5 Ways to Build Trust with your Team

Without trust, a church staff or ministry team simply won’t function at its best. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog the author quoted some dismal statistics about the workplace which probably hold true in the ministry realm as well. In this post I suggest 5 ways to build trust with your team.

Photo by Civilian Scrabble

According to the 2013 Edleman Trust Barometer, fewer than 20% of respondents believe leaders are actually telling the truth when confronted with a difficult issue in their organizations. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and Interaction Associates in 2013 found only 34% of organizations had high levels of trust in the places they work. And, a paltry 38% reported that their organizations had effective leadership running the show.

To cap off a small sliver of dismal data points, research firm Gallup found that over a twelve-year period between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of engaged employees in the workforce has shifted between 26% and 30%. That is, roughly 70% of employees in today’s organizations have spent more than a decade essentially collecting a paycheck, an almost Shakespearean spectacle of tragic ambivalence.

Wow, if only 1/3 of our church staff teams experience a high level of trust, then we have a lot of work to do. Here are five simple ways to build trust with your team.

  1. Intensity personal relationships. John Maxwell was right when he said that, “People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Although depending on the size of your staff you many not have time to build strong relationships with everybody, at least do so with your key players.
  2. Share when you’ve failed. When others hear from us when we fail and what we learned from our failures, we endear ourselves to them. When you mess up, admit it.
  3. Don’t abuse your authority. If you’re in a place of leadership over others, don’t lead from position. Lead from character. Lead in such a way that others would want to follow you.
  4. Invite input from your team. We seldom know all the answers. When we invite input from our team, we give them ownership of the ministries and the changes we want to implement. And ownership builds trust.
  5. Never, never, never condescend. When people feel patronized and condescended to, they deeply resist. A friend once shared with me that during a session with his supervisor he felt so patronized that he had to stifle his laughter by the incredulous comments she made. She made herself out to be a know-it-all and made the employee feel like a dummy.

What has helped you build trust in your teams?


“I just learned 5 ways to build trust in my teams.” (tweet this quote by clicking here).


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Ask Yourself these 7 Simple Questions to Clarify your Personal Values

Every pastor needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.

Photo by dtwash

Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.

In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise. Daniel and his three friends best exemplify these values.

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from my Dogs

I love dogs. We’ve owned as many as four at one time. One currently makes her home with us. Lulu (in the picture on the left) is a combination of a cat, a rat, and a dog. She’s as quick as a cat and looks like a hybrid rat-dog. She was a stray when we took her in “for just a few days until we find her owner.” We became the owners. On the other hand, P-nut was our registered Chihuahua. I had the agonizing job of taking him to the vet last year to have him put to sleep. But he was a funny doggie. He was missing most of his teeth. And sometimes his lip got stuck on his remaining molars so that he sported an Elvis look (no kidding). When I reflect about our relationship with our dogs, I’ve learned these five lessons from them that apply to me as a pastor or to any leader.

Leadership lessons from dogs.

  • Consistent: They are pretty much the same day in and day out. They don’t get moody. They’re not angry one minute and kind the next. They “show up” the same way every time I come home: they are glad to see me.
    • Leaders should be consistent with their followers. Your followers and/or staff shouldn’t have to wonder who’s going to show up each day. They shouldn’t have to wonder if you’ll be in a good mood or a bad mood.
  • Grateful: When I give them a treat, they are always glad to get it. Their tails wag, their body shakes with glee, and they truly appreciate that chicken sliver or doggie biscuit I toss them.
    • Leaders should be the most grateful people in every church, ministry, or organization. After all, we get the privilege of leading and influencing others toward a cause greater than ourselves. God puts leaders in places of leadership and when He does, gratefulness to Him should fill our hearts.
  • Baggage laden: This one may seem odd, but it’s true. When we picked up Lulu off the streets when we lived in California, we had no idea when or where she was born. All we knew was that she was skittish and skinny. We loved her, yet if I raise my hand too quickly, she cowers. Apparently her prior owners beat her.
    • Every leader carries his or her own baggage. We don’t emerge from childhood without some broken places. Healthy leaders aren’t afraid to discover their broken places. When leaders become self-aware of them, they seek help to repair them and realize that God can redeem them for good.
  • Content: Both P-nut and Lulu modeled contentment. I don’t believe they had a worry in the world. I believe they knew that all their needs would be met. So, they didn’t fret about where their next meal or comfy blanket would come from (they have several).
    • Leaders trust the Lord that He will provide, care for, and guide them in any circumstance. Hebrews 13.5 reminds us that … “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
  • Restful: Both dogs knew how to rest. In fact, they took multiple naps every day. When they got tired, they slept.
    • Good leaders know and practice Sabbath rhythms. While they certainly work hard, they also get enough sleep, take days off, take vacations, and quiet their souls before the Lord daily. As one friend often said, ” We must Divert daily… Withdraw weekly… Abandon annually.”

If you have a dog, what lessons have you learned from it?


“I just learned 5 leadership lessons that a dog can teach us.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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Avoiding Ministry Failure: 5 Questions to Ask when you do a Ministry Pre-mortem

Ministry initiatives in the church often fail. A simple planning tool called the pre-mortem, however, can minimize ministry failure. In my last post I suggested 7 good reasons to conduct the pre-mortem, a tool credited to Dr. Gary Klein. A pre-mortem is an exercise that assumes your plan spectacularly fails and considers beforehand what might go wrong. It helps teams plan ahead to avoid potential pitfalls. In this post I explain how to do a pre-mortem.

To get started, you’ll want to schedule a pre-mortem session with your team and include these steps when you convene them.

  • Brief your team about the proposed plan.
  • Describe the imaginary failure in colorful terms. Imagine it as a spectacular fiasco.
  • Ask your team to write down everything they believe could have possibly gone wrong.

After these steps, consider these questions.

  1. What did you miss that contributed to the failure?
  2. What went wrong as you implemented your imaginary plan?
  3. Who messed up and why?
  4. Had you known these pitfalls, what would you have done differently?
  5. After completing your pre-mortem session, what do you need to change about your proposed plan to avoid potential failure?
  6. Who needs to know these changes?

Here’s a helpful guide that describes in more detail how to do a pre-mortem.

Have you ever conducted a pre-mortem? If so, what additional questions would you include?


“I just learned how to conduct a ministry plan pre-mortem to help avoid failure.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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7 Benefits of an Often Overlooked Planning Tool: the Pre-mortem

Jesus recognized the role good planning plays in life and ministry. He said, Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? (Luke 14.28) Unfortunately, lack of planning often torpedoes otherwise good ministry ideas. Scientist Gary Klein, author of The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work, offers a great idea he calls a pre-mortem. In this post I unpack 7 benefits a pre-mortem offers in planning.

planning tools

Dr. Klein says that a pre-mortem can increase the chances that our plan will succeed. In contrast to a post-mortem that we often perform after a plan fails, a pre-mortem is an exercise that teams do before they implement a plan.

By imagining that an event is over and that it failed, a pre-mortem can often surface potential problems that you can address and prepare for before you invest time and resources in an event or a plan.

In my next post I’ll give crucial questions to ask to make a pre-mortem successful.

But first, I’ve listed several benefits of a pre-mortem.

  1. A pre-mortem helps you fail on paper rather than in practice. A pre-mortem considers what might go wrong so you can plan to avoid those mistakes
  2. You can surface potential pitfalls in a safe environment. Before others get overinvested in the plan, considering the pitfalls beforehand makes it less threatening for a team member to voice a concern.
  3. A pre-mortem helps you value your team members by soliciting their ideas and thoughts. We all like others to feel that our voice matters. A pre-mortem reinforces that experience.
  4. You can help team members become more sensitive to potential problems as you roll out the plan. By discussing potential issues beforehand, your team is more likey to see potential issues when you do roll it out.
  5. You can increase the chances that you will avoid a painful post-mortem autopsy prompted by a failure. We’d all rather avoid autopsies.
  6. You can surface potential problems you might have otherwise missed. Pretended your plan has failed makes you think outside the box.
  7. ___________ (what would add as a seventh benefit?)

So, the next time you plan a big initiative, try a pre-mortem.


“I just learned 5 good reasons to conduct a ministry plan pre-mortem to avoid failure.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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