By Mark Siegrist ~
Jesus’ interactions with his team of 12 created a culture of excellence that every organization would do well to embrace. What can we learn from Jesus, the ultimate team builder? In Jesus CEO (Hachette Books, 1996), Laura Beth Jones observes that “once Jesus began his work in earnest, he wasted no time in forming a team… Even Jesus knew he could not change the world alone.”
In Mark 8, we see one of Jesus’ team-building moments with his disciples. During travels to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus used a casual roadside conversation to ask questions as a means to create team culture. “On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’” (Mark 8:27) Jesus demonstrated vulnerability by allowing teammates to probe his validity.
Jesus seemed to be testing the level of team trust. The phrase, “On the way he asked…” depicts the spontaneous interaction of high trust. In organizations, it’s called creating an accepted healthy workplace culture. Jesus encouraged reaction, almost digging for conflict and debate. The disciples respond, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah….” (Mark 8:28)
Jesus pressed further asking, “But what about you?” … “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29) Their high-trust culture was such that Jesus insisted on group discussion with openness to individual opinions. Peter, often seen as the team’s spokesperson, blurted out, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29) to publically declare his personal commitment to Jesus.
Then Jesus charged them with a seemingly unusual instruction by warning them “not to tell anyone about him.” (Mark 8:30) This became a moment of accountability for the disciples charged to follow through with this instruction. Jesus knew that his disciples didn’t yet understand the depth of Peter’s Messiah declaration.
Jesus continued by foretelling of his death as Isaiah 53 prophesied; this was the first his team had heard the seemingly bad news. Jesus “spoke plainly about this.” (Mark 8:32) This demonstrated another culture-building principle. In both good times and bad, great team leaders speak openly without convoluting the truth.
Not willing to accept this, “Peter took (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:32) Jesus spoke directly to Peter, the disciples overhearing, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33)
Peter had in mind the perspective of man rather than that of God. Jesus, by contrast, was seeking to create a team culture of excellence that embraced God’s plans.
High Functioning Teams
In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni says “Absence of Trust” is the greatest team challenge. The counterpoint he offers is to “Demonstrate Vulnerability.” Jesus was vulnerable in order to see if the disciples were willing to examine their own belief in him.
The second dysfunction is “Fear of Conflict.” Lencioni states, “Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo … the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team.” Lencioni’s counterpoint is to “Mine for Conflict and Debate” by making reasonable attempts at digging up issues containing conflict. It would seem that Jesus encouraged reaction, almost digging for conflict and debate.
The third dysfunction is “Lack of Commitment;” the counterpoint is “Require Clarity and Commitment.” Lencioni says “Great teams ensure that everyone’s ideas are genuinely considered.” Jesus wanted the disciples, individually, to pause, clarify and decide who he was.
The fourth dysfunction, “Avoidance of Accountability,” is “the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on [their] behavior.” Jesus called on each disciple to be cautious in declaring Jesus as Messiah without fully understanding the meaning of such a claim. The counterpoint is “Holding One Another Accountable.”
The fifth dysfunction is “Inattention to Results;” the counterpoint is “Focus on Collective Results.” Lencioni says, “ … the leader must set the tone for a focus on results.” Jesus called Peter, and the others, to a clear focus on “the things of God” rather than “merely human concerns.”
Jesus created a culture of excellence by asking questions to show vulnerability and high trust, by digging for debate, by stimulating personal commitment and by holding everyone accountable for results. It’s possible for us to do the same.
Mark Siegrist is a public speaker and serves as the director of education for the Denver Rescue Mission. He’s a certified facilitator with Franklin Covey content and has taught various workshops for Christian Leadership Alliance conferences. Mark holds a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Arts in Business Management.
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