Thursday, February 10, 2011

Different by Design

Leading a team-building session
with one of my favorite research teams
Here in the U.S., individualism reigns, and families, teams, and other groups often consist of a people who are in the same place at the same time but each doing his or her own thing. Can we learn to shift our approach to team relationships from an "I" focus to a "we" focus, to work as a whole and healthy team? A team where each person fits, and each person counts?

That was the question for today's webinar from The Mission Exchange, featuring Paul Ford from Christian Resource Ministries. The place I chose to watch/listen to it had spotty internet access, so I missed the beginning of it and some other parts as well. But what I got made me want to dig in deeper.

One of Ford's key points was that both our gifts and our weaknesses are given to us by God for the sake of those with whom we serve - our partners and teammates. We each have powerful strengths that the group needs, as well as preferences, weaknesses, and unique needs which - if we're willing to face them and "own" them - can knit us together in relationship. We don't just steward gifts, we steward relationships - and we steward gifts FOR relationship.

Ford also said we shouldn't look to leaders to set vision and direction, but look around at one another's passions and calling, preferences and roles, and see what clues these provide to what God wants us to do and be.

"Let us look at whom God has brought together
so that we may more clearly discern what God intends."

When you work with a team, do you look at who "we" are as much as at who "I" am and who "you" are?

How I wish every group discussion of personalities and personal contribution took this next step.

Most of the teams I've trained and sent overseas quickly develop a team culture. I always encourage the leaders to lead according to the needs of those they lead - even if that means laying aside their own preferences (e.g., how they prefer to be led) and assumptions how leadership should operate. Often our team members are living together; almost always, they are sharing both down time and work time, worship and study and play. It's like being part of a family, really. You may start a family with all kinds of ideas about the type of husband or wife you want to be or what kind of kids you'll raise, but the reality is you don't control most or even many of the factors. So, you humble yourself and adjust to the interpersonal realities as you discover them.

I seldom see the same kind of flexible, facilitative leadership within longer-term, less-intense teams in the workplace. Most leaders lead out of who they are much more than they lead out of what their team needs. Does it have to be that way? Why or why not?

Here's one of the more interesting team-building exercises I use with a short-term team in formation. If at all possible, I facilitate and/or sit in on the discussion so as to see what the leaders are getting into and to help them process it, respond to it, and adjust.
How I Tick: Group Discussion

Take 10-15 minutes to jot some notes on this survey, then we’ll talk through each question with the group. I’d encourage you to take notes on your teammates’ preferences.

1. When I’m tired or stressed, I prefer to be
(a) with people, or
(b) alone.

2. If people find me withdrawn from the group, it usually means…

    How should they respond?

3. If you have offended me, my normal reaction is…

    The best way to seek reconciliation with me is…

4. If I have done something to offend you or just plain irritate you, this is how you should approach me about it…

5. It drives me nuts when I’m in a group that…

6. You can best encourage me by…

7. Some things about which I’m passionate are…

8. What I think of this kind of survey is…
Usually people have strong memories of things that come up in this discussion and bring them up again in the weeks and months to come. It helps them understand each other in the midst of - and advance of - personality clashes that may arise.

What do you think of this kind of process? What questions would you add?


Scott Fields said...

This goes right along with the old saying: there is no "I" in "B-I-B-L-"--oh. That's not it. No, it's . . . uh, there's, uh . . . there's no "I" in "S-P-I-R-I-T-U-A"--DANG it!

Well, however the saying goes, I've long considered this one of the chief problems in the modern church's inability to minister effectively. Too many pewfillers wait for the leaders in their church to assemble just the right program at just the right time--one that fits well with their schedule, of course--and then further await inspiriation either by the Holy Spirit setting them on fire or a rip-roaring sermon doing much the same.

People have got to take the initiative. God gathers a specific body of believers together at a specific time for a specific reason--and it's all shaped around how people's spiritual gifts work in conjunction with one another. We don't need yet another program to help administrate the connecting of those dots; we need folks who are willing to seek out the relationships for themselves that God has already ordained between people.

Excellent post, Marti.

- Scott

Marti said...

Scott, Scott, we need to work on the spelling! But you are right, too many of us are waiting for someone else to fix things in our churches - we need to be willing to be part of the solution.

Dianne said...

I would have LOVED to have been in a conversation like that before some of my previous "team" experiences. Great stuff, mind if I steal it? Thanks!

Marti said...

Dianne - Go ahead, use it. Among the team building things I've used, leading up to an STM, are a one-page "about me" survey, which goes to all team members before they meet, and a guided "testimony" time the first night they are all together. (I like one where you give everyone a pack of crayons and have them draw a "life story" picture and explain it in ten minutes or so. Helps if you model it first) Then, early on but a bit later, "How I Tick." I can email you (or anyone) lesson plans if desired but none of these things are that complicated.

Each of these exercises provides an invitation for members to say, "Before we really get into this, here are some things I'd like you to know about me." With any luck, they will keep trying to get to know one another and share with one another, in the same way, as the project and relationships continue.

I think this kind of thing cultivates trust and commitment more than some of the typical, not-so-personal teambuilding "games" built into many STM training programs - most of which are primarily designed to give you object lessons reminding you you're going to have to work together and it might be hard.