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
Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash
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:
- Clear expectations
- Regular communication
- Compelling rewards
- Real consequences
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
Photo by fauxels from Pexels
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
||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
||Give answers and advice
|What and how
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”:
- What is the most memorable season of your life that was joyful?
- What made it joyful?
- What can you take from that experience that you can apply in your life today?
- If you were able to arrive at a joyful place, how would you celebrate that?
- Who would you include?
- What do you sense the Lord saying to you about “joy”?
- 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.
Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash
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:
- Be intentional and approach each conversation with an open mind
- Be careful not to judge
- Be wise in the words you use
- Be quick to listen and slow to anger
- Be mindful to respond and not react
- Be considerate
- Be patient
- Be willing to listen even when you disagree
- Be helpful by summarizing what you hear people say
- 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.
- Where do you land?
- Are you a coachable coach?
- Do you take the necessary steps to slow down, engage, and truly listen to be inquisitive, receptive to change, and committed to growth?
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.
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.
- What were the highlights of your Holy Week?
- What is Christ doing in your life right now that has caught your attention?
- 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.
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!
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash
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:
- Who can you ask to help you assess your current small group ministry?
- What is currently working in your small groups?
- What is working against your vision to make disciples through your small groups?
- What changes do you need to make?
- 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
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels
I’ve worked with a number of leaders over years that have been navigating their final years in vocational ministry. This is a unique phase of life: serving in the same role for a couple of years prior to retirement is one thing; serving in the same role for a decade or two (or three!) is a different thing altogether! There is a sense of finality that has not occurred during other life transitions. It can be an exciting time. For others, however, it can be a frightening season full of unknowns.
One leader I coached into retirement found peace during his final season of vocational ministry. I’d like to share how he did that and how you, whether you’re navigating your own transition to retirement or still have several decades, can prepare for a peaceful move into retirement as well.
Discovering Peace Leading into Retirement:
- Understanding the Lord is intimately involved throughout this time
- Experiencing the love and support of family and friends
- Life-giving opportunities to serve post-retirement
- Having a financial plan that allows to maintain your standard of living
The question leaders face in this season is, “What’s next?”
In retirement, some leaders envision unplugging altogether. Others want to continue their ministry in some capacity. Others, still, will pivot into an entirely new focus. The best path for you will likely be different from the path chosen by your peers and colleagues.
Coaching leaders into retirement can be a life-giving exercise, particularly for the leader who may not have another forum to process their thinking.
Coaching Leaders Into Retirement
Imagine this scenario: you are a lead pastor or a denominational leader. You have been serving in your role for more than two decades! Now, you are contemplating life after your transition off of ministry staff. If you have planned carefully, you have created a financial pathway that will meet your needs for the near and long-term future. Relationally, you have established healthy relationships or have a community you will be involved with once the grind of your working life slows. You might feel called into a new season of ministry that allows you to put your ministry experience to good use, empowering the next generation of emerging leaders to continue the work of making disciples, developing leaders, and investing in new works.
There is also another, less predictable scenario. The financial pathway is not as clear. You may not have many established healthy relationships and will need to invest the effort into developing a community that will benefit you during the next season. And, you may or may not have a desire to continue in a ministry context but still need to earn money to meet your financial obligations.
Whatever your situation, here is a list of questions leaders face when considering retirement. If these hit at the core of the issues you face or have seen others face–keep reading!
Challenges leaders face when considering retirement:
- Identity – who am I apart from my ministry role?
- The role in which you have served bleeds into your identity and you might need to establish who you are apart from what you do. A healthier narrative is rediscovering that you are valuable apart from what you do. Making that shift can be difficult; asking the right questions can help shift your perspective and help you rediscover your true identity.
- Significance – what will I do to make a difference?
- After you have transitioned out of vocational ministry, it can be a challenge to find ways to still make a difference in people’s lives. The answer to this might be engaging in things that you love but have put aside for a season and need to reactivate. Hobbies, volunteering, or recreational activities can serve as ways you can add value to people’s lives.
- Convergence – how can I leverage my experience to bless others?
- This is where many leaders I coach into retirement focus their energies. No longer are they serving out of obligation to a job but simply to bless others. Imagine taking the lifetime of experience you have garnered and now using that experience in a very focused way, doing only those things you enjoy doing, like writing, preaching, or training leaders.
This is a wonderful time for a coach to help ensure leaders finish well! Coming alongside a leader through the season leading up to retirement and post-retirement is an honor and privilege. It is a unique opportunity to help a leader reflect on his or her life and prepare for an unprecedented transition, capturing learnings while they are still fresh in the mind of the leader.
During this season, celebrate the “wins” that God has accomplished along the journey!
The theme of Bobby Clinton’s work on Leadership Emergence Theory in “The Making of a Leader” is that few leaders finish well! It is evident when a leader is finishing well–that leader is more in love with Jesus now than when he or she began their journey of faith, has a lifetime of life and ministry fruit to show for it, and is still going strong even until the end of their life.
The road to retirement can be rich and full of future opportunities–the right coach can help navigate that journey and walk alongside leaders in any situation to finish their journey well!
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Earlier this year I was interviewed by Dr. Mike Patterson about coaching. We discussed what makes coaching unique in comparison to other ways of helping people – counseling, mentoring, consulting, etc. In the interview with Dr. Patterson, I shared a list of questions leaders will ask when considering hiring a coach:
- Do I need a coach?
- Where do I start my research?
- What is the duration of a coaching relationship?
- How will I know if I’ve found a good match?
- How much will it cost?
Before going any further, however, an important question to consider is the value or benefit of a coach to your life. This will inform your responses to the other questions and help you clarify whether you really want to engage in a coaching relationship.
Here is an actual (and very common) scenario of a leader–“Jim”–who sensed the need to pursue a coaching relationship.
Jim was new to his position as the head of an international missions network. Realizing how the complexity of his new role would require fresh ways of leading, he felt he could use the support of someone outside his immediate ministry context. When he shared the need with his board, they agreed that an executive leadership coach would benefit him during that season. Jim went to his friend, “Sam,” who was a pastor in a region where he had previously served. Sam had experience with a coach, “Frank,” he thought would be a good match for Jim. The connection was made and Jim and Frank had a conversation to explore the potential of a coaching relationship.
This began the process of discernment for Jim and Frank–would this be a worthy investment of time and resources for them? If you are in the process of discerning whether a coaching relationship will be a worthwhile investment, you might find the list below helpful for you to determine the answer.
From my experience, the three most compelling reasons for finding a coach are:
The heavy lifting in a coaching conversation involves listening and asking powerful questions. That’s the value of having a coach from outside your organization or church who does not have a vested interest in the outcome of the coaching relationship. Additionally, coaching relationships help facilitate self-discovery, and things that you discover on your own are the things for which you are more likely to take action. Leaders accelerate their growth when a coach facilitates that process of self-discovery (versus telling a client what he/she needs to do).
Jim is a sharp leader and regularly discovers his own solutions by verbally processing the situations he is confronted with in his role. The value Frank brings to Jim is the ability to process his thoughts out loud without judgment. Sounds simplistic, but the space this creates for Jim is unique and one that Jim values.
Self-discovery is the first step in the change process. Having the support of a coach to carry out a new way of leading, relating to people, or taking a step in a new direction adds tremendous value to the life of the client. There are natural challenges you confront when attempting to establish a new way of doing something. Those challenges can be mitigated–or sometimes even eliminated–with the support of a coach.
Jim is a self-starter, but there are some things that remain neglected without the support of other people, tools, and systems that Frank helps him identify. The goal is not dependence on Frank, but for Jim to build an accountability structure that allows him to stay on track.
The greatest benefit to having a coach walk alongside you is helping you focus your attention on the important and urgent versus the important but non-urgent responsibilities that will move the mission of your life and ministry forward.
A coach can help you maintain your attention on those things that will have the biggest impact on you, your calling in life, and your ministry.
Now, after 5 years in a coaching relationship, Jim has accelerated his development, moved the organization he leads into a new paradigm, and is flourishing as a leader. Jim is a coachable leader and Frank is an excellent coach. The combination of the two makes for a strategic relationship that helps Jim go further faster in his leadership.
