What Makes Teams Great?


In my current studies I have been exposed to a book entitled Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee Bolman and Terrence DealThe authors propose that the reason leaders often fail is that they fail to see their organizations through more than one lens. They create a construct that allows leaders to look at their leadership and their organizations through at least four different lenses.

Working groups and teams are an integral part of our daily leadership lives. These entities have become ubiquitous with flat organizational structures that seek to empower followers down the line. The hope is to arrive at better solutions, more effective strategies, and greater ownership. But that will only be true if certain tenets are in place among those working groups and teams. Bolman and Deal offer up the following characteristics of teams as part of the symbolic lens that is critical to a leader’s effectiveness.

  • How someone becomes a group member is important.

How people join a group or team is a mutual decision. If it is marked somehow by ritual it will elicit a “want to” aspect that can’t be bought through mere recruitment.

  • Diversity supports a team’s competitive advantage.

Recognizing and honoring group member’s unique talents and contributions will always help foster a competitive advantage and create value of the individual. This is unity through diversity.

  • Example, not command, holds a team together.

A leader’s presence and emulation of the organizational calling is more important than mere mandates. People want to follow . . . but they will follow authenticity and character much more readily and this provides the glue for a cohesive unit.

  • A specialized language fosters cohesion and commitment.

Groups and teams want to be known as special. Shared language in the form of words, phrases, and metaphors will create a unique culture that sets teams apart. A specialize language can also serve to reinforce a team’s values and beliefs.

  • Stories carry history and values and reinforce group identity.

There are certain stories and organizational legends that should always be told. They serve to keep tradition, calling and organizational DNA alive.

  • Humor and play reduce tension and encourage creativity.

Bolman and Deal state, “Effective teams balance seriousness with play and humor.” This type of balanced atmosphere can help spark innovation and team spirit.

  • Ritual and ceremony lifts spirits and reinforce values. 

Milestones should be celebrated. Individuals and teams should be honored. These types of rituals and ceremonies help raise spirits and undergird a shared mission. Progress celebrated, both at the team level and the individual level, is motivation towards team and group endurance.

  • Informal cultural players make contributions disproportionate to their formal role.

Many times the formal leader of a group or team is not the spiritual leader. Every group or team needs to elevate those individuals who deal with the human needs and emotions of the team. They are often the morale keepers. Their role is critical.

  • Soul is the secret of success. 

Every group or team needs to know and be reminded that their efforts matter. They need to know that there is a greater good that they are contributing towards. This is soul. Teams that have this aspect highlighted and supported usually achieve higher performance that those that don’t.

What do you think of Bolman and Deal’s criteria?

What would you add?

What has been your experience?

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The Environment Leaders Create


Recently, I was part of a group of national leaders looking at Acts 11:19-30 and Acts 13:1-3 in the Bible. Our assignment was to consider the environment that these 1st century leaders created during the early stages of the Church.

These passages follow on the heels of the persecution of Stephen in Jerusalem. They also follow the resulting persecution of the early Church and the miraculous conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. In God’s sovereignty this was how the good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection began to spread outside of Jerusalem. Now the Church was beginning to be extended to Cyprus and Syria. Acts 11 tells us that many were turning to the Lord, wherever the good news was being declared.

Two leaders arise out of a need to establish these new Christ followers in the regions beyond Judea. Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus (the same person who was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus in Acts 9) move to the forefront as missionary leaders for the Church in its infancy.

There are four tangible elements that can be discerned from this biblical episode towards the right environment for growth and effectiveness.

Leaders Help Create Change

In Acts 10 the good news of Jesus moves beyond the Jewish community to the home of a Roman soldier. Now we see in Acts 11 how that same good news is being broadly proclaimed to many Gentiles throughout Antioch. This is a significant paradigm shift. This is huge missional change. The people of God now began to include the Gentiles. Racial and ethnic dividing lines had been broken.

Leaders help initiate, lead, and sustain necessary change. If something doesn’t need change then you do not need a true leader. God, in His infinite wisdom, uses leaders to create change as a part of an effective environment for growth.

Leaders Affirm The Work of God

The church leaders in Jerusalem heard about what God was doing in Antioch. They sent Barnabas to inquire and validate the reality of life transformation that was taking place because of the gospel. Barnabas did just that. He affirmed the work of God in Antioch, and by doing so validated for the rest of the Church the work of God as it moves away from its cultural roots.

