Leadership means influence.
Effective leaders know they influence by intentionally equipping and empowering others. Ephesians 4:7-13 clearly calls leaders to equip (empower) people so the body of Christ can grow to maturity.
In Developing the Leader within You, John Maxwell says: "The one who influences others to follow only is a leader with certain limitations. The one who influences others to lead others is a leader without limitations." Equipping or empowering people changes followers into leaders.
While they see the importance of empowering others, many leaders struggle with how to put the Word into practice. Here are 10 steps to equipping people and developing a powerful team.
1. Define and communicate responsibilities that challenge.
Communicate the big picture and how people fit into it. It is much easier to put a jigsaw puzzle together if you can see the completed picture on the puzzle box. It is important for people to have a clear picture of the goals and objectives and how they fit into the plan.
Next, communicate specific responsibilities to the team members. What do you expect from them? Provide a clear ministry description and allow their input. A good ministry description states specific responsibilities, how much authority the team members have, who they are accountable to, what benefits they have, and the length of time they are to serve.
Help them take ownership of the goals, tasks, and responsibilities. Encourage their input and provide the opportunity for them to set their own goals as part of the total plan.
The goal of the leader should be to encourage common people to accomplish uncommon things. People who are challenged to become great–and are given the opportunity to do so–usually succeed.
In The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Edward Lawler III and Patricia Renwick list several factors that contribute to people's excitement and motivation:
- The chance to do something that makes you feel good about yourself.
- The chance to accomplish something worthwhile.
- The chance to learn new things.
- The opportunity to develop new skills.
- The amount of freedom you have to do your job.
- The chance to do the things you do best.
In the same book psychologist David Berlow speculates that people find meaning and enthusiasm when opportunities provide the following:
- A chance to be tested, to make it on one's own.
- A chance to take part in a social experiment.
- A chance to do something well.
- A chance to do something good.
- A chance to change the way things are.
2. Give authority equal to the responsibility.
One of the most frequent complaints of team members is that they are given responsibility without corresponding authority. Leaders need to be willing to trust those they ask to do a job by giving them the authority necessary to do the job. How much authority should be given. Enough to get the job done. This authority should be communicated to those with whom the leaders work.
Once you have given the job and the authority, you must not short-circuit the process. Do not permit those under the team member to come directly to you. This will only frustrate team members and set them up to fail.
Increase authority when performance earns it and responsibility requires it. As people increase in skills and effectiveness, increase their authority. This will raise morale and increase the effectiveness of the team.
3. Establish standards for excellence.
Every team should have a set of realistic operating standards. Some specific standards that will increase team effectiveness might include these:
- We honor our commitments.
- We believe in being people of character and integrity.
- We are faithful to our responsibilities.
- We are wise stewards of our time, talents, and resources.
- We work together as a team.
- We agree to disagree, but not disagreeably.
- We are committed to ongoing training and development.
- We are committed to excellence.
- We are committed to results, not just performance.
As a leader, you must set the example. The standards will become team standards only when they see you maintaining them.
4. Train workers in the skills necessary to meet the standards.
Make training and mentoring a priority. Training is the key to an effective team. No team wins without training and practice. A good leader never does the job alone. Churches that are in decline have leaders who see their jobs as doing the ministry for the people and vice versa. However, in growing churches, leaders equip and mobilize people for the work of ministry.
Use a variety of methods to make training an ongoing process. Training can be done by mentoring, on-the-job training, in the classroom, in team meetings, to name a few. The essence of the training process is:
- I do it.
- I do it, and you watch.
- You do it, and I watch.
- You do it.
- You do it, and train someone else.
5. Provide the knowledge and information people need to succeed.
They need information about organizational goals, plans, and changes. Workers are motivated when they know what is happening in the organization. It makes them feel important and valuable, helps them desire to do a better job, and enables them to do a better job. Without information, people cannot take responsibility, will not be as creative, and will not be as productive.
6. Provide appropriate, positive feedback. Regularly reinforce positive performance.
Compliments, cards, notes, rewards, and advancement are some ways to reinforce excellent performance. Feedback should be tailored to the person, performance, and situation. Morale and effectiveness increase when people receive regular feedback.
When it is necessary to confront or clarify feedback, keep in mind these guidelines:
- Confront privately, not publicly.
- Deal with the situation as soon as possible.
- Address only one issue at a time, and be specific.
- Discuss only what the person can do something about.
- Direct your criticism to the action, not the person.
- Avoid sarcasm and anger.
- Try to get the person to admit responsibility.
- Sandwich criticism between compliments.
7. Recognize and reward efforts and achievements.
You get what you reward. Make heroes of your people. Public recognition and rewards are essential. Shine the spotlight on accomplishments. Pictures, awards, speeches, plaques, and newsletters are just a few ways to recognize accomplishments. Everyone has an invisible sign hung around his neck that says, PMMFI (pum-fee) -- Please Make Me Feel Important.
Recognition does that and builds a better team.
Guidelines for recognizing and rewards efforts and achievements:
- Tailor recognition to the person and the achievement.
- Make recognition timely.
- Recognize people, as well as their accomplishments.
- Recognize them as members of a team, as well as individuals.
- Make sure the recognition conveys sincere appreciation.
8. Trust your team.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great."
Building trusting relationships is essential. A leader can demonstrate trust in many ways:
- Be sensitive to needs, interests, and concerns.
- Listen to ideas, dreams, and plans.
- Delegate, or trust, with significant assignments or responsibilities.
- Share your dreams, visions, and plans.
- Allow the team to be a part of the goal-setting and problem-solving process.
- Be honest and open about your own mistakes and vulnerabilities.
Distinguish between trust in character and trust in ability. Some have strong, mature character but little ability. Others have less mature character by great ability. Trusting people at the highest degree possible helps them develop a higher level of both character and ability.
9. Give permission to fail.
View failure as a growing experience. The only failure is one we do not learn from. Establish some guidelines for failure: It is OK to make a mistake. It is OK to fail if we are doing our best. When we fail, we can talk about what went wrong, what we can learn, and how to do better.
When team members know they are expected to succeed but that it is OK to fail, they are more creative and risk more. This is a positive environment for a team. When people experiment and take calculated risks in their responsibilities, morale increases and results are greater.
10. Treat others with respect.
Treating team members with respect increases motivation. People work best when they feel valued and respected. Demonstrate your commitment and loyalty the same way you expect others to be committed and loyal to you as the leader.
In Diane Tracy's 10 Steps to Empowerment: A Common-Sense Guide to Managing People, J.C. Staehle lists–in order of importance–primary causes of discontent among workers that leaders can avoid:
- Failure to give credit for suggestions.
- Failure to correct grievances.
- Failure to encourage.
- Criticism of employees in front of other people.
- Failure to ask employees their opinions.
- Failure to inform employees of their progress.
A leader can show respect for team members by asking for their suggestions, keeping them informed, treating them fairly, encouraging them, and acknowledging their accomplishments.
Begin today to put these 10 steps into practice, and your team will become a team that wins!
Clancy Hayes is training coordinator and district liaison for the Sunday School Department, Springfield, Missouri. Sunday School. All rights reserved. Used with permission.