How to Rewire Your Teams for Maximum Collaboration

Do key leaders in your organization only think about their ministry area and not the entire organization?

Divisions are necessary in all organizations, even churches. They provide the structure that allows your ministry to function smoothly. Every organization is divided into divisions, functions, or some type of grouping. Doing so allows each group to develop the special skill sets needed to make it function.

But when departments or functional areas become isolated from one another it causes problems. Leaders often refer to this as creating silos.

But organizational silos can also cause problems – the same structural benefits listed above also prevent the flow of information, focus, and control outward. In order for an organization to work efficiently, decisions need to be made across silos.

To break the down the barriers of silos in your organization, the goal is not to destroy the meaningful structural divisions themselves but to eliminate the problems that silos cause.

Many organizations will face the following barriers:

  • Uncoordinated decision-making
  • Competing priorities
  • Dilution of energy and effort

The following excerpt will provide your organization tools to help break down the silos in your organization.


THE QUICK SUMMARYMidnight Lunch, Sarah Miller Caldicott

Thomas Edison created multi-billion dollar industries that still exist today. What many people don’t realize is that his innovations were generated through focused approaches to teamwork and collaboration.

Authored by the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Midnight Lunch provides an intriguing look at how to use Edison’s collaboration methods to strengthen live and virtual teams today.



A church accomplishing its mission requires many people working on multiple teams to be successful. Often, these teams drift into a pattern of accomplishing things “their way,” erroneously thinking that what’s best for their team will be best for the organization as a whole.

This lack of coordinated decision making across the organization is the third indicator of silos in the organization.

True collaboration operates like an invisible glue that fuses learning, insight, purpose, complexity, and results together in one continuous effort.

Thomas Edison viewed true collaboration among his teams as a value creation continuum, recognizing that complexity was a norm that all team members needed to understand and address. Here is a four-phase model of the collaboration process that translates Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader. A core question serves as a launching point for the exploration of each phase.

> How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

> How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

> Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

> How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Midnight Lunch


Church leadership teams aren’t working to invent the next light bulb, but Edison’s Four Collaboration Phases can be instructive for leaders who want to break down silos on their teams

Within the four phases of capacity, context, coherence, and complexity lies the invisible glue that can help your organization develop true collaboration practices to achieve your mission.

Phase 1 – Capacity

Create your own “midnight lunch” experience by ordering pizza or other takeout food. Pick a unique place in your normal environment that is not normally associated with regular tasks, or go offsite. Use the informal atmosphere to foster conversations about interest areas of all your group members. Actively listen to the conversations, and develop a deeper level of knowledge – and connection – with your teammates.

Phase 2 – Context

As a team, take 10 minutes and create an individual list of the various sources of information you draw from each week. Does your team see a pattern in their lists? Now challenge them to create another list of five additional sources that will intentionally shift the context of their information-gathering. During weekly meetings, take five minutes to share how this new context is broadening their ministry context.

Phase 3 – Coherence

When team members begin to use self-referencing language (I, me, mine) more than team-referencing language (us, our, ours), it is an indicator that defenses are being raised and the team is in danger of losing coherence. Often, the language of the team is the first indicator of a team losing its momentum toward a shared goal. Lead your team to be constantly aware of their language, and guide them to practice inclusive language by first modeling it yourself.

Phase 4 – Complexity

Among all organizations, the church has the most potential for the existence of excessive hierarchy. To overcome this, lead your team to clear away internal roadblocks which add unnecessary time and complexity to your process. The use of the strategy map process above can be both a beginning point and continual guide to your journey toward simplification.

Closing Thoughts

Cooperation, communication, and collaboration are three keys to breaking down the organizational silos that are keeping you from achieving your mission.

Taken from SUMS Remix, Issue 9-3, March, 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

LEGO Bricks: Toys for Kids, Lessons for Adults

LEGO Bricks and I go a long way back.

As a boy growing up in the mid-60’s, LEGO play sets were a treat at our church. After we completed our Sunday School lesson, and if we had any free time, and if the weather wouldn’t allow outside play, our teachers would bring out a big box of LEGO Bricks and let us have at it.

Lego Bricks - pile

When I became a parent in the early 80’s, it wasn’t long before the first of dozens of LEGO sets appeared. Over the years, our four children (now 35, 31, 27, and 23) were the recipients of LEGO play sets with themes like Castles, Undersea Adventures, Cities, and of course, Star Wars. For some reason, our second son was captivated by the Star Wars universe, especially LEGO sets with a Star Wars theme. Even at age 31 and in the Air Force, he still manages to acquire a new LEGO set every Christmas (my wife and I – guilty as charged!).

With 4 grandchildren now part of our extended family, the LEGO fascination has been passed on to a new generation of Adams kids. It started with Duplos for Jack, but at age 8 he has rapidly progressed to creating masterpieces with traditional LEGO sets. Lucy, age 5, is enjoys regular LEGOs but always eyes her dad’s Star Wars collection. Lola, 3 years old, left Duplos quickly after eying her brother’s LEGOs. Leia, almost 3, doesn’t have a chance! Between her Star Wars dad and sister, she will probably pass us all in LEGO abilities!

LEGO Bricks are not just for kids. The LEGO Group – reluctantly at first, but now all in – regularly connects with AFOL (Adult Fans of LEGO) groups. There are user groups like LUGNET (LEGO User Group Network) and dozens of conventions, competitions, and the like all over the world.

The full-scale replica of a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter astounds me: It’s 43 feet long with a 44-foot wingspan, weighs over 22 tons, and was built with over 5 million LEGO bricks. A crew of 32 builders took over 4 months to construct it.


