3 Ways to Level ↑ Your Teamwork

Have you ever struggled with group participation or felt more productive working independently?

Perhaps you’re a team player at heart, but feel taxed, even lost, when collaborating in a joint setting.

If so, I want to encourage you: a) you’re not alone and b) dare to rethink what you know about teamwork.

For while corporate success often hinges on team dynamic (i.e. how a group behaves and performs in pursuing a particular goal), such cooperation is only possible when each member knows the purpose and direction of their role.

Thus, in the next few posts, I want to discuss how we, as students and employees, can build teamwork through better team dynamic starting with these three points…

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1) Clarify Expectations

It’s been said group morale is a fragile art – a sacred science based on strength integration, maintaining transparency, and trust management.

Yet, of all the bonds that bind, arguably none is more cohesive to team dynamic than clarifying expectations.

To quote Ron Edmondson…

to feel a part of the team, people need to know where the team is going and what their role is. An understanding of the overall goals and objectives fuels energy. When the big picture objective is understood each team member is more willing to pull together to accomplish the mission because they know the ‘why’ and can better understand where they fit on the team.”

In other words, to achieve positive outcomes, each role must be clearly defined in a way direction, unity, and purpose are mutually inclusive. Of course, none of this can happen without accountability, authenticity, and strategy/tactics (as we’ll later discuss); however, as long as expectations are effectively communicated top-to-bottom, the foundation to success is, at least, secured.

Bottom line: The more people perceive core value and expectations1 through vision, the more team dynamic will strengthen.

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2) Don’t Just Direct People, Develop Them

As mentioned in my ‘effective influencer’ post, strong teams form when people are valued over goals and success is celebrated corporately as well as individually.

Unfortunately, not all work cultures are created equal where motivation is shared, let alone contagious. The question is…

How do we inspire unity among our teams regardless of setting, situation, or position?

For starters, we must be willing to connect role to direction and expectation to vision. In my case, having worked in various financial and ministerial arenas, I’ve found the best unity occurs in environments where each member understands their role and how it directly impacts the success of the organization.

Granted, easier said than done for the sanitation engineer and mail deliverer; still, if strong team dynamics are applied, even these employees can be directed to know the company’s core values2 and developed to take ownership of their responsibility.

Ultimately, if team members are empowered to see their skin in the game, camaraderie will flourish in the sense each person is directed, developed, and driven to see his/her work as more than a means to an end.

Bottom line: Intentional leaders not only give their team intentional purpose, but help their teams understand mission while embracing vision.

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3) Get Out of the Office

A great ministry leader once said…

Don’t get so busy doing the work of the Lord that you don’t spend time with the Lord of the work.”

Interestingly, while this truth pertains to spiritual intimacy, the same concept can be applied in collaboration and networking. After all, if project management and people management are best undivided, then the quality of our communication should extend beyond performance into its surrounding context.

For example, as a former LAMPO spouse, sports editor, and youth pastor, no question, the best “silo-busting” moments occurred during retreats, corporate team-building activities, and family outings. In each scenario, not only were tensions lessened, but a sense of esprit de corps developed carrying over into seasons of challenge and discomfort.

Moreover, to the extent creativity and oasis conversations abounded, to that extent priorities were pruned in the wake of internal and external inventory. Ultimately, as awareness within community increased, so did morale and enthusiasm by proxy.

Bottom line: 1) Teamwork is just as much attitude as it is practice. 2) If you want better teamwork, know the context of your team’s performance given team dynamic is influenced just as much outside work as at work.

Selah.

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Looking ahead, I want to talk about how we, as spouses and household heads, can abide by the same teaming principles outside our careers and inside our homes.

In the meantime, be at peace as you better people to better your teams to better your business.

As always, Lys & I are rooting for you.

Here’s to the journey…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Even compensation
  2. Tip: consider creating a team charter)

Cover photo creds: Australian Institute of Business

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template

No question, the vocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities…you know the drill.

