When I was younger my dad used to joke that the reason that we had a station wagon was because he was planning to have enough kids to field a family softball team. Since my parents only had 2 children, obviously this plan did not pan out. Still, it illustrates something that was crystallized in a friend’s remark after my dad’s passing – “everywhere he went he built a team.” Whether that meant coaching in several different softball leagues, or having an impromptu group work together to accomplish a project, very few things thrilled my dad more than pulling people of different talents, temperaments and abilities together to achieve a goal. It’s one of the reasons that his team at work initiated a leadership award in his honor after he went home to be with Jesus.
Because my dad was so proficient at building teams, it’s little wonder that I learned a lot about doing so from him. In particular, I learned that in order to build a team you need to:
- Be Authentic – My dad was a goof ball. Ask anyone who knew him and they can testify to that fact. In the midst of his extremely demanding and important job, he brought his team the same sense of humor as we got to experience at home. He would tell people why a fire engine is red, or start quoting the lyrics to an off-the-wall song. Even as my dad went up the ranks in the company, he was still the same person. There was very little pretense with him, which meant that his team knew him – his quirks and his foibles, his patterns and his values. Sometimes this meant he had to apologize to them, but if it was appropriate, he was quick to do so. He was who he was – a sinner saved by the grace of God – and he was committed to authentically representing the work of God in His life and being the person that He had created my dad to be.
- Give (and Take) Candor – When my dad was interviewing one of his team members, the prospective employee asked him, “Will I be able to be candid?” My dad so loved and appreciated the question because my dad valued candor. He knew that in order to build a team, you have to be willing and able to give accurate feedback – both positive encouragement and corrective reprove. This is required for growth – and my dad cared enough about his team that he wanted to make sure that they grew – both personally and professionally. And my dad expected the same candor from his team. He wanted them to tell him when he mistepped. He knew that the only effective teams are the ones where the boss listens to feedback too.
- Put Your Team First – If there is one thing that my dad preached to me over and over about management, and which he illustrated in his actions, it is that as the boss your most important job is taking care of your team. Your own to-do list is not the priority – it is making sure that you facilitated your team’s success. This doesn’t mean that you give your team members everything they ask for, but it does mean that you sacrifice in order to help them achieve. Whether that means you put in longer hours at the office or you help coach them through a difficult situation, as the boss it is your job to make sure that your team was cared for, and the way you spend your time should reflect this.
My dad loved teams so it is no surprised that he was an accomplished team builder. And if there are groups of people in Heaven who are working together to accomplish a purpose, I’m sure that my dad will still be putting those skills to use. In the meantime, I’m grateful that I got to have a front-row seat to watching him do so on Earth.
Who do you know that is a gifted team builder? What have you learned from them?