powerful experience. Perhaps you’ve been there.
Let’s run with this idea of sports teams. One difference between a sports team and a ministry team is a scoreboard. A football or volleyball team always knows whether it is winning or losing. There is never any ambiguity.
What if you created a scoreboard around your shared goals? I’ve done this in a number of ways and it almost always leads to strong results. Why? Scoreboards are crystal clear and they create a sense of urgency. No one likes to lose.
The key is to create measurables around your scoreboard to drive for results. For example, if your kids ministry needs ten more volunteers, don’t measure the number of volunteers. Instead, measure the number of texts, phone calls and coffee dates with prospective volunteers.
Amazing teams are clear on their shared goals and how to achieve them.
Alright, one last idea around building an amazing team. Is shared accountability.
It is possible to create such a powerful team dynamic around goals and results that team members confront each other on anti-team behavior and low performance. When you hit this level of team work, the effect is phenomenal. Productivity skyrockets because everyone feels a shared sense of accountability for results.
So, how do you get there? 3 ideas…
- If you’re the team leader, you must invite negative feedback and respond appropriately when you receive it. When you do this, you create a safe and trustworthy environment for everyone. Confronting a teammate feels risky. If you demonstrate the process well, it starts to feel safe and normal.
- When a team member comes to you with a frustration toward another team member, your first answer as the team leader is “How did it go when you talked to them about it?” Your response drives the team toward shared accountability.
- When a team member comes to you with a frustration about something, after listening carefully and empathetically, ask, “What’s your plan for that?” Often, managers end up getting managed by their employees because they are constantly fixing problems for them when in reality, the responsibility lies with the employee. Your job as a manager is to manage, not get managed. “What’s your plan for that?” sends an appropriate message that this is your responsibility, not mine. I am here to help, but this problem is yours to solve.
Being a part of an amazing team is one of the best experiences in ministry. Unfortunately, teams aren’t automatically amazing. It takes strategy and persistence, but I believe that shared time, understanding, memories, goals and accountability will get you there. I hope this has been helpful as you lead and serve.