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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

03 Jan '14

Is your staff more family or more team?

Posted by T.J. Addington in ministry teams, staff, team
I am working with a church that is in a common spot. Their staff is more like a family than a team and they need to make the transition from family to team.

Staff as family has an upside and downside. The upside of course is that there are loving and caring relationships - which should characterize any healthy staff. But there is a downside when staff see themselves as family. There is often a reluctance to push into issues together that need to be addressed for fear of stepping on the toes of "family members." In other words, collegiality becomes a higher value than robust dialogue or honest feedback.

The issue of results and accountability for results often suffers in this environment. As a family member, I am unlikely to try to hold my brothers and sisters accountable for results which means that staff as family has very loose accountability and often, staff members who are unproductive are not challenged for years even though everyone is aware of the lack of productivity. Even leadership is hard in "staff as family" because in a family system consensus rather than leadership is the key factor with family members uneasy about creating waves or stepping into leadership.

I come from a large family and know the delicacy of family relationships and where one might or might not go or might or might not say. In the same way when staff is family there are clear limits on where staff go with one another, even if it means elephants in the room that everyone knows are there.

Staff as family is often "nice" but not very missional. Families exist as families, not as missional teams. Staff as a healthy team is a whole other matter. It is collegial for sure but it is also deeply missional.

I would describe a healthy team as a group of missionally aligned and healthy individuals working strategically together under good leadership toward common objectives, with accountability for results.

Healthy teams are about alignment of the whole organization around a passionately held common mission. They are synergistic in harnessing the various gifts on the team and focus on the bottom line, which is delivering on the mission - achieving actual results. They are egalitarian in culture where robust dialogue is encouraged and they are led by healthy leaders who love to empower and release team members to do their thing. The ethos is characterized by a commitment to results, good emotional intelligence among members and meaningful meetings.

Think about the contrast between a culture of "family" and a culture of "team." The first reminds me of "Minnesota nice" where only nice things are said and truth often gets lost in the shuffle. The other is deeply missional and synergistic around a mission one is passionate about under good leadership.

The transition from family to team is not always easy. A new set of rules need to be learned. Relationships need to be renegotiated around mission rather than "best friends." Some make the transition well - usually those who are committed to real results and missional effectiveness. Some never make the transition because it imposes a whole new work ethic and level of personal discipline.

In fact, your best players will be frustrated with staff as family precisely because it lacks the missional focus, synergy, discipline, focus on results and leadership. They will flourish, however, in staff as team if it is a healthy team with the right players.

If you are on staff, which paradigm describes your staff: family or team?