Monday, September 13, 2010

Leading Teams

I love it that football is back. There is something about both NCAA and NFL football that makes the Fall especially worthwhile. Monday night football, Hank Williams Jr. singing "Are You Ready For Some Football" and two hour pre-game shows are a part of the weekly experience. At this time of the year there are lots of great memories that flash through my mind like little Kodak pictures including my son and I watching and talking football together.

Football, football teams, sports and teams in general are great analogies to describe life. Everyone has likely heard that "There is no 'I' in 'TEAM", which is true and not without meaning.

Here are two quick lessons I have learned from football, football teams, sports and teams in general. They are very applicable to the local church but also to other cooperative endeavors:
  1. All teams need a leader

    This is true whether the team is small or large. While its nice to see cooperative leadership, democratic principles and egalitarian opportunities, teams still need a leader. Leaders help set the vision and the direction. Leaders also make sure that objectives are clearly stated and that everyone stays on task. Team leaders are also the ones that make the adjustments when needed, and as needed, so that energy is not wasted and time critical functions are performed. Teams that lack leaders, or just as importantly lack good leaders, are bound to be more focused on process rather than results, tasks rather than talent, and inputs rather than outputs.

  2. Every team member needs a job; all jobs need an owner.

    There is a saying that is often true regarding getting things done: "If no one really owns it, no one will do it". I'm a big fan of making sure that people are operating in their "sweet spot", the exact place where God has given them specific talents and ability. However, I'm even a bigger fan of accomplishing the mission. Just as football games are about blocking and tackling (the most basic assignments) leaders need to make sure that all of the necessary tasks and assignments are owned by someone, regardless of how unimportant or seemingly menial.

Most often, the team (insert your company, department, church or group here) that has only average or mediocre talent and resources but has superior leadership and good task ownership will succeed while others will fail. While teams succeed where individuals fail, it is the individuals that ultimately make teams successful.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Truly Pursuing Excellence?

Not everyone really understands what it means to pursue excellence. Some believe that excellence has something to do with how much money is being spent or how great a facility looks or even how many people are impacted. None of these measurements are adequate for excellence. A common definition of excellence that may work is “The state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority”.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some great leaders and in some great organizations. These have included some for profit, non-profit and churches and all have had the desire to excel. Many similar organizations around the country have embraced a passion for excellence as one of their core values, one of their uniquely identifiable characteristics.They too have a desire to excel.

The problem with “excellence” is that it’s often difficult to define or quantify. For example, an excellent children’s ministry will include some elements that most people will agree are necessary in order to be considered excellent. However, many other elements become pretty subjective. One person’s opinion on style, curriculum, facility set-up, signage, branding, or hospitality may differ greatly from another’s. It’s all really subjective. It’s kind of like modern art: one persons completed masterpiece may be too gosh, gaudy or glitzy for another.

These subjective measurements are the wrong ways to look at excellence. Excellence is something that is to be a personal pursuit. Organizations, like churches, can only pursue excellence when individuals are fully committed to the worthy pursuit of excellence as well.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle Paul encourages us, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (NKJ). We work, we minister and we pursue excellence because we are glorifying God as we excel in our individual ministries. Similarly, in Colossians 3:23 Paul says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord.” (NKJ)

We can excel, we can do all for the glory of God, we can work as unto the Lord regardless of the quantity or quality of the resources we have been given. It’s excelling in the use of all of the resources that we have been given that brings excellence in our individual and collective ministry. One church or organization may have a lot more resources, but excellence is never about quantity but about quality.

For some, excellence becomes a matter of dollars and cents. Its one of the few objective measurements we use but it becomes a poor barometer of whether what we are doing is actually bringing glory to the Lord.

Using dollars invested in ministry is an unfortunate measurement of excellence on a number of levels. First, while excellence is a great objective, throwing money at a ministry doesn’t necessarily ensure quality of content, program or result. In addition, ministry is ultimately about people and people value true relationships and personal care more than fancy programs, impressive buildings or over-the-top presentations.

While I’ve encouraged ministries to embrace excellence and use all of their available resources for the glory of God. As an antidote to thinking of excellence as something measured by money, I’ve asked ministries to re-embrace the values of stewardship, entrepreneurship and integrity. There is something to be said and very fulfilling about leveraging very limited resources for great Kingdom impact.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Confidence and Leadership

I just had the chance to read “The Confidence Factor” by Tom Mullins. Tom does a great job of using his insight as both a former winning football coach as well as the successful founding Pastor of Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida to weave together inspiring stories of people that had the confidence to lead and be successful. Tom also gives us very practical lessons on building confidence.

I’ve really never lacked confidence; which for me has been both a blessing as well as a curse. Being confident certainly is an enabler in leadership and in management. It propels us to find creative ways to solve people and logistical issues and it also helps us to keep striving when challenges arise.

For me, there have been times when I’ve been a little over-confident. Looking back, every instance of over-confidence not only led to less than satisfactory results but always had one common element. The common element was that that I was leaning and relying completely on my own abilities and talents and not fully trusting in God.

Successful churches require confident leaders. Confident leaders are similar to travel guides that make sure we see all the right sites, fitness instructors that improve our ability to exercise and firm up our flabby bodies, and wise professors that challenge us to learn not only the correct answers but also how to reason and use rationale to formulate answers to future and yet unknown questions. These leaders all have the experience in their unique area and also the confidence that they can communicate well what they already know.

One way for us to have confidence is to constantly build on our life lessons and to know that if we let Him, God is also willing to build us up and help us lead with confidence. The Apostle Paul said it well, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

by Ken Behr Reprint from ChurchExecutive July 2010

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