Article by the late Rev. Don Smith, Executive Director
Campus Equippers, San Diego, CA
Research Essay on Lecture #14 in the tape series by Kenneth O. Gangel, Ph.D. – Interpersonal Relations and Supervision.
The reason that I chose this lecture to write on is because of the value that I place on building a team of people to accomplish the goals of the ministry that God has called me to. It has become even more valuable for me to learn these principles and apply them in light of my own personal experiences in and with leadership and dealing with interpersonal relationships.
Dr. Gangel starts out the lecture with the analogy of Wilt Chamberlin, who was the leading scorer in the 61/62 season and set all kinds of scoring records in the early 60’s, but didn’t win an NBA title for the Philadelphia 76ers. The reason giving was that even though he was a great player and could score at will, his team didn’t play that well together. He had great individual achievement but no team achievement. The team that won most of the titles during that time was the Boston Celtics, led by Bill Russell. Bill Russell was the consummate team player. His presence on the court made everybody else play better.
It is that paradox between what is good for the individual and what is good for the team that makes this lecture such a good learning tool for leaders. We should not buy into how the world measures greatness, by individual accomplishments but by how we help others become great. Dr. Ganger spends time focusing on three major area in this lecture.
The first is strong leadership is demonstrated by developing interpersonal relationships through good communication and empowerment. The second is the need to understand of the type of leadership modeled by the Apostle Paul. Paul clearly understood who he was in Christ and what God wanted to accomplish through people, based on the gifts that they have been given. The final point is the importance of evaluation to help improve and correct work actions that might hinder success. As leaders, we are responsible for the growth of those that are under our leadership. Without the ability to evaluate effectively we will fall short in all that God wants for those He has placed under our care.
In Ministry it is impossible to achieve success without strong interpersonal relationships. As it says in 1 Thess. 5:12-13 Amplified Bible (AMP) 12 Now also we beseech you, brethren, get to know those who labor among you [recognize them for what they are, acknowledge and appreciate and respect them all]—your leaders who are over you in the Lord and those who warn and kindly reprove and exhort you. 13 And hold them in very high and most affectionate esteem in [intelligent and sympathetic] appreciation of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
A leader needs to give away power to others. This is done by increasing the autonomy of those you lead. The leadership team is pulled together when you decentralize your leadership. We see in the Bible that we are all given gifts to accomplish God’s purpose for His Church. It’s when we are in an environment that nurtures everyone’s ability to utilize those gifts we find true joy and success. To build a successful team you need to strengthen others by empowering them. You can empower others by working on these things:
- Get to know people.
- Develop your interpersonal confidence.
- Use your power in service of others.
- Enlarge peoples share of influence.
- Keep people informed.
- Make Connections.
- Make Heroes of other people.
In doing these things, you start to build a team of people around you that want to do the best to achieve the goals of the organization.
Paul would say that he was the chief sinner and was a bond slave to Christ. He didn’t believe that one person was above another, or that one gift was greater than another. He believed that all gifts were needed to accomplish what God wanted to accomplish for the Church.
There might be differences in function and role but not in rank. Ministry is the work of the whole body. It is the role of the leader to equip and empower those under them to succeed. Because of the need to help others succeed, it is important for leaders to build strong relationships with those under their leadership.
To build that kind of relationship, Gangel stresses the need for a dialogue with those you work with, not a monologue. Good teamwork demands back and forth communication. The more people know within the organization the better off everyone will be. Everyone needs a sense of being a part of the decision making in the organization, which empowers them and moves them towards greater responsibility for the organization’s success. When a leader communicates with those under them and listens to them, successful teams are built. When a leader empowers those under them by hearing their thoughts and ideas is when you start to plant seeds of teamwork and excellence.
Dr. Gangel also acknowledges that with empowerment comes challenges. If you open yourself up to hear what those under you are thinking and feeling, you also have to be willing to respond to what they say, regardless of how you personally feel about it. If you lack confidence in your leadership, being unwilling to accept criticism, you will open yourself up for conflict with those who serve with you. Gangel makes some suggestions as to what can enhance communication, and thus cooperation in a team. A leader can make communication much more meaningful to both parties when:
- Rephrase in your own words, anything that sounds important.
- Avoid exaggerating the good points because you might miss something else that might be important.
- Learn to concentrate on listening. Make sure that you are hearing everything.
- Listen for the unfamiliar.
- Be careful when you disagree. It might be better not to respond at the time and come back to the person later to talk about it.
Because communication is so important in team building, these five suggestions by Gangel have been very helpful in the meetings that I have had with other staff that work under me. If you have a meeting and you are not practicing these things, the person that you are talking to will get the impression that you don’t really care about them, their thoughts or input.
It is exciting when you are working with a team of people that feel that they are an important part of the ministry, and that their thoughts and feelings are important and listened to. To be able to do this though, takes a strong leader that cares more about building a team than building their own ego. This brings us back to the original analogy regarding Wilt Chamberlin and Bill Russell. Chamberlin had all the personal records, but Russell had the team championships! God want us to build a team for his glory.
This is the fine line that all leaders must walk. The leader must have the ability and drive to lead, yet the humbleness to consider those under them as more important than themselves for the success of the organization. There have been many leaders that have not found this balance, leaving a trail of injured and hurting people behind them. The members of the organization were not built up and empowered to bring about greater success, but were used and abused by their leader to build up the leader’s resume and achievements.
