3 Team Essentials: Vision, Direction, and Contribution

As a leader, I have had the privilege of leading teams in different capacities. Teams help to share the workload. Teams bring multiple skill sets for a broader and more effective impact. Teams make accomplishing the mission more fun. Teams are essential—and they offer a great environment for leadership development.

It is critical that teams understand why they exist. They must comprehend what they are trying to do and how each person is vital to the cause. Three “whys” must be answered for every member of the team if you want to experience their ownership and best efforts.


Vision constitutes the mental image of a desirable future—with passion.

Leaders must paint a word picture that allows their team to see, touch, taste, and feel the future. Vision must describe a desirable future, a feasible future—a future that is full of meaning and constitutes real change. Vision is deeply personal. It is not a wordsmithed statement or credo. If shared enough, real vision will rub off on others. This mental image must illicit a “want to” determination among the team members that results in giving their best efforts.

But vision must do one more thing to be viable.

Vision must answer the question, “Why is it worth it?”

Worthy visions cost something. Teams pay a price for pursuing worthy visions. The pursuit of a worthy vision will cost team members time, energy, and sometimes relationship. There will be many sacrifices. The vision echoes in the ears of team members that the cost is worth it.


Direction is guidance and strategic conduct toward the fulfillment of the vision.

Leaders must provide clear steps to make sure that teams make significant progress toward the vision. Leaders talk about the critical elements—the most leveraged strategies—next things—focused things that will allow the team to fulfill the vision. Leaders mark progress along the way and they celebrate milestones. They measure the impact and they don’t lie to themselves or the team about the level of effectiveness.

But direction must do one more thing.

Direction must answer the question, “Why are we doing these things?”

Especially when things get difficult, a leader must remind team members why they committed themselves to a particular way of doing things—specific strategies. If the vision is worthy it will become difficult to achieve at some point. Leaders also help the team to stay adaptable when a better direction presents itself.


Contribution is the act of giving something for a worthy vision. Contribution includes the act of giving as well as the thing that is given.

Leaders must ask teams, and every member of the team, for their best contribution toward the fulfillment of the vision. This is not a one-time request. This is not a request in a vacuum. This is a regular request that is made in the context of a compelling vision and clear direction. Generous contributions are made when team members understand “why it is worth it” and “why we are committed to doing these specific things to move toward the vision.”

Contribution must do one more thing.

Contribution must answer the question, “Why me?”

Another way to ask this question is “What’s my part?” Each member of the team must see that they are critical to the team and a necessary resource to fulfilling the vision. Each team member must understand their unique contribution and deeply feel that their contribution is important.

When you answer these three “why” questions you will get the best out of your team. And your team will help you make your best contribution as a leader. And you will make a difference.

5 for Leadership-January 2nd

Time flies-Leadership

Alan Cleaver-Time Flies-on Flickr

Here is the first 5 for Leadership of 2016! I always appreciate this time of the year to reflect and evaluate . . . and make changes. I hope these recent posts aid you in your preparatin time for leading in 2016.

The Power of Vision, Part 5

“As you look out the future, what is the picture of a preferred future both for you and your organization?” Justin Irving provides some very practical principles and steps to help insure you stay on track in 2016.

3 Box Thinking–Structuring Your Church for Innovation

“As you enter 2016 it is helpful to put everything you do in your church into one of three boxes.” This is a great post from Eric Swanson . . . and will help you immensely in getting off to a great start in 2016 . . . whether you are part of a church staff or not.

How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions

About 150 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. That’s a lot of disappointed people. A quarter of those people will abandon their resolutions in just a week. Fewer than half will still be on track by summer. Ultimately, only 8 percent will be successful.” See what Michael Hyatt has to say to help you not be part of the 92%.

Personal Disruption–The Force That Will Shape 2016

“Disruption has the power to transform organizations, communities, and well, the world — but it doesn’t start on that macro level. It starts with individuals. Companies and organizations can’t disrupt, if their people don’t.” Whitney Johnson does a great job at disclosing the truth of this concept and helping us understand its benefits.

20 Encouraging Bible Verses For Young Leaders

Leading is never an easy proposition. Add being young to leadership and you can easily feel overwhelmed. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I know I can turn to the word of God for a bit of encouragement. The good book is full of encouragement for young leaders (and people in general). If you’re not a believer, I strongly believe you can still find the words of the Bible encouraging. Let’s take a look at the 20 verses I believe can encourage young leaders.” Joseph Lalonde points to some thought provoking and practical parts of the Bible that will benefit any leader.

There are the 5 for this week–are you ready for 2016?

5 for Leadership-December 19th


Marcela on Flickr

This version of 5 for Leadership has some great topics that will inspire you and serve to equip you to lead better. The topics covered this week are leadership vision, leadership simplicity, reaching your goals, the virtue of reading through your Bible in a year, and eleven inspiring leadership quotes.

The Power of Vision

“As most leaders can attest, vision tends to “leak” in organizations. The vision is put forward for all the key constituents and everyone seems to be on board and excited. Then a few weeks, or even a few days, go by, and suddenly the demands of day-to-day life and organizational needs turn the attention of people away from vision.” See what else Justin Irving has to say about this critical leadership task.

