God created us to live and work in community. The more community we experience, the stronger our teams. Highly productive teams often exude strong personal bonds and work in an atmosphere that fosters community. Good leaders understand the importance of community and actively seek to build it among their teams. Consider these 6 ways to build community in the teams you lead.
- Provide regular relationship building experiences for your teams to deepen their chemistry and their friendships.
- Foster the sense that nobody is in an ‘out group.’ If some team members are perceived to be in an ‘out group’ it can set up a subtle prejudice that can affect team dynamics. Teach your team that because we naturally default to seeing others as being in an ‘out’ group, your team must be vigilant to avoid it. Monitor for cliques. Be vigilant especially when you bring new team members on board.
- Create physical gathering places in the workplace that encourage socialization.
- Something as simple as water cooler conversations can help build community.
- Regularly remind your team to see other team members’ perspectives.
- Teach your team to learn to walk in other team member’s shoes. It’s called mentalizing. Mentalizing helps us see situations from the perspective of others. Studies show that the more we do this, the more we are likely to feel empathy toward and relate more positively to those whose perspective we are taking.
- Help team members share their goals.
- When team members share goals, their connection to each other and their commitment to the team’s goals will intensify.
- Build an attitude of gratitude among your team.
- Model gratitude so that your team can see it in you. Regularly explain how gratitude not only is Biblical but that it actually helps build team cohesiveness.
- Build trust.
- As trust increases, the neurotransmitter oxytocin increases which strengthens cooperativeness among your team and empathy toward each other. It even lowers blood pressure and the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies.
What have you done to build community in your team?
Great teams feel valued by those who lead them.
Teams that don’t feel valued often simply go through the motions which dampens motivation and decreases productivity. Great leaders pay keen attention to how valued their teams feel. Poor leaders seldom even think about it. Evaluate your leadership against these five behaviors great leaders show.
- Great leaders regularly tell and show their team members that they value them.
- Thank your team members often. Tell them how valuable their contributions are even though their jobs may not be viewed as important as other ones. Use tangible expressions of appreciation. Discover what uniquely gives them a sense of value and communicate thanks in that way. The highest performing teams receive a ratio of six positive comments to one negative one. However, praise should focus on effort such as hard work rather than attributes such as intelligence. Praise for effort keeps your team open to grow whereas praise for attributes can sometimes cause the person to become static in order to protect those attributes.
- Great leaders help their team members make progress in their work.
- Support your team members so that they feel they are making headway. In one study, over 600 managers recorded at the end of each day the experiences that satisfied them the most. Progress on their goals and tasks satisfied the most, even more than receiving praise or recognition from their boss.
- Great leaders teach their teams about healthy and unhealthy comparison.
- Most people tend to naturally compare their efforts against others. Often such comparison leads to either pride or diminishes that person’s sense of accomplishment. Talk to your team members about the downsides of comparison and help them learn to recognize it when they begin to compare themselves with others. Teach that good comparison is comparing their personal efforts against their own efforts and goals.
- Great leaders provide their new team members with a thorough orientation process.
- Whether your teams are paid or volunteer, a good orientation process will help new team members feel valued, right from the get-go and help create a sense from them that you really care.
- Great leaders value the insight and input from their teams.
- Help your team realize that we naturally default to believing others see things as we ourselves do. It’s called the false consensus effect. Foster a healthy, open atmosphere so that everybody on the team feels free to share his or her views. Foster an atmosphere that not only gives everyone a chance to share his opinions, but welcomes his opinions as well. When you do, everybody can get a boost of the neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which helps build trust.
What has helped your teams feel valued?
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is often associated with negative effects that prolonged stress puts on our bodies. Those effects include weight gain, anxiety, heart disease, depressed immune system, digestive problems, sleep impairment, and even effects on memory. But could churches be negatively affected by cortisol as well? That is, if the leaders and culture of that church are constantly stressed, and flooded with cortisol themselves, could it affect the church negatively? I think it can and does in many churches. Consider these 9 tell-tale signs of a church flooded with cortisol.
- Your leadership team seems to always be uptight, tired, and sick a lot.
- Little trust between staff, elders, and the people in general exists.
- The leaders incessantly push bigger and better programs and ministries. They often switch from one great idea to the next.
- Your staff experiences lots of turn-over.
- An atmosphere of suspicion and “the wary eye” seems to pervade the church and your teams.
- Staff meetings are conflict filled or staff simply don’t say much in meetings for fear they will get reprimanded.
- A heavy spirit seems to linger over the office and even the church itself.
- Tension and conflict fill elder and/or deacon meetings.
- You seem to focus most on problems rather than victories or stories of how God is working.
How many of these did you check? Granted, spiritual forces are at work here as well. It’s not just a biological thing. But if more than two of these are true of your church, you might need to take a good look at your church’s stress level. Your church may be flooded with cortisol.
How might a church dial down a cortisol culture? Consider these potential antidotes.
- Create a ‘do not do’ list for your church. Pare down what you do so that leaders and volunteers don’t feel run ragged. Do a few things well.
- Teach your leaders how to build trust. Here’s a recent blog on building trust. When we build trust, we help activate the trust neurotransmitter oxytocin in our brains that creates a feeling of safety and belonging. Here’s a video of a recent talk I gave on building trust.
- Build fun experiences into your staff calendar. Don’t make every encounter revolve around pressing ministry issues.
- If you are the main leader, dial down your own intensity. Take breaks during the day. Deal with your own stress. Take your day off. Disconnect from technology 24 hours each week.
- Begin your staff and elder/deacon meetings with praises and victories.
