Building Trust


Leadership is not a lone ranger endeavour, although it may seem like it sometimes. All churches need a team of leaders, regardless of whether they are paid staff or volunteers. What does a successful team that trusts each other look like?

At our All-Staff meeting in November, one of my teachings was entitled “6 Characteristics of a Healthy Team Member.” These traits may not shout “building trust” but they are at the heart of every trust issue. Today, we will be going over those six characteristics and how they affect our teams.

1. Heart Motivation

When speaking about this, I was referring to the motives a team member goes to work with. Are they a team player and motivated by making the team and each of its members better? Or is their motivation to make themselves look good? To take it a step further, you could ask whether they are motivated to make the church (or organization) better or just their team better. If they are motivated only to make themselves or their team better, they will be a very divisive and territorial teammate. This is very destructive to any organization. A healthy team member has a healthy heart motivation to make the organization as a whole and each member in it better.

2. Positive Demeanour

When there are conflicting ideas and options throughout the team, maintaining a positive demeanour can be a constant challenge. However, it is a sign of professionalism that maintains healthy air in the workplace. This is a big one. No one wants to work with someone who is always negative and pointing out the faults in everything. But at the same time, you don’t want to work with someone who avoids pointing problems out altogether.

The key to having a positive demeanour is to always be solution motivated rather than problem motivated. We must believe that there is a solution to every problem and that every problem can be solved. The healthy team member will not ignore the issues but instead will go to work with the team to find the solutions.

3. Courage to Ask the Tough Questions

This one builds beautifully off of having a positive demeanour because a teammate could always be positive but that may be because they lack the courage to ask the tough questions. If a team member sees problems but doesn’t challenge the status quo, they are useless to the team. They have to speak up.

When speaking up, it must be done so in a way that challenges the process without challenging the authority of the leader. The tough questions must be asked in private. This could mean one on one with your leader, or it could mean speaking up in a closed-door problem-solving meeting with your team. It is important to resist the urge to voice your concerns in public. Don’t discuss your problems about your leader or their decisions with your fellow teammates. Refrain from talking with anyone about an issue who doesn’t have the authority to make any changes. This would be deemed gossip, and that is deadly to a team. I believe that being a public raving fan and an honest private critic is how you best handle the tough questions. Being publicly critical will definitely slow a team down because it results in tensions and disharmony among the team.

If no one speaks up about obvious problems, the entire team is at risk of falling off the cliff. I have seen this occur far too many times. When an insecure leader stops listening to his team, or when they react strongly to a team member bringing up a tough issue, the team will begin to never confront their leader again. This is a problem. The entire organization will eventually become obsolete. Everyone on the outside of the organization will see the issues and will end up not trusting the leader or the team. This results in people not attending the church anymore or no longer patronizing the business.

4. Honesty Without Limitations

It is better to be honest with one another than it is to be afraid of offending others and keeping the issues you see to yourself. As Canadians, we tend to be less blunt than our neighbours to the south, or any other nationality for that matter. While I appreciate the attempt to preserve peace, I think it is dangerous to not speak the truth when there is something brewing in your heart. As a leader, I would rather be offended and stabbed in the front, than stabbed in the back. In other words, I’d rather be told upfront that something I am doing or that our team is doing is not right than have talk circling behind my back. I think it is best to always be upfront with one another, being honest with what we see and feel, and speak up with those thoughts in a respectful, tactful way.

5. Warmth and Humour

Not every person is naturally funny or warm, but I think we should all strive towards being warm and fun with our teammates. In my opinion, if no one ever laughs in the office, there is a problem. The healthiest teams and families for that matter, are the ones who laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. If everything is serious all of the time, it won’t be a productive team. There will be a bunch of individuals working alone, instead of working together as a team. We work together best when we enjoy the ones we work with.

6. Willingness to Reflect Reality

This one ties in with all of the others. It requires honesty and asking the tough questions, but it also requires a positive demeanour, warmth, and humour.  The truth is, within this list, each one of us leans towards one side or the other. Either we are great at asking the tough questions and possess brutal honesty, or we are positive, warm, and humorous. We all need to identify which of these six traits come naturally to us and which ones we need to work on. The best teammates are the ones who have a healthy balance of all six.

When it comes to reflecting reality, we must constantly evaluate where things are at. In the church world, we tend to ignore some of the problems because to us, problems are somehow linked to a lack of faith. That just simply isn’t true though. We have to be willing to honestly evaluate reality because until you know where you are, you will never be able to get to where you envision yourself being. It’s just like looking at the map in a big mall. The first thing you search for is the little red circle that says “You Are Here”. Once you locate that, you are able to chart your course to where you want to go.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” This resonates with me a lot as a pastor. I find it easy to be so focused on my faith that I lose sight of my current reality. However, like I said previously, I can’t reach my desired destination if I am ignorant of my current reality.

For me, it is always most difficult to confront the brutally honest facts. I tend to avoid digging deep enough into the reality of things because I often know I will discover something I’d rather not. So, I have had to set up a bunch of systems and habits in my life that regularly force me to ask the difficult questions and confront the brutal realities.

As pastors, I think we need to realize that an abundance of problems isn’t always a spiritual problem. Most times, they are people problems or system problems, so I can’t just pray myself out of them. I must be willing to ask tough questions myself and have the willingness to reflect reality before I can expect my team or church to do the same. When I identify the source of the problem, I have to have the courage to act. I believe that starts with identifying the “you are here” reality of your ministry and then working with your team to chart a course from where you are to where you want to go.

This is incredibly vital. If our teams aren’t healthy, our church won’t be healthy, and if our church isn’t healthy then our ministry to the community will not be healthy. When our ministry to the community is no longer healthy, we will cease to be the hope of the world and on our God-given mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

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