Characteristics of an Aligned Team

by Greg Anderson – 

Have you ever been part of a team that is rowing in the same direction?

It is a wonderful thing to experience. Everyone has embraced a specific vision and aligned head and heart with it. They have articulated a mission to help them get there. Enthusiasm is potent, all things seems possible, talent is plentiful, and momentum is palpable.

It is easy to see what rowing in the same direction looks like in the world of sports. Outcomes are easily measurable – evidenced by the scoreboard.  It is also easy to see what it looks like in the boardroom. Profits that surpass expectation tend to indicate the power of a team that is aligned with the organization’s mission and vision.

When it comes to church leaderships however, it is not always as easy to determine if a team is rowing in the same direction. Even though we “take attendance,” there’s no scoreboard up front letting us know if we’re winning or losing. Even though we have conference rooms, there is no profit and loss statement to let us know if shareholders are thrilled or looking to invest elsewhere.

With that said, there are certain characteristics church leaders can identify to determine if they are indeed aligned as a leadership team and “rowing in the same direction.”

Prayer, worship, study, devotion, fasting, meditation, etc., are far more effective than spreadsheets and technological innovation.

 Trust Levels are High – In a high trust environment, leaders are willing to be open and honest with one another regarding their fears and failures. Dreaming out loud is not only allowed, it is encouraged. When team members constantly project “I’ve got my act together” then other team members are less inclined to be open and honest about personal, family, or life direction struggles they may face. I am not suggesting hours of confession preceding each team meeting, but openness and honesty are critical if trust is to be a distinctive reality versus an idealistic concept.

If vision is where you’re going and mission is how you get there, then it is critical that leaders remind themselves —every time they meet—why they are meeting.

Every Voice Is Heard – Many times one strong personality can push his or her agenda through without listening to (or caring to hear) the perspectives of other team members. While that strong voice may “get it right” on occasion, he or she does a major disservice to the rest of the leadership team and, ultimately, to the community of faith being served. On a team, everyone needs permission and encouragement to speak out, openly and honestly. Not one to speak out in meetings? Your partners still need your input. Collect your thoughts, write them down, and share them with the team. (By the way, when someone does share what God has placed on his or her heart, avoid interrupting, objecting, or going into problem solving mode until the person has fully expressed his or her thoughts.)

Every Meeting Begins with a Vision and Mission Reminder – Church leaderships often spend months developing vision and mission statements and strategies only to abandon them once they have been introduced to the church. If vision is where you’re going and mission is how you get there, then it is critical that leaders remind themselves —every time they meet—why they are meeting. Questions like, “What’s our end game?” and “What are we doing to get there?” serve to keep the team aligned around its reason for existence. Vision and mission that is not revisited consistently and purposefully is vision and mission that will fail.

Spiritual Means for Spiritual Ends – Many volunteer church leaders come from corporate backgrounds. As a result, they are often tempted to apply business principles to faith communities. That is not necessarily a bad thing. HR policies, technology, leadership training, etc., can help communities of faith operate more effectively in numerous ways. However, we must always remember, above all, the church is a spiritual organization. As Paul warns in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Prayer, worship, study, devotion, fasting, meditation, etc., are far more effective than spreadsheets and technological innovation. Time spent by leaders in spiritual pursuits is not time diverted from church business … it is church business.

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