Either on a variety show or a street corner, you have probably seen a one-man band. These agile musicians play a number of instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet, and limbs. These street performers are entertaining, amusing, and impressive. They make their money from passers-by who drop a couple of bucks into their banjo case lying on the ground. I’m guessing that the average person listens to a one-man band 3 or 4 minutes before moving on.
Contrast the one-man band to experiencing a concert with the Boston Philharmonic Symphony. People will pay hundreds of dollars to come and sit in a concert hall, not just for 3 or 4 minutes, but for a couple of hours. The audience will be enthralled as the orchestra plays some of the great masterpieces of music ever written. Where the street performer is amusing and entertaining, the symphony orchestra is inspiring and moving.
The symphony (unlike the one-man band) is a wonderful picture of a team. The orchestra is filled with a wide variety of talented musicians who each bring a unique skill to the team. Every person is absolutely clear about their position and what part they are to play. Glory hounds are incongruent with an orchestra. The orchestra wins or loses as a group. The critics will review the overall concert, not the performance of a single cello. They are led by a conductor who knows how to bring out the best in each person. The conductor also expertly coordinates all the sections so that there is a flowing, seamless musical experience. It is significant that the audience mostly sees the back of the conductor. The conductor’s job is to keep his eye on his team, not on the crowd.
Recently I saw another quite different, but powerful, picture of “team”. It was from the NBC show called Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge. This show is a competition about very fit athletes who must navigate a challenging obstacle course, and they must do it as a team.
As I reflected on the show, there are several elements that make this such a great case study in “team”.
1. There have a clear objective.
Everyone on the team knows what “the win” is. There is a literal finish line.
2. They have to work together.
Most of the obstacles require collaboration and dependence on other teammates to successfully overcome the obstacle. There is no silo mentality in the Spartan Ultimate Challenge.
3 They win or lose as a team.
There are no individual honors or trophies. In one of the episodes, one of the women on the team sprained her ankle. For the rest of the race her teammates came alongside her to provide extra support. And, when these teams cross the finish line, they celebrate together. There are a lot of group hugs at the finish line.
4. They cheer each other on all along the way.
In the midst of a grueling physical challenge, words of affirmation and encouragement flow freely. You regularly hear the phrase “you can do this”.
5. They are better together.
As a team they were more than just the sum of the individual parts. There was a dynamic synergy created because they were part of a team. At the end of the race, even when they were totally exhausted, they kept pushing ahead because they were part of a team that was counting on them.
Now I know that winning in ministry is quite different. Defining the win can be fuzzier and the obstacles are less tangible. And, we are in the people business, which is way messier than any mud crawl. But the principles of great teamwork still apply.
Whether you are leading a team or you are a member of a team, you must keep your eye on the bullseye of health and productivity.
I know that the topic of team health is about as sexy as the concrete foundation under your house. But, just like your house foundation, it is absolutely vital. And team health is hard to quantify and measure. It’s sort of like trying to measure whether or not you are doing an effective job of raising healthy kids. Just like each child is different, every team is different and there is no cookie cutter formula for establishing health.
When it comes to your physical health, there are very clear markers that provide a sense of how healthy you are. Things like blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart rate all help in assessing our body’s health.
Similarly, there are markers of an organization and team’s health.
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I have listed below a few possible markers of team health.
· Spiritual conversations
· Minimal turnover
· Good communication
· Sense of community and family
· Open God’s Word together
· Minimal politics
· Personal care and support
· People enjoy each other and like to be together
· No silo mentality
· Sustainable pace and rhythm
· Resolve conflict well
· Minimal gossip
· Growth plans for team members
· Prayer is regular and normal
· Servant leadership
· Lack of entitlement
Before you leave this article, I want to challenge you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. Of all the health 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 health of your team.
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