At the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Tampa, Molly Marshall, Anita Flowers, and I led an Essentials conference on “Developing an Effective Leadership Team.” The participants came ready to learn and the energy in the group was good. Those of us who facilitated the sessions shared some ideas, but we learned as well.
This is an important topic. Most organizations including churches and not-for-profits are led by teams. Many young adults are naturally drawn to the opportunity to work with others in a team setting. Older adults may have had negative experiences in teams that cause them to resist being part of a team; they may have some unlearning to do to be good team members. The effective functioning of the leadership team may well determine the success or failure of the entity; therefore we should spend more time developing effective leadership teams. In order to do so, we need to embrace several basic assumptions.
The first assumption is that every staff member can make a unique contribution to the team. Notice I said that every staff member “can” make a contribution; this does not guarantee that each staff member will. Several things must occur for the team member to contribute.
The team member must want to be part of the team. He or she must make a conscious decision that they want to be a contributing member of the group. This cannot be forced by threats and cannot even be motivated by material rewards. Wanting to be an integral part of the team is an internal decision by each member.
The team member must understand the mission of the team. If he or she is confused about what the group is supposed to accomplish, the team member will be uncertain not only about where the team is going but the role that he or she is expected to play in that process.
The team member must fit the team. Not matter how much the person wants to be part of the team or understands the mission, if the “fit” is wrong, then the team will not succeed. Patrick Lencioni talks about “getting the right people on the bus.” This means that their gifts, abilities, and commitments fulfill some need of the team. If they don’t have what it takes to make a contribution, they need to find the place where they can be of more use to themselves and others.
Effective teams are made of people who want to be part of the team, know what is expected of them, and feel that they are in the right place at the right time. When all of this happens, the stage is set for each member to contribute. As 1 Corinthians 12:7 states, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”