Leaders need to give affirmation to the effective work around them so that others are blessed and faith is expanded by all who see and hear. We can forget the power of encouraging words near and far. Affirmation injects confidence and courage into the missional environment. Timely affirmation is a critical piece of the right environment that leaders must help to create.

Leaders Add Resources to the Work of God

Barnabas began to realize that the Church in Antioch was growing so fast that more leadership was needed. In particular, more teaching was needed so that these new Christ followers could be established in the faith. Barnabas found Saul (Paul) and brought him to Antioch to meet the need. Barnabas and Saul remained in Antioch for a whole year to engage in teaching these new believers.

Leaders readily seek out more resources to meet the greatest needs of their followers. Sometimes that resource may be more or better tools. Sometimes it may involve more funding. This time it meant bringing in another leader to share the load . . . one who was well equipped to meet the current need. Appropriate resources are necessary for a leadership and missionary environment to flourish.

Leaders Release Resources to Further the Work of God

In Acts 13 we learn that new leaders have been raised up within the fledgling church at Antioch. The work must continue to spread. There were more villages, towns, and cities where the good news had not been heard. The gospel is always missional. God’s Spirit  communicated to these church leaders that it was time to send Barnabas and Saul out to extend the work. Without hesitation they did so. Saul and Barnabas were the right leaders to be on the front lines of this new endeavor. More leaders had been raised up for the work of sustaining what God had started in Antioch. It was time to release Saul and Barnabas towards the next frontier.

In God’s economy resources are never meant to be hoarded. They are to be wisely stewarded towards His calling and service. Sometimes this includes releasing your best to help ensure the ongoing work of Christ. This creates a healthy environment for the sending entity, those who are being sent, and for the work ahead.

Leaders always create some type of environment wherever they go.

That is the nature of leadership.

What type of environment are you seeking to create?

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5 for Leadership-May 2nd


Here is a new 5 for Leadership for this first weekend in May. There are important posts on topics such as leadership decision making, Baltimore, leadership influence, losing your team, and leadership from the life of King David. There is something here for you!

5 Thoughts on Leadership from the Life of David  “I love reading about King David. From his time in the wilderness and serving as king, good and bad, we learn a great deal about leadership and what is required to successfully lead by observing David.” Ron Edmondson provides some clear and compelling learning principles from this biblical great.

When It’s Safe To Rely On Intuition (and When It’s Not)  “We often use mental shortcuts (heuristics) to make decisions. There is simply too much information coming at us from all directions, and too many decisions that we need to make from moment to moment, to think every single one through a long and detailed analysis. While this can sometimes backfire, in many cases intuition is a perfectly fine shortcut.  However, intuition is helpful only under certain conditions.” This comes from Connson Chou Locke on the HBR Blog. There are some valuable principles here regarding the art of decision making.

Be Aware Of How You Are Influencing And Learn From It  “All of us are influenced by people, places, events and situations all of the time. Sometimes we are affected more or less by these things, but we are continually being influenced by what happens around us. It’s also true to say that we cannot NOT influence those around us, so the trick is to become conscious influencers.” This post is by Kevin Watson on his Leadership Coaching blog.

What To Do When Your Team Leaves  “Whether you’re leading a Fortune 500 company or tending a small church, you’ll experience staff turnover. Sometimes it’s small. Other times it’s a major blow. One team member leaves and then another. Then another and the more. It’s like a dam broke and the water cleared out everyone you thought would always be there.” Joseph Lalonde share some practical insights regarding this common challenge.

A Baltimore Teacher’s Perspective on So-Called “Thugs”  ““Thug,” “animal,” “criminal,” “monkey.” These are phrases I’ve heard tossed around all week in regard to my students and other students throughout Baltimore City following Monday evening’s “Purge” and subsequent riots.”

This has been a difficult week in light of the tensions in Maryland. As leaders we need to continuously grow in our perspective and understanding of culture and race. This is an important piece to read and consider.

There are the 5 for this week. Read well. Lead well.

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The Destructive Power of Pride

medium_9657468666There are two kinds of pride.

One form is a feeling of happiness you get when you or someone you know does something good or difficult.

The other form is when you feel you are better than someone else or more important.

