"You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia." - Acts 20:18
Leading a healthy team requires living in healthy relationship with the people on your team. I've been learning this over and over with my own team...often times, the hard way.
When the Apostle Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 he was able to speak out of the depth of the relationship he had built with them. Paul was not the kind of leader that barked orders out of isolation, but a pastor who "lived among" his people.
Unfortunately, many of us are trying to lead teams in the absence of any real relationship. I've made this mistake, for sure. This is a problem because leadership without relationship is dictatorship. In the absence of relationship true influence is impossible, meaning your only option is to force people to do what you want based on position and power.
So, what are some ways we can work to cultivate a healthy team culture that flows from relationship?
1. Lay the Foundation First.
Every relationship has it's fair share of conflict. You will sin against your teammates and they will sin against you. If we don't learn to deal with our sin Biblically, sin will destroy our teams.
This is why the gospel is foundational in a team culture. The gospel is the soil from which genuine relationship grows. It is impossible to build an enduring team in a place where the gospel does not permeate the culture, because if the gospel does not permeate your culture, pride will. Pride poisons relationship because it renders us unwilling to confess sin. If we are going to cultivate a healthy team culture the gospel must permeate our relationships making it possible to acknowledge, own, and repent of the sin we commit against one another.
2. Pay the Relational Rent.
Most jobs in general, and gospel-ministry in particular requires a high level of withdraw from the people who serve on our teams. When we draw hard from these relationships we must also invest deeply in them. This is a lesson I'm learning yet again in the church I lead.
As a result I'm trying to be more intentional about this, making time for relational engagement in all our meetings, one-on-one coaching, sharing meals, and spending time together. There is much work to be done and if we are going to draw hard from the relationships that make up our teams we must also invest deeply in them.
3. Test Before Trust.
When there is no shortage of work to be done and few people to help, our first impulse is often to rush people into leadership. Yet, each time we rush, the result will been regret. When we fail to test a person in the areas of character, capacity, and chemistry, and instead settle for shoving them into a position of leadership, it will hurt our teams, the individual, and the church.
Testing takes time and intentional processes for assessing people and their leadership preparedness. We must either take the time to test on the front end, or pay the price for rushing a person prior to their readiness on the backend.
4. Settle Into the Sloppy.
Being on a team is messy because teams are made up of imperfect and fallen individuals like me. At times it is easy to hold on to a naive hope that one day the sloppy will slip away. We think things like, "One day when we have more paid staff we won't have to deal with things like this." Or, "When our church is bigger and we have better leaders, there won't be so much conflict and people will just do what needs to be done." But, if you waste time hoping the sloppy will go away, you end up discouraged when it does not. More importantly, will miss the joy of the journey. So, maybe it's time we stop looking for another team and start loving the one God's given us.
Leading a healthy team requires living in healthy relationship with the people on your team. So, lets put in the hard work of building into the teams God is building around us!