If you have been around ministry and leadership for any length of time, you know that teamwork is at the core of all success. A successful team is built with a group of people that work together to realize a common goal. While the goal and the strategy might be different, the concept of people working together is always a constant.
The challenge comes in when everyone on the team is doing their part, whether leading a department or project, and that department or project becomes their sole focus. This isn’t a hard trap to fall into. When we live in the daily details of our main focus it can become very easy to forget all of the other pieces of the overall strategy that have been put in place to reach the common goal the greater team has.
This is where the term silos comes into play. A team operating in silos isn’t really a team at all. It is a group of people, all doing their own thing, forgetting that their specific job is just as important to the overall mission as everyone else’s job. Silos are the key ingredient to every fractured team. When a team is operating with a silo mentality, it can become very easy to assume that other people around you don’t care about the work you do. Silos can crush morale and will definitely cause damage to the organization’s ability to achieve success.
If you are leading a team that is operating with a silo mentality, it is of the utmost importance that you do the hard work of tearing them down so the team can fire on all cylinders. How do you do this? How do you create a team culture within your area of leadership that encourages teamwork, yet still allows for every person to get their part accomplished without endless meetings and red tape? Here are some thoughts to consider when navigating your team away from a silo model.
Give every department at the table an equal chance to shine.
As the leader, it is your job to point out all of the important things that are happening in every area of ministry. During your team meetings, encourage each team member in the work they are doing. Do this in front of the other team members so that everyone can see how the work they are doing plays into the overall mission. This usually will come in the form of an appreciation. Say things like, “Thank you for building this program, with this foundation you have built, you are making it easier for our other areas to succeed.” When you do this, people will recognize that their decisions within their department can greatly influence the success or failure of the other departments at the table.
Encourage and maybe even require collaboration at every turn.
Silos are virtually impossible when the leaders at the table are constantly asking for feedback and assistance in developing their plans. Consider requiring that any leader ask for the opinion of at least two other leaders at the table before they make a major decision for their area and put it into play. This allows everyone on the team an opportunity to speak up if a potential plan of another department could cause them trouble.
Don’t play favorites.
As the leader, it can be easy to unintentionally communicate that one area is more important than another. To eliminate silos, you must always operate from a round table mentality. Everyone at the table has an equally important role in the overall mission. If you need to put special focus on one area for a season, then communicate to the team the reason and encourage everyone to be on board.
Remove the bad influences.
As Christians, we often avoid difficult conversations when certain team members prove to be unwilling or unable to display a true “team” attitude. Letting these individuals go unchecked though won’t break down the walls that silos create. Instead, they encourage them. If there is an individual on the team that just doesn’t get it, make the difficult decision to transition to something that fits. Remember, just because members on the team don’t agree with an approach, doesn’t mean they aren’t with the team. People that challenge ideas and strategies are important. Just because a person on the team isn’t a “yes man,” they can still be a valuable asset if you listen to what they are saying, and that they are able to support the decisions the team makes at the end of the day.
The greatest thing a leader can do is help everyone work together to achieve the greater goal. Destroy those silos and watch all the great things that can happen!