Team Building

Geese Fog

The day was cold.

Cold and foggy.

Cold and foggy and damp and dreary and what in God’s name was I doing out in it?

Walking, that’s what.

Walking and praying.

Praying and walking.

And I didn’t care about how cold or foggy it was because on this day I was desperate and yearning for an audience with – and a word from – God.

Anyway, I had a jacket.

It was one of the last times that I walked the 20-acre boundary of the church I had planted. And on this day the cold heaviness of the West Texas air was only exceeded by the cold heaviness in my spirit.

I got about halfway down the fence row, asking the Lord to speak to my heart. I so desperately wanted to hear His voice.

What I heard instead was the honking of the geese overhead.

Listening for God, I could only hear the dissonant, grating sound of geese. Can you relate?

Looking up, there was no way to see them, the fog was so heavy and low-hanging. But I could sure hear them.

I laughed to myself because of a recent conversation I’d had with my wife. She hates the sound of geese.

Eventually I did see them in the mist – surprisingly lower than I had imagined. And they were dealing with the same fog I was dealing with. Nevertheless, they flew in perfect formation, in a straight line.

And that’s how the Lord spoke. [click to continue…]

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Garth Brooks

Count me in.  I now know what all the fuss is about.

Went to hear Garth Brooks in concert over the weekend in Birmingham, Alabama.  Definitely a step outside of my routine, but anybody with experience I talked to about the upcoming event told me, “It’s one of the best, if not THE best, concert experiences you will ever experience.”

Yeah, that.

Six of us took a road trip with center-section, row 9 seats.  Close enough to see the sweat and be covered when the confetti dropped.  And as-advertised, it was an extraordinary experience.  In part I felt like an outsider looking in because I didn’t know every word of every song like most of the crowd apparently did.  But on this night it didn’t matter. I was part of something bigger than myself, regardless of my lack of experience.  Garth and his team saw to that.

Now before you “Older Brother” types write me off and resume your search for friends in HIGH places, hang with me.  I’ve had some time to think about what we saw and heard that night. I’ve looked at it through several different lenses.  A leadership lens.  An organization lens. Even a Church World lens. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned that can speak to your world, too. [click to continue…]

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They called their hangout at Chip’s place the Land of O.Z. Not because there were witches, wizards, or munchkins there, but because whenever Chip, Blake and Tony got together, the ideas would start flying. And they were living in the Opportunity Zone.

The three friends met in the dorm at their university, and were all business majors.  And they were dreamers.  Entrepreneurial types, always looking for the next big idea or opportunity.

In the Land of O.Z., no idea was considered taboo.  These friends would dream and scheme, design and research, test and toss away ideas before breakfast was done.  They even tried one or two, mostly for fun.  Not much happened.

Their big opportunity came when they anticipated the emergence of smart phones and the apps that drove them.  This would be their surefire thing – what the Internet boom (and bust) had meant to the 1990s.  They would establish a software design company that specialized in apps for iPhones.

A year later, Wizard of Apps was more or less history, and the friends-for-life had moved on.

Why? [click to continue…]

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Does your team have what it takes to go the distance?

Something happens when people get together to forge a team.  Unfortunately, that “something” isn’t always what you’re looking for.  See if you recognize any of these teams from your experience:

Team Fritter. Talk about potential.  It seems as though whenever they’re on the ropes, somehow the miraculous happens and they live to see another day. On the other hand, every time it seems they have the chance for that big breakthrough they flounder.  Never fully realizing their potential, they choke every time they get ahead.

Team Glitter. This bunch has success written all over it.  Smart, good-looking, and well-liked, things came fast and easy for Team Glitter.  Too fast.  And too easy.  Before you know it, what appears to shimmer is anything but gold.  And the team comes caving in under the load of its own scandal(s), greed, and dishonesty.

Team Bitter.  Another story of lost potential, this team doesn’t have an integrity problem.  It has an anger problem.  A big anger problem.  Sucked in by jealousy and dispirited by feelings of rejection or failure, this team sabotages its own enormous potential by holding onto the bitterness, anger, or mistrust. [click to continue…]

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New Year’s Eve.  We’d had a great dinner with friends, and were doing the potty wait in the restaurant foyer, when out walked a small group from another dining room.  I recognized her immediately, though we hadn’t spoken in more than three years. 

She was (and is) a part of my team.   My Dream Team.

If this was baseball, she’d be the heavy hitter off the bench.  If it was football, she’d be the Hail Mary quarterback who came in the game in the fourth quarter.  If it was business, she’d be the turnaround specialist.

