I wasn't able to attend in person, but I was able to participate through the Livestream video of the plenary sessions which were uploaded to the internet. http://livestream.com/accounts/6379109
Here follows a rough transcript of that Plenary Part 4 and then my own response to it. Why bother? Not everyone likes getting their information via video, and going through the process of taking notes and typing them up enables the message to get internalized more and shared with others, and it also forces me to go looking for the background information and links to round things out. And there's no guarantee how long the Livestream option will be available for either.
This session could have been entitled 'Teamwork'
It was given by Patrick Lencioni via pre-taped video. He is founder and president of The Table Group, a firm dedicated to helping leaders improve their organizations’ health since 1997.He's also a co-founder of Amazing Parish.
Teamwork is critical in a parish.
In parishes there are 5 common misconceptions:
•That the pastor must be involved with and do everything. The truth is that parishes are dynamic and complex, and that each pastor needs a team to help him.
•That parish leaders should not push back at each other. The truth is that we do need to push back, but to do so with passion and love.
•That no one should ever leave a parish. The truth is that someone will always opt out. We cannot try to please everyone.
•That a parish must do everything. The truth is that you cannot do everything. A parish that won't stop doing everything will not be able to do the most important things well.
•That if I work in a parish that I don't have to work on Sundays. The truth is that Sunday is when all our customers are there, and we need to be there.
A pastor is the leader of the team and of the parish. Each pastor needs a team: a small group that shares the responsibility of the parish with him. It does not consist of every person on staff. It will have some employees and some volunteers. A pastor's leadership team is not the same as a parish council.
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.
It is the foundation of a team. Lack of trust makes a team ineffective. Trust requires vulnerability of team members. The type of trust I am talking about is not predictive trust, the kind that is built up over time, but vulnerability trust. It requires that we be genuinely vulnerable with each other, so that we can say to each other, 'I messed up', 'I'm sorry'. This type of trust is counter cultural. It is critical that people get vulnerable with each other so that honest feedback can be given. Jesus was vulnerable to each other and He was God! If we keep trying to protect ourselves, that's when we allow dangerous things to enter our team.
Learning to trust is the most important thing to do as a team. This is an easy 15-20 minute personal history exercise that helps build trust: Go around the team, and tell each other where you grew up, where you came in the family order, and what was the most difficult challenge of your childhood. So many of us have never had these conversations with each other. It is a way of seeking like St Francis to understand each other more than to be understood. Knowing this background helps us to attribute how they are and how they do things to their backgrounds and not to bad motives.
Next you need some kind of tool eg Myers Briggs, Working Styles, DISC, StrengthsFinder to help people understand their personality type and to help understand how God made them. Everyone should know what the strengths, weaknesses and charisms of their pastor are eg ENTJ, ISPF. Knowing that gives you permission to say, 'Hey, Father, I think you might be steamrollering us a bit, slow down please.' Or if he is an ENFP like me, his prayer is 'O Lord, please help me focus on the things I need to do….Oh look..a bird!!' (I get easily distracted.) When you know these things it becomes safe, helpful, and your duty to call them out on stuff – and that's a very liberating thing.
Fear of conflict is the biggest barrier to church groups everywhere.
Conflict is a good thing on a team, it permits passionate disagreement in pursuit of the truth and for the best possible answer. Truth is what we are after. When we avoid conflict, we push it below the surface and out into the hallway and parking lot – and that's when conflict around an issue ferments into conflict around a person unless it is dealt with properly. Our desire for peace and harmony almost always turns into bad things behind the scenes. Our intentions are good, but destructive if we misunderstand the benefits of conflict. When there is trust between members, conflict is a good thing.
Commitment. Conflict. Trust.
When the time comes and you've got to make a decision, if there has been conflict, then everyone will buy into and commit to the decision. That's because everyone has had their say and has felt heard. If they don't weigh in, they won't buy in. If there has been healthy conflict, then there will be no hesitation in supporting the decision that gets made by the leader.
Accountability. Commitment. Conflict. Trust.
A healthy team holds each other accountable. It is the loving thing to do, to confront someone and ask them to take another approach to a situation. Too many say to themselves 'I will leave it to the pastor to sort out'. But the pastor should not be the primary source of accountability in the leadership team of a parish. You need to turn to each other and hold each other accountable. The thing is, if you wait and get the pastor involved, he often doesn't tell the person 'in trouble' who the source of the complaint was. 'Hey, I've heard … and …. isn't going so well'; 'Who told you?' : 'I don't want to say' is the kind of dialogue that breeds politics, mistrust and resentment. It is more powerful to say to someone, 'As a brother and sister in Christ, hey I think you can do better.' We owe it to Christ and to the Church to do the best that we can.