The Bible talks about both kinds of pride, one much more than the other. Paul can tell the Corinthians that he feels a great sense of pride over their spiritual growth. But there are many admonitions in the Bible that warn against the other kind of pride, and many biblical leaders took this path to their downfall.

One of those leaders was King Uzziah. In 2 Chronicles 26 we learn that King Uzziah was made king of Judah when he was only 16 years old, succeeding his father King Amaziah. We learn early on that Uzziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” As a young leader he acquired a mentor who instructed him in the fear of the Lord. But there is an ominous phrase at the end of verse five, which reads “. . . as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” There is a condition here and one that sets us up for a season when seeking the Lord will not be true.

Uzziah did much that God honored for the nation of Judah. He restored the city walls and towers. He strengthened the army. He chased away the enemies of Judah. He was a patron that allowed new weapons of defense to be built . . . and his fame grew greatly beyond the borders of Judah.

Verse 16 is the telling indictment that marked the beginning of the end of Uzziah’s leadership influence.

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.

Literally this means that Uzziah became arrogant, lofty in the estimation of himself. At his very core, what was at the center of his being, Uzziah saw himself as more important than others . . . even usurping their roles. The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness. Fame often follows success. How you and I respond to notoriety may well determine whether we slip into a destructive form of pride. In his pride Uzziah offered incense on the altar of God. This was a very specific role that was allotted to the priestly line of Aaron alone. This was not the role of a king, but only for the priest. The passage tells us that this act was a sign of unfaithfulness to the Lord. Instantly, Uzziah was struck by the Lord with leprosy and he remained in this state until his death. Uzziah was ultimately buried in a field outside of Jerusalem, not within the city walls where other good kings were honored.

Most scholars agree that this act of pride and usurpation occurred late in Uzziah’s life and reign. Uzziah reigned for 52 years. Uzziah started well. But what began as humility ended in humiliation. Pride will do that. The history of leaders reminds us that it is difficult to finish well. Often, pride is the culprit.

Reflect on some of these other biblical references to pride:

Psalm 10:4  In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Psalm 31:23  Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

Proverbs 8:13  The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Proverbs 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:18  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 29:23  One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Where are you showing up as a leader with an over inflated sense of self-importance?

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5 for Leadership (12/6/14)

medium_5713985902Here is a new 5 for this first week of December. There are posts on leadership capacity, the leader and social media, leader as culture builders, bad leadership, and collaborative leadership. There is a lot of wisdom and practical advice in this edition. Take a few minutes and grow your learning.

The Culture Engine  “Leaders define the culture. So it’s critical that you live the values and behaviors in your constitution both in and out of the organization.” This is a timely post from the Leading Blog. It is a great time of year to evaluate your organizational culture and the role leaders play.

Managing Three Types Of Bad Bosses  “. . . bad bosses can deflate the best intentions, disable the most enthusiastic people, and freeze the hottest ideas. In my experience, there are three particularly ineffective types of leaders. Here are a few ways of dealing with each.”

The 7 Attributes of CEO’s Who Get Social Media  “Peter Aceto, the CEO of Tangerine, recently said in The Globe and Mail, “I would rather engage in a Twitter conversation with a single customer than see our company attempt to attract the attention of millions in a coveted Superbowl commercial.”” Find out what makes Aceto unique–and why that is important.

The 7 Roles of a Collaborative Leader  “Marshall says that there are seven different, important roles and responsibilities of collaborative leaders when leading teams, and those leaders should select the appropriate style to meet the team’s needs.”

What To Do When You Exceed Your Leadership Capacity  “I use the term leadership capacity to describe a leader’s maximum potential to effectively lead others to accomplish the vision. A leader exceeds their leadership capacity when they no longer have the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential.” Ron Edmondson always provides very practical insights to help us lead well.

There are the 5 for this week.

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5 for Leadership (10/25/14)

medium_2942613157Here is a new 5 for Leadership. There are posts on Louie Zamparini, important leadership questions, Washington style leadership, the confidence of teams, and attracting Millennials to your workplace. There is something here for you–take a look.

5 Reasons Teams Lose Confidence  “Great leaders help teams visualize a winning future. They arm their team with the courage and audacity to remove roadblocks and galvanize people toward “impossible” feats.” But why do teams lose confidence–see what Karin Hurt says at Let’s Grow Leaders.

