Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 5, Lesson 18
Developing Teams That Encourage Everyone
to Make Their Best Contributions
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Several things help teams learn to consistently encourage everyone to make their best contributions. But it is not easy because of our American culture. In our highly individualistic society with its “sink or swim” mentality, “every man or woman for himself or herself” is the dominant theme. Helping one another achieve is absent everywhere, even where it is most critical - in the family.
First, a team has to go through the initial contracting phase where various agreements are made between team members and with the team leader. These agreements set the stage for constructive work toward a very important team purpose. The phrase “to help each other” in a team’s simple purpose statement (a statement closer to a slogan than a mission statement) is critical.
A youth ministry team might have this purpose statement: "To help each other so that the youth ministry team gives every teenager the maximum chance to live for Jesus." The phrase “to help each other” sets the expectation for cooperation and encouragement which would include, among many other things, the task of encouraging everyone to make their best contribution.
The team leader must lead the team as a whole. It is disastrous to lead the team by only supervising the individual team members or by treating the team when it is together in a meeting as if it is merely a collection of individuals somehow working together to get a job done. When the team leader leads the team as a whole, he or she gives the work of the team to the team, not to individuals. When someone is not giving his or her best contribution, it becomes a problem for the team to solve – not the team leader or some talented team member.
What this means is that the team leader would do one of two actions, depending upon the maturity of the team and team members. With a very mature team member and team, the team leader would say to the team, “Sally is having trouble believing in herself and her God-given talent. How does the team want to help? What can you do to help her make her very best contribution?”
If the team is new to handling responsibility for such tasks, or if the team member of focus is very insecure and would feel “put on the firing line”, then that team leader would work with that individual to ask the team for help in areas of concern.
Lastly, the team leader must not do things that team members can do, at least not the more challenging tasks. If the team leader steps in and does things that a team member should do, the communication is that the person is not capable. This will undermine confidence and that person will be less likely to give his or her best contribution. If the team leader does the actual encouragement of team members to do their best, he or she will undermine the confidence of all team members and the team as a whole. Such action will communicate that the team and its members are not able to do the job of bringing out the best from each team member. (But, it is very important that the team leader encourage the team as a whole to do its best job of encouraging members to do their best.)
You will be pleasantly surprised to see how very well a team can encourage its members to make their best contributions to the team’s efforts.
Next: Developing Teams That Know How to Make Decisions
and Carry Them out Effectively
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA