The Ideal Team Player
I can’t remember ever having a conversation with a pastor on the topic of building teams. I’ve had lots of conversations about hiring staff, and recruiting volunteers, but not any about putting together a great team, and what is needed for that to happen.
The Ideal Team Player touches on some helpful aspects of that topic. Lencioni really focuses in on character qualities, as opposed to focusing on skills or talents. Not the traditional ones you will find churches talking about, like the character qualities needed to be an elder, but the ones that make someone a good team player. They are different. You can be a person of good character—honest, devout, faithful to your spouse, etc.—and not be a good team player.
I think understanding that distinction is important for pastors and church leaders. We often assume that if a person has a generally good character that they will be good team players, but it isn’t true. Being honest doesn’t mean you are humble; being a good spouse doesn’t mean you are hungry. I wonder how many pastors or staffs have struggled because they had good people on their team who couldn’t function well as part of a team. And how many headaches have been endured for that same reason?
One particular thing I took note of was Lencioni’s encouragement, or challenge, to be very clear and explicit about the qualities a leader expects in his team. That seems to be one of the most important, and difficult, things a leader has to do.
It’s important for obvious reasons: if you aren’t clear on what you want or expect, there is no way you will get it. Everyone will do what they think is right or best, but there will be no common understanding. There will probably be lots of misunderstandings and miscommunication, and all the complications that come from that.
Why is it so difficult? I think there are several reasons. Often we just haven’t put the time in to clarify what those things are that we want, and if we don’t know, we can’t communicate them. Other times I think it is insecurity on the part of the leader. I know many pastors who are hesitant to draw lines clearly because of their own insecurity. Somewhere deep inside, they are thinking “Who am I to draw this line?”
Other times we are afraid that we will lose people if we draw a line and they disagree with us. That’s understandable, especially in a small church or a church plant, but it’s not wise. There is a good chance that we will lose some people if we draw lines, and that’s ok. (Yes, it’s important that we don’t draw arbitrary lines, but ones that are thought through and lead to a healthy team.) The end result is that the people who remain will end up forming a much more effective team. And that will mean more productivity and less stress.
I’ve been part of teams that worked well, and part of ones that didn’t. A good team is a joy to be part of, and worth taking the time to build. What have been your experiences with a team (good or bad)?
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