Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders,

Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders | Practice 4: Teamwork

By Dr. Ben Lovvorn

Hello and welcome back to our series on the five practices of high-performance Christian leaders! In this video, we’re going to talk about practice 4: teamwork. You’re not really a leader if no one is following you. Accomplishing anything worth accomplishing requires a team. As a leader, you are evaluated not just on your individual job performance, your skills, or your charisma. You are evaluated on what you can lead your team to accomplish. So that means learning how to get the best out of others and how to lead everyone toward attaining a shared goal. As Christian leaders, it means leading your team like Jesus Christ.

1. Recruit the right people.

The first element of teamwork is recruiting the right people. You have to build the right team. This is the indispensable first step of making an impact, surrounding yourself with the right people. Jim Collins talks about this in his book Good to Great. He says, “First Who, Then What.” We have to focus first on getting the “right people on the bus,” and then figure out where we’re going and how to get there.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Ideal Team Player, articulates three things to look for in a great team member. Look for someone who is humble. A person who is eager to learn from others and quick to give credit to others for success. Look for someone who is hungry. This is a person who has a strong desire to get work done, to contribute to the team and to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission. Finally, Lencioni says to look for someone who is smart. What he means by “smart” doesn’t have to do with IQ or the intellect necessarily, but someone who has emotional intelligence and tactfulness. Someone who knows how to work well with other people and how best to collaborate with others. When you add these three things together—humble, hungry, and smart—you’ve got the ideal team player. And when you have a team full of people who are humble, hungry, and smart, then your team is ready to perform at a high level!

Here at First Baptist Dallas, we use the term “All Green Team.” This is a concept we’ve adapted from leadership coach Bobb Biehl, who is a great friend of our church and has been a coach and advisor for our staff. We have 20 “Green Team” character traits that really embody the kind of person we want each of our staff members to be. Having these written out clearly and talking about them often helps us tremendously and brings clarity when we’re hiring new people to join our team. We know exactly what we’re looking for. Chief among these characteristics is that it must be someone who loves the Lord, loves His church, and feels called to this work.

An example of this from Scripture would be the way that Paul worked through others to minister to the churches he had planted. He had relationships with men like Barnabas, Titus, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and many others. Think about this commendation of Timothy from Philippians 2:

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” (Philippians 2:19–22)

Did you hear it? Paul knew what he was looking for when he recruited Timothy. He was looking at his character, His heart for the Lord and for others. Paul knew that, through Timothy, he could accomplish far more ministry than he could ever do alone. He teamed up with Timothy, he got Timothy on the bus, because Timothy was the right kind of person. And then he figured out what God wanted them to do together and how they might make the greatest impact for the Kingdom.

2. Cast a clear vision.

Next, as a leader you need to cast a clear vision. When you are able to give those around you clarity about what the goal is for your work, this is going to empower them to make decisions and run faster. When everyone knows where you’re trying to go, then this will free them up, within the responsibilities and domain of their role, to figure out how to get there. We use the terms “shared consciousness” and “alignment” on our staff. We remind ourselves often of the mission statement of our church, which is to transform the world with God’s Word one life at a time. We work to connect every individual effort and project and ministry to that greater goal, which has been given to us by Jesus Christ in the Great Commission, to make disciples. We believe God has given the church a clear vision and blue print for how to go about its mission of making disciples. We find this in Acts 1:8:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In the power of the Spirit, we should witness to Christ in concentric circles. We start in our Jerusalem, our city. We expand to Judea and Samaria, our nation. Then we go to the ends of the earth, through our international work. When we have that clear vision provided for us by Christ, and we focus ourselves on it every day, that enables us to work better as a team. We all know what the vision is.

So a question to ask yourself would be: are you clear on what your vision is? And a follow up would be: is your team clear on what the vision is? If asked, would they be able to describe your team’s vision or your organization’s vision in two minutes or less? If you’re not sure, then it might be worth creating some time with your team to lay out the vision, and then come back to this again and again. You’ll be amazed how unifying this can be.

3. Define roles and responsibilities.

The third aspect of teamwork as a high-performing leader is defining roles and responsibilities. This is a basic aspect of functioning as a team. Everyone needs to know what part they are supposed to play. It’s like calling plays in football. The coach can call a great play. But if no one is sure who the quarterback is, then the play is going to fail. Plays only work, strategies only work, when team members know their role and can clearly see when something is their responsibility.

To have a high-performing team, you teach team members to be “owners” of their work. That means people can trust you to do your part. They know you will own it, you will take care of it, you will get it done. And if there’s something you need from others, you will be the owner and you’ll ask and collaborate with others to make sure it gets done.

4. Cultivate relationships of trust and accountability.

Another aspect of teamwork is cultivating relationships of trust and accountability. As a leader, this is so crucial to everything you want to accomplish. People need to trust you. They need to be able to receive correction and feedback from you, too. If you’re fake or unnecessarily rude or harsh, people won’t trust you. If you’re too soft or aloof, or you’re inconsistent, people won’t be held accountable.

Not only do people need to trust you and be held accountable by you, but really what separates the great, high-performing leaders is that they are able to cultivate trust and accountability among their team members and throughout their organization. You can personally get a lot done when people trust you, but just think of what your team and your entire organization could accomplish if everyone trusts each other and everyone holds each other accountable.

Two operating principles that we talk about often on our staff are “team of teams” and “encourage disagreement… extinguish dissension.” Team of teams means that we encourage each other to think of our church staff as one giant team. Each department within the staff—the children’s team, the worship production team, the facilities team, the accounting team—each of these departments needs to be a healthy team that gets their particular jobs accomplished. But these teams all need to work collaboratively together, across departmental lines, communicating frequently, to ensure that the First Dallas team accomplishes its mission.

When we draw a distinction between “disagreement” and “dissension,” that goes a long way to preserving the team atmosphere. Disagreement is something we can encourage. We want people to share ideas, thoughts, and recommendations, and it’s OK if we don’t all agree about how exactly to move forward. That’s part of the learning process as we move toward the best decision. But “dissension” is an entirely different thing. Dissension happens after a decision gets made. Stirring up animosity, refusing to accept the direction decided upon, grumbling. We have to actively extinguish dissension. It tears teams apart and completely destroys any chance of accomplishing your mission.

5. Facilitate excellent communication.

Lastly, and this really flows from everything we’ve said to this point, you have to do your best to facilitate excellent communication. There are lines of authority in any organizational structure, but there should be freedom of communication across all teams and departments. We encourage frequent communication among our teams here, “micro-communication,” to keep others informed of where you are. It’s a good rule of thumb to try to answer any email or message within 24–48 hours if at all possible. Don’t become a bottleneck. Give the quick answers that your team needs to keep moving forward. Also, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Usually people need to hear something 5 to 7 times before they truly internalize it. So if something is important, make sure you repeat it often and in every venue or setting where it’s possible to talk about it.

Well, this has been practice 4 of the high-performance Christian leader, teamwork. I hope you’ve gotten some practical wisdom that will help you lead others well! Next time we’ll talk about our fifth and final practice, execution.