Lecture 5: Creating Great Teams
Some characteristics of good teams are enthusiasm, comradery, common vision, mutual support and communication. Bad teams often demonstrate chaos, cliques and lack of support. The first two rules of good teams are respect the value of teams and build with the best.
So, leaders are people who have followers and secondly, they influence others and thirdly, they are directional. They are taking people toward a particular gold, mission or vision. Then we said that leaders have to see through four different glasses and sometimes all at the same time. They have to see the structure, the individual, the jungle and the politics and tribes and power structures. There are certain politics in any organization. Leaders also have to see stories and every organization has a story. For example, the story of Village Church; it was planted here in Marleen Village. The name came from the location. What is also part of the story? Part of the story of Village is mission; deep in this churches’ DNA is global and the church is sixty two years old.
How many of you have been on a team before? We all have been on teams, right? I want you to think for a moment about one of the best teams you have ever been on. What were some of the things that made that team great? One answer from the audience was willingness. So, they were energetic and enthusiastic; they were on board with everything. Another answer included comradery; they got along together and focused on the vision. They had a common vision and they all worked well together. Everybody talked and shared with each other. There was mutual support for one another and in addition, there was commitment to each other and to the work. They were able to accomplish things because they were able to work together. How many of these were sports teams? How many were from the days of your high school? How many of these were cooperative teams. Conversely, what would be some marks of a bad team? What made a bad team? There were clicks, autocratic leadership, lack of support, chaos or the leader didn’t know what was going on. That is fairly bad isn’t it? You know, I majored in international relations at San Diego State University and so I took all of these political courses. I remember one class; the teacher wanted to do something different one day, but I don’t really know what it was. So, why don’t we figure that out together? We were still trying to decide what we were going to do as a class six weeks later. The teacher had no clue where he was going and it got to be very frustrating. It was certainly a wasted educational course. Finally we decided to write a paper in the end and he briefly looked through it and then gave me a B grade.
B. Rules on Team Work:
So, I want to talk about some basic rules of team work. The first one is that a leader has to respect the value of the team. Even though this makes sense, not every leader values working with a team. Some leaders work with a team because they simply have to. They are either mandated to do this or they have inherited a team, but good leaders understand that the key to survival is being able to work with a team. Great leaders know that solo leadership is really a bad idea; you can only take a group as far as you go. And when we try to fly solo, we usually fail. Team work is something very Biblical. In Proverbs 27:17 as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another and we need each other to stay sharp, although the sharpening isn’t always pleasant. Without one another we quickly dull. When you sharpen an axe, they may be some sparks and this is often true in a team. Remember Moses; one of his early failures was caused from trying to do everything by himself. His father-in-law told him that he was going to wear himself out. One of the reasons that Nehemiah was such a great leader; upon arriving in Jerusalem he put together a team. Through this, he was able to build the wall of which by himself, he could never have done. Of course Jesus formed his own team with the twelve. They had their problems of course; Jesus had to have been very patient with them. In Matthew 24, the chapter starts off with them glorifying the temple building. But in Matthew 23, Jesus had told them that this house will lie desolate, but at the very end of the chapter, they talked about how great the building was. So, Jesus worked with a team and at times, it must have taken a lot of patience. And fortunately, he had all the patience of the universe.
Paul also valued teams also, didn’t he? Who were some of the people on Paul’s team? There was Barnabas, Silas and of course there was Timothy. So Paul was never really solo either. So, leaders value working with teams, for if they don’t, a lot of bad things are going to happen. Why do we sometimes have a hard time working with teams, at least some of us? First of all, it is tempting to view teams as slowing down the process. Sometimes we think, if you just let me do it, I can do it a whole lot faster. In Seminary sometimes, one of my least favorite assignments was when the professor assigned a project in teams of three. We have within us a fundamental wiring that makes us want to work alone. A second reason is that we really haven’t learned to work with teams in our lives. We go solo in the things that we do in our lives. Some of us grew up with what is called ‘the great man theory of leadership.’ This probably came out of WWII and was a carry over into the fifties. Television programs included shows like the Lone Ranger, Sky King along with comics of Bat Man and Spider Man. All these were solo leaders; so for some of us were simply exposed to that theory of leadership. Any leader that limits themselves to this kind of thinking limits the group. Listed are four different kinds of teams in your notes. The second major one, let say that we are convinced that we need to work with a team and this will be better than working solo, and so you need to build with the best. Finding the right people is really critical; people will either make or break you. I have worked with people sometimes who are not so great and I have been really burned for it by accommodating people who are not that great. On the other hand, when you find someone really great to work with, it’s great.
C. Bad Teams:
Proverbs 25:13 warns us about building with people who are not so good. ‘To those who send him a trustworthy messenger is like the coolness of snow on a harvest day. He refreshes the life of his master.’ Can you picture that? In Palestine, it can be hot, especially during Harvest time. A person who is the right person on the team, it can be just like snow, so refreshing. Great team members are like that. In verse 19, ‘trusting in an unreliable person in a time of trouble is like a rotten tooth or a sore foot.’ So, he gives these images of really good people and really bad people. Proverbs 26:6, ‘the one who sends a message by a fool’s hand, cuts off his own feet and drinks violence’, this is the same idea as verse 10. ‘The person, who hires a fool or those passing by, is like an archer who shoots everyone.’ So, this archer is reckless; he shoots and hits everything and everybody. He is a danger to society. When you build a team of bad people, you might have a witless leader. He can potentially do some great damage. So, building with the best is really important. John Maxwell, who has written a lot on leadership, speaks of the law of the chain. The strength of the team is impacted by the weakest link. If you are not paying attention and you have a weak link, it doesn’t matter if all the other links are really strong. He puts it like this: ten plus ten plus ten plus five equals forty five. So five obvious represents the weakness link, but as teams begin to build a synergy, instead of using a plus sign, you use a multiplication sign. It would now be ten times ten times, etc. So, over time as you work as a team, you grow closer together being able to work closer together and accomplish more as a team. Greatest starts with suburb people, a quote by Warren Venous is a man who has written a lot about leadership. He looked at the best teams considering Walt Disney, the Manhattan Project, etc. and wrote a book titled Organizing Genius. This study was over five teams spread over fifty years and these teams did incredible things. He tried to access what they all had in common. He discovered that it all starts with suburb people. So, pick your team really carefully.
