10 Commonalities of Healthy Teams

I am happy to serve on what I believe to be a healthy team. It’s amazing how many church leaders I know who say their team is not healthy. 

I have often been asked, however, why I claim our team is healthy. This is simply my opinion, but I can share some things I think healthy teams have in common.

Here are 10 commonalities of healthy teams:

  • A shared vision is embraced by everyone on the team.
  • Team member’s individual ideas are equally valued.
  • The organization readily embraces change.
  • Risk taking is encouraged.
  • Encouragement flows freely.
  • People enjoy their work and relationships are deeper than just the professional environment.
  • Mistakes are used to make the team stronger
  • The structure doesn’t limit growth, but provides healthy boundaries.
  • There is freedom to offer constructive criticism, even of top leadership, without fear of retribution.
  • Conflict is not discouraged, but handled in a healthy way.

There’s my list. Are we perfect in all of them – all the time? No. Do we see them consistently and value all of them? Thankfully, yes.

What would you add to the list?

5 Necessary Ingredients In Healthy Delegation

I have seen, and probably been accused of, dumping responsibilities on people inappropriately and calling it delegation. Also from experience, this form of delegation actually appears to do more harm than good for an organization. It leaves projects undone or completed mediocre at best. It kills employee morale and motivation and it keeps the mission of the organization from reaching its full potential.

In my book Mythical Leader, I share a few stories of delegation gone wrong when I was the leader. This post originates from learning I have experienced the hard way.

The bottom line of delegation is delegation involves more than ridding oneself of responsibility. You can’t “dump and run” and call it delegation.

Delegation is an international, methodical – an most important – part of leadership.

Here are 5 necessary ingredients in healthy delegation:

Expectations

The person receiving the assignment must know the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve. They need to know what a win looks like in your mind. People will want to know they did good work. The question “Why are we doing this?” and “What are we trying to accomplish?” should be answered clearly in their mind.

Knowledge

The delegator should be sure the proper training, coaching and education have been received. The delegator should remain available during the process so questions or uncertainties of details, which will naturally arise, can be answered.

Resources

Effective delegation means people have adequate resources and money to accomplish the task assigned. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to complete a project without the tools with which to do it.

Accountability

Proper delegation involves follow up and evaluation of the delegated assignment. Did we achieve the objectives? What could we have done better? What did we learn from this process? This process isn’t meant to be threatening or make anyone fearful. Done well it is healthy for the delegator, the person receiving delegation, and the organization.

Appreciation

The delegation isn’t complete until the delegator recognizes the accomplishment of the one who completed the task. Failing to do so limits the leader’s ability to continue healthy delegation.

Delegation may be one of a leader’s most effective methods of success. Any leader I have known who is productive long-term has continued to grow and develop as a delegator.

Leaders Must Grow as the Organization Grows

In my experience, it’s easier to hide bad leadership in a place, which isn’t growing.

However, the larger an organization gets – the more growth that occurs – the more bad leadership becomes apparent.

As a leader for the last several decades, I’ve learned the times my leadership is stretched the most are the times we are growing – and changing – the fastest.

As an organization grows:

  • People ask harder questions and challenge the process.
  • More decisions have to be made.
  • There never seems to be enough time.
  • Better systems are needed.
  • The people required to do the work increases.
  • Leadership development becomes more important.
  • Effective delegation and management is necessary.
  • Resources are stretched.
  • Commucication is often messy.
  • Tensions are high.

I have even wondered if an organization can outgrow the capacity of a leader. (I certainly think it could outgrow me.)

Here’s the bottom line.

As the organization grows – as things get bigger – the leader must be equally growing.

This can be a sobering word for leaders. But, leadership is often a sobering reality. But, the leader must understand – continuing to grow an organization always requires a leader to continually grow.

Which leads me to close with an important question:

What is your personal leadership development plan?

Credibility Versus Communication

A Huge Understanding in Leadership.

In John Maxwell’s book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently”. Maxwell claims, “Connectors live what they communicate”.

The people who learn to connect with others best live the life they talk about when they communicate.

Then Maxwell writes something I think is powerful. I’ve seen this so many times in leadership.

“Credibility! Here’s how this works in any kind of relationship: The first six months – communication overrides credibility. After six months – credibility overrides communication.

