Win Today with Christopher Cook

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How to Effectively Build the Team of Your Dreams

Great teams are healthy teams. And healthy teams are growing teams.

But great teams aren’t built automatically, nor are they guaranteed. Instead, they are built systematically and intentionally through careful planning, positive actions, and effective communication. Whether you realize it or not, if you’re married, you’re part of a team. If you’re involved in local church ministry, you’re part of a team. And if you’re an employee in a corporate department, you’re part of a team.

No matter where you sit on the bench, so-to-speak, have the mindset of a team builder. As it pertains to organizations of all types, the most effective teams are not primarily comprised of “yes men” and order-takers. Effective teams are comprised of vision-sharing, passion-filled, talented contributors who are aligned under a common purpose and led by a capable leader, who leads from the motivation to inspire, not convince.

How do I know this? During one of the most treasured seasons of my life, I had the opportunity to work with the team of my dreams every single week. Allow me to take a trip down memory lane.

Built from the Ground Up

Years ago, I was privileged to help build a thriving college & career ministry from the ground-up. In our early days, we didn’t have unlimited resources, but we had passion, a dream to make a difference in our community, and the intention to become knit as a tapestry of unity, purpose, and excellence.

We never set out to simply build a “big” ministry. We set out to build a healthy ministry whose purpose was to point people to their individual significance in Christ. But as a result of that motivation, our growth was explosive. We tore down walls, bought more chairs, and struggled to contain our rapid growth within the confines of the building.

Almost every Sunday evening, Kevyn, one of our lead team members, would wheel in more chairs while my pastor preached. We were growing quickly and the feeling was electric. Over time, the creative team alone grew from three to over 40 dedicated people. By 2008, we had one of the most dynamic ministries in our church. But most importantly, as we grew in size, we grew in unity.

Over the years in which I served and led teams, I learned several principles of effective team building and have distilled them into ten practical strategies you can use to build the team of your dreams.

10 Foundational Components of Building a Great Team

1.) Believe that the normal disposition of your team is to do things well, not do things poorly. Allow me to illustrate using a biblical principle: If we view people as sinners, we’ll easily use fear and control tactics as a means of interaction with them.

But if we view people as saints saved by grace (see Ephesians 2:8-9), we’ll engage and empower them to live according to their identity and to their highest potential, upholding and challenging them to reach their destiny. After all, their new nature is to make great choices. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and needs someone to believe in them. The apostle Paul adds to this thought in his letter to the Romans: “Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11 AMP)

Simply stated, it’s more fruitful to tell people who they are in God and what He’s provided for them rather than remind them of what they lack.

2.) Put the right people in the right place. Empowering people in their strength zone will yield exponential results for your team. Moreover, look to add team members who already possess the core values of the team. When you do, efficiency and qualitative increase is compounded.

3.) Set them up to thrive independent of you and with the ability make great choices for themselves. You can be in charge without being in control. If the team can’t make forward progress without your moment-by-moment assistance, you may not be reproducing yourself effectively as a leader. Insecure leaders often fear empowering those they lead because they want to maintain control over everything for which they are responsible, or they fear being replaced by someone more capable. On the subject, Dr. John Maxwell says, “Leaders who fail to promote teamwork undermine their own potential and erode the best efforts of the people with whom they work.” He’s right about that!

4.) Grow yourself in order to grow them. When is the last time you read a leadership book? With whom have you networked outside of your regular circle of influence? When was the last time you attended a conference? My friend, learn new skills. Get outside your bubble, your culture, and your routine. Don’t believe your own mail all the time. If you don’t seek personal growth, at what point does your well run dry? The sobering reality is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Listen carefully: you will only give what you have, so make sure your well is deep enough so that you can draw fresh water as nourishment for your team, your spouse, or your children on a regular basis.

5.) Create a culture of honor and respect. In an earlier post, I identified that everyone has blind spots, but knowing that should not hamper your personal investment or your belief that everyone on your team has something meaningful to contribute. The point is simple: celebrate people for who they are without stumbling over who they are not.

6.) Reinforce your commitment to train, equip, and mentor them, then actually follow-through with your intention. Do not, I repeat, do NOT say you’re going to do something then lack follow-through. Doing so creates confusion within your team because of the incongruence between your words and actions. Furthermore, unchecked confusion opens the door to distrust, and distrust invites hesitation to totally buying-in to the vision.

7.) Clearly communicate roles and expectations. Subsequently, provide regular feedback.

8.) Always celebrate wins. If your team does well, tell them. Then reward them. Winning has an intangible benefit: momentum. And momentum will show up in tangible form as your team forges new territory, overcomes obstacles, and champions new ideas.

9.) Build people for significance. The goal is more important than the role, but the goal won’t be achieved without your role. All players have a place where they add the most value, and it’s your privilege as the leader to help your team discover and mine the gold in their own lives. Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz said, “I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.”

10.) Develop a winning attitude. My teams heard me say this for years: “Nothing can stop the person with a good attitude, but nothing can help the person with a bad attitude, other than an adjustment of attitude.” Help your team members develop a healthy picture of themselves and their value to the team.

Building the team of your dreams is within the realm of possibility, but you’ll have to commit to stay the course when it takes longer than expected and costs more than anticipated. The reward of doing so, however, is invaluable.

Now go do it!

  • Great stuff. Passing this one along to a few coworkers

    • Thanks, Brian! I appreciate your feedback and am so glad this post resonated with you. Have a fantastic week!