Thursday 15 November 2007

Aircrew or Snakes on a plane?

In every area of life Teams draw the best out of people and get the job done better. Sadly, many teams aren’t really teams — just clumps, playing out their inability to get on together, and fouling each other up. That really matters if the Benedictine principle that best discipleship comes through community works. It does.

Linda Gratton and Tamara Erickson have published a helpful (current) HBR article on Eight ways to build Collaborative Teams. Biggest foul ups?
  1. Size — too big in business (too small in Church?)
  2. Badly managed diversity
  3. Virtual working: doing most things by email rather than personally
  4. Herding Cats: High education levels and overactive Egos
With a spiritual twist, these foul-ups can be radically upsetting and intractible. You end up with a team that isn't a team, just the Vicar’s fan club — or, even worse, anti-fan club. So what? Gratton and Erickson suggest eight ways of fighting back and making your team a real team:
  1. Investing in an environment to support real teamwork — in business, designing working space appropriately. In Church, taking the pews out (in various senses).
  2. Modelling collaborative behaviour — The same issue in any context. Leaders and senior staff have to do what they commend to every one else. Just do it.
  3. Creating a gift culture — supporting social and professional networks, and mentoring. In Church growing cultures of generosity rather than a demoralising rationing mentality that kills off all joy.
  4. Training to raise emotional intelligence. Good news — anyone can acquire people skills if they work at it. Bad news — they have to work at it. Focused learning works infinitely better in this area than happenstance and good intentions.
  5. Working to grow a strong sense of community. People often look to churches for community, but it has to be worked at hard, especially in dormitory communities of pressurised people. ‘Christians are people who pray and have parties.’ (Bishop Jack Nicholls)
  6. Assigning leaders who are task and relationship orientated. Brits tend to be task driven and relationship weak (stand offish and/or implicit).
  7. Building on heritage relationships. In business, putting people who know each other together. In Church, bearing in mind the baggage, and using positive baggage to hold luggage that needs transporting. Also, avoiding year zero thinking, and using the (usually abundant) history for blessing and enrichment not cursing and limiting possibilities.
  8. Role Clarity/ Task ambiguity. With fuzzy generalised idealistic expectations, and the way they load all accountability on to the few, along with their tendency to no agreed metrics and high judgmentalism, churches are almost conspiracies to foster Role ambiguity and Task Clarity!
So, team ministry or ministry team, ask:
  • Is our team a team?
  • How is this so?
  • If not, why not?
  • What's the single thing I can do to make us more what we say we are?

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