Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 5, Lesson 2
Focusing Your Attention on the Team
and Not on Individuals
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
In the best team leadership, the leader focuses on the team and the team focuses on the individual members. If the leader focuses on individuals, the team will not develop to its potential and individual members will be shortchanged. Therefore, leading the team as a team requires keeping the focus of your attention on the team as a whole.
The Christian team should have the vitality of the church. The team leader, therefore, is building the church if he or she focuses attention and help on the team instead of individuals. Contemporary Christianity leaves out the church because of its focus on the individual and individualized faith. (Read article.)
Unfortunately, the natural tendency is to have attention focused on whichever individual is speaking or acting. Therefore, a corresponding leadership skill to develop is that of not focusing attention on individual members except within the context of the whole team.
Focusing on the team as a whole means that attention is comprehensive and includes at least [a] the team purpose, [b] the team as a whole (all the interactions of team members), [c] the team's agenda, [d] and the team's concerns, among other things. The individual who is speaking is observed in the context of [a] those team members who are present and absent, [b] what task the team is working on, [c] what task the team should be working on (if different), [d] what the individual is asking from the team, [d-1] whether or not that fits in with the team's purpose or the team task at hand, or [d-2] whether it needs to be dealt with before the team can progress on its work toward the appropriate goal or task at hand, etc.
So you can see that to adequately lead a team, the focus must be on the team in its entirety: THE TEAM AS AN ORGANISM with all its members along with their strengths, weaknesses and agendas, and THE TEAM IN ITS ORGANIZATIONAL NATURE of purposes, goals and tasks. Therefore, it is essential to develop the skill of not focusing on individuals, no matter how interesting or urgent, even if two people are arguing somewhat out of control.
If you focus on what individuals are doing and saying, you will do very little to build the church which is a society of interacting individuals. To focus on what the group is doing and should be doing, for example if two team members are arguing, is to be concerned for the church.
In such a situation as an escalating argument, the skillful team leader's primary thoughts are whether or not the team is going to know how to handle the situation and whether it will do so. A very minor consideration is the nature of the argument and the words being spoken by the individuals, which is the responsibility of the team, not the team leader.
In assessing the team during the argument, the successful team leader pays attention to what the team and all of its members are doing during the argument. Are they frightened? Are they too passive to be of any real help? Are they comfortable in thinking about what to do? What are the patterns of interaction that might successfully deal with this challenge? Is the group concerned about how God would want this handled?
The leader's focus and fascination must be on how well the team does its work, not how well individuals do. There is a separate thrill for those called to lead teams. That thrill is seeing a team successfully help its members and deal with its own tasks, accomplishing far more than a collection of individuals led as individuals can ever achieve.
It is easier to understand what I am saying if I apply it to a more familiar and very valued team - the family. A parent would much rather see the family's children working together, helping one another, and being tight-knit than to merely have a team made up of independent children who don't do much together. Even greater individual accomplishment would occur with the mutual support of a successful family. When my three daughters were early teens, one of them was not doing well in school at all. Because I wanted to develop a strong, interdependent family, I called a family meeting rather than help the one doing poorly. (My family had the stated purpose of helping one another be all that we could be.) I explained that the family had a problem, the one daughter was doing poorly in school. Then I asked how the family could help. Because I was focusing on building the family rather than merely the individual, today my grown daughters freely go to one another for help.
Our society has trained us to be oriented toward the individual. Since we usually listen to individuals because we are usually not leading a team and building the church, it is natural to focus on individuals in the teams we lead. At those times we lose sight of what the team is doing. Therefore, catching ourselves focusing on the individual is another essential skill to be developed. If we can catch ourselves, we can re-direct our attention quite easily to the team and ask ourselves about how the team is responding to what the individual is saying, what course of action might be necessary, etc. We will then become quite busy asking ourselves if the team needs our help and in what way we should help.
In sports, and also in war, we clearly see this focus on the team rather than the individual. Coaches would win no games if they did not build the team, but only focused on individual players. And those teams that work well together, do so because the team members take responsibility for their team as well as help one another. Likewise, an Army Sargent focuses on the whole patrol or everyone's life will be endangered. The church is the same. If the focus is on the individuals, everyone's spiritual growth will be held back. The Christian team is the focus of the leader of the team. He or she is building a microcosm of what the larger church should be.
If your focus is on the team, you will analyze the team's performance and let the team analyze the individual team member's performance. Also, you will talk to the team almost all of the time. It might help for you to think of the team you lead as your “client”.
It may seem that there is far more to do in building a team than in building individuals in a group. This is true only during the beginning of a team led correctly. The team learns its tasks quickly and soon takes care of more and more of the work. The sum of the brains and abilities of all the team members working together, each member stimulating the other team members and the team as a whole, will quickly build a capable team that strives to reach its potential.
In like manner, pastors and elders in the church would do better to focus on the whole church rather than just a few individuals. That way they can see what is going well and what is not. They can then intervene to help the whole church.
Next, let's look at analyzing the team’s "process."
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA