SASKATOON — Building effective teams that are both living and modeling Christian leadership while effectively growing disciples was the objective of an annual day of formation hosted by the Lay Employees Association of the Diocese of Saskatoon (LEADS) May 25 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.
Some 35 attended the workshop from across the diocese. Workshop facilitator was Paul Magnus, professor of leadership and management and former president at Briercrest College in Caronport, Sask., who presented practical ways to strengthen a culture of teamwork and to collaborate effectively.
Magnus described his goal as providing insights and resources that would help teams become “dream releasers.”
In growing disciples, faith leaders can be either “multipliers” or “diminishers,” he said. Some leaders inspire, others have a neutral impact, while some actually “squelch” the mission. He challenged participants to address the question, “Is our team functioning as an intentional multiplier?”
“The best leaders make everyone grow,” he said. “It starts by having a multiplier mindset and intentionally wanting to nurture the strengths of other members on the team.”
In an inter-dependent team model, the role of a leader is to be a liberator, “freeing people to be what God has gifted them to be,” as well as being one who challenges, empowers, and encourages debate and diversity, said Magnus.
It is not just the leader that creates and enhances teamwork, he added. “In some ways, you are more important to a team that you are on, than you are to the team that you lead.”
He encouraged parish teams to “have holy conversations,” to pray and celebrate together, and to consciously build a dream for how they want to operate as a team and what they hope to accomplish in their ministry.
In group discussion, Magnus drew out the positives of teamwork as a leadership model: teamwork brings more gifts to the table, building a synergy that is greater than the individual parts; it is life-giving, relationship-focused, builds unity and encourages staff retention.
Working as a team is ultimately more effective than a hierarchical model, he said. No single leader is an unlimited resource: a team model recognizes that fact, and provides “an identity that runs deeper and wider.”
A team model also reflects the Gospel and the kind of leadership modelled by Jesus, said Magnus. “In a world where we have learned independence first and above all, it is hard for us to learn inter-dependence. That is why it is so important to model it,” he said.
Christ’s prayer from John 17 that his disciples might be one so that the world will see and believe, and Jesus’ words to the disciples about leading as servants were cited by Magnus, who also used a ladder as a prop to demonstrate how Christ put aside his glory to journey with us.
Magnus encouraged parish and ministry teams to work together to clarify the “who, why, what and how” of teamwork in their setting and context, to identify challenges and team dysfunction, and then envision where the team can change and adapt to achieve greater fusion in achieving their ministry goals.
Without interdependence, team members don’t freely contribute ideas, fearing they will be undervalued, judged or brushed aside; they hesitate to speak in the team meeting and instead hold “parking lot” team meetings, said Magnus. On a team without interdependence, team members feel group meetings are a waste of time, or the agenda is forced. Over time, the best ideas are unheard.
Leaders can build interdependent teams by admitting they are a limited resource and honestly seeking to be a “learner,” he said. On an inter-dependent team, both the team leader and the team members help every team member find their voice, and no one wonders if they or their opinions matter, he said.
Workshop participants engaged in a number of practical exercises modeling brainstorming techniques and collaborative decision-making, as Magnus encouraged them to create a team covenant and develop a better understanding of how to build a strong team.