The makings of a functional team

It always mystifies people that I once played basketball, since my height has not changed since roughly the third grade. (Even then, I was in the front row for class photos.) Part of the fun for me was being part of a team. We worked out together. We pushed each other. We were united in our goal of having the higher number on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.

Contrast that experience with group work in class. That was often the pinnacle of “ugh” for me during my middle and high school years. Inevitably, some group members put in more time and effort than others. One person was passionate about busting the bell curve, while another was happy simply for a passable project to be turned in.

There’s a difference between being an allied force with a goal and being a collection of individuals with an assignment. In Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators, Patrick Lencioni outlines the process of becoming an honest-to-goodness team.

  • Build trust. Without creating a safe space for vulnerability, conversation will be surface level.
  • Be willing to engage in conflict. When there is trust, participants are willing to put all possibilities on the table.
  • Commit. When it’s clear that every option has been explored, a team can make hard decisions with confidence.
  • Hold each other accountable. When teams have agreed on a course, the members are invested in making sure everyone does his/her part.
  • Pay attention to results. When team members keep one another on track, they are generally able to focus on and meet the objectives they have set.

A significant piece of ministry involves working with committees, boards, and/or task groups. In your work, how many of these groups fulfill the five functions of a team? How might attention to these functions not just make the groups you work with more functional, but also affect a culture change in your faith community? What would it take for your leaders to embrace these functions?

Creative Commons image “2012 Warrior Games” by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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