“Healthy organizations need healthy staff teams”.

Sounds right, I guess. Is it true that all successful organizations, in fact, have a healthy leadership team? Short of a comprehensive assessment of health indicators, it might be difficult to predict organizational health based solely on team health. Could it be possible that, in spite of an unhealthy leadership team, an organization could be successful? Or, over time, will the health of the team determine the organization’s health? Could all organizations improve their health by improving the health of the leadership team? At CHC, we believe the health of a congregation’s leadership team is a vital component of a healthy church.

Pause for a minute before reading on. Think about the organizations where you have work, volunteered, or are currently engaged. How would you describe that leadership team’s health? Was/is ongoing attention paid to the spiritual and emotional health of the team members and the staff team?

I want to suggest a simple path to help an organization and its leaders become healthier. It starts with a strong conviction: a healthy team starts with you.  I understand it is not all about you, but when it comes right down to it, the only person you can change is you. Even if you are the head of the organization, your ability to affect the outcome of the team starts with your self-awareness and your actions toward others on the team.

To be your best at this, you must first understand your own giftedness and then that of the team. Don Clifton, cited by the American Psychological Association as “the father of Strengths Psychology and the Grandfather of Positive Psychology”, said: “The greatest room for each person’s growth lies in his/her areas of greatest strength.” Creating a healthier church leadership team starts with the individual.

Through his life’s work, and in concert with his company (Gallup), Clifton created an assessment tool which measures our natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. More than 18 million people have taken the CliftonStrenths Assessment to date. The self-awareness it creates is invaluable. However, simply knowing your natural pattern (or talents) is only the start. A formula then comes in to play: Talent + Knowledge + Skills = Strengths. This formula is true for individuals and healthy teams.

Thus, for a team to be healthy and function at its best, each member of the team must identify their individual themes and then understand how their theme intersects with the themes of others on the team. If everyone is performing in their strengths and honoring the strengths of others, they can leverage the theme sequence of the team. Each team has its own unique make-up, resulting in healthy interaction and success.  Not unlike physical health, team health is not accomplished with a one-time check-up, but requires a lifelong commitment to tuning and toning the team’s potential.

Think of a mobile sculpture where the pieces are of different shapes and weights. When the artist carefully balances the uniqueness of each piece based on the whole, the work of art moves and shines in the open space where it hangs. Any shift or change in the mobile will affect how the sculpture responds to light and wind. Thus, changes in teams require a renewed assessment of how the team’s talent work together to accomplish the mission of the organization.

Discovering and leveraging this kind of health doesn’t come by accident. It is hard and relentless work. It requires a commitment to the process of understanding and living into your God-given talents. Such work is at the center of disciple-making. Building on strengths, not fixing weaknesses, is the path to a healthier team.

Many individuals and teams have found great help in engaging an outside resource to work with individuals or staff to better align their gifts with organizational needs. Engaging an outside facilitator in leading a team in understanding both its strengths and the strengths mix of the team can accelerate team health. This is what makes it a great team and enables them to do things that would otherwise be beyond their reach.

If you’d like to know more, or explore ways that the CliftonStrengths Assessment can help you or your team, please reach out. Your congregation or organization desperately needs you, and your team, to be healthy and self-aware.

Phill Martin
Rev. Phill Martin is the Deputy CEO of the National Association of Church Business Administration. Phill’s passion is to engage and connect individuals and organizations to help them reach their maximum potential. He enjoys coaching, teaching, mentoring and connecting people with information and resources. Learn more about Phill Martin. He is a coach and consultant for CHC.