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5 Unrealistic Expectations of a Healthy Team

By September 12, 2022Leadership

There are some unrealistic expectations of serving on a healthy team. 

Over the past few years, I have worked with a number of churches to help them reposition and grow again. Each time I survey the staff and/or key leadership on the front end of my time with them. Some of the phrases used and feedback about the organization as a whole have captured my attention. 

I believe some people have an almost “utopian”, but certainly unrealistic view of what it means to be a “healthy team”. When they aren’t understood people become disappointed in the organization when really nothing was done wrong by leadership or the organization. 

I write a lot about healthy teams and I’ve even had the occasion a couple of times throughout my career to say I served and led one.   

These are simply observations. And they are based on my own opinions, of course. I could certainly be wrong. Granted, some of these may even be generational expectations. Some are formed at the result of past or current problems in the organization. Yet, I believe in the attempt to create healthy teams these unrealistic expectations need to be kept in mind. 

5 unrealistic expectations of a healthy team: 

All my best friends are going to be here.

They might be. Then again, they might not be. That’s really not the function of the team. Unless the team has been designed specifically for that purpose, of course. There may actually be people on a healthy team who are vital to the team’s health, but are not necessarily people you would “click” with outside of the work environment. 

Should we strive to have a family atmosphere? Yes. Do I agree with creating environments conducive to actual “team-building”? Without a doubt. 

Yet, teams usually have a more specific, broader goal than building friendships among team members. These type relationships are often a by-product of good leadership, but not a specific goal of the team. 

I’m always going to feel valued for my individual contribution.

Certainly a healthy team should value everyone. But there will always be times where you don’t sense the appreciation for work done well. In fact, the longer you do something well the less recognition you get for it.  People begin to expect it from you, and frankly and often unfairly, they may even take you for granted. 

Good leaders work with this reality in mind and try to provide consistent and genuine healthy feedback. Yet, as hard as they might try there will be times a person’s efforts go unrecognized – even on a healthy team. 

Everyone will always each pull their own weight. 

Of course, this should be a goal. Yet, there will be seasons where some people have to work harder than others. In a church setting, for example, student ministry usually has a busy summer where other ministries might be slower than normal. The worship ministry often seems busier during the Christmas season. 

Also a part of good leadership is to continually evaluate the demands placed on individuals. Leaders should be open to feedback and listen for when people are overly burdened and certainly for any signs of burnout. But true “balance” is less realistic on a healthy team than perhaps helping individuals – through systems and structures – to create healthy rhythms for their life and work. 

I will always know everything that’s happening around here.

Communication is one of the most important components of a healthy team. As leaders, we must continually evaluate our systems to promote good communication flow. Yet, a healthy team is likely also a growing team – and one that welcomes consistent change. Things are often fast moving and it would simply be impossible to know everything in those environments. 

Do we work to improve communication? Always. Do we want to be fully transparent with people? As much as possible. But the only way for everyone to know everything is to remain very small and likely very boring. 

We will always be in agreement with one another. 

While we are hopefully working towards a shared vision, we won’t always agree on how to go about achieving it. In fact, conflict is often a necessary part of a healthy team. 

We need to learn how to use conflict to make the team better. There should never be (for long) unresolved conflict. Yet, achieving the vision should receive a greater attempt than simply “getting along” on a healthy team. 

I’m expecting pushback on this post. That’s okay. Again, this is a matter of observation and opinion. Hopefully, we can sit around the “team table” and discuss it someday. That’s part of a healthy team too. Yet, when these are not understood there will be unfair disappointment in the leader or the team when in reality that should never have been an expectation of the team.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

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Ron Edmondson

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