Echo 13 - Building Teams

One of the hats I wear at Severn Run is "Creative Team Leader," and it's one of the hardest and most rewarding hats to wear. Most of the time I feel ridiculous being a team leader because I'm 24 and I have some experience, but not very much. However, you know how that one verse says "in your weakness, I'm made stronger..."? Well I can tell you that promise has been true in my life. I'm not saying that leadership is a weakness for me (you can ask my parents, I was born a delegator, sorry Robyn), but the life stage I'm in right now doesn't lend itself to making leadership the easiest thing to jump into as one of your first "real world jobs." [Side note: I really can't figure out where to put quotes and punctuation right now so give me a break on that one English nerds]

Anyways...When I was headed to Echo, I was really excited for the Leadership track breakouts because I felt I needed them, and I did! Team building is essential in ministry and I've been blessed to be forced to team building by the crazy amount of job requirements I have and crazy lack of actual paid time I have in which to do those things. The Creative Team at The Church at Severn Run is an infant, and an amazing infant at that, and I was ready to come back prepared to raise them. I got some good stuff so here it goes.

Teams are nothing without a vision! What's the point of the team if you aren't fighting to win something. Think about how sad it would be to see a bunch of big ol' dudes dressed out in football pads just sort of wandering around a field because there are no goals, there's no winning, there's no purpose. We cannot expect our teams to succeed if we don't continually tell our team the vision, the win! No vision = no passion = no creativity. Every project, event, and celebration will develop around the vision, without it you're just a bunch of sweaty wandering football players that are all upset with one another.

Teams must trust one another. You must trust your team, your team must trust you. Whitney George put it this way, the more you trust your team, the bigger the pipeline between you and your team. This means ideas, projects, and jobs all flow more freely between you when you have more trust between each other. I think this is a really hard one for most leaders because we want things done right, and the right way is our way. This is where things get tricky, if you don't trust your team to do the job the right way, your team is never going to trust you to lead them to that way. Trust is a messy thing because jobs won't always be done in your way, mistakes will be made, typos will be found, money will have to be re-spent, BUT if you don't pass on the culture of trust in your team, you'll never get past those problems and you'll never have a team. The other hard component of creating trust on your team is guarding the culture of your team closely. This means that if someone comes along to volunteer on your team and they are a sour apple, a negative nelly, an all around nasty person, you have to get rid of them for the sake of trust on your team. If your team has always been an upbeat environment, filled with creativity, and suddenly when Crabby McCrabs joins your team, you find that meetings are silent and projects are stagnant, it's time to get real about Mr. McCrabs. Never will one person's talent be worth destroying the trust of your team within itself and with you. Now, I'm not saying throw out every complainer as soon as they whine, Mr. McCrabs will have had a couple of conversations with you about attitude and respect toward the other team members without any signs of change before you toss him back in the sea. This is hard, especially for small teams because you're looking for all the help you can get, but you have to make a trusting, united team a priority.

Finally, teams must have processes and check lists to survive. The Severn Run Staff is getting the check list beat down right now and I have to admit that it's something I'm seriously struggling with in light of my team, but the folks from had a lot of helpful hints for processes in creative environments. Start with the "Why?" Get back to the purpose of the project and live there, solve for X they reminded us. Create brainstorming sessions and make them holy. Make sure they are "yes and..." environments with a stern, yet encouraging "designated driver" to keep the team on track. Always have time limits and expectations of outcomes! After brainstorming some serious work begins, once you have some ideas that are ready for second opinions create a "Thrashing" time and make it holy. I love how they used the term "Thrashing" for a critique session. These sessions should aslo have rules, time limits, a reminder of vision, and a focus on the project not the person. From there projects become better, people gain more experience and stories are told effectively through our work.

Be sure to pray for me and the entire Severn Run Staff as we learn to build teams and keep them healthy. It's a challenge and if you have anything else you would like to add to my couple of tips and tricks from Echo 13, please do!

I'll be wrapping up my Echo journey next week with my identity as a child of God.