Broken Team Dynamics
If you are leading or part of a team, perhaps you have seen broken team dynamics.
Whether your team is an executive leadership team or a set of core volunteers, the quality of the interactions among every member will directly impact the output.
Even if you are in a bible study group, for example, the same types of dynamic can show up. Perhaps the stakes may seem, at first, less heightened. But if you’re meeting regularly and desiring that time to be a period you can deepen relationships and grow in Christ, unhealthy dynamics still present problems.
What dynamics could these be? Some of them include the following:
- Poor cooperation
While there will be varying degrees to which these dynamics show up, all of them hurt the overall “performance” of the team. Perhaps you can relate to Frank’s team at work.
Frank always feels anxious when he goes to work these days. He was so used to everybody being what he called “kind” and “chill.” But now the new person Randy is always pushing for new initiatives and to “think bigger.” Carol keeps saying that they are doing it “wrong” and missing out what they should be doing. It feels as if she’s always criticizing. He likes Andrea, because she’s so exuberant, but it bothers him that she just cannot stop chit-chatting.
He really misses the time when the “old gang” would all just get together “do their thing.” It was quiet, collegial, and everyone just got along.
He just can’t seem to see the team doing anything good anymore.
Around the world, in different settings, people are experiencing similar disheartening team dynamics. While there will always be some sort of “dysfunction” because everyone has their own hang-ups, problems, and issues, this doesn’t mean that the problem should be ignored.
Unless you are operating in a silo, poor team dynamics will hurt you. You may fail to reach your goals or mission. You may experience unnecessary stress. You may end up spending way more time handling these unnecessary and unwanted issues. You may feel increased alienation, resentment, and self-doubt if you are in an environment with poor team dynamics.
Scripture on Team Dynamics
So let’s see how Scripture can inform us about this situation:
“How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”” (1 Corinthians 12:19-21 NLT)
Paul is describing certain people who say that they don’t need others in their group because those others are different. Isn't the behavior that Paul warns against the essence of poor team dynamics? The conflicting members believe they don't need the other. And, in fact, would prefer those they disagree with to be more like themselves!
Yet, if an actual body has parts of itself behave this way, such a body would be strange.
So addressing team dynamics must, at its root, enable people to appreciate each other's different gifts. The higher order reason to focus on solving this problem can be found in the same passage:
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5 NLT)
The top level reason for effective teams is to serve God.
When the members are believers, spiritual gifts will play an important role, no matter the setting. If you are on a team where you are the only believer, this presents a different challenge which I’ll discuss later. But let’s first focus on teams where everyone should, in theory, have a spiritual gift, whether they operate in it or not.
The team must somehow serve the same primary mission. But have you ever run a race with several people, each person with one leg tied to that of another? Even if you want to run in the same direction, you will wobble and stumble along until you get on the same page.
So what does it mean to start improving the dynamics amongst a team by applying spiritual gifts?
The hardest thing to do is to change other people, so that will have to come later. If you are a member of the team or if you are a team leader, the best place to start is with yourself. If you are the team leader, you will have much greater influence on how people interact with each other, but the beginning is the same.
Taking Action to Improve Your Team Dynamics
How can you take the initiative, regardless of what other people do or believe? Here are three steps you can begin to take right now:
Identify where you could rub people wrong
Part of understanding your gift is appreciating your gift's own “sinful” attributes. While gifts do give you power to serve, as an imperfect sinner, you will also corrupt those gifts. Your gifts will sometimes show up in not so great ways.
So start the process of catching yourself by tapping into your gifts to limit how you might impact people. This doesn’t mean to change yourself, however.
Be comfortable serving in your gifts
No matter what, there will be people who, because of their own sinfulness, will still not be happy with you because of your gifts. At some point, you have to be comfortable in them — but find ways to ensure that the value of your gift is clear through service.
That service could be to the mission of the team. Or it could be as ministry to the other people. This is a hard thing to do depending on your setting, but it’s the first pass in really developing teams.
Start to discern the gifts of others
Learning about spiritual gifts doesn’t stop once you know what your gifts are. You really need to dig deep to understand the gifts of other people. This is not trivial. Some people gloss over the gifts and make superficial judgments about other people and their gifts. This can be more harmful than remaining ignorant.
Yet, to begin to harmonize with others, you want to start to tune yourself to the gifts of others.
Pitfalls and Pitstops
The biggest challenge you will face when trying to activate your spiritual gifts in a team is not receiving the same level of consideration from others.
In other words, while you try to appreciate and encourage the gifts of others, you will likely receive very little in return.
This is why, in the end, true successful activation across a team, company, church needs committed leadership. However, even you don’t hold this formal position, you can still persevere and persuade. This is where learning how to be an influencer and leader without formal positional power comes in.
It’s also the reason why a solid, easily-sharable form of teaching on spiritual gifts is key. I saw the problem of people in a body having different concepts of spiritual gifts. The answer is for them to read and learn from the same foundation.
So here’s the good news: you don’t have to get it all right. You don’t even have to have your team get it all right. No matter how dysfunctional the team you are with is, your worth is not tied to it.
You may have a hard time. You may have some stress. But if you step back and realize that even the dysfunction is part of God’s plan, then you just need to focus on how were you built and designed for this situation.
Here, knowing your gifts is perhaps the most important thing. During times of distress, how you were wired can either trip you up or give you the path forward.
When you and your team start being aware of each other’s spiritual gifts, you not only achieve more while reducing the conflict and stress. At a subtle level, you open yourselves up to experiencing God’s presence. While this can experience can be hard to pin down, there are some things which can show up which make such a team experience something very special, memorable, and perhaps even life-changing.
The first is the level of “peace.” There will still be conflicts. That is unavoidable. But some teams are able to engage in conflict, but then emerge closer because of it. The teams that are able to understand where each one is coming from and appreciate the value of that perspective towards reaching the overall goal is so much healthier than feeling at constant odds.
Ever connected with someone and it just felt “natural”? Ever tried to do something simple and it just came really easily? This is part of the “power” of spiritual gifts. You aren’t relying on your own strength and talent. The best thing you can experience is when you are part of team that is pulling together, each person complementing the other to reach a purposeful, Godly goal.
In fact, if you were to experience it, it could be one of the most satisfying experiences.
But it may need some work on your part if it hasn’t come about on its own.
My prayer for you is that you and your team begin to feel the Spirit stirring within each of you. I pray that you will also experience what it is like to be working together like a unified body, knit together, and serving with great capacity and purpose.
If you believe this is something you and your team could benefit from, learn more about how as an individual you can develop your spiritual gifts, and then let me know how you’d like to improve spiritual gifts in your teams.