10 Ways To Simplify Your Leadership

“Often our greatest hardships are those we impose upon ourselves. There are some who think that in order to be a great leader, we have to allow life to teach us the hard way—but in truth, if we are open to learning things can come with ease. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” Lolly Daskal is always on point–take a look.

The One Quality You Must Develop to Reach Your Goals

What does it take to accomplish your goals? Some people think it’s mostly about luck, smarts, good looks, and social connections. Nope.” Michael Hyatt provides some very practical advice that could get you off to a great start in the new year.

Fruitful Vines: 7 Reasons to Read the Bible in a Year

“I spent last week cleaning up the remains of tomato vines from my garden. It’s easy work because once vines are dead, they lose all strength and break apart with little effort. While the remains of a tree can be made into a range of items from paper products to furniture, a detached vine crumbles to dust with the slightest touch. It has no use except kindle for the fire.” Melissa Kruger makes a great case for this important spiritual discipline–every leader needs to consider this.

The Art of Leadership: 11 Quotes on Leading Well

Jonathan Michael gives us eleven inspirational quotes to help us think about our leadership as we finish another year–and launch into another year of intentional influence.

There are the 5 for this week. Merry Christmas!

5 for Leadership (1/31/15)

medium_12334085603Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership for the final day in January. The topics include approachable leadership, passive leaders, active leaders, personal leadership vision, best jobs for your personality, and the prayerful leader. Take a few minutes and refresh your leadership.

The Best Jobs for All 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Type in One Infographic  “I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of personality and career. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test is a widely known tool used in the business arena for helping you find the “right” career.” See what else Paul Sohn has to say.

How To Turn Passive Followers Into Active Leaders  “You aren’t worthy of leadership if fear of giving control controls you. Successful leaders move away from ‘permission mode.’” Dan Rockwell does a great job distinguishing between permission and intention when you lead.

10 Ways To Become An Approachable Leader  “We’ve all been subject to the leader who wasn’t approachable. And that made our jobs miserable. That’s why we’ve got to be aware of what makes a leader approachable. We’ve also got to implement the actions of approachable leaders.” Joseph Lalonde provides some sound wisdom and actionable steps for becoming more approachable.

Guidelines To Create A Compelling Vision  “A compelling vision helps you make choices about where to focus your energy. Without vision, you are in danger of trying to be all things to all people, scattered or adrift.”

Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide the journey.

“Who you are is your purpose. Where you’re going is your picture of the future. What will guide your journey are your values.” Jesse Lyn Stoner always writes compelling material to grow your leadership.

8 Lessons From The School Of Prayer  Spiritual leaders should also being praying leaders. D. A. Carson speaks poignantly to this necessary dialogue. “Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, two sources have largely shaped, and continue to shape, my own prayer life: the Scriptures and more mature Christians. The less authoritative of these two has been the advice, wisdom, and example of senior saints. I confess I am not a very good student in the school of prayer. Still, devoting [space] to their advice and values may be worthwhile before I turn to the more important and more authoritative of the two sources that have taught me to pray.”

There are the 5 for this week. Pass it on.

5 for Leadership (1/11/14)

small__5780056202Here is a new 5 for this second full week of the new year. There are posts on future challenges, wise and foolish leaders, fresh networking ideas, wisdom from Jonathan Edwards, and some strong perspectives on vision. Enjoy.

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards  “If there is one man who is more qualified than anyone else to speak on “resolutions,” that would be Jonathan Edwards. Heralded as America’s greatest theologian, I came across his amazing story on resolutions.” Paul Sohn provides some grounded principles for leadership learning from Jonathan Edwards.

Effective Networking: 6 Secrets Your Kids Know  “The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups.  We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it. Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of these approaches into your networking.” Karin Hurt gives us six practical principles towards this important endeavor.

On Leadership Challenges of the 21st Century  “One of the basic and fundamental challenges facing any thought leader in the area of leadership and leadership development is to correctly read the landscape in which their influence will be played out in the coming years.” Shim Marom helps us look ahead in the areas of future leadership challenges, future leadership wisdom, leadership self development, and leadership horizons.

Distinguishing The Wise From The Foolish  “The most talented fool in the world only brings misery and destruction. Business is more than numbers and results. Leaders go astray when they neglect character at the expense of abilities.” Dan Rockwell helps us make this important distinction in ourselves and others.

The Value of Vision Series  This comes by way of Jesse Lyn Stoner. She shares Ken Blanchard’s six compelling issues surrounding a compelling vision for our nation. This is worth the read both for personal leadership development and for thinking different about America.

There are the 5 for this week.

(photo credit)

Seeing Everyone You Lead As A Volunteer

A friend of mine recently made a comment that he wished all those under his ministry scope would see themselves as employees, not as volunteers.  I knew what he was driving at.  He simply wished that people would willingly follow his lead.  It would be so much easier if people would just salute and obey.  But today, more than ever, people see their time and their commitments as voluntary.  We have to see all those under our ministry scope as volunteers.  A volunteer is defined as a person who chooses willingly to offer their service.  People have multiple options these days as to where they will give their discretionary time.  Even paid employees can vote with their feet if they feel unfulfilled.  So how do you lead volunteers?