If the first three are in place (Trust, Conflict, Commitment) then it is actually rather easy and natural to hold each other accountable. I'm not good at doing this, because I want them to like me. I used to think it was because I cared about them and I didn't want to hold them accountable because I would make them feel bad. Actually it is because I don't want them to think that I am mean. So really I was refraining for myself and not for them. If you love someone, you have to hold them accountable for their sake. You have to be able to say, 'we are going to have this difficult conversation because it is the right thing to do' even if they might temporarily be upset with me. Accountability is critical. It is the biggest problem we find on teams.
Results. Accountability. Commitment. Conflict. Trust.
When people are held accountable they will focus on actually accomplishing something eg revenue, profits, customer satisfaction. In a parish the result is always to bring more people to Christ for their salvation. There is nothing more important to hold people accountable for doing a good job around.
Results are the result of the entire parish, not just the music, children's liturgy, finance or admin. It has to be everything. When we come together as a team we have to take our individual ministry hats off and say that everything that happens in this parish is part of my purview as a leader. We are not to be in silos, dividing up responsibilities – that's what a golf team does. We need to be more like a basketball team that shares the load and enters into each other's responsibilities out of love.
This is what a great team does.
They are vulnerable with each other so that they have the courage to engage each other in conflict. That conflict allows them to make a commitment, a real, true commitment. That allows them to have the courage to hold each other accountable and be committed to that, and allows them to ensure that the entire parish will be successful – not just their own ministry or area.
These are the 5 functional things that a good team does OR the 5 dysfunctional things (if you take the opposite) as a team.
I really hope and pray that everyone at this conference and the others that you meet learn to do this well. They are all biblical. Certainly the apostles had conflict with each other, and they committed to decisions about the Church. They sharpened each other as iron sharpens iron, and as a result brought people to Christ. Of course, only the Holy Spirit can help us do this, but we have to co-operate with Him in all this.
I encourage you to go into a period of prayer, to pray for the courage to do this and for the insight to understand where you need to work on this as a team. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to be the team that God wants you to be. Thank you for your service to the Church. God bless you.
Fr James Mallon then spoke:
Aquinas said that grace builds on nature. We act like human beings whether we are at home, at work, at church or at play – wherever we are. There is something to be learned from the business world because grace builds on nature – it doesn't replace nature. We need to begin and end with prayer, and pray without losing heart – but simply praying more is not going to prevent the dysfunction that prevents God from working in and through us. So anthropological insights teach us that we can lean into these insights and learn from them. And then we cry out to God for His grace, enlightenment and strength.
Everyone gathered here has gathered as leaders of parishes. I'm very glad that there are pastors here with teams of people – however you define that team presently. Over the last year or two when we have had requests to go and speak, and I have to choose between speaking to priests only or to priests with teams I am choosing priests with teams because we have to somehow breakout of this idea of doing it as a priest by himself. Why? Because we need that experience of working with a team.
Tomorrow Ron Huntley and I will talk about our experience of implementing this teaching. But I can tell you, that since we have been working out of this model with a leadership team, that as a pastor I am making better decisions than I ever made when it was just me making them. We are making decisions better than I ever did.
And when we move into a missionary model of church, you see we are striking off into a different direction. I like to use this image of a cabin and a wooden shack filled with wood, and the job of the person is to go from the cabin to the wood stack and back through the snow, bringing the needed wood. The easiest way to get through the snow is to walk in the footsteps of the previous person's snow tracks. I see that as a model for the maintenance church. You could flip out and replace priests every 4 or 5 years, and he would step into the tracks of the guy before him and continue going back and forth to get wood. 40-50 years ago this model worked. But if we are to be a missionary church we need to turn around and see those woods over there, that's where we are going – and the truth is – we don't know how to do it.
In his talk, Rick spoke about his shock that priests are not trained in leadership. Let me tell you how much training in leadership I got. I loved the seminary. We got great theological training, but we got zero training in leadership. Zero. And we trained for a model of church 'in Jerusalem' and we were 'in Babylon'. We have to have the courage to say, 'I don't know what I am doing any more and honestly I am terrified.' I feel trapped because I feel I shouldn't say that, because we are supposed to have all the answers. It is not just our priests. In leadership it is our job to set and shape the culture of any organization. If we want to be healthy – as a church then we need to be healthy. If we want a church based on community, trust and vulnerability, we need to live lives where there is trust and vulnerability. It begins with us.
In this time of prayer we ask the Lord again, we ask His grace to build you a solid foundation of nature. Once again we are going to take some time in prayer and call on the Holy Spirit. You might think : hey they call on the Holy Spirit a lot around here. Yes we do. If you've read the book, one of our stated values is the experience of the Holy Spirit – and we meant it. We actually do strive to do this all the time; to call on the Holy Spirit to help us.
