So, your team just won the World Series and you are on your way home from Disneyland/world, and you think to yourself, how do I keep this level of high performance from this great team?
For all the great stories about teams that went from last to first – even Jesus tells some stories about that – there are untold stories about teams that went from first to last. Sometimes it is even the same team and the same coach who manage to take a team from fame to shame.
So, how does a church manage to keep its teams working well together? The answer, surprisingly is a series of simple questions that you need to keep asking: Who, How, and Why — and my personal favorite: Whoopee!
Let’s tackle the next-to-last one first, it just seems biblical.
Remember that when you build your team, there is a reason. Why is it that you have come together? What is your common goal? What is it you hope to accomplish? Where does this fit in the greater ministry of your church?
It is the existential question: Why do you exist? This is where all teams falter. In the history of groups there are very few that can say they have accomplished their goals for all time, and they can now rest from their labors knowing the task is finished.
Consider the March of Dimes, which was founded to combat polio, and found itself in the mid 1960’s with little to do after vaccines had pretty much eliminated polio world-wide. A series of new initiatives have reshaped the organization, but it has never generated the support or zeal it had with its initial mission.
Churches suffer similar loss of zeal when they complete building their sanctuary, as if the construction itself was the purpose of the church rather than making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Keep the goals, visions, mission of the church before the team at all times. Remind the team, this is why we are here today. Let’s be about this work!
Who and How?
The next two questions relate to how the group will continue to make decisions. I believe strongly that making the right decision, at the right level, in the right way, is a big key to keeping your team working well. In order to do that, the issues we must address are: Who will make this decision, and how will we make it?
The Declarative Decision
Every team will have a leader. Sometimes the actual leader will be the person with the title: Chairperson, Convener, President, etc. There are times when the right person to make a decision is the person with the title. Once the question is properly posed, the group will discuss it and the Chairperson will announce what seems obvious to the whole group in what amounts to a unanimous declarative decision. But sometimes the group may feel strongly one way, the chairperson may see the issues differently and make a declarative decision by authority that the group does not ardently support.
Declarative decisions can be very efficient. But the key is how much respect and authority does the leader really have to make such decisions. While small simple decisions can be made this way, it helps move the meeting along, there are perilous downsides: fewer people feel connected to the decision, sometimes not all the information is processed, and it leaves the leader as the only person invested in the decision. If it turns out to be a bad decision, the leader stands alone to take the heat.
The Informed Process
Sometimes the group has a strong sense of who it is as a team, and the team itself waits for everyone who wants to speak to voice an opinion. When everyone has given input on the issue then the group moves carefully through the maze of options until it begins to feel like a solution is eminent. In this case the leader’s input is just one of many voices that carry influence as the group decides by consensus. The leader may feel it is so obvious that a declarative decision is the most efficient way to move on, but the wise leader will still ask by posing a question: “Are we of one mind on this?” If everyone nods approval, then a decision is made and the agenda moves on.
The informed process takes more time, requires more information so that everyone clearly understands the full ramifications of the decision. But where the team is blessed with wise and strong individuals, wise, well-thought-out decisions are made by the whole team, who are now willing to stand as a team to support the decisions.
The Formal Rules Process
Sometimes a team will have a strong affinity for Roberts Rules of Order. Every item will have a motion, a second, a fair discussion and a deciding vote. Where everyone is well versed in parliamentary procedures, this can work well. The leaders merely act as a referee while the process moves to conclusion with proper pros and cons voiced in near equal measure. Roberts Rules or Parliamentary Procedure are designed to insure that the minority is heard but the majority rules.
In situations where decisions will be divisive and possibly destructive it can seem like the only way to move forward. It does demand that everyone be pretty well versed in the rules of decision making or people will feel run over by the rigidity of the process. Where the chair operates with careful attentiveness and compassion, the rules process can be very effective. When the minority is constantly being outmaneuvered and outvoted by the majority, it breeds dissension, disillusionment, disappointment, and disharmony.
This component — who and how will decisions be made — is critical for the team. Any of these processes can be perfect for your team and any of them can be terrible for your team. Any of them can be the right process for a specific question and the exact wrong process for the next question.
Each team will need to come to an agreement on how it wants to make decisions and who will have the authority to make decisions. The most important part of this question is does the whole group accept and approve how and by whom the decision is made.
The best world might be to employ several methods with the same group. A wise leader may look at an approaching agenda and plan an appropriate process for each item on the agenda. An obvious item with little opposition might be placed first on the agenda and be made by a declarative decision. A difficult decision with well entrenched proponents and detractors might be placed in the middle of the agenda and be handled with formal rules. A win/win proposition might be placed last so the group could make a consensus decision and feel good as they walked out the door.
Make the right decision at the right level in the right way and you will keep people happily working together for years.
The last thing you put on your cake is the frosting and the candles. If you want people to work well together over a long period of time, you might want to feed them.
I believe that teams need to feast together. You might even elect a Hospitality officer for your team. You don’t have to chow down at every meeting; but, every now and then, it’s a great idea to break and eat together.
After Jesus spent his forty days in the wilderness fasting, there is no biblical evidence that he ever missed a meal. He would walk into town, identify the richest man he could and invite himself to dinner. When Jesus sat down at the last supper and declared, “I have longed to eat this meal with you.” I think one component of that longing was his affection for his disciples and the team that they created in their three years together. It is just a good and proper thing to sit and eat together.
So, celebrate birthdays, acknowledge anniversaries, be excited about babies, have some cupcakes, bake a pie, bring on the cookies, gravitate to the guacamole, power up the popcorn! Simply waste some time enjoying each other at a time outside of the business of the group.
A team that enjoys good times together, taking opportunities along the way to just hang out a bit with each other — and also learning to understand and to love one another — is a team that will work well together for years and years.
Don’t skimp on the frosting and light all the candles! Whoopee!!!
© Steve Petty, 2016
Previous articles in this series “Build the Team”