1. You must inspire them through a purposeful vision.  People want to aspire to do their best.  But you must inspire them by painting a compelling picture of a desirable future that elicits passion.  A clear and compelling vision will draw people to your leadership because they can see that what you are calling them to really matters.  Be sure that it does-matter.

2. You must solicit their commitment through active involvement.  If your vision does matter then you actually need people’s greatest creativity and best efforts.  You will get there by inviting them into the process of figuring out how your vision will be accomplished.  Commitment naturally flows from involvement.  Ask those around you to contribute in meaningful ways and you will get their heart and soul.

3. You must celebrate them along the way.  If you are chasing something God sized then you are in for some challenges.  There will be some dark moments and some dark days.  The greatest resource you have is dispensing hope to those you lead as they try and sustain the effort.  Celebrate the little milestones as well as the big ones.  Help people see progress.  Point them to Christ as their true source of hope and endurance.  Thank them for their specific efforts in time and by name.

If you will do these few things on a regular basis, you will get people’s best efforts and not just their grudging service.  It really isn’t much of a motivation to hold people to a contract.  But to take them on a journey that is worthy of their lives can make all the difference.

What would you add to my thinking?

Vision for the Non-Visionary

When I first joined the staff of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) I often heard Dr. Bill Bright, our founder, share his heart for the world and his commitment to the Great Commission. The recurring reaction I had each time was a sense of challenge and a sense of frustration. I was challenged by the scope of what needed to be done in the mission. I was frustrated that I would never attain to such vision. It was clear to me that Bill Bright was a true visionary, and I was not. For several years I simply wrote off the idea that I could gain any ground on becoming a man of vision. This was no fault of Dr. Bright, I just didn’t understand what vision really was and that it could be cultivated. Since those days I have learned, that while I may never be a gifted visionary, vision can be cultivated and grown. And vision is important in the life of a leader. So here are a few of my thoughts about how vision can be grown.

Vision is a mental image of a desirable future fueled by passion.

Vision begins with something in your mind’s eye.

That’s because vision is always future oriented.

It is a picture of something in your mind that does not yet exist.

That’s what gives vision life.  

It has to be birthed in your mind, fueled by your passions.

Borrowed vision will not be compelling for long.

The seeds of personal vision may begin with organizational vision, or through a natural visionary’s compelling communication. But you have to make it your own and add to it with your unique perspective and motivations. I am convinced that this takes time, reflective time. I am also convinced that any vision worthy of a person’s life also takes divine guidance. A powerful vision for the mission begins with intimate time with God, allowing Him to fill in the critical elements.

Cultivating vision begins with a clear understanding of what you are passionate about.

What excites you? What gives you life as you engage in mission or work of any kind? For me it is helping people connect to Christ through engagement with the Word of God. It is also helping leaders lead well. These two things give me energy and life as I live them out. What about you? The possibilities are endless. Ask your close friends what they hear you talking about regularly? When do they see you get excited about something? This may be an indication of your passions. The body of Christ needs your unique contribution–with energy.

The next step in cultivating vision is determining how you can apply those passions towards the scope of a defined audience.

Often this includes a keen understanding of the culture and getting in touch with what bothers you. Where do you have a sense that things need to be different? For some it may be the plight of human trafficking. For some it might be the devastating effect of AIDS. For others it may be a  longing to take the gospel where it is not being proclaimed. You may not be able to get your mind around the seven billion people of the world today, but you can certainly get your mind around the fifty people who live around the corner with a unique need. The point is to discern a defined audience where, if your godly passions were lived out, you could make a genuine difference.

The third step in cultivating vision is to communicate it to others–often and with variety.

If you are leading a team you must share your vision regularly. But this is not only for their benefit. It will also serve to add fertilizer to your vision seedling. Share it verbally. Share it in written communication. Share it using a primary metaphor that might capture the ears and eyes of your audience. Learn to communicate your vision in a one minute verbal opportunity, a thirty minute message opportunity, and a written blog piece that does not go beyond one screen. Communicated vision is growing vision.

Finally, ask others to cultivate and share their vision. As you hear things you have never considered add them to a prayer list of “vision desires”.

Several years ago I heard someone begin to passionately communicate their heart for the ethnic college students of the U.S. Growing up in white, middle class suburbia I had never given a lot of thought to this particular segment of campus. I was convicted immediately. How could I not have a growing sense of vision for this growing population within the university community. I added this desire to my vision prayer list. It did not take long for me to begin to see the campus in whole new ways. I began to see the gospel for every student, not just students like me. I began to ask, “How can my passions and gifting be used towards ethnic students?”

Finally, do you want a great place to start?

Go do a Google search right now for the lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision”. This old hymn is rich with compelling, visionary language towards Jesus Christ. Until we are captured by an ever growing vision of Him, all other aspects of vision for the mission will only be a dim reflection of our merely human efforts.

Lead well!

(photo credit)