Building and Leading a Steadfast Team

by Andy Wood on May 6, 2011

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers

Does your team have what it takes to go the distance?

Something happens when people get together to forge a team.  Unfortunately, that “something” isn’t always what you’re looking for.  See if you recognize any of these teams from your experience:

Team Fritter. Talk about potential.  It seems as though whenever they’re on the ropes, somehow the miraculous happens and they live to see another day. On the other hand, every time it seems they have the chance for that big breakthrough they flounder.  Never fully realizing their potential, they choke every time they get ahead.

Team Glitter. This bunch has success written all over it.  Smart, good-looking, and well-liked, things came fast and easy for Team Glitter.  Too fast.  And too easy.  Before you know it, what appears to shimmer is anything but gold.  And the team comes caving in under the load of its own scandal(s), greed, and dishonesty.

Team Bitter.  Another story of lost potential, this team doesn’t have an integrity problem.  It has an anger problem.  A big anger problem.  Sucked in by jealousy and dispirited by feelings of rejection or failure, this team sabotages its own enormous potential by holding onto the bitterness, anger, or mistrust.

Team Quitter. This one is easy to feel sorry for if you knew all the circumstances.  Members are exhausted, and their task has all the hope of pushing a Colorado boulder up Pike’s Peak… the higher they go, the harder the task.  So one by one, team members lose heart.  They speak the language of the cynic (“why bother?”), give up their expectations, and either fade away or flame out.

All these teams have two things in common.  First, they lack the quality of what Bible writers call being steadfast, or persevering with determination.

Second, they need a leader, whether they formally have one or not.

Anybody can get misty-eyed about teamwork when they’re playing the National Anthem and warming up on the sidelines.  It’s another thing to be a team when you’re exhausted, isolated, disappointed or unfulfilled.  How can leaders equip their teams – whatever the team – to go the distance?

1.  Alignment to the Vision.

I don’t care whether you have vision or not.  Vision and a buck-fifty may get you out of Starbucks with something in your hand.  A guy up the road has no clue what his vision or mission is supposed to be, but he may be getting more done with his team than you are with yours.

I do care, however, if you’re actually bringing your team or organization into alignment with what you say your vision is.  Suggestion:  If your team’s culture, schedule, and evaluation procedures aren’t consistent with the reason you say you exist, then please don’t plaster your mission statement on a wall or brochure for the whole world to see.  The only people who are fooled by that are leader-wannabes who think nobody gets it.

Steadfast teams are established in purpose.  They know who they are and where they are going.  They have totally immersed themselves in the mission of the organization or the team.  And effective leaders recognize that purpose can never – ever – be taken for granted.  Your team will always and only be as strong as the ability of your quietest member to answer the question, “What are we doing here?”

2.  Encouragement of the Will.

Sometimes you do what you do for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.  That takes commitment.  Standards.  Yes, ethics.  And for those whose task it is to influence others, this takes encouragement.

Did you think encouragement was just about getting other people to feel good?  Think again.  Sometimes it’s about getting them to feel badly until they’re doing well.  The purpose of encouragement is to motivate values-based action, not lacey feelings.  If the team is failing because the people on it collect paychecks for doing nothing, it’s time for a little, um, encouragement.  If the team has a collective sense of ADD, then another type of encouragement is needed.  If the team is demoralized because no matter what they do, the people at The Big Top ignore their recommendations, then encouragement looks completely different.

Steadfast teams are entrenched in commitment.  They won’t be swayed by temptations, distractions, or setbacks.  But the only way they’ll make it through is by having leaders who understand the true role of encouragement.

3.  Development of Skills.

Oh, if I could do it over again.  When I look back at leadership moments I wish I could redo, I most often land here.  All the vision and encouragement in the world will never take the place of giving people the tools to finish the job.

You wouldn’t think of putting your injured baby in a car and asking your eight-year-old to drive her to the hospital because he’s the oldest.  Yet we do that kind of thing in Church World or organizational life routinely.  We put people in charge of massive decisions and ask them to do what they have never been equipped to do – just because they’re good people.

That’s wrong.  And a recipe for disaster.  Untrained people, even if they’re good people, make for awful teams.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that good people can be trained for excellence.  (A few bad ones can, too!)

Steadfast teams are excellent in performance.  They combine skill with passion.  But passion alone won’t cut it.  Yes, training can be boring.  Train anyway.  Yes, training can be expensive.  Train anyway.  Yes, training takes time and you don’t have any.  Train anyway.  Oh, that applies to wily veterans as well.  None of us have arrived.  And if you’ve gone longer than a month or two without working on some skills, you are drifting toward incompetence.

4.  Engagement of confidence.

Regardless of formal titles, the true leader of the team is the one who can convince team members to expect success.  I don’t necessarily mean the team cheerleader.  I’m talking about the one who can engage the brain to “see it,” the heart to “feel it,” and the will to “do it” before the team ever actually experiences it.

Believe it or not, that begins with reality, not rah-rah.  Confronting the facts, however ugly they may be, is the starting place for many teams’ success.  Careful, though.  The “facts” can also be a recipe for disaster if you see them as unchangeable, or unsolvable.  The greatest leaders on any scale are the ones who can confront the brutal facts with relentless, contagious optimism.

Steadfast teams are expectant in attitude.  They are confident in their ability (or God’s) to achieve goals, solve problems, change cultures, or complete assignments.  That expectancy keeps them from quitting when the going gets tough.  It keeps them moving forward when everybody else has moved off.  But deep in the hearts of that steadfast team, you’ll find a leader or two who challenges them to believe.

 

Regardless of your team’s DNA at the moment, your leadership can make a difference.  Team Fritter can become Team Focus.  Team Glitter can become Team Faithful.  Team Bitter can become Team Friendly.  Team Quitter can become Team Finisher.  But your understanding of the needs of your team and your ability to meet those needs will make the necessary difference.  After all, steadfast teams need steadfast leaders.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

James Sieffert May 6, 2011 at 9:33 am

That was good stuff. Reminds me of my Executive Leadership courses at Liberty 😉 An interesting post also in-light of my morning conversations with God. Thanks!!! Again!!!

Sarah Baker July 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

This is such a wonderful article! Thank you!

csr events December 2, 2019 at 4:00 am

Team management is a term referring to a variety of activities which bring a team together to carry them out. 

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