Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

October 2019
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Leadership Letters

How Does Your Team Eat That Elephant? One Bite at a Time.

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

For a team to be effective, its members must share both long-term vision and short-term goals that genuinely represent the will of God for the organization. When this is in place, the team can move ahead with a common working approach.

Last week we discussed common vision. This week, we discuss shared goals.

Common goals make the vision achievable.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

To put it another way, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course! Teams who try to accomplish the extraordinary must learn the discipline of breaking down big problems and opportunities into small, doable steps. Problems and opportunities that are conceived of too broadly overwhelm us, but anybody can take “just one more step.” Thus, when the journey is broken down into achievable goals and milestones the task is more easily understood and accomplished.

For example, a church movement may have a long-term vision to plant new churches within 20 unreached people groups. An appropriate goal for this year might be to plant new churches in one of them. The long-term vision is 20; the short-term goal is one. This makes the vision achievable – step-by-step.

Common goals allow for flexibility.

With clear goals, team prayer and discussions can focus on how to achieve them or whether to change them. In our example above, as things progress during the first year, the leadership team may realize that their vision is overly ambitious or perhaps not ambitious enough. They may realize they lack the necessary resources or training. In striving to achieve the short-term goal the path to the fulfillment of the long-term vision becomes much clearer.

Common goals get results.

The attainability of specific goals helps teams maintain their focus on getting results. Without goals, the long vision will typically be too big and broad for team members to maintain focus. Moreover, feeling themselves getting nowhere – as measured against the big vision – inevitably has a discouraging effect on teams.

Common goals level the playing field.

Specific objectives have a leveling effect that is conducive to team behavior. When a small group of people accept a challenge to accomplish something great, their respective titles, statuses or personalities fade into the background. The only thing that matters is the teamgoal with each individual striving to contribute towards that end.

Common goals encourage momentum and morale.

Specific goals allow the team to achieve small wins as it pursues its long-term vision. Small wins are invaluable to building team member’s commitment and overcoming the inevitable obstacles that stand in the team’s way. Small wins enable teams to build momentum and by creating a climate in which success is not only seen as possible, but imminent.

There is nothing more discouraging than starting off with a failure, so wise teams include a few early successes in their plan.

Common goals are compelling.

They challenge the people on the team to commit themselves, as a team, to make a difference. The excitement and urgency of the goal drive the team forward. Impossible for individuals to achieve but attainable by the team, it becomes their special challenge. From all the above, it is evident that genuine teams are not easy to build or maintain. There is a high cost involved in teams, but taking the time to develop common vision, common goals, and a common working approach will be highly rewarding.

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