Yet, as tempting survival/‘just get ‘er done’ mode may be, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yes, strategic compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus and break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments; however, when we consider our identity as effective influencers in light of Jesus’ ministry,  we ultimately find…

a) Work (what we commit our hands and minds to) and faith (what we commit our beliefs to) were never meant to be mutually exclusive.

b) The marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Take Matthew 21:12-17 for instance…

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he targets (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on quicksand.

Secondly, when we consider what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the providence of God (i.e. the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 ;more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find the a) confirmation of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication), but to set the stage for the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

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Hence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…

  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…

Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority

Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net

3 Ways to Mature as an Effective Influencer (Part 1)

If I were to ask what the point of ministry is, what would you say?

Drawing people to Christ? Developing them as disciple-makers? Deploying them into service?

Albeit, these are all fine answers…but what if I told you we can sum up ministry in one word…

…influence.

Would you agree?

Regardless, the Word is clear our ministry emerges from our influence.

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:11

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

If you’re like me, you hear ‘persuade’ and immediately think ‘convince’; yet, when we dissect the Hebrew and extend it through v. 21, we find Paul is actually talking about influence.

Applying this filter, we can better understand how influence not only partners in God’s ministry of reconciliation, but matures our effectiveness as marketplace influencers.

Granted, there are many ways to broach the topic. For now, we’ll start with our usual ‘core three’ and work from there…

1. Know who you’re fearing

As mentioned, the bottom line of ministry is reconciliation achieved through influencing; however, to get there it’s important we grasp the fear of the Lord.

For while “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), it’s also a preserver of our sincerity (Colossians 3:22) and a gateway to comfort in the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).

Note the latter reference:

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

This tells me two things:

  1. Godly fear multiplies wisdom and virtue in addition to faith.
  2. The evidence of influence is peace inspired by encouragement.

Therefore, when we talk about influence, we’re not talking as much about personal strength as we are the maturation of corporate morale and pointing people in the direction of Jesus (more on this in future posts).

Contrarily, it’s important we understand what influence isn’t.

‘Cause while the key to influence is the fear of the Lord, the enemy will use the opposite spirit, the fear of man, along with memories of past hurt to contrive a narrative where we’re seeking to overcome what’s already been overcome.

Thankfully, as Kingdom agents…ministers of reconciliation who can persuade through the fear of the Lord…we can rhythmically resist this mindset whiling combating the compromised systems of the world.

For as long as there is sin, enterprise will be governed by hierarchy1 where people are bound by control, manipulation, and intimidation. Yet, as for you, you can see people as God sees them (i.e. forgiven) and help them find purpose through daily influencing where they are.

After all, freedom begets freedom…and He craves it more than you do.

2. Know how you’re leading

As effective influencers2, it’s imperative we not only have the right mindset towards people, but our work as well.

For starters, we must view our work as an opportunity to show people who they are as opposed to a stage to prove our self-worth. In this way, we not only invest trust in God being the one to open eyes, but free ourselves to influence through our wiring and discover new strengths through how God uses their responses.

‘Cause truth is: When we allow God into our realm of influence, we trade the pressure of of accomplishing goals for a humility motivating others to reach them.

But Cam…what if I’m not a team leader or in a place of authority?

Again, to answer this question…we must ask ourselves why we’re asking it.

For instance…

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If we’re talking about what we’ve been conditioned to believe…then authority is nothing more than the appointed person governing ‘over’ us; however, if we’re talking about absolute authority3, then we can see how a) God alone carries it…and b) what we often associate as ‘authority’ is, in fact, influence manifest through the seven motivational gifts (as outlined in Romans 12).

Again, the system…a real life Matrix if you will…runs by pecking order, production, and the Jerry Maguire mindset of ‘show me the money’, but…

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…as Kingdom influencers, we can approach metrics and outcomes without agenda by combining nurturing with our competence4.

Thus, whether you’re a supervisor in crunch time or a subordinate in training, you can help hold your team accountable to achieve certain goals in your respective roles. Just remember no matter what you do to galvanize effort, make sure it stems from a desire for everyone to succeed given a true influencer always values people over goals and never risks reaching them at the cost of another’s well-being.

