Building A Healthy Team

The latest shenanigans on the Miami Dolphins are another reminder that talent alone does not make a winning team.  A single player acting out in self-absorbed verbal abuse hurts the entire team.  Several years ago we saw number one draft choice, professing Christian, Dwight Howard disrupt the Orlando Magic.   History reminds us time and time again, whether it is a sports team, a business or a church, talent alone does not make a successful team. 

Because healthy teams are essential to effective ministry in the church, it is crucial to take the time to build or re-build your staff or ministry teams.  Before you start to build a team, it is important to understand possible reason for team ineffectiveness.  An excellent resource on this top is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  

Below is a chart that lays out the dysfunctions which build upon each other.

Absence of Trust: For a team to be healthy and effective there must be complete honesty and vulnerability.   Each team member must be open about their weaknesses and inform others when they make a mistake.   Each team member must truly “get” the Gospel and not seek to find value and worth through accomplishments.   The Gospel creates a community of grace, where the focus is Christ, not any individual team member.

Fear of Conflict:  If a team does not trust and respect each other, a team will not openly engage each other.  Lencioni writes, “Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas” (188).  If these types of debates and discussion do not go on there is the potential of missing important information.  Moralism can promote artificial harmony as it values external and superficial love.  The Gospel allows us to engage and be passionate because it is not about us, but the Kingdom!

Lack of Commitment: If the team is not rooted in the Gospel, resulting in a lack of trust, and no room for passionate debate, chances are, some team members will disengage and not fully “buy-in” to the decisions that are being made.

Avoidance of Accountability: “Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions that seam counterproductive to the good of the team” (189).

Inattention to Results:  When you don’t hold each other accountable, the team is no longer attentive to results.  Inattention to results “occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of division about the collective goals of the team” (189).

How then do you build or re-build a healthy team?  Here are a couple suggestions:

1.    Cover the entire process in prayer asking that God would show you the right people for the team.

2.    Build the team around a purpose or mission.  Be concise on what you want the team to do, and recruit for that task.  Don’t simply look for volunteers, or have series of guilt laden appeals, be selective.  

3.    Once you have recruited the team you need to train them.  Don’t start the work until they are clear on their mission, as well as how to work as a team.  Don’t just assume they know how to work together.
a.   Remind them on how the Gospel is played out in community. This is essential for an environment of trust.
b.   Do a brief personality profile to help the team understand how people naturally interact with each other.  There are plenty of sources on line to do a quick Myers/Briggs or DISC test. 
c.   Walk through the dysfunctions that we just reviewed so they know in advance some ways the team can be ineffective.  

4.     If you are not the leader, make sure there is one.  The leader’s role is to make sure the meeting is planned and operates properly.  The leader keeps the team from moving into dysfunction.  

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