As it is, she’s my frontline intercessor.

As I explained to my friend, she is one of the godliest women I know, and a powerful intercessor. And she has occupied a very unique place in my life.  “When my back is to the wall and I’m desperate,” I told him, “and I need somebody who knows how to pray with heavy artillery, she’s the one I call.”

I’m thinking of a few times since we last spoke when it may have been a good idea to make that call.  Anyway… [click to continue…]

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Dateline Barcelona, 1992.  The Summer Olympics are hosting the first-ever competition of the truly-best in their respective nations, as professionals and amateurs are all invited to the party.  The United States has assembled a collection of NBA-plus-one stars that may be the best roster to ever take a tip-off.  And their nickname:  “The Dream Team.” 

This isn’t about basketball.  It’s about teams, and how you need a “dream team” of your own.  Not the kind the wins medals, but the kind that empowers lives.  While our culture idolizes the individual, the truth is, you were designed by creation and redesigned by gifts and talents to need the contributions of others in order to maximize your potential.  I’d like to show you how to go about doing it. [click to continue…]

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The boys of summer are back.  You’ll find them hanging out in Florida and Arizona ballparks, getting those winter cobwebs cleared out, and setting out to prove they’re worth all that money (or should be paid all that money). 

But while it still has to be worked out on the field, and the first word to start the proceedings is still, “Play,” make no mistake about it.  The 2010 version of this game got started as soon as Mark Teixeira caught the last out of the ’09 World Series.  And it was all business.  That game is played by General Managers on telephones and at conference hotels and in corporate offices throughout North America and, in some cases, in island Caribbean nations or the Pacific Rim.

They were about the business of building a team.  And not just for 2010.

Your payroll may be slightly less and your personnel decision may not involve as many people.  But wherever you connect with others to get things done, you or somebody is building a team.  And the decisions you make today can affect the quality of your team(s) for years to come.

Just ask Bobby Cox, who is retiring this year after 50 years in the game.  Cox has the distinction of hiring his own boss as the GM of the Atlanta Braves and “demoting” himself back to the field manager in 1991.  Between him and John Schuerholz, the Braves reeled off 14 consecutive division titles – a feat unmatched in professional sports anywhere.

So what can we learn from the likes of Cox/Schuerholz, or the New York Yankees, who won their 27th World Series title last year? [click to continue…]

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kickball“What are you teaching them about?” my daughter asked – referring to our upcoming pastors and leaders training in Thailand.

“Leadership,” I said.

“Well, can I ask you something?  Is there a way – I’m not sure how to say this – is there a way to ‘dumb down’ leadership training?”

My pause meant, “Keep going.”

“I have to train these fifth-and-sixth-grade leaders every day at FROG camp for about 30 minutes on being a leader, and I was wondering how I could explain biblical leadership on their level.”

I did a random brainstorm with her.  Talked about David and Joshua and Paul and Jesus.  Hurled out Bible passages like Joshua 1:1-9, 2 Timothy, 1 Peter 5:2-4, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  She said “thanks,” but I hung up with the feeling that I hadn’t “dumbed down” anything.

That got me to thinking later.  I have a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.  I’ve spent years studying theories and models, biblical principles and best practices.  But none of them – none – involved fifth- or sixth-graders.

Maybe we have it backwards.  Rather than presuming to teach 11-year-olds all about leading, maybe we should try to learn some things from them.  [click to continue…]

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Lone RangerIt’s not enough to be a team player.  To get things done, to be a leader, you’ll have to be a team builder.  Together has great power, and an isolated Christian has a fool for a companion.

A Stanford Business School study bears that out.  Researchers examined the qualities that companies look for in promoting young managers toward senior executive positions. The study concluded that one of the most important qualities required for great success in leadership is the ability to put together a team and function as a good team player. Since all work is ultimately done by teams, and the managers’ output is the output of the team, the ability to select team members, set objectives, delegate responsibility and get the job done, was central to success in management.

That’s bad news for all the Lone Ranger types.  But hey, even he had Tonto!

Together has power in four dimensions:

1.  Synergy.
Synergy is the concept that one plus one equals three.  You can do the work of one, and so can I.  But together, we can do the work of many times more.  That flies in the face of conventional wisdom.  Maybe you can do it better by yourself in the immediate circumstances, but in the long run, it’s always more productive to go together.

You’re probably not going to hear this at church Sunday, so let me go ahead and tell you now:  [click to continue…]

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