D. Three Important Decisions:
Therefore, you have to make three important decisions: get the wrong people off the team. If they aren’t on board with the vision, if they aren’t a cultural fit or if they are not capable of taking the group to the next level; these are things you should consider. Are they going to get us there? Do they have the right chemistry? With volunteers in a church setting, this creates a leadership challenge different from paid situations. It is a lot more difficult, sometimes to find the right people or to get the wrong people off the team. This can be painful in a church setting as there are emotional ties. A leader has to make decisions that are based on what is best for the organization. If I made decisions based on what is best for the individual, I would short change the church. Sometimes, you inherit a team but if you start from the beginning, you need to build with the best. It is a lot easier to hire than to fire. One of the painful things that I have learned is settling for someone who isn’t the best but fills a slot. I have learned not to make that mistake. When you don’t have the right person, be honest with yourself and don’t let it go on. In my first church, I hung on with staff that really weren’t the right staff and that was a real misjudgment. But within a church situation, two of them had been there forty years. But within the church, we are in this redemptive community of grace and we want to believe in transformational truth. I have learned that some people never really change; they just stay where they are.
You have to get the right people on the team or the project to work with. Go after the right people even if they are better than yourself, and I think you should try to get people that are better than you are. Never see that as a threat. Surround yourself with people smarter and more talented. This will compliment your weaknesses. Get the right number of people on the bus. So, people like Collins would say, get the right people first. Part of attracting the right people; they have to see that you have a vision. So, discerning leaders look for people with character, who love God. Within this they have great integrity and work ethic. Secondly, we need people who aim for excellence. Are the people really good at what they do? Marks of excellence include an original mind; people who know how to think in original ways. They create new forms rather than cloning existing old ideas. A mark of excellence is some who is a problem solver. A third point is someone who thinks into the future and someone who is relational. Another mark is a person who has fire in their eyes and in a sense wants to change the world. Also, aim within and without; as you build your team, we should be mentoring and developing within the team. While you are building from within, also it is good to bring someone from without. This can create new vision and fresh ideas. You can be pretty insolated if you are just working from within. Occasionally go after someone who is your rival, if they are really good. One such archer killed the horse of Genius Khan and Genius Khan made him part of the leadership of his army. Also, you should aim for the right chemistry which also means avoid the wrong chemistry. Wrong chemistry would include people with enormous egos that you always have to stroke and people who kill team work because of mistrust. I tell people this: your main mission is to reduce my workload. I have worked with some people that have increased my workload. When I see that I realize that person is the wrong person on the team. I had this young pastor on my team in the Netherlands. Now, she was passionate about her faith, but she really got angry very fast.
E. Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
I have invited Bill Latin to come and talk to us about teams, particularly the person you look for to get on the team. He has worked with team for years in the early years of Intel; he’s been in the Navy and on a number of boards. Bill: ‘Yes, I worked on the staff at Intel; I knew the results were good but I didn’t know what was so good about it until years later when I read a book, the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I had never dissected what made this team come together. The first point in this book is a pyramid with results being at the top of it. So, teams are created to accomplish something. At the bottom of the pyramid is trust. This is not a touchy-feely trust but instead it is a vulnerability based trust. The book calls these the five dysfunctions. The worst dysfunction of a team can be a person who decides not to participate. In regards to teams, you might have comradery, communications and a lot of other things, but you get to get results. This is the purpose of purpose of working together. Too often the leader and the team don’t stress the results. Sometimes being vulnerable to accept the wisdom of other people goes a long way in getting results. So, vulnerability based trust is being open to the team doing what they do. Two other points has to do with the management of conflict. We make the best decisions when we have unfiltered passionate discussion. We need to be allowed to express our views. Most people only need to have their say; they don’t need to have their way. In some situation people don’t give their ideas because they don’t feel comfortable giving those ideas because of the different views on the board. This type of environment has to be created by the leadership. I have seen this to be the worst in church teams because they don’t want to hurt somebody’s feeling or disagree with someone. When you don’t repress what you feel or think, then you are not committed.
There is also accountability. Team members need to hold each other accountable instead of the leader holding the team accountable. When this happened the leader is left to manage the conflict, set the agency and frame up the arguments. With this, decisions get made quicker but not necessarily the way the team leader wants to see them. So, this is what I see in a really great team. In another situation, we had a team and we wanted to do an evaluation using the 360 Form. I recommended that some of things that were said should be shared with the team. But instead he questioned some of the things that were said about him instead of sharing with them. So, it is easy for a leader to squash this kind of input. So, reviewing, trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results are needed on a team and they will build on each other. There are a lot of free resources on this subject. There is also the Willow Creek Seminar which has world class speakers for you to listen to.’