Signs of an Unhealthy Team and How to Turn It Around

Signs of an Unhealthy Team and How to Turn It Around

Liverpool Football Club (soccer in the U.S). won the Football Association Cup (FA Cup) – their second trophy this season. In European football this is called winning the double.  They have a legitimate chance of winning three (treble) and a long shot at a quadruple.

How do they do it? They work hard on the fundamentals.

In the local church or missions context, the same can be said of high-performing ministry teams: they work hard on the fundamentals. But what about those teams that struggle? What are the signs? The unhealthy behaviors?

I worked with a team that was in distress many, many years ago. They had been suffering for a long time when I arrived on the scene. There were conversations going on behind people’s backs, work that was assumed was getting done but really wasn’t, and resources that were mismanaged. It was–to be blunt–a hot mess! One of the first things I did was meet with individual team members to conduct a full team assessment. I wanted to get a clear picture of:

  • What was working
  • What was not working
  • What needed to change

Over the course of the following weeks and months the picture became clearer, and it was evident what issues needed to be addressed. Now, years later, the team has gone through a significant change and refocused their vision for the future. They are in a much better place. To get there, however, they needed to do some deep work in order to move from where they were to where they wanted to be.

Some teams never make it. Others might limp along.

So how do you know the signs of unhealth within a team?

Here are some telltale signs that warrant attention:

  • Lack of vision and direction
  • Conflict of values
  • Ambiguity of roles
  • Unclear ground rules
  • Inability to monitor plans
  • Closed to new ideas
  • Unable to keep clear boundaries

Well before any attempt has been made to build a team’s skills, it is critical to understand the stages through which a typical team will travel over time. A considerable amount of research has been done on the stages of team growth, and experts agree that teams go through four distinct phases: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

This assessment (which takes around 30 minutes to complete) looks at an individual’s ability to effectively build the team using the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model, with seven separate categories in all:

  • Vision and direction (Forming)
  • Value alignment (Forming)
  • Role clarity (Storming)
  • Setting ground rules (Norming)
  • Monitoring systems (Norming)
  • Continuous learning (Performing)
  • Boundary management (Performing)

A total of 84 questions helps individual team members to determine their overall competence in each of these seven areas.

How healthy is your team? Take the assessment and see if it helps you gain clarity. I would even encourage you to send the assessment to each of your team members to take individually, and then discuss your thoughts afterward.

Author: Jon Warner Publisher: Team Publications © All Rights Reserved



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Developing Healthy Team Members

Developing Healthy Team Members

I love following the Liverpool Football Club (American soccer) as they progress through the season. As I’m writing this, they are in the running to win four major competitions. One of the main reasons for this achievement is the coach, Jurgen Klopp. He surrounds himself with excellent people who are experts in the essentials of team recruitment, development, and strategy to compete at the highest levels in world football.

Developing healthy, world class ministry teams and team members carry some of the same qualities as a world class football team.

What makes a healthy team? 

A few blogs ago I wrote on this topic. To summarize, this is what it takes to build a healthy team culture:

  1. Clear expectations
  2. Regular communication
  3. Compelling rewards
  4. Real consequences
  5. High Trust

What makes healthy team members?

Continuing with the Liverpool FC analogy, I want to address the characteristics of a healthy team member. Below is a summary of each characteristic and how it applies to a sporting franchise, followed by a key question for your reflection. Hang on tight–here are five traits of a healthy team member.

  1. Passion for the vision: the objective for Liverpool is clear–win every game and every competition they play.
    • How does each member describe the vision of your team?
  2. Shared values: Jurgen Klopp is a Christian and requires a certain quality of player on his team. Though all the members of his team may not be Christian, many of the attributes he looks for in players parallel those of a Christian (e.g. respect, honesty, integrity, humility, industrious, etc.).
    • What values do you look for in your team members?
  3. Ability: Liverpool players have world-class skills and technique to compete at the highest levels.
    • What skills do your team members need? 
    • What skills do your team members possess?  
    • What areas must be developed? 
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Liverpool demand that players be self-aware both on and off the field or they simply do not remain in the club for long.
    • Where do your team members need to grow in their EQ?
  5. Disciple of Christ: As a disciple of Christ I am not suggesting perfection. What I want to communicate is progress in the direction a person is moving in their spiritual walk.
    • Are your team members moving towards Christ or away from Him? 

A helpful tool to develop EQ is the Emotional Intelligence Skill Builder Booklet.

How do you find healthy individuals? 

Like attracts like. Klopp has this ability. He attracts a certain player that fits the DNA of the club. It is fantastic to see the players they bring from other clubs and which ones turn out to be world-class stars at Liverpool. The team culture Klopp has established assimilates players who share the same values of the manager and club.

How do you invest in and equip members of your team?

Personal development: Encourage regular sabbath and rest. Spiritual practices and work-life-ministry balance are all critical gauges to pay attention to as you create healthy team members.

Skill development: There exists a number of skill-based tools and resources that I go to when I work with leaders, depending on the need. The one I use when a leader needs an in-depth assessment is called the Harrison (CLICK HERE to read more from a previous blog). The tool is based on Enjoyment Performance Theory and suggests that:

… when we enjoy a task – we tend to do it more often. When we do something over and over, we have a tendency to get better at it through both learning and repetition. When a person gets better at something, the feedback he or she receives – both from others and internally – is normally positive. And positive feedback increases the enjoyment of the behavior. The cycle keeps repeating itself – increasing the strength of enjoyment and tendency for the behavior – and often results in behavior habits that we don’t realize are behavior choices.*

If you are interested in learning more about the Harrison Assessment – CLICK HERE.

There are also a host of other tools that exist to help develop leaders that I’ve used over the years including:

Let’s return to the example of Liverpool FC. As the club continues to roll through the later stages of the league and tournaments, the team is being called on to perform under intense pressure with every game.

Today, people in your team are facing pressures from all directions. As an attentive team leader your job is to anticipate the best way you can support and encourage your members, paying close attention to those areas that will have the largest impact in their lives and ministries.


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Seeking Joy – Using a Coach Approach!

Seeking Joy – Using a Coach Approach!

Years ago a leader I was coaching asked me to help him find ways to discover “joy” in his life.

This really threw me. I wasn’t clear what he was asking, so I asked some questions to clarify what he really wanted. What do you do when you’re coaching someone and you enter into a conversation that has the potential to become a counseling appointment?

The two disciplines, coaching and counseling, bleed into each other and it is important to keep clear boundaries. People approach coaching with various ideas that may or may not line up with what coaching actually is.

Here’s a quick overview of the distinctions between the two disciplines, taken from an article authored by Linda Miller, a coach and marriage family counselor.

Making Distinctions between Coaching and Counseling



(traditional model)

Action Understanding and issues
Present to future focus Past to present focus
Create and design Repair and resolve
Expertise lies within person being coached Expertise lies within counselor
Promote discovery Give answers and advice
Future possibilities Past events
What and how Why
Proactive Curative
Achievement Healing
Joy Happiness

Used with permission – Linda Miller, MCC for publication in REV Magazine © April 2003 


I have found this chart to be very helpful in my own coaching experience.

During this season of adjusting to a new normal in our post-COVID world, it is important to be clear what you’re about. And when clients move into counseling territory on the right side of the chart above and you are not qualified, be aware and refer your client to a qualified counselor.

Back to the opening illustration. You see that “joy” fits in the coaching column. After clarifying with my client that he wasn’t asking questions better suited for a counselor, I was able to coach him in the precise way he needed. Below are some questions to help you when you come across a leader in search of “joy”:

  1. What is the most memorable season of your life that was joyful?
  2. What made it joyful?
  3. What can you take from that experience that you can apply in your life today?
  4. If you were able to arrive at a joyful place, how would you celebrate that?
  5. Who would you include?
  6. What do you sense the Lord saying to you about “joy”?
  7. How can you thank the Lord?

For many leaders, discovering joy is a real challenge today. If you find someone not feeling quite themselves or at a low point, it might be time to have an honest conversation about how things are going. Serving them as a friend could mean having a simple conversation where they feel heard, connecting them to a coach, or, in some cases, encouraging them to seek out counseling.


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How to Engage Nonbelievers Using Your Coaching Skills

How to Engage Nonbelievers Using Your Coaching Skills

Have you ever applied your coaching skills when engaging with people who are far from God?

When you give attention to the most casual conversations, it’s amazing what can emerge when you approach others with curiosity and a desire to learn about them.

A few years ago, we had our neighbors over for dinner. They were a young couple who were in the very beginning stages of starting their family. They had a lot of tattoos on their arms, and our conversation naturally evolved to the meaning and purpose behind the symbols they had chosen. Near the end of the evening, I noticed that on the wife’s hand was a pyramid with an eye in the middle. I imagined there was a good story behind that one so I asked her what it means (I was genuinely curious). Without going into detail, the story involved a spiritual experience that had changed her life. This opened further conversations about their belief system and worldview.

It would have been easy for me to react or attempt to deconstruct the narrative our new friends had created around the meaning and symbolism of her tattoo. The fact remains, their story is their story. It is poor coaching to hijack someone’s story and critique it–or worse, discount it. Later, we learned that they had an interest in learning about the biblical narrative of creation through Jordan Peterson (who has recently caught the imagination of many). They were on a quest to find meaning and significance in their life, and we were simply observers along for the ride.

As a coach, how do you remain inquisitive, receptive to change, and committed to growth?

This is how I define those ideas:

  • Inquisitive: curious to learn about the other person 
  • Receptive to change: willing to adjust to the needs of the person
  • Committed to growth: help the person take a step on their discipleship journey

It’s important to be aware of how we either help or deter a person as they explore spiritual matters. The following are 10 ways to help you stay in that space:

  1. Be intentional and approach each conversation with an open mind
  2. Be careful not to judge
  3. Be wise in the words you use
  4. Be quick to listen and slow to anger
  5. Be mindful to respond and not react
  6. Be considerate
  7. Be patient
  8. Be willing to listen even when you disagree
  9. Be helpful by summarizing what you hear people say
  10. Be energetic

In summary, a coachable coach is inquisitive, receptive to change, and committed to growth.  Conversely, an uncoachable coach is unwilling to learn, resistant to change, and comfortable with the status quo.