Unfortunately, I have worked under several leaders that might have been viewed as great leaders by the outside world, but the real depth of their leadership was lacking. Gangel tries to draw out the danger in developing the leadership qualities that seem to be what the world believes is important, but God would find falls far short of what He would want in a Godly leader. A ministry team is in trouble when:
- A leader is more concerned about how something makes him look or who gets the credit than how others look or feel.
- If a leader lets their ego not allow others to get recognition or affirmation because they want all of it for themselves.
- It is always important for that leader to remind those under him that the leader is in charge.
Again, Dr. Gangel uses the apostle Paul as an example of what a Godly leader should be. Paul shows us his willingness to be humble, yet he was also willing to challenge the leadership and the church body as a whole when they fell short of God’s best. Paul says in Romans 12:3-9 (NIV) 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Paul was able to make a self-assessment that was not filled with pride or ego, but was firmly placed in his relationship with Christ. It was what he was and is in Christ that gave him his place of leadership in the body of Christ. When leaders do not have a clear, sober understanding of their position and calling in Christ that they can become arrogant or selfish and their leadership becomes weakened. How many times have we heard of famous pastors that has treated their staff badly, or they have huge homes and receive an enormous salary (which in an of itself is not the issue) while their staff is barely getting by. How many staff people leave an organization or a church with a bitter and pained spirit, because of being miss-treated by their leader.
One of the ways that Dr. Gangel says will help prevent ministry ineffectiveness from happening is to be willing to correct behavior and actions through meaningful evaluation. In order to build a winning team you need to be a great communicator, listener, empowerer, and you need to be able to correct actions and behavior that don’t help the team succeed. The ability to provide meaningful and helpful correction was greatly lacking in the bosses that I previously worked for. Gangel states that evaluation is happening, formally and informally, throughout the working relationship. How a leader communicates, encourages, affirms, corrects etc., leaves impressions on those they lead and can build the framework of trust to grow. However, it is in the formal evaluation that a leader must really work hard if they want to build up the team that is geared for success. Each person in the team must have a clear idea of what is expected of them and what their responsibilities are. Once this is done, it is then the responsibility of the leader to hold those under them accountable for what’s expected. The purpose of this evaluation it simply to improve the quality of the ministry. We want each and every one that is under our leadership to succeed; to be the best that they can. To do this requires the leader to take responsibility, providing proper supervision and not overlooking things that are not of the expected quality. Again, there is a fine line as to how best to hold someone accountable and yet encourage them to do better. No leader is perfect, but if one embraces their leadership role full, in time the leader will know best how to encourage and also reprimand someone under to create an environment that helps him or her succeed. That is why as a leader, you must prepare each and every time of evaluation with much prayer for wisdom. You should develop a group of questions that would allow you to glean from those under you how they are fulfilling their responsibilities and accomplishing the task at hand. These should be open ended questions that would allow for the individual to express their thoughts and feelings on the specific issue. You should ask leading questions, not loaded ones. You want them to express what they are thinking, not what you want them to answer. Ask cool questions not heated questions. It would not serve you, those under you, or the ministry you all serve Christ through to allow the evaluation to become emotionally charged. A leader must enter the evaluative process with planned questions, not just a “shoot from the hip.” Focus on what matters, and that which will help you build and improve the performance of the individual you are evaluating. Use treat questions not trick questions. The person you are evaluating needs to feel that they are contributing to the organization with their answers, not being set up to be trapped. You need to ask window questions not mirror question. Allow the person to open up to all that they see in the organization, not what you want them to see. These evaluation questions will help bring success to the evaluation process and allow you to do the important work of using this input to help the individual that you’re evaluating grow and improve, and thus providing greater ability to fulfill their part in the vision and mission God has given the organization. I only wish that my former bosses had used these skills to better evaluate me and to help me be a greater part of a ministry that I loved.
Understand that the success of your ministry team is greatly improved by your leadership and the need for quality control and improving the quality of those that work under you. The attitude of the supervisor is so important in the success of the team. You must seek God’s wisdom on how He wants to use you in building His team. You are a growing and changing person just like those under you. There are no “lost” causes and you both should go on together for the kingdom of Christ. Assume the God is at work in His people and He wants to use you to accomplish the task of perfecting each and every one of His people. You are also not singularly responsible for the success of an individual. That role is spread throughout the body of Christ. Leadership finds its fulfillment when all God’s people find their gifts for the Body of Christ.
At the end of Dr. Gangel’s lecture he hits upon a recurring theme. Christ wants unity with His people and in His Church. We should work to to make sure that nothing we do or say should tear down the unity of the Body. This is why we strive so hard to learn the skills that Dr. Gangel teaches in this lecture and the other lectures for this class. This is why EM Griffin and Ken Sande make such a powerful argument for interpersonal relationships and the need to be peacemakers. This is why it is so destructive to have conflict in the Church, because that breaks down our unity.
In the role of a leader it is so much more important to be someone who cares more about building up “the team” than to build up our own “individual stats” on our resume. When a leader focuses on making everyone better for the good of the ministry, without concern for what it will do for them, everyone benefits. I learned some very important skills in the area of leadership and “Team Building”. It is my hope to be able to use these skills in the ministry that I am currently involved with or any new ministry that God would call me to. It is in exercising our leadership through communication, listening, empowering, and correcting that His Body, the Church, gets built up and becomes that successful team to win souls for Christ!