6 Ways to Build a Loyal Team and Become a Better Leader

Today’s blog is from my friend and colleague Todd Adkins. Todd serves as our Director of Leadership at LifeWay. We first served together in student ministry, more than a decade Team Buildingago in Cincinnati, Ohio. I headed to Miami, and Todd went off to McLean Bible Church to serve as executive director of Frontline—the young adult ministry of McLean. Todd is a great strategic thinker and a strong leader and it is an honor to serve alongside him again at LifeWay.

1. If you want a loyal team, help them see their future.

One of the quickest ways to endear yourself to your team is to ask them questions about their goals and aspirations. This can’t be just lip service; you actually have to want to see them develop and be willing to invest yourself in the process as well, even if it means you will have to replace them. In fact, if you’re good, they may even replace you. Put your money where your mouth is and be sure you have the necessary dollars set aside for training and development, but be sure both of you have a destination in mind. There are far too many churches and organizations out there that put money aside for development but don’t have a clear plan in place for their people. Have a clear development pathway for your staff and key volunteer roles. Without a destination in mind, many are on a “Cruise to Nowhere.”

2. Celebrate effort even if the results are less than expected.

I am not talking about creating an environment where everyone gets a trophy and has their turn as employee of the month. There are extenuating circumstances that can thwart the best-laid plans even when they were executed flawlessly. Nothing reveals character like how a leader loses. If they went down swinging, don’t treat them like a loser. They have just shown you what they are made of and learned a valuable lesson or three along the way. Coach them up and process it with them, but celebrate the effort privately and publicly.

3. Hand over more decisions to your team.

Congratulations, you are the leader. While you have every right to make all of the decisions for the team, if you do so, you greatly limit your impact and the impact of your team. Don’t be that guy who makes all the decisions and then complains that your people can’t make decisions for themselves. The truth is the higher the level of leadership, the fewer decisions you should be making. The best way to help your staff person make a decision when they come to you is by asking them questions, starting with: What do you think? Don’t offer ideas; guide them to their own conclusion by asking them questions.

4. Brag on your team.

If you don’t have good things to say about your team on a regular basis, you probably have the wrong team. No leader ever suffers because everyone underneath them is a rock star. Seriously, think about it. When is the last time that someone developed the people around them so well that they got fired.

  • Brag on them privately one on one.
  • Brag on them publicly in front of them.
  • Brag on them privately behind their back; they will hear about it.

When the time comes to have a difficult conversation or when you have to ask them to make a sacrifice, they won’t bat an eye.

5. Offer real time feedback.

Don’t wait for a performance review to address any performance issues that may arise. If you have done a good job with #4, this should be no problem at all. In fact, by keeping close accounts like this, you will further endear yourself to the people you lead.

6. Ask them to teach you something.

This can be personal or professional, but they will likely enjoy and appreciate adding value to their boss. I asked one of our finance guys to teach me how to build a budget that accounted for cannibalization from our main campus when we started doing multi-site. I didn’t just ask for it to be done, I took a genuine interest in his craft, became much more informed, and in the process showed I truly valued his work.

Everybody wants to be liked and to have a loyal staff, but if you apply these principles, you’ll not only have a better staff, you will also become a better leader in the process.

About gabulmer

Christian apologist, husband, father, runner, blogger, leader with LIFE Leadership.
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