Then he closes his thought by writing, “Credibility is currency for leaders and communicators. With it, they are solvent; without it, they are bankrupt.” 

Wow! I love it! It’s so true.

In the beginning of a relationship, you hang on what people say, but as the relationship matures it doesn’t matter as much what they say – it matters what they do.

This is a golden paradigm understanding for those of us who lead others. This principle should guide us as we begin new relationships and as we manage those we’ve had for years.

So many times we believe in the initial days of leading someone that our credibility should be enough. (This is the first myth in my book The Mythical Leader.) Other times, we mistakenly believe if those we are leading know us we can simply say it and they will follow, but now they are depending on our credibility. We have to walk the talk.

How does knowing this principle impact the way you lead?

7 Indicators Your Team Is Dysfunctional

Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, you’ve served on one which is dysfunctional. It appears to me we have many to choose from in the organizational world. There are no perfect teams. We are all dysfunctional at some level and during some seasons.

In case you’re wondering- my definition of a dysfunctional team – in simple terms – is one which cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance, because it is impacted by too many negative characteristics. There’s more going wrong than right more days than not.

In my experience, there are commonalities of dysfunction. If you have been on a dysfunctional team you’ve probably seen one or more of of the common traits.

See if any of these seem familiar.

7 indicators of a dysfunctional team:

Team members talk about each other more than to each other. The atmosphere is passive aggressive. Problems are never really addressed, because conflict is avoided. The real problems are continually ignored or excused.

Mediocrity is celebrated. Everything may even be labeled “amazing”. Nothing ever really develops or improves because no one has or inspires a vision bigger than what the team is currently experiencing.

It’s never “our” fault. It’s the completion or the culture or the times in which we live. No one takes responsibility. And, everyone passes blame. Will the real leader please stand up?

Communication usually brings more tension than progress. There may be lots of information, but it’s not packaged in a way which brings clarity. No one knows or recognizes a win.

The mention of change makes everyone nervous. Either change is rare or it’s been instituted wrong in the past. Any real progress has to be forced or controlled.

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions. Team members never feel valued or appreciated. No one feels empowered. The leader uses words like “I” or “my” more than “we” or “our”.

There are competing visions, goals or objectives. It’s every team member for his or herself. The strategy or future direction isn’t clear.

According to my observations have you served on a dysfunctional team?

Granted, every team goes through each of these during seasons. Again, there are no perfect teams. But, if there are at least two or three of these at work current I’d say it’s a good time to evaluate the team’s health and work to make things healthier.

How many of these can you currently see on your team?

One Thing You Must Do if You Want to Attract Leaders

One of the most frequent concerns I receive from young leaders about their organizations is they aren’t being given adequate responsibly or authority. Instead, they are handed a set of tasks to complete. They don’t feel they have a part in creating the big picture for the organization.

Since most of the young leaders I talk to are in ministry, this means it’s happening in the church too.

And, the other side of this dilemma is most the pastors I hear from are looking for leaders. They want someone to take the reigns of leadership and actually do something.

How do we solve the problem?

How do we find leaders for our churches and how do we allow younger team members to feel included? How do successful organizations (churches) attracts leaders?

Here’s my best advice:

Hand out visions more than you assign tasks.

In order for the organization to be successful, you’ll need to attract leaders. You know that, right? You need to know something about leaders and potential leaders.

Leaders want to work towards a vision, more than they want complete a set of tasks.

Leaders don’t get excited about checklists and assignments.

Leaders want to join a great vision, then help develop the tasks to accomplish it.

Leaders get excited about faith-stretching, bigger-than-life, jaw-dropping acts of courage.

That’s the kind of vision leaders – and those who claim to want to be leaders – want to believe in and follow. “To do” lists often get in the way of that kind of fun. Visions excite people. The details to complete them don’t.

So, if you want to create a successful organization and recruit leaders hand people a big vision with lots of room for them to choose on the implementation side.

Of course, they may indeed need to create checklists. I would even suggest they do if I were coaching them. They will need measurable action plans. They need to have a list of assignments in order to complete a project successfully. All those are necessary to accomplish a worthy vision. A vision is simply an idea until someone puts legs to it so it can walk.

But, start with the vision. Start with the big idea. Start with what you hope to accomplish some day. And, make sure you’re real clear about illustrating the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be seized.

