This past weekend I shared briefly at a conference some thoughts on building and leading a team. I had condensed my thoughts into, basically, two points about building, and four points about leading. Obviously not totally comprehensive, but it was what I boiled things down to for the ‘bottom line’ based on what we have learned, both through our experiences as well as scriptural examples. In a short series of posts, I’ll share these points here.
Building a team…
There are two main thoughts that I have on building a team that is both effective, and has the potential to stay ‘in it’ for the long-haul.
The first is to build with sons and daughters. Of course, I am not referring to natural/physical sons and daughters, though they may be included. I’m speaking of people that have looked to you as a mentor, or spiritual father/mother. People that you have invested your life into…and I mean in more than a ‘formal’ setting. By spiritual children, I mean men and women you have shared life with. They have seen you, just like our physical children, in our ‘natural habitat’…our home environment. The times when you’re guard is down, there’s no professionalism to keep up, and you are just ‘you’. That would include, for us, seeing us in our less-than-finer moments. There have been moments when our spiritual children have seen my husband and I argue. They’ve seen us go through hurts. They’ve watched as we struggle through the realities of broken relationships, death of a family member, and job changes. They observe as we muddle our way through the adventure of parenting. And in all of that, a bond is strengthened, and they can learn from us…even when we aren’t ‘teaching’, per se…because through our actions and attitudes, we are, in fact, teaching probably far more than we ever could through a meeting, sermon or conference. They are learning what it looks like to make mistakes and be redeemed. They are learning what it looks like to reach the seeming ‘end of the rope’, and simply have no choice but to cry out to God. Just like our physical children, our spiritual children learn from us as we “sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
The reason building with sons and daughters is so valuable, is because through the process of sharing the joys and sorrows of life, we also build strong heart ties. Sons and daughters desire to build with you because they know your heart. They have seen the process of God putting dreams and vision into you, and often, through the sharing of life, into them as well. It’s not just your vision…it has become theirs as well. Just like a wise father who builds wealth to leave to his children…so is the spiritual inheritance of our spiritual sons and daughters. They see the investment of spiritual parents into the work God sets before them, and often, as a son who shares in the ‘family business’, so these children have a desire and passion to share in the spiritual ‘family business’.
A shared heart also provides stability for the times when the waters get a little rough. The times when, as a team the conversation gets tense, or people are misunderstood. Let’s face it, no matter how great we are at communication, sometimes misunderstandings happen. It’s just reality. However, when the foundation of relationship and a shared heart are what you are building on, you have the freedom and ability to go to the person and talk it out. You have the basis to say, “I know your heart, and I don’t think what I’m hearing lines up exactly with who I know you are…”. Likewise, your team, since they are people in close relationship with you, has the openness to say the same to you as well. There is security in the relationship to go beyond what appears to be happening on the surface, and deal with matters at a far deeper (and probably ‘truer’) level.
Jesus built his ‘team’ this way as well. Think about the disciples and women followers he had. They didn’t gather for planning meetings and strategy symposiums. The shared life. They traveled, ate and fished together. They attended weddings and holidays. They supported and invested in one another, even financially. The disciples asked Jesus the “why are you doing that?” questions, and he challenged them on their personal weaknesses. They had the foundation of relationship that gave them staying power through the darkest times. They weren’t just followers…there were lots of those. The ones that really took the vision and ran with it were the ones who shared Jesus’ life and heart…his sons and daughters.