Enrich Culture – Building a Cohesive Team – More than Mediocre

A leader who is intentional about setting the culture, hiring people who fit the culture, and developing those people, now has the ingredients for an amazing team! In physics, cohesion is the force by which molecules in a substance are held together. In this article we’ll look at the factors by which team members come together to form a cohesive team. The book we’re drawing from this month is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni – in this book, Lencioni outlines 5 keys to creating a healthy high-performing team. Each principle builds on the former, so let’s begin with the end in mind. The ultimate footballteampurpose of a team is to get “Results”. A sports team wants to win the game, a military unit wants to achieve the tactical objective, a corporate team wants to see profits, a married couple wants to raise children who become healthy adults, and a Teen Challenge staff team wants to see lives transformed. I love how Lencioni recounts of hearing people say, “well we have a losing record this season, but we have a great team!” He’ll say “no, you don’t have a great team; you have a group of people who enjoy being together and are satisfied with mediocre results.” You might say that Teen Challenge is God’s business and we can’t measure everything – the results are up to Him. That’s partly true, but from well executed fundraising events to well-maintained buildings to changed lives…there are plenty of results we want to see in Teen Challenge.

Next, a team gets results because they are willing to embrace “Accountability”. Greg Hammond talks about this principle in creating a “peer culture” in the student body. He uses the example of a time when he constantly found old gum on the sidewalks of the campus. He could have added yet another rule to the policy manual and said, “No gum.” Instead he went to the student body and said, “You decide – if you want to keep chewing gum, keep it off the sidewalks.” The students took care of it themselves by holding one another accountable. And this is what makes accountability effective, when it operates with “Commitment” to agreed upon decisions, objectives or courses of action. With this kind of commitment the team member says, “I’m all in and I will do my best to support this decision and see it succeed.”

While the gum chewing example is a simple one, other decisions and courses of action are not so straightforward – should this student be dismissed? How can we improve our admissions process? Can we disciple our students more effectively? This is where cohesive teams learn to be comfortable with “Healthy Conflict”. This is nothing more than the pursuit of truth – what’s the very best decision? Is there a better idea? What will be the most effective solution? When team members are free to weigh in on the discussion, and are willing to do so, it’s more likely that the best decision will be made because everyone has brought their brains, experience and giftings to the table. Healthy conflict doesn’t necessarily lead to consensus – the leader will often have to make the call – but people can usually commit to decisions they’ve been allowed to give input on even if they disagree. This kind of honest discussion can only happen in a healthy culture, where there is the presence of “Trust” on a team. Lencioni calls this “vulnerability-based trust”, where people can speak up or admit they don’t have all the answers without fear of being judged or shot down. This kind of trust takes time and intentionality to cultivate on a team but everything else depends on this foundation.

Next month we’ll take a closer look at the role of the leader in these 5 areas. In the meantime, how are things on your team? Is it healthy and functional? Or is there sometimes an inattention to results, avoidance of accountability, lack of commitment, fear of conflict, or absence of trust?

Enrich Culture – Getting the Right People on the Bus

Author Jim Collins says that people who aren’t a good fit for an organization’s values figures-368751_1280and culture get “ejected like a virus”. In creating a healthy organization, one of the roles of a leader is to set the culture of a team or organization, and then do the hard work of identifying and hiring people who are a right fit for the culture. Collins goes on to say, “first, get the right people on the bus, and then get them in the right seats.” Getting the right people on the bus means bringing people onto the team who embrace and embody the organization’s purpose, history, DNA, values, etc. The gifts and skills they bring and the role they can fill is secondary. It doesn’t mean that people who aren’t a right fit are bad people, or that they aren’t called and passionate to serve God, it just means that they’re called somewhere else. When a leader makes a rushed hiring decision because they need to “plug a hole”, it does a disservice not only to the team but to the person who should be serving and flourishing elsewhere. A person who is on the wrong bus ends up disillusioned and the team ends up frustrated. The leader has to spend more time in the long run fixing the mistakes of a poor hiring decision while doing the work of re-hiring.

The book, The Leadership Pipeline offers the following insight: “Managers quickly learn how to hire people with the talent and experience to do a given job properly; they find it more difficult to hire people who ‘fit’ a company’s work values and practices.” Good hiring decisions simply take time and effort. Have more than one conversation with the person, describe (candidly…) what it would be like to serve with the organization and with their potential team, does that sound like a bus they’d like to be on for a long journey? Get to know the interviewee’s passion, gifting, vision, and the values they are already living out. Does this align with the organization? Use any relevant assessments or hiring tools and be sure to call the references, what is their appraisal of this person’s fit? Again in The Leadership Pipeline, the authors make the case that good hiring practices are a skillset that every leader should value and make time for: “The most difficult change for first-time managers to make involves values. Specifically, they need to learn to value managerial work rather than just tolerate it. They must believe that making time for others, planning, coaching, and the like [hiring…] are necessary tasks and are their responsibility. More than that, they must view this other-directed work as mission-critical…” Due diligence won’t prevent every hiring mistake, but it will prevent many of them. It will save everyone a lot of heartache and go a long way in creating a healthy team and culture. Not only that, but the right staff hired today become the “seed bed” from which tomorrow’s leaders are selected from!

In the hiring process, the leader should not only be thinking of their immediate needs, but the organization’s future. If you have a responsibility for hiring, how have you been doing in that area? What could you do better? If not, think about some of the past hiring experiences you’ve been through, what went well and what went wrong? How will you shape your philosophy in this area when given the opportunity for this leadership responsibility?

Article contribution by: Karissa Corpeny  (Director of Corporate Training, TC Southeast)