Monday, August 9, 2010

Review - Sticky Teams

"Sticky Teams: Keeping your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page" by Larry Osborne, is a book I received as part of a blog tour hosted by Engaging Church. They will be linking to reviews like these coming out this week.

Sticky Teams is not just about the importance of unity on a team, but really an excellent book about finding and keeping unity of purpose and vision among all the key components of a healthy church - the pastor and the church board, developing a unified staff, and how a pastor can promote the unity of the congregation. The principles in the book are of benefit to church staff members, ministry leaders, or those preparing for serving in ministry, but the target audience is really senior pastors. The reason is simple enough; you need the senior pastor leading the charge of developing this kind of unity among the church's leadership teams and congregation.

The book starts out making a strong case for unity - and the need to be very intentional in pursuing this. Part One focuses on landmines and roadblocks, and how things can easily go wrong with boards or with staff. It also talks about the double-edged sword of growth and what a game changer it is for the dynamics of leadership teams. Part Two is about getting everyone on the same page, with a practical focus on equipping others for ministry. Part Three is about communication, keeping everyone on the same page. The book concludes with a helpful set of discussion questions. The ideas and potential for discussion here are strong enough that our staff is starting to read this together. We'll also be discussing our "plumb-lines", the core values that guide how we do ministry and set priorities.

I enjoyed this book much more than Osborne's earlier book "Sticky Church" (which I thought overstressed the idea that sermon-based small groups are a key to unity in the church). Some of my favorite quotes and ideas from the "Sticky Teams" book:
  • "Jesus predicted growth but prayed for unity." (p21)
  • "Friends tend to give each other the benefit of the doubt, while strangers are cautious and suspicious. Friends debate. Strangers argue." (p31)
  • Very important to have right people on the bus, board and staff members who are actual leaders and not "representatives". (p51)
  • "Good" isn't good enough! If you can't find the best person, leave the spot open.
  • Six counter-intuitive principles of leadership (p73) 1. Ignore weaknesses, 2. Surveys are a waste of time, 3. Seek permission, not buy-in, 4. Let squeaky wheels squeak, 5. Let dying programs die, 6. Plan in pencil.
  • As a church grows, the role of the staff must change: shift from generalists to specialists; doing to empowering; "my" silo to "our" church (p108)
  • Make it special time not something tacked on: staff and board training should not be ten minutes carved out of a broader meeting, but something intentional and distinct. (p132)
  • For training leaders, the process and just getting people talking together is more important than the curriculum -- it's about dialoging and working through the implications of ideas and principles (p134)
If you're a pastor who is new in your position, tired of battling things out with the board, or hoping to prevent trouble with staff, "Sticky Teams" is a must-read. You can check out a sample chapter of Sticky Teams or buy the book at Amazon or other retailers.


Andrew said...

Thanks for posting this Larry. The quotes you pulled out are great too. I especially like the "counter-intuitive principles of leadership." As a marketer I can't help but pause whenever someone says "surveys are a waste of time."


Larry Baxter said...

Thanks for the feedback Andrew. There was much to chew on in the book, especially those counterintuitive or controversial points, as we're not really expected to agree with everything here. I'm looking forward to reading the other reviews on the blog tour.

Andrew said...

Do you disagree with any of those principles right off the bat?

I'm not a pastor, but I imagine "seek permission, not buy-in" can get dicey, depending on your church's situation. Thoughts?

(I need to review what Larry says in the book, obviously!) ;-)


Larry Baxter said...

Good question. They get buy-in / seek permission / follow advice of the board are (as you say) dicey. Those comments, plus several others, are far better taken as things to consider rather than strict "best practices". In that category I would also include: ignore weaknesses, making a big deal about location of board meetings, keeping a spot empty (sometimes you just can't), how much to pay attention to resisters, or thinking giftedness is overrated.

For example, ignoring a weakness of "avoid conflict at all cost" would be bad, as well as contradict the other good advice he gives. You may not become an expert on conflict resolution, but taking steps earlier and perhaps involving a skilled mediator would be good ways to 'manage' the weakness'.

So no major disagreements, just fair cautions on applying the points above. (The idea I agree with least is the thesis of his Sticky Church book, on having all group studies based on the sermon - way too one-size-fits-all and goes against the principles stressed in here about valuing the freedom and input of others.)