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Effective and Ineffective Team Characteristics

Probably the greatest hurdle in developing productive and satisfying relationships among professional and nonprofessional staff in the local church is understanding what components are necessary to create a team. Most staff and senior pastors desperately desire positive work relationships. Many people who give their time to the local church would like to experience fruitful ministry among those they can also call close friends.

Quality staff relationships are experienced on purpose, not accidentally. They are the product of hard work in defined areas of relationship and daily work processes. While some leaders may point enviously to this staff or that staff and believe something unusual is taking place because they are getting along, the truth is that almost any staff can learn what makes a staff effective. The divine law of sowing and reaping applies to staff development—sow good things and you will reap the desired fruit. Conversely, sow maliciously or without understanding and bushels of fruit from an undesired harvest will show up in your work relationship. This tool will help you sow into your staff wisely.

The following chart is a tool for identifying the critical components of professional and nonprofessional church workers that make their efforts collaborative or noncollaborative in the truest sense. Note: Your church’s accepted, normal organizational-management style may not fit what is here described as effective team characteristics. There are, of course, other ways to lead church leaders, but not all create an environment of shared ministry. The assumption of this tool is that high collaboration is desired. To experience high levels of staff input and significant sharing of ministry responsibility throughout your church, the characteristics organized under effective team characteristics (left column) need to become a reality. As you read through the 10 characteristics below, think about the work relationships of your primary ministry group and which side of the page they favor.

Effective Team Characteristics Ineffective Team Characteristics

1. Atmosphere1

Informal, engaged, relaxed, open, comfortable, nonthreatening, participative

Unduly formal, disengaged, tense, guarded, intimidating, stiff, fragmented, underchallenged

2. Group objectives

Tasks or objectives understood and accepted, free discussion leading to group commitment, no hidden agendas, regular reviews, measure of a group’s success is task achievement

Group task or objectives are unclear, no evidence that the group either understands or accepts a common commitment, often in conflict with each other and with group’s task

3. Communications

Open and honest; flows freely up, down sideways; everyone is given a hearing; individuals build on each other’s ideas; conversation takes place inside and outside formal meetings

A few people dominate discussion; selective listening; information is hoarded, withheld, and flows mainly down; mixed messages

4. Handling of conflict

Viewed as natural, even helpful; comfortable handling conflict; disagreements are not suppressed, overridden, or smoothed over; focused on issue, not the person

Protocols not understood or used; avoided and discouraged; becomes destructive, personal, politicized; resolution regularly leaves some individuals uncommitted

5. Decisionmaking

By consensus, real issues openly discussed, full commitment by team, little formal voting, simple majority not accepted as a proper basis for action

Forced or majority voting, dictated decisions, emphasis on power, various levels of commitment, dissonance present within group

6. Criticism

Criticism is frequent, frank, and constructive; oriented toward removing obstacles that are preventing the group from getting the job done; little evidence of personal attack, either openly or in a hidden fashion

If present, it is embarrassing and tension producing; often appears to involve personal hostility; tends to be destructive, seeing only negatives; there is little building on others’ contributions

7. Expressing personal feelings

People freely express their feelings and ideas, both on the problem and on the group’s operation; few hidden agendas; feedback readily accepted; high levels of trust, respect, care

Personal feelings are hidden; viewed as inappropriate for discussion or would be destructive if brought out on the table; risk avoidance

8. Task achievement

Clear, agreed-on plans and roles; high commitment to follow-through; group regularly weighs performance against objectives and takes steps to ensure success; diversified team member types, skill competence, and talents

Action decisions and individual roles tend to be unclear; low follow- through, variable commitment; performance is rarely reviewed; poor performance is rationalized; undisciplined; reactive; action- oriented versus results-oriented

9. Leadership

While the team has a formal leader, leadership functions shift from time to time based on circumstances, skills, and team needs; control is not an issue but how to get the job done; positive norms established and modeled by the leader

Single-leader dominated; leader may coerce, compromise, or abdicate; establishes norms for the group and leads from own value system

10. Review of team processes

The group is conscious about its own operations; periodically, it will stop to examine how well it is doing or what may be interfering with team functioning; peer recognition; rewards based on group contributions

Discussion on the performance effectiveness or operation is avoided; discussions about problems are kept private and not brought to the group; rewards are based on subjective, often arbitrary, appraisals

Endnote

1. Adapted from Peter Moxon, Building a Better Team (Aldershot, England: Gower Publishing Company, 1993), 102–06, 133-34; Glenn Parker, Team Players and Teamwork (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996), 19–29; Thomas Quick, Successful Team Building (New York: AMACOM, 1992), 4-5.

—Timothy Hager, D.Min., senior pastor, Sterling, Colorado

 

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