Building a NOW Team

Excerpt from “No Opportunity Wasted: The Art of Execution” by Bishop Joseph Walker III (January 2018).

When you begin moving into your assignment and building a support team, keep in mind the importance of developing the right culture. A NOW (No Opportunity Wasted) culture is one that is sustainable and productive. When our church began to grow, it was important to bring alongside the vision-effective staff persons who could assist in moving vision forward.

Staffing is one of the most important decisions of any business or organization. People ask me all the time about the criteria I’ve used in selecting the right people to bring alongside the work God was doing. Allow me to share with you the criteria I use. 

Character

I like to define character as behavior on display. It is at the top of the list when developing a NOW culture. People who are connected to your organization must possess this trait. If they don’t have it, there will be significant damage to your vision. You can’t expect people to be perfect because they’re not, but you can raise a standard that demands people operate at high levels of character. When people have good character, they will not come to your organization with ulterior motives that undermine your vision. People with good character can be trusted. 

Trust is not something easily given. You cannot afford to have people you cannot trust connected to your dream. I’ve seen organizations where distrust was prevalent. When distrust is present, it creates a toxic work environment that makes it nearly impossible to collaborate, because honesty must be present. We are not apt to openly share ideas and thoughts with people we don’t trust, thus limiting the creative bandwidth among those responsible for stewarding the vision. To put it bluntly, it’s difficult to build a team where there has been a violation of trust. 

When I first became a leader, I was a softy. My wife often would tell me that I give everybody a chance to my own fault. I overlooked the obvious and trusted a lot of people who ultimately proved to have no character. I often would attempt to make excuses for them within the organization and deal with it by rearranging our team, shifting them to other departments, in hopes the move would bring a cessation to the tensions the entire team was feeling.

If you have to constantly make excuses for poor character, there is a fundamental problem. I felt a need to salvage them in hopes that it––whatever it was––would magically get better. I learned the hard way that it didn’t. 

Developing a NOW culture demands that there be no compromise with those whose character compromises the integrity of your vision. Admittedly, I would start off giving people a 10 in hopes that they would never disappoint me, but many times they would end up at a 2, because their lack of character kept deducting points. These days, I give everybody a zero and allow them to earn points, therefore, never putting myself in a position to be disappointed and never putting the vision in jeopardy. 

Competence

Competence is simply defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Your vision can only be realized when you have competent people on your team. When competence is part of your culture, it raises the level of expectation regarding what you produce, as well as the level of excellence associated with it.

A major threat to your vision is having expectations for those who lack the ability to produce it. This is a tough space to be in. As your vision begins to grow, your organization or business does, as well. The people connected at one level must be able to maintain the level of efficiency, relevancy, and skill necessary to support the trajectory you are on. This is where difficult decisions have to be made.

You have some good people who are loyal to your vision but no longer have the competency necessary to perform at the high level your vision demands. If you are going to develop a NOW culture, you are going to have to surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and do it well. 

We often put people in positions because they are our friends, or we do them favors when they have fallen on tough times. It’s when the demands of the vision are at their peak that we are able to see incompetence like never before. These are not bad people. The problem is that your vision and its demands for survival have outgrown the capabilities of those who historically were tied to it. 

It’s one thing to have competence, but it’s another thing to have it properly positioned so all the gifts and talents around you can flourish.

Cadence

Cadence is incredibly important. I had the privilege of marching in the school band as a percussion section leader and also as a drum major. Cadence and rhythm are in my blood. When I blew the whistle, it was to establish the tempo or cadence for the band. After blowing the whistle, I would turn away from the band, look forward, and march. The expectation was that once the cadence was set, there was no need for me to look back, wondering if the band was right behind me because I knew they were in step with the tempo I had initiated. 

Peter Drucker, author of “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization,” writes the following concerning transformational leadership: “Lead from the front, don’t push from the rear. The leader articulates clear positions on issues affecting the organization and is the embodiment of the enterprise, of its values and principles.” (Drucker, P. (2008), “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organizations,” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass)

When you are leading from the front, you are modeling the behavior that is expected from those who are following your lead. Your leadership model, once established, then will provide the footprints or blueprint of the design you seek to implement within your organization. If you push from the rear, those who follow you then are left to develop their own tempo instead of emulating your steps.

Don’t apologize for your cadence. People who keep your rhythm are going to end up where you are going. Have the courage to release people who can’t or won’t keep up, because it’s painful to set expectations on people you know don’t have the ability to live up to them. Remember, you are not marching in place. You are progressing forward toward a goal, and those on your team must be able to keep up. 

Excerpt from “No Opportunity Wasted: The Art of Execution” by Bishop Joseph Walker III (January 2018).

Bishop Joseph Warren Walker, III, is the pastor of the historic Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Nashville, TN,and Presiding Bishop of Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship International. In 1992 at the age of 24, Bishop Walker began his pastorate at Mt. Zion with 175 members, which has grown to more than 30,000, and continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. He’s the author of “No Opportunity Wasted: The Art of Execution.” You can connect with Bishop Walker at: https://www.josephwalker3.org/

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