Less Traveled Leadership . . . Washington Style  “If you haven’t noticed, we live in a society that is littered with those in leadership feeling the need to hold press conferences.” David Bratcher provides some keen insights to what true leadership looks like.

The Two Most Important Questions In Leadership  “I find answering these simple, deep-meaning questions tells me a lot about a leader’s impact and potential. As I think about the answers, I often look beyond results, which often masks a leader’s real influence, and experience, which often is an excuse to cling to obsolete ways of doing business. Instead, I judge leadership through a few principles related to competency and vision.” Read more of what Jason Brown has to say on the General Leadership blog.

Why Are Businesses Ignoring Their Future–The Millennials?  “Millennials seem to be misunderstood and a feared generation for most businesses yet they will become 75% of the workforce in the next 10 years.” Jonathan Moss provides some great principles about the values of Millennials and ways to attract them.

Broken: The Power of Conversion in Louie Zamperini’s Life  “Louie Zamperini’s amazing life is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for almost four years (a remarkable feat!), and on Christmas Day the much-anticipated movie adaptation is slated for release. Although it is one of my favorite books, I have to agree with Collin Hansen: “The title is all wrong.” After the war, Louie returned home a broken man.” If you have not read the book, do so. See the movie when it comes out in December. It is a powerful story of influence. This post provides the ending the movie will not fully portray.

There are the 5 for this week.

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5 for Leadership (10/18/14)

medium_1807001281Here is a fresh 5. There are posts on global trends, leadership character, the one thing a leader must do, barriers to change, and Mx DePree’s leadership touch. Take a look and find something that will encourage you.

Max’s Leadership Touch  “When I sit at my office desk in my brown Aeron desk chair, I often think of Max DePree, one of my favorite leaders. Max was for many years the CEO of Herman Miller, the company that manufactured my desk chair.” See what Chip Bell has to say about the impact of Max DePree’s principle of an in touch leader.

The One Thing Great Leaders Know They Must Do  “Great leaders know they must do lots of things. Great leaders need to be aware of their team’s emotions. Great leaders need to be consuming and creating fresh content. Great leaders need to take people to new heights. But great leaders also know there’s one thing that is required to lead well. What is that one thing? Keep reading to find out.”

5 Ways To Keep Your Platform From Outstripping Your Character  “There are several different ingredients to success. Talent, persistence, and timing all contribute. But there’s one factor we might sometimes overlook—character.” Michael Hyatt provides us with some sage advice. I always highlight blog posts that deal with a leader’s character. Take a look.

37 Barriers to Change  “Organizational leaders have the responsibility of guiding their organizations in such a way that communities both benefit from time-tested practice (continuity) as well as creativity and innovation (change).” This comes from Justin Irving and serves as a great diagnostic as to how you lead change–or how your organization handles change.

8 Global Game-changing Trends  “What are the top global trends that will influence your life, work, or ministry for the next several years? Recently a colleague asked me that question. As I reflect on my continuous diet of news, research, and reading, here are my top 8 Global Game-changers.” This is a quick and timely read from Ken Cochrum that will get you thinking in fresh ways as you lead.

There are the 5 for this week.

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5 for Leadership (7/26/14)

images-2Here is a fresh 5 for the last week in July. Can summer truly almost be over??? Here are some posts on shaping culture, morning rituals, watershed moments, leadership ego, and emotional boundaries. There is something here for you.

3 Questions Culture Shapers Ask  “Culture can mean a lot of things when we look at it from an organizational standpoint. Here’s what it’s not. It’s not a mission statement on the wall. It’s not a bunch of declarations. It’s not policies. It’s also not ping pong tables at the office or trust falls on the team retreat.” I am continuing to highlight friends and colleagues who are writing on leadership and producing something worth reading. This comes from my friend Shawn McGrath. This is an important read. 

How Does EGO Edge Greatness Out  “How many times have you heard it said of someone talented that they could really go places if they could learn not to let their ego get in the way? You might be nodding and thinking Yes, I know that person. Or maybe Yes, I am that person. How can you tell if ego is leading the way?” Lolly Daskal gives us a great diagnostic on evaluating our ego and a prescription for leadership health.

What Are Your Morning Rituals?  “When the alarm clock ring/start/goes off, do you think, ‘Oh goody, another start to the day?’ Really, I’m serious! Stop laughing. What follows is a really, REALLY important question: What are your morning rituals?” This is an intriguing post from Jason Womack on his blog. How important are morning rituals?

