Do you ever find yourself wishing for a better team to lead? Be honest. Have you ever left a meeting wishing for team members who were more creative? Have you ever been knee deep in a project wishing the people you led were more driven, or more productive, or more fun?
OK, I’ll be honest. I didn’t wish for a better team. I prayed for a better team.
But, instead of leading me through a hiring process, God invited me into a deeper process that required letting go of my limited view, and taking on an upgraded perspective on leadership.
You see, it’s common for leaders to want a better team, but it’s rare for leaders to want to do the work required to get a better team.
Every leader wants a great team because great teams are a joy to lead. They are productive, creative, energizing, fun, and they make a huge impact with the work they do together. But great teams are built, not born. They don’t just happen. Someone has to take on the responsibility of developing and maintaining a great team, and the only person on the team who is empowered to do this is the leader.
There are always going to be elements of your team that you can’t control, especially if you have little control over the hiring process, or if you’re leading a volunteer team. However, as the leader you carry the authority to set the values for your team’s dynamic and culture. It’s these values that serve as the driving forces for how your team performs and relates to you and each other.
When I realized that my leadership carried that kind of influence, I hit my knees in prayer. I was completely overwhelmed by the task at hand. No longer could I blame any external factor for the health of my team because I saw for the first time that as the leader I was at the helm steering their development. I didn’t know where to start, so I leaned on the one scripture that seems to be the reoccurring theme for my leadership journey:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)
I asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom and I believe He gave me three core values that would help reshape my team’s culture, and ultimately give me a better team.
Great teams trust each other. At first, I thought that building trust would be simple, like a one-and-done thing. However, the Holy Spirit pointed out to me that trust within a team isn’t always a permanent thing. I may have it in the beginning from a team member, but circumstances and conversations can chip away at trust if I’m not aware. As the leader, I needed to make a habit of checking in with my team members to make sure the bridge of trust was strong and secure. Do they trust me? Can I trust them? If not, what needs to change?
Trust feeds into collaboration. The Holy Spirit showed me that I needed to create an atmosphere for my team where they could openly collaborate and receive feedback on their projects without feeling threatened. I want my team members to know that they don’t just have one shot at a good idea, and the best way to do that is by continuing to ask them for their ideas. When there is trust present, team members feel safe within a collaborative environment.
The most difficult value for me to implement was diversity. The Holy Spirit showed me I was striving to develop my team to be just like me. Subconsciously (and somewhat consciously) I was pushing my team to think like me, to act like me, and to change their work styles to mimic my own. It’s so easy to try to hire people just like you. After all, they’re the easiest people to relate to and, therefore, the easiest people to lead. However, I realized that I was losing the precious gift of diversity within my team by ignoring the different perspectives, skills, and strengths each person brought. Instead of focusing my energy on making each team member the same, I began to celebrate their diverse talents, motivations, and opinions. It has added such a health to our team and our productivity. When there is trust, diversity is an easy thing to develop, and within a collaborative environment diversity really shines.
Perhaps, your current prayer is very similar to my first prayer for a better team. Leader to leader, I encourage you to reconsider your request and instead ask God for wisdom on how to upgrade the team you have now through your own leadership.
None of these three values were fully implemented and integrated overnight, but as I set out to instill each value within our culture, the change within my team’s dynamic began to surface almost instantly. The beautiful part about the whole process was that I couldn’t take credit for the upgrade. God was faithful in answering my prayer for a better team by giving me the wisdom to lead well.