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?