The Emotional Boundaries You Need At Work  “To develop meaningful and mature relationships at work or at home we need to develop two filters. The first filter protects you from other people. The second filter protects other people from you.” This comes from Greg McKeown on the HBR Blog site. There are some solid principles here with a helpful grid diagram for analysis. Take a look.

Watershed Moments and Leadership Development  “As you think through your own leadership journey, what have been your watershed moments in life and leadership development?” This is the final sentence in Justin Irving’s post on his blog Purpose In Leadership. You need to read the rest to see how these impactful moments influence your leadership.

There are the 5 for this week.

5 for Leadership (7/5/14)

lightstock_145564_medium_user_6473945Here is a fresh 5 for your Independence Day Weekend. We have posts on being a crabby leader, a communicating leader, a courageous leader–one post on fun facts about Independence Day, and an incredible video from a drone’s perspective during some fireworks. Enjoy!

Somebody Flew A Drone Into A Fireworks Display And This Is What Happened  I saw this posted on Paul Sohn’s (link to his blog) FB page and thought it was incredible. Take a look!

On Leadership and the Personal Courage Required to Be a Leader  Earlier this week I wrote a post on Two Types of Courage. Here is another take on this valuable leadership trait by Chris Stricklin on the Linked 2 Leadership blog. “To be successful, a leader must display both moral and physical courage. This is accomplished by showing a willingness to take calculated risks, acting independently, and demonstrating personal responsibility for their actions.”

7 Ways Not To Be A Crabby Leader  In what ways does our leadership pull down and prevent others from standing out of the crowd? Here are some ways to prevent being a ‘crabby’ leader.” This comes from a new blogger for me, Paul LaRue. Check out some of his other posts on his blog The UPwards Leader

Just Communicate-8 Communication Musts For The Modern Organization  “There is nothing quite as frustrating as not knowing. Especially when the not knowing is not knowing what should have been communicated. In every organization, there are moments when a person hears or reads a piece of information and they say, ‘how come I did not already know about this?’. Every such moment is a signal that there has been a failure to communicate.” There are some great principles here for any leader or organization.

9 Things You Should Know About Independence Day And The Declaration Of Independence  “July 4, 2014 will be America’s 238th Independence Day, the day Americans celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Here are nine things you should know about America’s founding document and the day set aside for its commemoration.” Here is great post to provide you some final Independence Day reflection. 

There are the 5 for this week. Hope you are having a great holiday weekend!


5 for Leadership (6/28/14)

small__176461247Here is the latest 5 for Leadership. We have posts on leadership questions, leadership decisions, leadership trust, leadership lessons from WWI and the need for leaders to listen. Take a few minutes and see if there is something here for you.

Why Making Decisions Is So Hard  “Making decisions is one of the most difficult things we do.  If it is that hard to choose between the mint chocolate chip and the rocky road, how much more do we agonize over this church or that church, this school or that school, this job or that job, this person or that person?” Tim Challies provides some excellent insight into this common challenge. 

3 Ways To Tell Who You Can Trust In Leadership  “So who can you trust…I mean really trust in leadership? You’ve trusted people you thought you could trust, only to be disappointed or get burned (sometimes badly). You’ve decided not to trust someone, only to realize you were wrong and he or she was completely trustworthy, and you missed a great opportunity to grow your team.” Carey Nieuwhof gives us three solid principles on picking your next leader.

Questions That Make A Difference  This is a guest post by Lolly Daskal on Bib Tiede’s blog. This is an excellent post for any leader of any stripe, and you need to snoop around Bob’s web site. It is filled with quality material on the importance and skill of asking great questions.

The Outbreak of the First World War-Lessons for Leaders Today  Here is a eight and half minute video from Jon Chapman on leadership insights from WWI. This is in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of this oft forgotten conflict. This is a lesson in looking forward by looking back.

Leaders Listen  ” . . . I’m starting to consider that every Christian women’s conference is every Christian man’s business. The incarnation would have it no other way. Too long, we’ve mistakenly billed women’s issues as the concerns of women alone—when pastors and husbands, if they want to lead well, must lean attentively into the conversations women are having.” See what else Jen Pollock Michel has to say on this important topic.

There are the 5 for this week. I hope you celebrate well this week!