The Caution of Working with Friends

I believe in being friends with the people with whom I work.  I consider the people on our staff to be friends. I hope we never hire anyone I could not also claim as a friend.  Part of building a healthy team environment is getting to know team members and building close relationships…friends.

That is the disclaimer statement, because this post is not about working with friends.  Actually this post is the opposite. This post is a warning against working with friends; especially close friends.  Well maybe not a warning, but definitely a caution.

Here are a few cautions when working with or supervising friends:

  • Sometimes leaders allow the vision to be sacrificed to protect a friend, but that approach is never good for the organization or the friend. Relationships should not get in the way of accomplishing vision.
  • Friendships create a fine line between what is fair for the organization and what is fair for the friend.
  • Close friendships within an organization can sometimes cause others in the organization to feel left out of private conversations or inside jokes, creating tension in the working environment.
  • When a friend is disciplined or fired it can be difficult for the friend who stays with the organization to continue respecting leadership.
  • When a friend is under performing many leaders have a harder time addressing the problem if that worker is a friend.
  • Friends sometimes assume unqualified job security.  Some leaders are afraid to fire a person if that person is a friend, but again that approach is never good for the organization or the friend.  There are times when a friend is no longer a good fit for the position or even for the organization.
  • If a friend no longer is a fit for the organization and is asked to leave, it can become more difficult to maintain the friendship.

As I said at the start, I love working with friends.  I would not want it any other way.  It is important, however, that friends recognize the risk of working together, knowing that the vision of the organization, at least in the work environment, trumps the friendship.  The bottom line is that doing the best thing for the organization often involves making hard decisions. Leaders should not be held back because of the level of difficulty.

I realize that even this post will create division among readers. Some readers will say that friendships are more important than the vision, but I would disagree.  If the vision is a worthy goal then the vision is worth protecting and friendships should not get in the way.

Have you seen close friendships affect the work environment in a negative way?  Would you rather you did or did not work with friends?

Lessons from General Motors for the Church?

gm_logoThis morning, thanks to my Google Reader, I landed on an editorial story by Ed Wallace of Business Week Online. You can read the story HERE. Ed writes from an insider’s perspective about the reasons for the fall of General Motors. His insight is of a company who faced problems of arrogance and indifference, failing to meet the changing needs of its consumers. He saw a company that allowed the quality of their product to suffer while refusing to listen to concerns of insiders who were suggesting improvements.

I obviously have no personal insight into General Motors and their demise. Mr. Wallace is one man with an opinion, although certainly far closer to the issue than most of us, with his 10 years working for the company. I wonder, however, if there are lessons for all organizations in his story and General Motor’s current predicament. Is there something here from which we can learn?

Could there be similarities in Wallace’s description of GM’s major problems from his perspective, with other organizations in trouble, such as maybe some churches and denominations today? Could arrogance, failure to accept change and failure to recognize the needs of their constituents be causing injury to the organization of the church? Is there room for improvement in the quality of the product churches use to tell the world about the unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think we must ask ourselves tough questions, unless we are too proud to admit our own mistakes.

What are your thoughts? Do you see common lessons to be learned from General Motors with your organization?

Altering My Personal Leadership Style

I am trying to do a better job of adding structure and management to my leadership style. Honestly my preferred approach is to hire the right people and trust them to do the job they were hired to do with limited interaction from me.  I want to be a resource for the people I lead, I try to be approachable, I believe in investment and teaching, but ultimately I want to lead, as I like to be led, and that is with limited direct oversight.

I have learned that this approach is not always effective and honestly it is not even always fair.  I realize, especially in the birthing stage of our church, that people are looking to me for accountability and structure. They want and need to be managed as much as be led.  (I personally believe there is a difference.  To read more about this concept read this POST.)

In my pursuit for consistent improvement in my own life I am opening myself up to a new approach. I will attempt to ask more questions to keep people accountable.  I will visit people’s offices more frequently.  I will eat more lunches with my staff.  I will do a better job of tracking individual progress. It is not a matter of trust but a matter of recognizing the responsibility that I have been given and the individuality of the people I lead.

Leaders, do you need to consider a different approach to your leadership style?  Are you willing to change your approach if the organization or the people you lead require something different than you are accustomed to giving?

