Monday, July 25, 2011

Taking your team to new heights

I must admit I'm a sucker for shows like the Apprentice and Top Chef.  I love to see how people interact, watch the creative group process and how leaders deal with their team members.  You can learn a lot about leadership from the shows, especially what not to do.  One of the most difficult leadership issues on these shows is the process of working with a team to choose and settle on one idea for a marketing campaign, room design or menu. It's great fun and drama watching creative individuals try to work as a team. 
I often wondered why the leaders on the Apprentice didn't use brainstorming techniques more often to develop ideas. You'd think that these so-called entrepreneurial leaders would know how to use brainstorming to elicit better ideas.

As much drama and dysfunction there is on these reality shows, I've seen some of the same problems and leadership struggles on church staffs also (why I love the shows).  I think many church leaders just avoid using teams all together because egos get involved, those who are more dominant get their way, people's feelings are hurt when their idea isn't chosen or there is a lack of control by the leader.  So the process often times just does not produce the creative ideas one expects.  Therefore, pastors and leaders just settle with relying upon the creativity of the individual instead of the group. Each staff member does his or her own thing and there is little input from the team and most of the time, they end up doing the same old thing over and over.

If more church staffs used brainstorming techniques (correctly), I believe we would have more creative sermons, ministries and ways to reach the lost.   On one staff we tried brainstorming a few times but the leaders and team members just could not resist commenting and critiquing during the brainstorming session and it always stifled the creative process to the point that it was frustrating and not as productive as it could have been.  If you do it, do it right and you'll be successful.

I'd love to hear if you have tried brainstorming with your team and whether it has been a success or not.

Here is one technique you can try with your staff or team that should help you in the creative process.

1.  Clearly define your objective, with budget, and parameters etc.
2.  Instruct the team leaders to leave the room, brainstorm by themselves for 15 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible.  Instruct them to be outlandish and as creative as possible within the parameters.  Write each idea on a separate post-a-note.  
3.  Have the team members return to the room separately and post their ideas, spread out on a wall or white board.  
4.  When all team members have posted, bring them back together and read the ideas together without comment or critique.  Because the brainstorming process is used to spark ideas, allow your team members 10 more minutes to come up with new ideas.  You can send them out again to come up with them by themselves or do it as a group.
5.  Add the new ideas to the others, and then group the ideas into related groups.  Once they are in groups, now you can discuss the merits of the ideas.
6.  Choose the specific group of ideas you like best and then you can narrow down from the group, to the individual idea you like best.  In many cases you'll find that there are many variations of the same idea. You'll see where the team is leaning.  But often there are one or two great ideas that come out of left field that may not have surfaced without the brainstorming session.  
For more brainstorming techniques, go to

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