I invite us to stand together, and close our eyes. We have all had moments when we know we haven't been at our best, when instead of bringing health to our team, parish etc we became toxic. Did you know that in Gallup's estimation an actively disengaged parishioner is the opposite of an engaged parishioner? It takes 4 engaged parishioners to neutralize the acidity of an actively disengaged parishioner. 4 healthy to neutralize the effects of 1 toxic person. And sometimes we can be toxic. I have been toxic. In our disagreements as staff and teams if we don't deal with conflict on issues it becomes conflict about people. Conflict without trust is politics. If that happens, then the evil one can use that conflict without trust to his advantage. If you are here as a team with disagreements, resentments, unspoken things, no trust, we ask the Lord to help you to resolve them and to shine His light. We ask Him to liberate and free us of these things and help us to see. As someone said, the problem with blind spots is that you don't know that you've got them We've all got them. Let us cry out to God. Lord we want this. Lord we believe that You can truly bring us to a place of health. Reveal to us the areas where we need repentance, a need for forgiveness, a need to lower the walls and choose trust, to choose to be vulnerable. Let us pray this song together:
All who are weak. All who are weary. All who are tired. All who are thirsty. All who have failed. All who are broken. Come to the Rock. Come to the Fountain. Come to the Lord. All who have sailed the river of darkness, Come to the sea, Come to be set free. All who have climbed the mountains of heartache, Reach to the stars. If you lead me Lord I will follow. Where you lead me Lord I will go. Heal me Lord, I will follow. Where you lead me Lord, I will go.
Lord we come to You tonight and confess, sometimes we can indeed be toxic, resentful, suspicious, jealous, we can be fearful of one another. We can harbour hurts and unforgiveness. We ask that You wash us clean and that You forgive us. That You free us from all the destructive things that prevent us from being the church that we are called to be. We ask You to come and heal us and to set us free. We lift up to Him the times that we have not been instruments of health but of toxicity. We turn to You and bring to you our fear of vulnerability. We often wear masks over our broken and woundedness, and we hunger for love. We hide and mask our weakness and our uncertainties. As Your priests we can be guilty of this – and yet be so alone in our leadership. We ask for the grace to be vulnerable within us, and ask that He would break anything that prevents us from being so. In the Acts of the Apostles, at the Council of Jerusalem, after no small dissention, they agreed. They hammered things out and engaged in conflict over issues. Lord convict us of any one person we need to forgive and any one to whom we need to go and ask for forgiveness. Bring to mind our need for reconciliation with one another. We ask for the healing grace of God, and for forgiveness and reconciliation in our teams. Go and find 2 other people and share with one another something the Lord has spoken to you tonight.
My own response
Oh I want to be part of a team like that, don't you? On our own we can accomplish so little. Together we can accomplish so much. However I still have plenty of bruises left from the last significant team I was part of, where so often I felt ignored and not listened to. Maybe if I hadn't been the only Deliberative in the group, and the others had understood the positive aspects of that signature theme, it might have been very, very different.
So often we only find out the context of someone's life from the eulogy at his/her funeral (as long as the eulogy contains some relevant content). Sadly it is often only then, listening to their eulogy that so many aspects of their life and behaviour begin to make sense. Thus I think Patrick Lencioni's idea about learning about each other's formative years is pure gold.
How good it is to hear that conflict is a good thing and not a bad thing in a healthy team. To be surrounded by 'yes men' is a very bad thing for a leader, even though superficially it simplifies their lives.
As a result of this talk I had to go and confront a situation, which on the face of it was very poor example to others. I found out that there were good reasons behind the seemingly strange behaviour. Now I don't get aggravated each time I see that situation re-occur.
I've been on the receiving end of the 'someone's got a problem with you doing xyz, so fix it, but I'm not going to tell you who'. You spend all your time wondering who it was and narrowing down a list of suspects, all of which destroys peace of mind and the wide net of suspicion destroys trust. You feel judged, not loved.
I've also been in meetings where some people are only there for their own agenda and the perceived needs of their own ministry role and have no interest in anything unrelated to that agenda. It is like trying to herd cats, and it means that lots of other issues don't get the attention they need and deserve. Having a mindset for the benefit of all is crucial.
I really liked Fr Mallon's analogy of the regular trek to wood stack and the uncharted expedition to the woods.
This is a very hard paradigm shift for priests, going from solo leader to leader with team accountability. They need our support and encouragement – and especially our prayers. Be sure that the parishioners who care about the parish as much as you do are just as frustrated and debilitated by your solo leadership as you are.
How refreshing it is to see the Holy Spirit made a constant active partner in the life and mission of the parish! So often we say that God's in control, but then turn around and run a meeting without any prayer content, or with a short notional prayer for appearance' sake. How much I would like to see more reliance and calling on the Holy Spirit and less responses that make me feel like I'm an alien from outer space when I suggest it.