There are plenty more, but let’s focus on seven of them—keys to a dynamic team. First, however, it may be good to define “team.” Perhaps by team we mean your family. You are the mother and you have a husband and three kids. Or, maybe by team we mean your, um, team. You are the starting forward and you have four other starters and a handful of back-ups that are with you night and day for months on end. Maybe by team we mean the board of directors of which you are a part, or the group you have been assigned for the semester-long class project, or the committee you have to sit on that is supposed to report back to management about that sales initiative.
Or maybe it is the staff of which you’re a part. Indeed, let’s focus there, knowing the principles will be the same regardless of the make-up of the “team.” What are (at least) seven keys to a dynamic team?
Prayer. This is number one, hands down! Of course, this assumes that you are a praying person, which might indeed be an entirely different discussion (start here to know more about how to be a praying man or woman). Assuming you are willing to pray, praying for your teammates, as well as the overall environment and mission of your team, is a tremendous starting point for optimal success. One wonders how many missteps exist for any group of people simply because there is no genuine prayer taking place on behalf of such people. Pray for your teammates, that they would enjoy one another’s favor, that they would have peace, that God would grant them and their endeavors great success, that there would be unity and joy and so forth. Take time to praise God for them, too. There is always something to affirm with praise and gratitude. Do so, and experience the remarkable difference within yourself while you watch prayers get answered (often in small ways at first) among your team.
Permission. This is huge. Give each team member permission to be himself or herself. Celebrate each one’s unique design, experience, background, giftedness, passion, talent, et cetera. This next line is very important: do not expect your team members to be just like you! This is a profoundly exhausting problem with staffs and boards and families and athletes and unions and so forth. If you are artistic but your teammate is not, please don’t dismiss him for being different. If you are an introvert but your teammate is an extrovert, please don’t decide she is silly or immature (I’m saying that as a strong introvert!). If you are organized but your teammate is as together as Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, please don’t look condescendingly upon him or her. Give the other the permission needed to simply be the other and not you. And with that as a starting point determine those common places where you can work together.
Partnership. Which leads to the next key, and that is partnering together. Rather than see the differences as liabilities, see them as opportunities to complete one another. If that teammate is really disorganized, yet is one of the best relational leaders on the whole team, then determine how to shore up his weak spots with the strengths you can bring to the table. Celebrate the chance to complement one another. Identify her strong points and leverage those for whatever cause is before you while you work to cover the bases on the weaker points. And expect that your teammates will do (and probably are doing!) the same for you, for you also have weak points that need covering.
Protection. Protect each other! Go to bat for one another! When someone criticizes your teammate redirect that critic so he or she can hear from you the ways that teammate is successful. Please don’t join in the critic-crowd, you know, with the common, “I know what you mean! You ought to work alongside of her!” I have found in my years that folks who play that game are also victimized by the very same thing, too naïve to know that people do that to them too. Rise above all of that, call out the greatness of your teammates, and be the force of change that foregoes the cheap and easy shots made toward those with whom you serve.
Promotion. Be willing to promote your teammate and your team. Be the champion for him and his area of responsibility. Don’t just always talk about your thing. Celebrate her thing too! Have a perspective that says, “Hey, can I tell you about what my teammate is doing over in sales?” or “Have I mentioned to you the selfless way our starting point guard manages himself?” or “You ought to see him in a board meeting—he is an amazingly wise man!” Promoting those around you and not just your own thing breaks down silos that often define organizations, enables you to see what is going on around you, and creates greater potential for the aforementioned partnerships.
Praise. Don’t hold back on praising one another. Everyone has critics, but really, truly few are the genuine encouragers. You might be very aware of the way a teammate is not succeeding at something. Perhaps you even need to be the one to have an honest discussion with him or her about that reality. Whether that is so or not, please be generous with your praise of him or her. There is always something to celebrate. Tell her the ways you think she makes the whole team shine. Share with him some specific moment when he made your life easier, or pushed the cause forward several steps. Affirm your admiration for how he or she manages himself or herself, or the way in which that person represents the board or always gives his best effort or manifests a truly humble spirit, and so forth. The fact is, we just don’t do this enough.
Prayer. And, pray some more. It is simply that important.
First Corinthians 12 finds the Apostle Paul talking about the unique makeup of the human body, and how this is illustrative of the way God has crafted the community called “church.” But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body (1 Cor. 12:18-20). The apostle goes on to say the following:
[quote]The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:21-26)[/quote]
There are great values embedded here for any team, and particularly those teams that represent the Lord Jesus Christ. What a tremendous opportunity we have as teams—whether a family or a foundation or a board or a band or a staff or a group of students, or whatever—to offer a glimpse of the heart of the Living God, the very one who embodies and celebrates community at every turn. It is a vibrant testimony to a watching world, and it makes our lives easier as we live according to his best design!