And, then get out of the way and let people figure out how they will accomplish the vision.

This doesn’t mean your work is over, either. They’ll need your help along the way. They’ll still need your help to develop structure, discipline and follow through. But that’s way different than handing them a set of tasks in the beginning. And, it’s practicing good leadership and delegation skills.

I realize this is especially hard for some leaders who may want to control the desired outcome. (Leaders often like me – just being honest.) You’ll have to take a risk on the people you’ve recruited to lead and discipline yourself to let them work in their own way. You’ll get burned a few times, but overall, you’ll find more success when you:

Paint big visions – not specific tasks.

When you do this you’ll attract and develop more leaders and a more successful organization will be built and sustained.

7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

These I've learned the hard way

Almost on a weekly basis I hear from young pastors who want to grow as a leader. They feel the pressure placed upon them and knows others are looking to him to steer the church on a healthy course. Most of these leaders are humble, knowing ultimately Christ is the head of the church.

They also usually know three things:

1. There are expectations of their position by the people of the church. People are looking to them for leadership.

2. Decisions have to be made which are not clearly defined in Scripture. And, there are usually varied opinions already formed around the decision.

3. Seminary didn’t train them for all the decisions they need to make.

That’s often why they contact someone like me.

Sometimes it seems I’ve given the same advice many times – either reminding myself or to another pastor. The more times I share the same concept, the more it becomes a short, paradigm shaping idea, which summarizes the basic issue the leader is facing.

What isn’t always clear is how I’ve learned these concepts mostly by living these concepts. I’ve made more mistakes in leadership than I’ve had success.

And, that’s what this post is about. These are some warnings I’ve observed first hand in leadership positions I’ve held. I’m trying not to continue to live them and I’d love to help other leaders avoid them.

Here are 7 warnings for aspiring leaders:

What you “settle for” eventually becomes the culture. And, then it is much more difficult to change. In fact, you’re probably settling because you’re fighting against culture now. Leadership involves challenging people beyond their current confort level.

Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted. Oh, how I’ve learned this one the hard way. People will be average if you allow them to be. It’s easier. In most jobs, they get paid the same. That’s not even to say it’s what they prefer. Most people prefer excellence, but it often takes leadership – or coaching – to pull out the best in people.

Your actions determine other people’s reactions. During stressful times the leader’s response dictates the level of stress on the team. When it’s time to celebrate, the team will seldom celebrate more than the leader. The leader sets the bar of expectations in how the team reacts to life as a team.

Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything. I actually wrote about a whole chapter about this one in my book The Mythical Leader. But, silence doesn’t equate to agreement.

You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”. And, we do more of that as a team sometimes – it seems – than we do getting work done. Every good idea isn’t even something the team should do. But, if it is, there needs to be a plan. Who’s in charge? When are we doing it? And, how will we know when we are successful?

If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead. People seldom take initiative unless you lead – or unless you create the culture which gives them permission, freedom and encouragement to do so.

What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, more than your words. And, it doesn’t matter how well spoken you might be. People follow what the leader does.

What warnings would you share to aspiring leaders?

5 Things I Control as a Senior Leader

Having planted two churches anc two revitalization churches I am frequently asked about what things do I try to control and which did I release to others.

And, I love that question. I think its one all leaders need to ask themselves – frequently.

The leadership lid you will always create is in whatever area you choose to control.

I believe this strongly and it’s why I often discipline myself not to have an answer. I purposively choose to give things away to others on our team – things they can’t do better than me and things I simply shouldn’t be doing.

As much as I love delegation, however, there are some things I feel the need to control – maybe even continue to control.

Here are 5 things I control as a senior leader:

Vision – I believe senior leadership should make sure the vision of the organization is always in the minds of people, therefore I must continually reinforce it in what I say and do.

Staff culture – Senior leadership – always, but especially in the early days – plays a primary role in setting the culture. Things such as staff morale, approach to structure and the working atmosphere are greatly embedded and formed by the senior leader.

The organization’s pursuit of excellence – People will never push for more excellence than the level expected, led, and lived by senior leadership.

The moral value of the organization – The character and integrity of the organization will reflect senior leadership’s character and integrity. Period.

The velocity of change – Senior leadership sets the speed in which change and innovation is welcome in the organization.