The value of a coach has a high return on investment when the coach brings the three things identified above into the coaching relationship. Realistically, we all can benefit from having an objective third party journey alongside us during high growth opportunities, difficult seasons, and challenging goals. If you are in the market to explore a coaching relationship, InFocus has a free consultation available – CLICK HERE to find a time that works for you!
Excerpts taken from a podcast created by Mission First – People Always hosted by Dr. Mike Patterson. The entire recording can be accessed HERE
How does coaching accelerate the development of a leader?
Being a coach, it’s easy to see how coaches have an undeniable positive impact on the development of leaders. But how?
Client: When a leader takes action to make progress on an initiative he or she is pioneering, it is a great chance for coaches to maximize a learning opportunity with clients.
Example: A leader has noticed that he is doing most of the talking when leading his team and not doing as much listening. With his new awareness, he commits to listening more and talking less, asking questions to draw team members in versus dominating the discussion. This is a new way for him to interact, which may feel foreign at first. Over time, however, as the leader practices, he will grow in his ability to listen and ask questions.
Once a leader has taken action it is important to pause and help them process what they can learn from their experience. This leads into the next phase of the learning process.
Mining the Gold
Now that the leader (your client) has tested out his or her new approach, the coach (you) helps the leader process and reflect on how it went. This helps the leader extract new learnings that are hidden below the surface. I call this “mining the gold.”
It is in this place that true learning can be maximized.
Coach: A coach helps a leader reflect on the way she listened and how it impacted her team. This is where her learning is maximized.
From the scenario above, the leader’s insights might be:
- Better engagement by team members
- More ownership from the team
Move the learning forward!
Once the client clarifies his or her new learning(s), the coach can help the leader take those fresh insights and build on it by moving his/her thoughts forward into new ways of thinking and behaving.
Coach: A coach asks, “How can you move that learning forward?”
Here are some examples of ways the leader could move the learning forward:
- Before giving input, summarize what team members are saying
- Ask team members if the summary is accurate and complete
- To help team members continue their processing, ask, “…Is there more?”
This completes the cycle of accelerating the developmental process. When a coach does this on a regular basis, the pace of change increases. Without a coach this process gets bogged down or stalled unless the leader has already learned the importance of this reflection.
In summary, here is the whole process:
The process of identifying and applying new learnings: moving the learning forward
- Take action – the leader commits him/herself to a particular action
- Reflect on key insights – the coach helps the leader reflect on key insights
- Capture the insight – the coach helps the leader clarify these in behavioral terms
- Brainstorm ways to apply – the coach helps the leader identify new insight(s) into new ways of thinking or behaving
- Take action – the leader applies the action in a real situation to reinforce the learning
Here are three tips to help you move the learning forward with leaders you coach:
- Give leaders the time they need to process their learnings
- Don’t interfere by interjecting YOUR insights
- Let the client do the heavy lifting (become comfortable with silence)
Most leaders fail to give ample time to reflect due to the busyness of life and ministry. They don’t believe they can afford the time that’s required to go through the exercise. When left on their own, chances are they will give in to the “tyranny of the urgent.”
However, leaders can’t afford NOT to adopt this process, as it will eventually and certainly catch up with them (often when they least expect it!). So serve the leaders well that are under your care.
If you want an accurate picture of your competence as a coach, there is no substitute for the 360° Christian Coach Assessment. This online tool is the only assessment for Christian coaches that is backed by thorough qualitative research. It clearly and accurately identifies your coaching strengths and areas for improvement. Learn more HERE.
If you want to participate in a cohort and work on your coaching excellence with a mentor, consider the Coaching Excellence GrowthTrac.
This is what one participant had to say about the experience of working with a coach mentor alongside their 360° Online Christian Coach Assessment:
“When used with the 360° Christian Coach Assessment, a coach mentor can maximize your development as a coach and your impact for the kingdom of God. Training alongside mentoring results in excellent coaches.” – Dennis P
The next cohort will begin in the Spring. To learn more about this unique training opportunity, CLICK HERE.
