great teams don’t just happen – part 3

“I like working with this team!” she piped up right in the middle of a discussion.  “Each month I can see the progress we are making! On previous teams, we discussed a lot, but didn’t get to see things change very much.

“I like being part of something that is moving forward.”

And who doesn’t?  That’s what teams are all about– accomplishing more together than individually. In the past two posts, we’ve looked at attitudes necessary for great team work, and the process of team formation. This time, we will look at four criteria for a team to achieve their goals:

 1.  Everyone knows where they are going.  


When each person on the team knows the direction, each one is capable of self-correction. Engaging in a strategic planning process together helps get a team going in the same direction. Here are six simple steps:

  • Vision – what will the desired future look like?
  • Situational analysis – what is the current reality? What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  • Resources necessary – what resources will be needed to take the first two steps on the plan?
  • Strategic path steps – what steps take us from the current situation to the vision?
  • Resource allocation – what people and money will be invested in each step?
  • Evaluation and learning – how did we do and what do we learn that we can apply?

This process can begin at any point; it is not linear. Working through each of these steps together paints the picture of the direction with clarity.

2.  Team members know why, what and how to do their parts.

women shaking handsWhen the team does strategic planning together, the rationale for different decisions is clear. At the end of that process, each person can usually articulate why the team is taking a particular course of action. The “what to do” and “how to” parts need assessment and clarity. The staff development cycle is a leadership tool that makes use of two key processes-position focus and personal development-that make this possible.

Establishing a position focus is as simple as a team leader and members agreeing on the key responsibilities and results that each person will be accountable for that year. They agree on goals, key projects and/or processes for which the team member is responsible. The team leader makes sure that the person has the training and resources necessary for the task.

There are two other “formal” conversations in this process: the mid-year review and the end of year review. The mid-year review gives both the team leader and the team member an opportunity to look at how the team member is doing. Given the fluid nature of ministry life, it provides an opportunity for adjustment, encouragement and/or correction. These are the key areas where the staff member will be evaluated on at the end of the year.

The personal development process is the second part of the staff development cycle. It ensures that each person is receiving feedback on key areas of strength and needed growth, followed up by a personal development plan. That the person is making progress on their development plan becomes part of their accountability in their position focus.

3.  Team members fulfill their commitments to the team.

heart gearFor the vision to become reality, each team member is necessary. In a team that is making progress, team members develop the healthy habit of keeping their promises to the team. They are accountable to each other to do their part.

Incomplete work affects the whole team, not just the individual. That realization is important for every team member. Great teams require great team members. We have all seen the example of the classic sports “all-star” teams. The pursuit of outstanding individual performance can disrupt or distract from stellar team play. For great teamwork to be a reality, each team member has to see his own work as essential in helping the team accomplish the vision. “We” becomes more important than “I.”

Recently a team member was the point person for a significant project with an approaching deadline. He realized that he had prior work and family commitments that would affect fulfilling that deadline. He engaged another team member to work with him, handing the project off for the time required by his commitments. The other team member took charge, moved the project forward and then handed it off to the original team member in charge. With no disruption to the project, each of these two team members contributed what was necessary to get the project done. Each one realized that leaving the work undone or postponed was not an option.

4.  Great teams evaluate their results and learn how to improve.

feedback-form-excellent-866529-mHow do we get better if we don’t know how we did? Teams can fall into the habit of repeating things without critically evaluating the effectiveness of their activities toward the vision. The main purpose in evaluation is course correction. What do the results tell us about the effectiveness of our decisions and actions toward our vision?

Great teams pay attention to the fruits of their labor. They look for ways to improve their effectiveness and to learn from their mistakes. They are willing to change, even at the expense of methods they may have developed themselves. Teams need to be clear about what they are going after and use those key criteria as measures against the vision. Looking at results provides the information needed to make the corrections necessary to keep a team on course.

People like to contribute their best towards work that is making a difference. As team leaders make time for strategic planning, clarity of responsibilities, healthy accountability and evaluation, team members have the opportunity to “stand together with one spirit and one purpose, fight together for the faith, which is the Good News” (Phil 1:27, NLT).

That is the best work of all!

What are some lessons that have helped you to contribute your best to your team?


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2 Responses to great teams don’t just happen – part 3

  1. Steve Morgan says:

    On one team, we decided to try an exercise we came across in Lencioni’s book on 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. We prepared a chart on everyone on the team including ourself. We answered two questions: how do you help or contribute to the team? And how do you hold back or hinder the team? We then went around and shared our answers in the group about each person. It was very powerful and trust level went way up.

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