Lift up your team

By Gerry Lewis | Published Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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If you see a turtle on a fencepost, there are a lot of things you don’t know about the situation. One thing you know for sure is that he didn’t get there by himself.

None of us gets anywhere worth going without the assistance of partners on the journey.

As I look back over my 40 years of “church work,” I remember the faces of hundreds who have been my partners. Hundreds, even thousands, have partnered in ways I don’t remember. But they partnered nonetheless.

There are two places you should never send your partners. One is “under the bus.” The other is “hung out to dry.”

If you find yourself on top of the fencepost, in a position of leadership, you got there one of two ways: You either stood on the shoulders of those who boosted you willingly, or you stepped on those who were unfortunate enough to get in your way.

One of the greatest measures of leadership is how you treat your team. Great leaders take the blame when things go wrong and share the credit when things go right.

As I think of applications of this, at least four principles come to mind:

1. Your team does not exist to help you succeed personally. If you succeed at the expense of your team, it is a cheap measure of success. When I hear of another casualty of an “underperforming” staff member, it makes me wonder about the leadership capacity of the person on the fencepost. It also makes me wonder what metrics are being used to measure success.

2. Team members will be loyal to leaders who are loyal to the team. Someone is more likely to willingly give you a boost up on the fencepost if they believe that you will reach down and pull them up behind you. They will run through a wall for you if they believe you would run through a wall for them.

3. A culture of integrity, innovation and movement cannot coexist with a culture of fear. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I recently heard a successful CEO describe the conversation he has with his employees. He told them, “We are honest here. If you mess up, you might get yelled at. But you never have to worry about losing your job. So, don’t be afraid to mess up.” I don’t know that I want to get yelled at, but I’ll run the risk of a colossal failure while making an attempt at something amazing if I am working in a fearless culture.

4. The customer is not right when he disrespects your team. Stephen Covey said you should treat your employees the way you expect them to treat your best customers/clients. Problems with the team should be addressed in private with the team. Never give anyone the idea that he can play the members of your team against each other for personal gain.

Those people who have helped you get on the fencepost will continue to do so when they hear you give the team credit for your success and when they hear you take responsibility for their failure.

Jesus said to His team, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

It is worth it all to hear Him say, “Well done!”

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur.

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