  1. Where do you land?
  2. Are you a coachable coach?
  3. Do you take the necessary steps to slow down, engage, and truly listen to be inquisitive, receptive to change, and committed to growth?

30-day Challenge:

Put the three traits of a coachable person into practice. In your next conversation with a person far from God, see if you can remain inquisitive, receptive to change, and committed to growth. Then, reflect on the difference this makes with the people you engage with in comparison to how you have engaged people in the past.



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Post Resurrection Reflection

Post Resurrection Reflection

He is risen.  
He is risen indeed!


Imagine you were among those who saw the resurrected Christ. The awe and the wonder. The utter amazement that He had risen from the dead!

You will come across people this week who are reflecting on the events of Holy Week, culminating with Resurrection Sunday. Many of them have been to church. Some watched online. Others wonder what all the fuss is about. But what about you? Where do you find yourself following the most pivotal event of our Faith?

Let’s get personal. At my stage of life I have celebrated more than my fair share of Easters. Each year is different: in the past I’ve engaged in the season of Lent in a variety of ways (fasting, for instance, to slow down and reflect on the deeper aspects of life and faith). This year my attention has been more and more on the ways in which Christ is at work in my life.  Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar place.

Here are 3 self-reflection questions to pause, reflect, and capture the profoundness of it all before you move too quickly past Easter and onto the next thing.

  1. What were the highlights of your Holy Week?
  2. What is Christ doing in your life right now that has caught your attention?
  3. What do you need to rethink as it pertains to your spiritual formation?

My reflection: most of us are moving way too fast. We are taking less time to enjoy the important things and more time trying to keep up a pace that is unsustainable. We are running hard on the treadmill of life but not getting anywhere. The psalmist says it well:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 26:10)

I have been struck by how easy it is to lose sight of this perspective. As I was riding my mountain bike the other day, each time my mind would begin to wonder I would draw my attention back to this passage: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  I wish I could tell you I only needed to do this once, but it was probably more often than I was even aware. Our minds and attention are easily distracted.

What can you do to stay focused on the work of Christ in your life?

On a grander scale, do you need to slow down? Refocus your priorities? Change it up a bit?  This might be an ideal time to take stock in what you have been given.

Slow down.

Appreciate the little things that go unnoticed throughout your daily life.

And give thanks to the One who has made all things possible.

He has risen. He has risen indeed!


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Coaching Leaders in Formation of Disciple Making Communities

Coaching Leaders in Formation of Disciple Making Communities

Many churches find it difficult to change the culture of their small group ministry from merely assimilating new people to forming disciple making communities. While not all churches share this struggle, if you find yourself in this predicament you are certainly not alone. The relational cracks, lack of focus on making disciples, and intentional leadership development in the foundation of small groups ministries are exposed when they are repurposed to become more fruitful.

Lessons learned from churches when things did no go as planned: 

I know of several churches that have transitioned from traditional small group ministries to disciple making communities. The organizational life cycle of even the healthiest churches are prone to create small group systems that establish a life of their own. Over time, if small groups are not engaged in disciple making from the inception, refocusing those groups is extremely challenging.

Pitfalls to Avoid doing when Transitioning Small Groups to Disciple Making Communities:

Pitfall #1: Too much change in a short amount of time

Pitfall #2: Shortage of leaders who really embrace the vision

Pitfall #3: Lack of preparation

If you are considering making this shift in your small group ministry, here are three ways to avoid the pitfalls above:

Tip #1: Reflect on the implications

Think through the implications of transitioning to disciple-making communities. There are real seen and unseen implications that you might not be able to anticipate on your own. Recruit your most engaged people to help you navigate the right way to shift in the new direction you are asking your small group leaders to take.

Tip #2: Try a pilot and learn

Seasoned leaders tend to experiment with this more often than newer leaders. Notice that I did not say older vs. younger. Experience is the best teacher. The leaders who have seen the fruit of past attempts when they failed to observe the three pitfalls above have learned the wisdom of testing an idea before broadly implementing it.

Tip #3: Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Communication with your key leaders and the congregation throughout the process will make the journey more attractive and more fruitful for everyone involved. The most important things to keep in mind are who you need to communicate with and what you need to communicate. The amount of change you are introducing will inform how much to communicate, how to communicate it, and how often it must be communicated.

Coaching leaders who are transitioning small groups to disciple making communities:

  1. Who can you ask to help you assess your current small group ministry?
  2. What is currently working in your small groups?
  3. What is working against your vision to make disciples through your small groups?
  4. What changes do you need to make?
  5. What is a realistic time frame to make those changes?

If you are looking for resources to help you to transition your small groups to disciple making communities, here are two resources that will help you look at what is involved in the Change Management process.

Change Management Skill Builder

Change Management Effectiveness Profile



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