For years, people have talked about the need to build a great team atmosphere, especially in the work place. When there is synergy in your teams, people work better together and goals get accomplished that wouldn’t otherwise. A positive team culture doesn’t just happen, though. People are different, and therefore creating the right team atmosphere is different for every church and ministry. In fact, creating a strong team culture always includes trial and error. But, if you want to have a good start, begin by implementing an easy (but often overlooked) practice with your team—honestly caring about one another.
An excellent example of this is a conversation two pastors recently had after attending a seminar on strengthening marriages. The sessions were challenging but one particular seminar struck a chord with the men. Later as they drove home, one turned and asked his friend, “What do you think I could do to make my wife feel more valued?”
His friend thought about it for a moment and replied, “Well, maybe if you started to value her more.” That was an almost shocking answer because the pastor and husband thought he was doing that already. On the surface, he often demonstrated his care for his wife but he had to admit that when it came to him valuing her, he came up short. At the end of a day, he would listen as she ran down the list of all she had done at her own job and then how she had dealt with their kids. He nodded and listened and even offered a smile of encouragement, but his value of her as a very important part of his life was shallow and he knew it.
You see, a person can be an effective leader but not know how to value his or her team members. Some leaders feel so out of touch with those on their staff that they hope someone else will show up and do the hard work for them, but God doesn’t let us off the hook that easily.
We were created for relationships—first with Him and then with others. If you think about it, the very thing Jesus did the most was to value those who were on His team. He knew their flaws and shortcomings, but He stayed on track with them and provided the right leadership to build a cohesive team.
Don’t become so busy trying to grow your church that you forget to take time to develop those who are on the journey with you. Jesus made an effort to know His disciples and followers on individual levels. He didn’t call them to follow Him and then go on vacation. He called them and He led them so they would become successful.
Many pastors and church leaders eagerly sign people up to work or to volunteer only to leave them floundering on the sidelines. They think their job is done when, in actuality, it’s just started. Individuals who join a team should be brought into the group where they learn to work, play and win as one!
Here are seven crucial elements of building a strong team.
Value others — We all know the old adage that tells us to value others more than ourselves. If you want to build a team that is exciting and loves to come to work, practice valuing your team members over yourself. When you demonstrate sincere interest in their contributions to the task or the goal, you are teaching them how to be successful along with how to respect and value one another. The team that is based on mutual respect usually excels in many different areas.
Leaders can struggle at this point. The challenge is to be willing to be authentic in valuing others. Listen to what your team members are saying while understanding their desires, goals and dreams for the future.
Be a relational and not transactional leader — Bill Hybels observes, “It stands to reason that a leader sometimes seems to be three-fourths steamroller and one-fourth caring and compassionate colleague. When a leader walks into a meeting, he or she usually has only one thing on the brain: mission advancement.”
Every leader loves it when someone shows up with a smile and brings “fresh sight” to their ministry. They are usually welcomed with open arms. If you are a transactional leader, you look beyond the pretty smile and see what team members have to offer. You go straight for the bottom line.
A relational leader will consider this same thing but will see team members like a flock of sheep that need to be nurtured at times. The more the sheep feel like they count and have value, the more they will feel secure and will produce even more each year.
Listen with curiosity — Learn to be a listener and not just a talker! Learning to listen well is foundational to every relationship. Listening with a curious intent shows that you are engaged and interested in what the other person is saying. It also demonstrates that you are “tuned in” and genuinely want to know about the person who is working alongside you.
All of us have worked for leaders who call a meeting and then proceed to talk the entire time about themselves. We come away feeling frustrated and like our time was wasted. Listening is a cornerstone to communication. The person who listens and speaks sparingly ends up building a deeper and stronger rapport with co-workers and friends. That person conveys that he or she is caring, trust-worthy and a good communicator.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only thing better than a good question is a good follow up question. The goal is to genuinely demonstrate you value the other person and you hear what they are saying. With each question you ask, you learn more about the person who is on your team.
Slow down — The pace of our world always seems to be a fast one. We try to squeeze one more project, activity and challenge into our already “crammed to the max” days. At the core of this fast-pace lifestyle is the inability to focus on others and spend one-on-one time with them. People fall into bed at night and tell themselves that they are accomplishing great things for the Lord when that isn’t always the case, especially when the pace leads you away from spending time with Him.
One of the best parts of community at work is the time spent with others in collaboration. Make every effort to slow down, be still and listen. Having a team around you to do the work is one thing. Learning to value that team is the most important step in team leadership.
Don’t be distracted by technology — People know when you are distracted. It shows. You may think that you can hide your technology compulsions by saying things like “I’m listening; I’m just multi-tasking,” but your non-verbal message is clear. The team member or family member doesn’t have your full attention, and they will feel the burn of being in second place. Put your smart devices away and refuse to be drawn away by them mentally.
Be engaged — Set a goal each day to check in with a team member and spend a few minutes talking to him or her about life, work, and things that are important to them. The more engaged you are with your team, the stronger the bond will be. You’ll soon notice your team’s productivity increasing. Another very important thing happens: The team members begin to value one another. Tough challenges become solvable and even fun to achieve!
Show personal care —We live in a culture where verbal attacks and trash talking seem to be the order of the day. We have lost our sense of civility and no person or position is off limits.
So, when you hold up personal care against the backdrop of our culture, it is radically counter-cultural. Sadly, too often it is even counter to Christian culture. If you want to create an atmosphere where success and excitement thrive, learn to care for others. Deliver a cup of coffee to your co-worker’s desk.
Invite someone on your team to have lunch with you and another team member and even pick up the tab. Take time to laugh with your staff, to talk with them, and learn how to compliment each person. Show you care and that you really mean it when you say that you value those who work with and for you.
The difference is yours to make and when you value others, it will be dramatic!