Ugly Teams Ruin Longevity

Do you think it’s possible for your people to enjoy volunteering with you more than they enjoy their day job? That might feel like a tall order, but it’s entirely possible. The elements that make a great working/volunteering environment are the same.

But what if they don't enjoy volunteering on your team?

ugly teams

Why would anyone stay in a bad job? The answer is simple, they stay because of an great team.

Think about it. In any organization the only thing that has the potential to deeply impact your experience is your team. You will have great times and times of crisis but your team is the thing that can hold you through. It’s the same for anyone on your team.

Look at the graph below. Imagine you are on a great team. When things go well, the team high is awesome. When it goes through times of crisis you push through because you’re willing to push through it as long as you have your team.


Now imagine that you don’t really get along with your team. You could take them or leave them. Think about those highs, they aren’t nearly as exciting. They seem like a small payoff for having to deal with the team. And when you hit those times of crisis, you constantly ask yourself “Is this even worth it?”

In fact most people don't quit because they've hit a time of crisis, they quit because they don't connect with their leader or team. 

People don’t quit because they’ve hit a time of crisis.
— StevenJBarker

So how do you insure you are creating an awesome team environment? Ask yourself these 12 questions (adapted from "First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently" by Marcus Buckingham [affiliate link].

  1. Does everyone on your team know how they can best contribute?
    Everyone wants to know what you need from them, they want to know how to play their part. Feeling unsure whether your contribution matters is a sure fire way to suck anyone’s energy tank dry.
  2. Does everyone have the materials and equipment necessary to do their work right?
    It’s hard to do the work when you don’t have the right tools. You show your volunteers appreciation if you work hard at getting them the right tools. It cost money, but it’s a worth while investment.
  3. Does everyone have the opportunity to do what they do best every time they serve?
    It’s easy to look at the ministry you are trying to accomplish as a mountain that you try to throw volunteers at. In reality it's a playground you to plug gifted people into. Help them find their spot, when they find their spot it only puts fuel in their tank.
  4. Is everyone being recognized and praised for doing good work?
    You don’t have to be the only one doing this. Help your team encourage each other. Point out great work publicly, make a habit of it. Look for excuses, even if it means walking up beside someone and whispering “I just saw what you did, great job.”
  5. Do your team leaders care about each volunteer as a person?
    Sometimes all it takes is a simple question, “How are you doing?” When they say “Good” ask again. “No really, how are you doing?” Volunteers are people too.
  6. Is each person on your team being developed?
    Everyone on your team wants to get better. Are they being encouraged and equipped to do so?
  7. Do their options count?
    Do you ask the people on the front lines for their feedback and ideas? 
  8. Does everyone feel like their role contributes to the organization’s mission/purpose?
    It can be easy to feel like a small job on Sundays isn’t really making a difference. Help people see how they are fulfilling the mission. “When you do __x__ it helps people __y__."
  9. Is everyone on the team committed to doing quality work?
    If someone isn’t, maybe they aren’t in the right spot. They probably aren’t having any fun either.
  10. Do the people on your team feel like they are building relationships?
    One of the reasons people serve is that deep down they want to be known. Relationship give serving context.
  11. Are you taking the opportunity to talk about how your team members have improved over the last six months?
    When you review the last season’s goals, look for opportunities to shine a light on various team member’s growth. Did Josh take on a new leadership role? Did Cathy become more approachable?
  12. In the last year, has everyone had opportunities to learn and grow?
    Have you sent your team members to conferences? Bought them books? Offered them helpful, compelling training?

If you answered no to too many of these questions and you’re on your way to building one ugly team. And you inevitably will be dealing with turnover in your near future. Start tackling these in order. Work on questions 1 & 2 until you feel like they have turned into a yes. Then move on to 3, 4, 5, & 6 and then on to 7, 8, 9 & 10. And finally put your effort into 11 & 12. Don't bother jumping ahead to much. If your team members don't know how they can best contribute, it won't do you any good focusing on their improvement.

Answer yes to these 12 questions and you are on your way to building one awesome team!

Question of the day: Thinking about your own experience, could you answer yes to these 12 questions?

Removing the Information Crevice Between Staff & Volunteers

Sometimes it can be difficult to build an organization of people who are unavailable. Not unavailable in a negative sense but unavailable as in, they wear many hats, and volunteering on your team is only one of them. That very often means they aren’t available for staff meetings or planning meetings or many meetings at all…but they are still committed.

So what do you do?

How do you remove the information crevice between staff and volunteers? 

