Creative Leadership

When Leaders Don’t Enjoy Spending Time With Their Team

In my consulting work over the last 30 years, one of the most common complaints I get – particularly at churches and nonprofit organizations – is that leaders don’t spend much time with their team.  Understand it’s not just about being busy. In most situations it’s pastors, executives, COO’s and other leaders who simply don’t enjoy spending time with their team. In case that’s happening at your organization, and since I’ve heard it from both sides, when it happens, here’s my advice for both parties:

To the employees on the team: Get on the leader’s wavelength.  Chances are, you’re a specialist and the leader isn’t. For instance, I often hear from church communications and media people that the pastor won’t spend time with them. In most cases, it’s because you want to talk about audio levels, lighting cues, or social media ideas. But the pastor is focused on reaching more people with the message, leading a wide ranging team, and how to be more effective in the pulpit. Get on that wavelength (and start feeding him ideas) and he or she will start spending more time with you than you even want.

It’s the same with every team member, whatever your area of expertise. The pastor is interested in a bigger picture, so get on that wavelength, and help him accomplish those goals. It reminds me of the old saying, “When you start helping other people reach their goals, they’ll start helping you reach yours.”

And by the way – constantly bringing up problems doesn’t help.   It’s not that leaders want to ignore problems, but keep in mind that he or she is getting that same drumbeat from everyone on the staff.  So whenever you can, become a problem solver without getting the leader involved, and for the rest – don’t bring up a problem unless you have a potential solution.

To the leader:  There’s a couple of situations I’ve seen over the years. The first is when a leader has been cheated, taken advantage of, or let down by an employee in the past.  I understand that sense of disappointment, and the desire to just not deal with it anymore. But as long as that person is gone, then you need to re-establish regular contact with the new team. If you don’t do that, you’re undercutting your own mission and goals.

If that’s not the case, the second option is pretty simple: If you’re not spending time with your leadership team, then you probably have the wrong leadership team. Granted, it may be that they don’t understand my recommendation above, and it would be worth sharing with them. You’re the leader, so teach your team. Help them understand your focus and how they can help you.

But if that doesn’t work, you simply may need a new team. Chemistry matters in building great teams, and if you don’t enjoy being with yours, then you’re not going to maximize the relationship.  Teams only work when leaders engage and inspire them to accomplish great things. If you’re avoiding your team, then stop, deal with the issue, and get back to making an impact – together.

What do you need to do to re-engage the leader and team at your organization?

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10 Comments

  1. I love the team I work with. After so many years of doing it all by myself (yeah some of that my fault) or not having a team who wanted to work, it is nice having one now. We get along well and have fun outside the work environment. We go to lunch together. Laugh. Don’t talk shop. Your suggestions are great as well Phil.

  2. I love spending time with my teams, both professionally and having lunch with them. We work hard but we also laugh together, like Bill (cycleman).

    What I find most difficult is attempting to engage a leader who has a short attention span, and is easily distracted at the same time. For anyone pitching a big picture idea or a solution to a problem in “bullet point” language in three minutes or less knows it can be a challenge. After three minutes you’ve lost them… and then the presenter(s) realize the leader only caught half of what was said.

    Many of the leaders I’ve worked with over the years fit this type of profile. I’ve recently discovered that pitching ideas and solutions to leaders who fit this profile do best when images, video clips or diagrams are presented to them. You can say more by saying less by simply illustrating it. Leaders with short attention spans/distracted, engage and connect quicker via visual vs. just talking to them… and you can accomplish it in three minutes or less in most cases. It also helps with their memory retention, as most leaders have a lot on their mind and much to remember. I feel hopeful with my new discovery; making a better connection with leaders. Great advise Phil, to both leaders and teams. Things to think about….

  3. LOVE THIS POST.

    One of the biggest organizational constraints I’ve seen in churches is the lack of relationship development – starting from the staff-circle out.

    In my experience, if the staff doesn’t feel like family, the church never will. A lot of churches struggle with developing a culture of family, because the staff still feels like orphans so they can’t pass the sense of adoption on to the ones they touch & lead.

  4. Phil, thanks for speaking to both sides. Too many articles speak in tough terms to the staff and neglect to consider the dysfunctions of leaders. It takes the whole team to build the trust in both directions, and that takes investing quality time and risking sharing openly.

  5. Communication is key! We are all after the same goal… but the working out of it is different from the pulpit than from behind the camera or the communications desk. Thanks for sharing workable tips to get us on the same side.

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