Ever have one of those moments when you realize you are the problem?

You thought it was someone or something else and then your eyes are opened and you realize you are the one holding people back?

I definitely have.

And yes, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m hoping to help us identify ways we are holding back our teams before our negative behaviors have too much impact.

So, here are seven ways you might be holding your team back…

1. Not Building Relationships with Your Team

Great teams are built on trust.

Trust in each other’s motives, abilities, and integrity.

Trust doesn’t come out of thin air.

It comes through relationships.

We trust people we know and have experience with.

As leaders, we must focus, not just on vision, alignment and results.

We must constantly be building relationships with the people that we lead.

If they trust us, they will follow.

If we trust them, we will be more willing to delegate and empower.

How are you doing in this area?

Is there time slotted in your block schedule for relationship building conversations and experiences?

2. Not Investing in Your People

Your team is built on people.

These people are your greatest assets.

Chances are, most of your church’s budget is allocated toward staff salaries.

With this in mind, how are you investing in these people?

One of the most important things you can do is work to develop skills in your people.

If your people are your greatest assets, your greatest investment should be in them.

People who are invested in typically do better work, show higher levels of engagement, stay on your staff for longer and rise through the ranks.

How are you investing in your people?

Conferences, books, mentors, training, and coaching are all great ideas.

And, a quick tip: I would focus less on investing in areas of weakness and more on areas of moderate strength.

It’s often better to work around weaknesses because they can only be improved so much.

However, with investment, a strength can often become a towering strength.

3. Not Listening to Feedback

One of the ways you can cripple growth in your team is by not listening to feedback.

I’m talking about ideas from team members and I’m talking about negative feedback about your leadership.

Some of the best movement we’ve seen on my team and in my church over the last few years were not my ideas.

They came from someone else, who didn’t have a voice at the decision-making table.

It’s the job of the leader to listen and represent the people under his or her care.

Secondly, if you are the leader of a team and you don’t listen to negative feedback about your leadership or performance, no one on your team will listen to negative feedback.

And, we can’t grow without learning about our blind spots, weaknesses and mistakes.

They are essential.

So, it’s critical that leaders demonstrate and model humility so that we can grow a culture of learning and growth.

A question: How are you inviting feedback from your people?

4. Not Giving Clear Feedback

Speaking of feedback, here’s a mistake that I made for years and sometimes still struggle to avoid—providing clear feedback to the people I lead.

Something about me: I’m a people pleaser.

I like it when everyone is happy and getting along.

I find myself in uncomfortable territory when I have to deliver negative feedback.

But, what I’ve learned the hard way is that people often crave feedback that will help them grow and even when they don’t, they need it to develop and improve.

It is crucial that leaders provide clear and actionable feedback on a consistent basis.

It should be part of team culture to regularly share with those we are leading both what they are doing well and potential areas of growth.

5. Hiring Too Quickly

Since we’re talking about mistakes I’ve personally made, let me share another trap I’ve fallen into that has hurt my team—hiring too quickly.

Often when we have an open position, we fixate on the work that will go uncompleted or, as the leader, the work we will have to add to our responsibility to cover the missing staff member or volunteer.

This often drives us to hire as quickly as possible.

Something that I’ve learned the hard way is that I would rather be tired than sorry.

What I mean is that I would rather work a little extra or not get to everything for a season than hire the wrong person and have to spend an inordinate amount of time developing or correcting that person, or worse…exiting that person after a short time.

The wrong person on a team can have catastrophic consequences.

In my experience, I would rather take my time in hiring—taking extra steps and precautions than hiring quickly and regretting my decision.

One of the ways that we’ve been able to protect ourselves from hiring too quickly is by adding a “culture” interview to our process.

We’ve taken the time to define the culture we are attempting to build and then we identify a handful of people who are culture carriers or culture guardians.

We then conduct a culture interview to determine whether a potential hire will be a good fit for our staff culture.

6. Avoiding Conflict

Another way that leaders hold their teams back is by avoiding conflict.

Conflict simmering beneath the surface will kill a team.

Perhaps you’ve been there.

I sure have.

It’s the job of a leader to mine for conflict and engage conflict.

For example, when an idea is being discussed in a team meeting, and you can tell that one of your team members does not agree with the idea but is hesitating to share his or her opinion.

You, as the leader, must draw that person into the discussion.

If you don’t, your team might miss a major blind spot, or the person who disagrees will often carry that disagreement around with them for weeks or longer, which is very unhealthy.

Secondly, interpersonal conflict is inevitable on teams.

People will step on each other’s toes and offend each other.

It is inevitable.

As a leader, it’s your job to help people in conflict to engage each other in the healthiest way possible.

Sometimes we can observe the tension and other times someone will bring up the conflict in a one-on-one meeting with you.

Whenever this happens, I try to respond with one or two questions:

  • Have you talked with them about that?
  • What’s your plan to address the issue?

You shouldn’t fix the problem yourself but rather, push people to resolve the conflict together.

Usually, getting the two people in a room works it out.

Occasionally it will require you to facilitate a meeting between the two of them.

All I know is that unaddressed and unresolved conflict will kill a team. You must deal with it.

7. Failing to be Clear on Goals and Expectations

If you want to hold back a team, just be unclear about what the expectations and goals are.

It’s like a football game without a scoreboard.

What’s the point?!?

Worse yet, it’s a football game where the point value awarded for a touchdown changes throughout the game.

Inconsistency is worse than unclarity.

As a leader, your role here is clarity.

What are the wins?

How does your team know if it is successful?

What are the wins for each individual role?

How do I know if I am successful if I am a member of your team?

One of the best ways to do this is to include these goals and expectations right in the job description of your employees.

Put them on paper and make them crystal clear. The vast majority of people want to succeed and will if the expectations are clear.

Wrap Up

In my opinion, being a member of a high-performing team is one of the best experiences in life.

As leaders, we can provide this exhilarating experience if we focus in the right areas and make sure we aren’t holding our teams back.

I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading. As always, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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