For when we value people and decompartmentalize our desire to impact them, we not only influence a place where encouragement and goodness abound, but also where confidence and favor are ultimately shared.

Stay tuned next time when I’m unveil my third and final step to maturing as an effective influencer in the marketplace.

‘Til then if you have any questions, thoughts, concerns, feel free to leave them below in the ‘comments’ section and I’ll return serve as soon as I can.

Peace for your week,

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. As well as the idea leadership is greater than serving (contrary to Romans 12 which tells us each gift is equal and carries status and dignity)
  2. All influencers lead, but not all leaders influence
  3. Difference between authority and authorities
  4. A simple formula for adding value to your team members in a way they’ll turn to you for guidance and feedback

Cover photo creds: MikeLavere.com

3 Ways to Level ↑ Your E-mails

E-mails.

We all write them…but do we really know how?

I know, I know…sounds silly to ask, especially in the Information Age business world we live in.

Still, when it comes to etiquette, how we frame professional communication within pragmatic boundaries is worth discussion.

As a governmental employee, I’ve been on both sides of the decorum fence as a sender and recipient. So trust me when I say the importance of lining up what you say and what you mean is very important.

That said, here are three practical points in delivering quality e-mail content…

1. Keep it ‘short and sweet’

As a writer, I admit: I can be wordy at times.  I remember early in my career, I would often exhaust my word count fearing I’d say too little, conceal my tact, and/or give my recipient room to read between the lines.

Yet, after years of composition, I ultimately discovered my best e-mails were the ones with simple language and basic syntax (think 4th grade level as opposed to 8th 1). Granted, variance in e-mail construction hinge on the need; however, in most professional scenarios, e-mails will either answer a question or call to action.

Thus, if you want to communicate more effectively, consider a ‘short and sweet’ approach. Not only will you capture the problem more cogently, but also increase the odds of it being solved more quickly. Not to mention you limit the risk of asking unnecessary questions.

Bottom line: Coherency and conciseness go hand in hand.

After all, if you’re going to troubleshoot, why not shoot straight?

Bonus: If you’re concerned your ‘short and sweet’ e-mail is more on the short than sweet side, consider inserting a smiley emoji after the greeting or concluding sentence (informal cases only).

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2. Make humility apparent

In a day-to-day grind, it’s hard to be perfect. Clearly, as long as there’s work, there’s going to be errors…and with errors, an assortment of cleanup, manipulative maneuvers2, and mountains made from molehills.

Okay, okay…maybe those last two are a tad extreme; however, as real world correction has taught me, it’s worth noting how to handle being on the wrong side of them.

‘Cause truth is: when people throw you shade, there’s always a fade3…and that, in one word, is humility.

Now I know for many humility is nothing more than a ‘kill with kindness’ or ‘fall on the sword’ strategy; however, given true humility has no agenda, it’s safe to say these approaches are flawed since they cater to what you want to say or what you think others want you to say.

From my experience, if you want to live true humility in the marketplace, the best approach is through forthright evaluation. In other words, if there’s something to own, be sincere in owning it; if there’s something to resolve, be direct in resolving it.

Remember when rectifying conflict electronically, the emphasis should always be reconciling the issue as opposed to justifying why it exists. In doing so, not only will you validate concerns, but establish value to whom and what is necessary to move the ball down the field.

Bottom line: Wrong turns happen. Why not write4 the ship by humbling yourself and letting God’s grace exalt you?

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3. Proofread your tone, not just your grammar

 It’s fair to say the e-mail equivalent of ‘think before you speak‘ is ‘proof before you send’.

Need proof? Just check out your app store…

Grammarly, PerfectIt, Ginger, AutoCrit, No Red Ink, Hemingway Editor, Phrase Express, After The Deadline, EssayDot…and we’re just scratching the surface.

Yet, while most of us associate proofreading to syntax and grammar, arguably one of the most underrated elements in e-mail content construction is checking for tone.