- Share stories in your services that point to God’s blessings and changed lives.
- Over-communicate with your church. When people sense they know what’s happening, they will tend less to assume the worst. When we assume the worst we become anxious and cortisol ratchets up.
- Smile a lot. Our brain has what are called mirror neurons (brain cells) that prompts us to mimic the intentional, goal directed actions of others. Model give body language to others that you want them to imitate. And, make it positive.
Do you think churches can be affected by cortisol in leaders? Why or why not?
The Red Zone: unsafe areas in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, a region of France decimated during WWI, the area on the field between the 20 yard line and the end zone in American football (source: wikipedia). The term Red Zone is a fairly well understood term that designates either a problem area or a heightened sense of alertness, as in the case of football. I’m extending that meaning to the emotional place many pastors and leaders find themselves in, sometimes without there even knowing it. Consider these subtle clues that may point to your being in the stress Red Zone. Mentally check the ones true of you.
10 indicators you are in the stress Red Zone
- You quickly walk by someone at church or at the office to avoid a conversation simply because you don’t have the energy to engage.
- Fun in ministry and life seems to have disappeared.
- When you come home your spouse says, “You look terrible.”
- When you come home you could go to bed, right then.
- You can’t shake the free floating anxiety that seems to cling to you.
- Small things that once didn’t bother you now set you off.
- You often ruminate over and rehearse negative issues in your ministry and/or life.
- You easily default to worse case scenario thinking.
- You feel anger coursing deep within.
- You’re not sleeping very well.
How many did you mentally check? If you checked any of these, you may be in the stress Red Zone.
Often leaders lead in such stress-filled environments that their bodies and brains are awash in the stress hormone, cortisol. When under stress, whether good or bad, our adrenal glands (located atop our kidneys) release this important hormone. Cortisol is not all bad. We need it in times of stress. However, it becomes harmful when we are perpetually under stress and our body gets overexposed to it and other stress related hormones.
Here’s what can happen to your body if it’s perpetually awash in cortisol.
- dampened immunity: you’ll get sick more often
- digestive problems
- heart disease
- weight gain
- impaired brain functioning, especially memory
- sleep impairment
So what can you do if you realize you are in the stress Red Zone? Consider these ideas.
- Make sure you regularly exercise as exercise can help reduce excessive cortisol in your body.
- Practice mindfulness as part of your spiritual formation process. My latest book includes an entire chapter on mindfulness.
- Get 30 minutes more sleep each night.
- Take your day off…really take it off. Don’t even look at email for 24 hours straight on your day off.
- Talk to a friend, your spouse, or a counselor about your stress. Others can often give us a more objective sense of reality which can reduce our stress.
What has helped you manage your stress and avoid being awash in cortisol?
If a leader wants to lead well and successfully, he or she must build trust with those around him or her. Without trust, teams won’t thrive or even survive. I believe we leaders must prioritize building trust with and among those we lead and serve. Consider these 10 ways to build trust with your teams.
- Speak truth, but always in love.
- Eph. 4.15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
- Don’t spin and don’t flatter. Tell the truth, but don’t use a bat to do it. Jim Carrey starred in a movie several years ago called Liar Liar. He always spoke the truth but with no love, consideration or respect.
- One of the most successful ways to deplete people’s trust accounts is to send angry emails. Don’t do that. See my blog here about misusing email.
- Golden rule trust.
- The golden rule says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matt. 7.12)
- In other words, give trust to others and they will give it to you. If you don’t trust others, don’t expect them to trust you. Trust gets reciprocated. You want trust, you have to extend it to others
- Biblically rooted trust does not mean blind trust. Stephen M. R. Covey calls it smart trust. There must be some credibility and history before you give full trust. I recommend his book Smart Trust.
- Smart trust means that you have a propensity to trust and that you extend and inspire trust in others.
- Risk transparency.
- People don’t trust what they don’t see. Trust requires humility in that you give part of yourself to others so that you actually give the power to them to potentially hurt or disappoint you. Banish hidden agendas. Don’t make things appear what they are not. Be willing to admit your failures and struggles.
- Go the extra mile to right wrongs.
- Don’t cover up. Don’t make excuses. Own your own failures. You will build trust in others when you admit it when you were wrong.
- Give credit where credit is due.
- Practice Matthew 18 by dealing with conflict 1-1 first. Don’t let others con you into their conflict when they aren’t willing to apply Matthew 18.
- Be accountable.
- God gives more opportunity and responsibility to those who have proved themselves trustworthy.
- “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ (Luke 19.17)
- Hold yourself accountable and responsible. Don’t blame others when you should take responsibility.
- Do what say you will do.
- Behave in ways that builds trust in others. Show up the same way every day. Don’t be mad at everybody one day and happy as the lark the next day. Be consistent.
- … those who fear the LORD…keeps his oath even when it hurts… (Ps 15.4)
- … show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2.10)
- Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Cor. 4.2)
- Practice authentic empathy.
- Empathy is the ability to step inside the shoes of another, feel his emotions, and see life from his perspective. When you seek to truly empathize, it creates safety.
- One of the Old Testament words for trust (batach) has a meaning of “careless.” When you trust your spouse or someone else, you feel so safe that you are careless—or free of concern—with him or her. You don’t have to hide who you are or be self-protective (from Focus on the Family).
- Seek understanding before being understood. In other words learn to truly listen.
- My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…. (James 1.19)
- The more we know each other and truly listen, the more we can understand why others do what they do.
- Listen to understand, not build your case, not to reply, not to find loopholes in the other person’s argument or viewpoint, not to correct them, but listen to first understand.
- What would you add as a tenth?