Teams are at the heart of building organizations. Susan Mallory defines a team as “a group of people with complimentary and diverse gifts, skills, and strengths that are committed to a common purpose, to each other, to achieving the team’s mission, and to holding each other accountable.”
Here are six key tasks that team leaders must do in order to build, nurture, and lead their teams.
1. Lead team meetings
Romans 12:8 states that those who have the gift of leadership should “lead diligently.” This certainly applies to how leaders should step up and lead their team’s meetings. If the leader doesn’t lead the meeting, it won’t go anywhere. First of all, team leaders should make the meeting agenda (although they can certainly ask others for their input). Second, team leaders can value everyone’s contribution by ensuring that meetings start and end on time. Third, it’s the team leader’s job to keep the meeting on track. This also implies watching the flow of the meeting, taking a break and regrouping if it gets too intense or bogged down. Team leaders must watch for side conversations and pull people back into a unified conversation. At points the leader might ask someone else to lead part of the meeting, especially if a person is in charge of a certain area of ministry. Ultimately, though, leading the meeting is one area that leaders shouldn’t delegate to someone else.
2. Invite others to share a compelling vision
Every team within an organization lives under the overall vision for that organization. Teams exist to fulfill that larger vision. Thus, the first role as a team leader is articulating the larger vision and then constantly rallying the team back to that vision. Leaders assist their teams to do so by asking: “What part does our team play in helping this vision get shaped into reality?” The leader’s job involves casting this vision-within-a-vision for the team. They cast the vision both passionately and open-handedly (asking team members for their advice and input).
3. Bring clarity and accountability
Everything about the team—its goals, values, action steps—will remain fuzzy unless the leader provides clarity. This can’t be delegated to someone else on the team. It’s easy for a leader to assume that everyone understands the objectives, but its necessary to articulate what seems obvious until the whole team gets it. Specific areas of clarity might include: expectations about meeting times and attendance, guidelines about computer/phone use during a meeting, procedures when dealing with conflict and disagreements, allowing people to dream about new ideas (rather than squashing and criticizing creativity), and the necessity on following through on specific action steps. The leader needs to make these values and expectations clear and then hold other team members accountable.
4. Focus on team goals
Leaders draft common goals for the team and then ask team members to help finalize and prioritize them. In this way, goal setting isn’t a free-for-all, nor is it dictated only by the leader.
In his book Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, business leader Patrick Lencioni argues that many departments within an organization separate into their own silos and end up working against each other. The key to eliminating silos is for leaders to give all team members a clear understanding of what they have in common. In other words, leaders need to develop “thematic goals,” which Lencioni defines as a “single, temporary [usually six to nine months], and qualitative rallying cry shared by all members of the team.”
According to Lencioni, leaders should work through the following steps as they guide the thematic goal process.
Ask every team member to write an answer to this question: “If we accomplish one thing during the next x months, what would it be?”
Allow time for each team member to share and debate their individual ideas. The goal is to rally the troops, but more than anything else, it should give the leadership team clarity where to spend its time, energy, and resources.
After debating the options, choose one goal to be the theme goal for the next six to nine months.
As leaders move forward with this one, unified, thematic goal, team members may need to temporarily abandon their departmental objectives for the good of the organization as a whole.
5. Recruit team members
Having the right people on a team is important. Here are some practical steps for what business leader Jim Collins calls getting the “right people on the right seats on the bus”:
Pray about your team members. Jesus spent all night in prayer before he chose his team, the disciples. Do not recruit too quickly. Take your time and make sure that you’ve grounded your decision in prayer.
Determine your needs. Before you start recruiting team members, define the roles that are needed. Write a clear job description.
Seek the advice of others. Ask other key leaders or staff members who they think would be a good fit for the roles that you need to fill.
Recruit based on giftedness and strengths. Determine what gifts each role requires. Ask team members what their gifts are. If they don’t know, encourage them to take a strengths inventory.
Ask people to join the team. Say something like this: “I’m excited about the vision for this team of (_____). A key part of that vision is having someone with the gifts of (______). I think you’d be great at doing this. Would you consider becoming part of our team?”
6. Reward team members
Everyone—staff or volunteers—needs to be loved and valued. Here are some practical ways to reward team members:
Eat, play, and celebrate together, especially after accomplishing or making significant progress on a thematic goal.
Encourage team members by offering words of praise for specific qualities or contributions to the team.
Give them insider information about upcoming events or decisions. In other words, let them be the first to know about exciting things in the church’s life.
Recognize accomplishments with a surprise gift card.
Spend extra time listening to their concerns, and remember to pray for them.