As a leader, I realize the less I control, the more I can allow others to lead. The result is a healthier, happier organization that is more prone for growth. There are things, such as the above, which by default and for their importance, senior leadership should control. If control seems to harsh a word then choose another, but these should not be delegated too far beyond the ability to guide them.

Is It an Opportunity or a Possibility?

Great leaders discern the difference

In making decisions whether or not to take on a new project, adopt a new stance, or move forward in a new direction I like to discern whether it is an opportunity or a possibility.

There is a huge difference in the two. And, they can sometimes change throughout the process.

I remember once our church was approached with what we thought was a great opportunity to plant another church campus. An existing church building was going to be available for little or no money and 10 or 20 people were ready to launch with us. With no start-up costs it was reasonable to think we could successfully move quickly towards a decision. We had always been thinking and sensing of God that multi-site campuses were in our future, so this seemed to make sense – even something for which we had been praying.

We even felt God was opening a door of opportunity.

Shortly into the discussions the owner of the building decided he did not want to continue to discount the building for another church plant. He was considering other options with the building. If we rented it our cost would be several thousand dollars per month.

At that point – this was no longer an opportunity. It was now only a possibility.

It didn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but it would now require further study, more prayer and more time for discernment. We realized in time this was not where God was leading us at the time.

You may still be wondering the difference in an opportunity and a possibility. The lines are certainly fuzzy, but I still think it’s worth discussing. I’ll share some of the ways I discern the two.

Characteristics of an Opportunity

  • Defined as “an appropriate or favorable time or occasion” (Dictionary.com)
  • Come with some defined realities
  • Almost like being “in the right place at the right time”
  • Hard to pass up, because they almost always come with some pre-arranged wins
  • Make decision-making easier, because everything “makes sense”
  • A clear “open door” for a fairly probable success
  • Almost seems to be where God has been leading
  • Quickly has almost unanimous support…a “no brainer”

Characteristics of a Possibility

  • Defined as “the state or fact of being possible” (Dictionary.com)
  • Filled with lots of hopes and dreams
  • Have fewer assurances
  • Could be great, but could equally fail
  • Come with unique risks and require more preparation to insure success
  • Need more thought, prayer and discernment
  • Sometimes originates as one person’s “good idea” that came out of no where
  • Has selected supported

Both opportunities and possibilities can be good. Plus, God could equally be in either one. I love risks and big wins are often scored with them, but leaders (and individuals) need to learn to recognize the difference between the two. Confusing a possibility for an opportunity often gets churches, organizations and people in trouble quickly.

I have heard too many people say, “This is such a great opportunity”, when mistakenly what they have is an attractive possibility. Confusing the two they may feel no prayer is needed, because the answer is clear, when really the opposite is truer.

Granted, God often leads us to the seemingly impossible. We are to walk by faith. Understanding the difference in these two, however, will give you a clearer picture of what is a stake, improve your ability to discern and pray, and help you make wiser decisions.

Next time you have a situation you’re considering ask yourself, Is this an opportunity or simply a possibility?” It may make all the difference in how you approach it and greatly determine your ability to be successful.

As Preparation Increases – Stress Decreases

I’ve noticed this principle so many times in my own leadership and in working with other leaders. The more prepared I am to face a situation the less stress I have in the situation.

Take a Sunday sermon, for example. On the weeks I’m able to spend my whole Wednesday and Thursday preparing I’m far less stress when I enter my weekend about the message I’ll be delivering. And, because of that, I discipline myself as much as possible to set these days aside for study.

Of course, that’s not possible every week. There are natural interruptions in life which I can’t and shouldn’t avoid. It’s understanding the principle which is important. Because when I realize the principle I am more likely to work towards seeing it become a reality.

I schedule most of my meetings on Monday and Tuesday. I delegate as much as I can on Wednesday and Thursday. And, perhaps most important, I place on my calendar when I will be studying.

And, this is just one example. It’s also why I use checklists to plan my week and my days. It’s why I am not afraid to say no or wait to non-emergency situations. It’s why I teach the Jethro and Acts 6 principles of leadership to our church. (Look them up for reference if you need a refresher.)

I’m intentional with my schedule and my life mostly because I’ve learned – the hard way – about this important principle.

Preparation decreases stress.

And, makes me a better leader.

Where do you need to increase your preparation so you can decrease your stress?