Great Leaders Build Great Teams

Bill Hybels, a leadership expert and current Lead Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, rightly notes that whenever a leader gets better, the whole organization does as well. With this thought in mind, we need to be leading ourselves with intentionality, planning, and execution.

A true mark of any successful leader is not just their own growth and improvement, but that of the team they build around them. If you build a passionate, united and committed team, you switch from building a factory to leading a movement. The difference is clear: a factory worker aims at producing the same results and fulfilling responsibilities, but a movement member lives, breathes and sacrifices for the sake of the united vision.

So, what is your plan to do that? Let me help.

The Final Product

Below you will see the completed product of the most clarifying and unifying team building and development exercise I have ever done. Here is the final product:

The Process

Here is the step by step process to do this:

  1. Meet with each person that reports to you and introduce the exercise to them. Cast vision by using the outcomes listed above. Remember, you want to ensure that they as invested in the exercise as much as you are.
  2. In these meetings, introduce to them the 1 Sentence job responsibility, a concept created and developed by leadership expert Andy Stanley.

How to come up with a 1 sentence job responsibility:

  • Think of it is the ‘break-the-glass emergency plan’ for their role. Boil their role down to the main outputs. You can determine what this is by asking, “if this person left, what would fall apart?”
  • Ask them to take some time to reflect on their role and look over their job description to identify what they do best (why you hired them in the first place!).
  • Give them 7 days to come up with the first draft and then have them email it to you. Remember only 1 sentence!
  1. Read through all the first drafts. Compare and contrast your vision of their role with what they understand it to be. Make a second meeting with all your direct reports.
  2. Having thought through their first draft, you will have the opportunity to:
  • Encourage them that they are on the right path – your vision of what they should be doing and what they are doing is correct
  • Challenge them to recapture what they may have forgotten – it is easy to drift when you have your head down and are working hard
  • Address any differences in their understanding of the role and what they need to do to succeed in our organization
  • Ensure that common language (using your mission, vision, values and strategy statements) are being used in different departments
  1. Once this second meeting is over, they should have absolute clarity of your expectations and understanding of what they need to do. They walk away and become a wordsmith in making any tweaks, revisions, or edits that you talked about. Then they send you a second copy.
  2. As you receive everyone’s 1 sentence, type them out on individual pieces of paper and tape them to a whiteboard. On your own, or with your Executive Leadership team, arrange them on the whiteboard according to your organizational chart. Look over your entire organization for the following:
  • Gaps
  • Repetition and redundancy
  • Areas of potential conflict
  • Opportunities to adjust people’s responsibility to take on the next challenge for your organization

This part was vital to our process as I was able to finally understand why we were having continual system problems in certain areas. It also allowed me to identify those who were overburdened and others who needed more challenge.

  1. Repeat steps 3-4 as many times as needed until everyone (including you with your direct report or Elders Board) has a completed 1 sentence job responsibility.
  2. Send all completed job responsibilities to your Admin team. Get them to print out each person’s 1 sentence with their name and role below it.
  3. At your next staff meeting, have everyone go around and briefly explain their position.
  4. At the end of the meeting, put out a few tables and place everyone’s job responsibilities on them. Make sure to leave ample time at the end of your meeting so people can read all of them. Have them write a few encouraging words to each person. Leave them out for a few days if necessary to allow everyone to do this.
  5. Hand their sheets back to them and tell them to place it next to their desk.

8 Effective Outcomes

Here were the outcomes we experienced in our team as we did this process:

  1. Every person, no matter where they were positioned in the organizational chart, was able to think long and hard about what their unique contribution was to the mission and succinctly express it one sentence
  2. Team Leaders were able to ensure that they were on the same page with the desired outcomes of the team member’s role (Remember most of the objectionable human resource situations you find yourself in are due to mismatched expectations!)
  3. Team Leaders and Team Members collaborate during the process, increasing trust and teamwork
  4. Team Leaders are able to capitalize on the organization’s mission, vision and values language, ensuring that the organization’s DNA is included in each role
  5. The Senior Leadership Team/Executive Pastor was able to view the entire organization from 30,000 feet being able to spot gaps and redundancy
  6. Each team member was able to peruse everyone else’s one sentence to see how everyone fits
  7. Each team member was able to give and receive encouragement
  8. Team members have one sentence near their desk, constantly reminding them of their influence and gifting

Take Action

There you have it: one of the best exercises from the pages of my leadership book. The beauty of this tool is that it is transferable between paid and unpaid teams as well!

Take some time to plan this into your staff or leadership team calendar. You will see a marked increase in ownership and team unity.

You’ll also be reminded again that as your team gets better, you’ll see increased mission fulfillment.

And that is what it’s all about.