Building teams that work

These days, one of the projects that I am working on is developing a “Team Launch Toolkit”. One of our regional directors has asked for a teaching plan, visual aids, assessment tools and the handouts that he or another mission leader would need to facilitate a two- to three-day team building workshop for a brand new ministry team, ready to be launched. This workshop would focus on helping the team answer some foundational questions related to their identity and work as a team. The toolkit would also include a list of supplementary resources for deeper study for team members who are interested in doing so.

We do not intend or expect that this training will provide all the training the team will need during the course of its life but rather just lay a foundation on which to build other training and developmental skills.

One of my colleagues on the SEND U Leadership Team has already collected a good deal of valuable resources from various trainers and experienced missionaries within our organization. But as we have often said in SEND U, we don’t need to recreate the wheel. Multiple other mission organizations have faced these same training needs, and without a doubt, many of them have already developed such a “toolkit”.

In looking for possible resources to include, I found a very helpful website on mission teaming. It was developed by Dr. David Sedlacek, a TEAM missionary who served for many years as a church planter in Japan, and has since moved to the Czech Republic. I have had a chance to talk to David on Skype, and ask him about his work with teams. I found out that David has helped multiple mission teams in team formation and team building workshops.

Check out David’s website at lifelearner.org/teams/.  There are lots of helpful resources, particularly in the Toolbox for Teams.  David says healthy, effective teams know the answers to the following 6 questions:

  1. Mission: Why are we a team?
  2. Goals: What will we do?
  3. Roles: What do I do? What do my teammates do?
  4. Communication: How do we relate to each other?
  5. Decision-making: How do we make decisions?
  6. Conflict: How do we handle conflict?

Now let’s admit that not nearly every group of missionaries is going to be able to answer these questions, even with a great “toolkit” and experienced facilitators to guide them. David Sedlacek defines a team as a group of people with a common goal that compels them to work together. As I have argued in a blog post a few years ago, not every group of missionaries that happen to live in a particular city or town should be called a team.

Unless we have a common goal and a compelling reason to work together (other than to plan an annual Christmas party), we should not call ourselves a “team”. If we do not have a common goal and no compelling reason to work together, and we still insist on calling ourselves a team, we will find ourselves very frustrated in trying to answer the six questions above.

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