This hole unintentionally exists and it’s a problem we deal with on a regular basis. For our church this was especially complicated when we transitioned to becoming a multi campus church. How would we ensure that each campus had the information it needed to create a fantastic weekend experience every single weekend

An email wouldn’t cut it. 

So, we introduced a conference call into the mix.


This allowed us to clearly communicate our game plan EVERY weekend without being in the same room. Here are the four simple steps we took to implementing this new tool with our team. 

1. Sign up for

Uberconference is an online conference call service that really is conference calling of the 21st century. It has a visual interface that allows you to see who is speaking (in case you don’t recognize their voice), a powerful per-caller control to mute the guy with all the background noise (sorry Max) and you can even turn on pin-less access so no one has to remember some random pin number to get access. I seriously love this service, and that don't pay me to say that either. 

2. Turn on Auto-Dial

By entering everyone’s number ahead of time we can allow the system to auto dial everyone at the same time so there is no waiting for that one person to finally get on the call (or forget about it for that matter). 

3. Hit Record

By recording the call we can share the entire conversation, or in this case, the entire "worship service walk through" with anyone not present on the call (aka the rest of the team that has other day jobs). This allows them to hear what otherwise would be difficult to explain in email. 

4. Share It All

Once the call is finished we share the call recording, the script and the service plan with the entire team via Azendoo. This allows our volunteer and part time staff to review the material and ask questions before Sunday. 

Sharing information in an organization like the church creates trust and communicates value.
— StevenJBarker

Ultimately sharing information in an organization like the church creates trust and communicates value. For us, conference calls have been one of the those tools that’s helped us stay flexible and on the same page, no matter where we are. 

Question of the day: What tools do you use to stay on the same page with your staff and volunteers? 

4 Rookie Management Mistakes Pastors Make When Setting Goals

There are four rookie management mistakes pastors make when leading their teams and setting goals. We all know how important vision is and that casting this vision is the core competency of a leader. But what happens when that leader puts down the microphone, takes off the "leader" hat and sits in front of his or her team and their team manager? Vision doesn't get you to your destination, it only tells you where you plan on going. What's missing are the next steps. I can tell you we are going to Disneyland, but we will still have to decide how we are going to get there. 


So what are the rookie mistakes we make as pastors as we manager our teams? 

1. Thinking that goals are the answer. 

Goals are not the answer. They are only a single tool in your tool kit that help you guide your team. If you fee like your attendance is stuck, making a goal to get past it is going to do very little to contribute to the solution. The clearer the goal the better. Measurable helps, but a goal in and of itself is not the answer to your problems. 

2. Spending too little time defining your targets. 

Most of the time, in order to keep things moving, we set delivery dates for our set of goals. On the surface this is a good thing but we must know when to break the rule. When we don't spend enough time defining the targets in our goals we risk using poor data to make our decisions. We throw down numbers off the top of our head and then fear adjusting them later because it might look like we have no faith in our team. 

3. Morphing into politicians when we talk about our goals. 

It's almost as if we made a campaign promos and we fear we won't deliver. So instead of addressing it, we hide it. We focus on the successes and shelter the missteps. We fear we will ruin momentum so we point all the attention to the good stuff (even slightly exaggerating at times to add an extra oomph). 

4. Only talking about them at the beginning and end of the season. 

This is a mistake that sucks all the potential out of our goals and targets. It, more than any other mistake, destroys not only your effectiveness as a team manager, but also of anyone on your team (volunteer or paid). 

So how do you avoid making these mistakes? 

  1. Use goals as the thermometer in your organization. If these really are the most important improvements you can make on the road to your vision, creating them isn't enough. Use them all the time. Constantly be asking "how are we doing on this goal?"
  2. Build the targets in your goals in two meetings. Define the goal and then set a follow up meeting for at least two days later. Give your team the time to digest and resort appropriate targets. 
  3. Don't be scared of sharing failure. Failure doesn't scare people, not being able to identify why is what scares them. 
  4. Print out your goals and bring them to every meeting. That single piece of paper will be the catalyst for change. Bring it up every week. What's our progress? What do we need to do this week to keep this moving forward? What obstacles are we running into? 

Each weekly meeting should consist of status updates and next steps. 

This is the kind of clarity that points your team in the right direction and focusses their daily efforts. 

So what then is your job? 

Define your goals. Make them clear. 

Then, ask for updates...every week. 

And celebrate every move forward. 

Repeat those last two steps every week. Ask for updates (clarify next steps when needed) and celebrate every move forward. Get excited! Ever step forward is progress. 

Goals aren't the answer, every step forward is.