I always thought team was something you were on, not something you did. I always operated as though team was a noun, not a verb. I thought team was an object, not an objective. I saw team as a social assignment, not a strategic achievement.
Maybe that’s because I have been part of some bad teams. I’ve been on some teams where the only thing that made us a team is that we happened to wear the same uniform or work in the same organization.
Over the last 40 years I have been on a wide variety of teams. Sometimes I have been a team member and at times I have been the team leader. I have been on some wonderful life-giving teams and I have served on some dysfunctional teams.
I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons when it comes to team. There have definitely been some people on teams that I’ve led that have been hurt by my poor leadership. Over the years I have come to the conviction that team is way more of a verb than a noun. Great teamwork requires hard work and focused intentionality. But the payoff is huge. If you have ever had the privilege of being on a healthy and high-performing team, you know it is a wonderful gift.
I have also come to realize that teamwork is more art than science. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for building great teams.
In last week’s article we focused on the health of the team. And I believe that is the place to start.
But health is not an end in itself. It makes me think of gym rats who spend all of their time obsessed with their appearance and health. They spend countless hours obsessed with their health and body. If our only concern is health it ends up being self-serving. Those gym rats might look buff and all of their health markers might be “spot on”, but they don’t get anything done and they aren’t helping anyone. We maintain our health so that we can live life and be useful and serve others.
Think of your team like a bucket. You need hoses that pump life and health into your team. But you also need hoses that carry life and energy and effort toward effectively performing your job and carrying out your mission.
Focusing only on health is like continuing to fill a bucket that is already full. You need outlets for being productive and accomplishing your God-given assignments. That’s why the bullseye on the target of a great team is both health and high-performance.
I have a conviction that you can’t have a truly great team without health AND high-performance. Therefore, we need a bi-focal perspective. We need to be focused on the health of the team and we also need to be focused on the performance and productivity of the team. One without the other means I am not seeing the whole picture clearly.
It is likely that one part of the bi-focal lens is more comfortable and easier for us than the other. For some of us, the dominant skill is building health. Our nature is to be caring and nurturing toward our teammates. We find it easy to shepherd our team, but we may find it hard to manage toward results. People who are wired this way don’t have any trouble having a “caring conversation” but avoid like the plague having “courageous conversations”. For others of us, organizational leadership comes easy. We are usually driven and achievement oriented. We love reading business books about leadership and we naturally drive toward results, but we may find it more challenging to provide personal care and development for those on our team.
It is my hope that you will be committed to both developing and leading teams that are healthy, effective, and high-performing.
Here are some potential markers for a high-performing team.
· Clear job description (People have a defined lane and run in their lane)
· Good time management
· Defining the win
· Ability to speak honestly
· Effective meetings
· Clear priorities and goals
· Resources and tools for doing the job
· Minimal organizational bureaucracy
· Supervisors who remove barriers
· Accountability for results
· Effective systems
· Ongoing performance evaluation
· Compelling vision
· Strong work ethic
· Good stewardship of resources
· Authority with responsibility (empowerment)
· Clear org structure
· Minimal distraction by social media and technology
I remember seeing the following quote on a poster.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
That, my friend, is the potential power of a high-performing team.
Before you leave this article, I want to challenge you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. Of all the high-performing markers listed above, write down the 3 that are most true of the team (volunteer or paid) that you minister with. Next, write down the 3 that could use some improvement. You might want to do this exercise with your team and have a discussion about the productivity and performance of your team.
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