Yes, you may be able to master subject lines, use the right words, and succinctly capture information; however, if you don’t put yourself in your recipient’s shoes before pressing ‘send’, you risk losing the message through ambiguity and misunderstanding.

Bottom line: When proofing your e-mails, dare to read them as sender and receiver.

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Footnotes

  1. Just because you decrease the reading level, doesn’t mean you decrease the tact
  2. i.e. ‘throw under the bus’ tactics
  3. Specifically, a fade from offense
  4. Intentional misspelling

Cover photo creds: Shutterstock

3 Keys to Communicating Vision

When it comes to quality leadership, no question, one of the hardest challenges is communicating vision (i.e. important information necessary for growth and progress). From filtering content to personal interaction, the marriage of progress to relationship can be a messy process. Thankfully, where there’s a will, there’s a way, even if it doesn’t happen the way we want or when we want.

That said…here are three keys to communicating vision effectively…

  1. Say What You Need to Say

When casting vision, it’s important to remember conciseness is more valuable than eloquence. After all, a platform should never be about exposing what you know (i.e. show off), but rather what your audience needs to know (i.e. show how)…which brings me to my first point:

When communicating what an audience needs to know, start with what you need to say first.

More specifically, don’t just filter your content; break it down into lucid, bite-sized bits. That way, you can better discern what is necessary and what is footnote material before you communicate.

For instance, as a wordsmith in youth ministry, I’ve learned my best points, whether delivering a sermon or leading a team meeting, are best received when they lack syntactic ambiguity. In other words, when I use words and phrases that don’t mean different things to different people, not only do I enable my content to be coherent, but I empower my students to interpret it the way it was intended.

Bottom line: Vision doesn’t just point people in the right direction (i.e. makes it plain; see Romans 1:19), it shows them how to get there (bonus points if you include illustrations). Therefore, if you want your audience to capture the vision, make sure you say what you need to say and what your audience needs to hear, not what you want to say or what they think they want to hear.

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  1. Speak the Truth in Love

Yeah, yeah…you get this in theory, but if you’re like me in the sense this doesn’t come as easy in execution, remember you may be in a time crunch, you may have a lot on your plate; however, if you’re not communicating truth in love along the way, not only do you risk a discouraged team, but a disjointed vision split from purpose.

To piggy-back off point #1: what you need to say can’t be what you need to say if love isn’t a part of it. Sure, you may be brimming with epiphanies and award-winning ideas, but if vision isn’t vision without truth and truth isn’t truth without love, then vision can’t be vision detached from best intention.

Remember vision not only seeks the best possible corporate outcome, but inspires love among its enforcers.  Thus, if you aim to love, not only will team morale enhance, but  the bond between vision and audience will tighten as well.

Bottom line: 1) Without love, vision is nothing more than a good idea. 2) Vision, in the context of love, motivates people to keep pursuing it. 3) If you know the truth, speak it in love; if you don’t, love as you pursue it. Either way, it’s a win-win.

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  1. Make it Memorable

While vision, at its core, is the mergence of point #1 and #2, if it lacks conviction or captivation, chances are it’s not memorable either. Granted, truth should never be a function of marketability; however, while good vision knows its audience, great vision considers what they’ll remember.

Hence, it’s worth asking: how do you take an entire vision and frame it into something that’s easy to remember and hard to forget?

For starters, it’s always best to keep it simple and straightforward. Focus on syntax and word selection. Use correct grammar.  Be exact in meaning. Then, if necessary, add some flair and poetic license (i.e. turn it into a jingle, structure it ABC style, pose it with rhyme scheme, integrate a relatable metaphor/simile, etc.) Whatever method you apply, remember the goal is to make sure your audience can extend the vision. While making vision plain may seem contrary to making it memorable, if you consider ‘plain’ as the foundation, it will ultimately enable you to build your vision in a way people can understand and promote.

Bottom line: When vision becomes memorable, the impacts become inevitable.

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Photo creds: Trendy Bloggers, Giphy