Fostering an Attitude of Team Spirit (Whatever it Takes)

team_building_ringOne of the most damaging expressions in a team environment is the phrase “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my area of responsibility”.  Thankfully I have never heard that said at Grace Community Church.  Sadly it is far too common in organizations that claim to be a team environment.  I talk with people on staffs frequently who feel they are on an island by themselves within the organization and no one ever helps them think through a problem, recruit volunteers for their area, or lend a hand during crunch times.

While I agree with the equally modern concept these days of job specialization, working from one’s strengths and having clear expectations of a job’s responsibility, the very concept of a team is one of shared resources and shared responsibilities.  For a team to thrive it’s members must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of the team.

Team leaders must foster a spirit of cooperation within the team.  Leading by example, team leaders demonstrate this concept best by willingly participating in whatever is necessary to help the team, even if that task is way out of their comfort level or interest.

Does your team need a dose of a “whatever it takes” attitude?  How does your team foster team spirit?

Elements of a Healthy Team

I have written all week about team idleness. Check out more of the posts on the home page of this blog.  I thought it was equally important to share some thoughts about what makes up a healthy team. Obviously that is our goal. Here are some quick elements of healthy teams:

Agreed upon mission: everyone knows where the organization wants to go and what a win looks like.

Right people: The people on the team are the correct fit for the role they have been assigned and have the proper training to complete their assignment.

Ample resources: Regardless of the awesomeness of a team, if the team lacks adequate resources it will never achieve its full potential. (Take it from a former small business owner…no matter how good your employees are cash is king!)

Consistent pace: Healthy teams can’t move too fast or they burnout. If they move to slow they stagnate. There will always be highs and lows with any team, but healthy teams find the right balance for the team and find ways to continue to grow.

Accountability: Teams fail when no one holds the members accountable for success. There are very few people who can continue to function well without a structure in place to insure consistent progress.

Healthy teams reach their full potential and guard against team idleness. Here’s my challenge for you and I to build healthy teams.

What suggestions do you have for building healthy teams?

Will The Real Leader Please Stand Up?

I am writing some posts this week on the concept of team idleness. Check out other posts on the blog.

I believe and practice the concept of team leadership.  I want people in our organization that will assume ownership of an individual task and follow through with the responsibility of seeing projects completed well.  We have a shared leadership philosophy at Grace Community Church and I have posted about the need for a leader to “give their vision away” to people he or she trust to make it better.

That being said, there is usually a balancing statement needed for most principles to work in the real world.  When considering team leadership, for example, one thing that must be equally understood is that there comes a time when one person has to stand up and assume responsibility for the project or task. Someone has to lead.    The leader doesn’t always have to be the same person, depending on the task, but one person needs to be accountable for completion and success of the project.  If not, team members are left staring at each other and nothing moves forward.

Does your organization practice team leadership?  How do you assign ultimate responsibility for successful completion?

Tribute to Small Group Leaders

home_mainThe best life, community and spiritual growth happens at Grace Community Church within the context of our small group ministry.  We have some amazing leaders of our small groups.  I’m always encouraged by their willingness to sacrifice part of them to invest in other people.  I know each of them would say, however, that they receive far more in return than they give up.   Serving others is like that.

Group life helps relationships become more authentic.  It connects people who would otherwise never meet.  It builds friendships for life.  In the three groups we have led since the church started we have found people we now consider family. I cannot imagine our life without them now.  In all my years working in ministry, as a layperson and as a pastor, there is no place where the Acts 2 model of church is displayed any better than within the small group settings that meet in people’s homes.

Group leaders thank you for investing in, leading, loving, encouraging, shaping people to become growing disciples of Jesus Christ.  You are true Kingdom-builders!  Your time and energy helps to make us a better church. Grace Community Church would not be the church we are without you!

What To Do When The Changes Needed Are Overwhelming

If you are like me you want to see consistent improvement in your organization.  Sometimes I can be overly critical because I have such high hopes and expectations for us as a church.  At times I can become a bit overwhelmed with all the things I think need to be tweaked, completely overhauled or killed altogether.

When those times occur, if a leader is not careful, the burden of trying to change too much at once can actually have the reverse impact. Nothing gets changed, everything stays the same, and the organization suffers.  The leader cannot get everything accomplished so nothing gets accomplished.

Here is an easy solution to the sense of overwhelming need for improvement  in an organization:

Concentrate on one needed change, work to get that change implemented, then move to another change.

Sounds simple, but it will dramatically improve your success rate…and your organization.

What is the ONE change for improvement you need to get started on today?