Photo by Frederik Löwer on Unsplash
One of the realities of the last 12-24 months is the challenge of creating a healthy team culture during a pandemic season. I’ve had countless conversations with leaders who have reflected on the ways they have helped their teams navigate this season–some went to more frequent meetings with their teams (even daily) so that team members felt cared for and supported. Two years later, these teams are thriving.
A leader I was speaking to asked how he could more effectively empower his team. His vision is to create a supportive environment while maximizing the potential of each individual as well as the collective group. After wrestling with several potential approaches, he discovered some missing pieces in the culture he had established. Out of this conversation (and others I have navigated with leaders) emerged five ways to build a healthy team culture.
5 Ways to Build a Healthy Team Culture
#1 Clear expectations
#2 Regular communication
#3 Compelling rewards
#4 Real consequences
#5 High Trust
Each of these are significant in themselves, but when implemented together there is a synergistic relationship.
Let’s unpack each one:
#1 Clear expectations
When your team is initially organized, discuss the expectations you have as the leader. Just as important, discuss the expectations members of the team have of you and of one another. A simple list of “team norms” or operating principles can go a long way in removing ambiguity in the team you are leading.
Clarifying expectations on the front end will help you avoid the conflict and ambiguity that sometimes can erode trust over time. Here are questions to consider in determining team norms:
- What are the most important ways we can demonstrate respect for each other?
- What are the non-negotiable commitments we are making to each other?
- How can we assess the health of our team?
#2 Regular communication
Frequency of communication is a common challenge teams face. Communication often translates into “meetings” which in some organizations suggests a waste of time. Consider also how communication needs to take place: in person, virtually, via e-mail or text, or “as needed”. These are all considerations that should be discussed before problems emerge. I have not come across a one-size fits all approach to communication, but here are some questions to consider in evaluating and implementing regular communication:
- What issues do we need to stay current on in our team?
- What is the minimum amount of time we can allow between communication (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly)?
- What is the best forum for this type of communication (e.g. in person, virtual, e-mail or text)?
#3 Compelling rewards
Rewards can range from fun and simple to more significant. Discussing ways you can reward team members for their achievements can be a motivator for team members. One team leader I worked with rewarded team members by highlighting some outstanding behavior, achievement, or quality in front of their peers. A kind word or personal note goes a long way to affirm the contributions team members make. Here are questions to ask to identify compelling rewards for your team:
- What are some meaningful ways you have shown appreciation for your team members?
- What do you want to reward in your team?
- How will you reward qualities or achievements?
#4 Real consequences
This might sound like a parenting trait, but setting clear boundaries with felt consequences when a boundary has been ignored or broken is critical to building a high-trust team culture. Just as important is following through on a consequence when a team member fails to observe the commitment they have made to their teammates. For example, if a person is habitually late and one of the “team norms” is punctuality, the leader needs to enforce a consequence for the impact the tardiness has on the team. The action you take (or fail to take) communicates your commitment to upholding your team norms. Use these reflection questions to help you and your team agree to real consequences:
- What behaviors will your team not tolerate?
- What will the consequences be?
- Are you willing to enforce those?
#5 High trust
Each of the previous 4 aspects of building a healthy team culture relates to trust. The speed at which you can develop trust within a team will determine how fast you are able to move toward your goals. The higher the level of trust, the more you can accelerate your progress as a team toward the vision. Conversely, the lower the trust…well, you get the idea. Here are a couple of reflection questions to help you reinforce trust with your team:
- What is the most effective way you have built trust within your team?
- What has eroded trust?
- What can you do to increase trust within your team?
In the last 12-24 months, leaders have had to be more intentional in building healthy team cultures. Ignoring these five aspects of a healthy team–or failing to give attention to them–has exposed the cracks in many organizations and churches. The healthier the culture, the stronger the organization.
If you need help or are seeking a guide to help you work through the nuances of leading your team, InFocus is here to help. To book a free consultation with Gary Reinecke, find a time that works with your schedule – CLICK HERE.
Photo by Headway on Unsplash