All from a plastic toy brick which only has value when it’s connected to another brick.

Authors Ron Hunter and Michael Waddell recognized this, and included the LEGO Brick in their book Toy Box Leadership. Here’s how they saw the value of LEGO Bricks when talking about leadership:

LEGO Bricks provide the essence of the leadership lesson on Relationships: Building begins with connecting.

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional value

  • Connecting builds a strong foundation
  •  Connecting unleashes the power of synergy
  • Connecting utilizes the strength of unity

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional ability

  • LEGO bricks are reliable
  • LEGO bricks are reusable
  • LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

LEGO Leaders recognize connectional failure

  • Misplaced bricks
  • Forced bricks
  • Isolated bricks
  • Unorganized bricks


Leaders often get so caught up in the programs that they forget about the people – the building blocks of any organization. There may be tremendous value in plans, but the strength of any organization is in its relationships.

In LEGOS – and in organizations – building always begins with the clicking sound of connections.


Toy Box LeadershipToy Box Leadership

Consider the LEGO Brick…

It’s the ubiquitous toy.

Lego red brick

Lego pieces of all varieties constitute a universal system. Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers and adults.

It’s been named the Toy of the Year, Decade, and Century.

Who hasn’t been mesmerized for hours, building things, tearing them down, and starting over? It’s been a part of children’s lives since 1949 – but before that, LEGO meant wooden toys.

Speaking of meaning, the word LEGO in Danish means “play well.”

That applies to adults, too. LEGO bricks may have been designed with children in mind, but it didn’t take long for adults to get into the act.

A global Lego subculture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and themed amusement parks. All for the kids, right?


Each Lego piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When two pieces are engaged they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled. The machines that make Lego bricks have tolerances as small as 10 micrometers.

The Lego Group estimates that in the course of five decades it has produced some 400 billion Lego blocks. Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 36 billion per year, or about 1140 elements per second.

And yet with all this, remember these two complementary facts about LEGOs:

  • The unique and singular purpose of a LEGO brick is to connect with another brick.

  • A single LEGO brick is worth, well, practically nothing.

What will you learn from LEGO today?

Lessons in Leadership from a Solar Paradox

Last night the Winter Solstice occurred at 11:48 PM ET, making today the first day of Winter in the U.S., and the shortest day of the year. This is a typical day for me, in that I see both the sunrise and the sunset. Reflecting on this, a question popped into my mind:

Why does the dawn “break” but the sun “sets”?

From the science perspective, they are equally defined: when the upper edge of the sun appears (or disappears) on the horizon, that’s the sunrise (or sunset).

In our language, however, the dawn appears in an instant (breaks) while the sunset takes its time (sets).

I’m no scientist, but I think it’s a matter of visual contrast. In the darkness before dawn, the world is hidden. Unless our eyes have adjusted to the darkness, everything is hidden to us – until the sun illuminates it in a flash. At that instant, everything becomes clear.

As the day winds down, we are cognizant of our surroundings even as the light fades into darkness. We are comforted by what we see, even when we can’t see it any longer. The memory of what we saw remains even when we can’t see it.

As a leader, we often have both dawn and sunset moments. Sometimes we sense things around us but only see them when something “breaks” – an idea, or a comment, or a situation. Other times, we are so familiar with the visible that we “see” it even when it’s not there.

A wise leader knows the difference, and can utilize both “breaking” and “setting.”



The Influence of a Father: Passion

My father never worked a day in his life.

Do not misunderstand me: my father was a hard worker. He was born on the eve of the Great Depression, the youngest of six children. He grew up on the grounds of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, where his father was the stock keeper. He moved a couple of times before entering high school. Upon graduation, he entered the Army Air Corps and served until the fall of 1946. Upon returning home he worked in a factory for two years, when at age 22, he opened a Gulf Service Station with his brother. He continued to operate that gas station for the next 44 years, mostly by himself. The hours were long: 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.

He dealt with steaming hot cars in the summer, and worked through cold wet winters as well. His gas station opened up as a full-service station, and stayed that way for the entire 44 years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means my father pumped the gas into the cars – and washed the windshields, and checked the oil in the engine, and sometimes checked the air in the tires. That’s for every car that pulled up to the gas pumps.

Looking back over my years at home, and in the years following my going off to college, starting a family, and all the way up until the close of the gas station upon his retirement in 1993, I realize now that my father never worked a day in his life.

No, he followed this advice: find something you like to do so much that you would gladly do it for nothing; then learn to do it so well that people are happy to pay you for it.

That’s what my father did: his passion for serving people by pumping their gas was his career.

Following your passion is the key to finding your potential. When a person doesn’t have passion, life can become pretty monotonous. Everything is a “have to” and nothing is a “want to.”

John Maxwell had this to say about passion:

Passion is an incredible asset for any person, but especially for leaders. It keeps us going when others quit. It becomes contagious and influences others to follow us. It pushes us through the toughest of times and gives us energy we did not know we possessed.

Passion fuels us in ways that the following assets can’t:

  • Talent…is never enough to enable us to reach our potential
  • Opportunity…will never get us to the top by itself
  • Knowledge…can be a great asset, but it won’t make us “all we can be”
  • A great team…can fall short

Passion is a real difference-maker.

For 44 years my father lived off of the energy that came from loving what he did and doing what he loved.

To most people, there is a big difference between work and play. Work is what they have to do to earn a living so that someday they can do what they want to do. Don’t live your life that way. Choose to do what you love and make the necessary adjustments to make it work in your life.

And you will never work another day in your life.

reflections following my father’s death, and revisited two years later as my mother begins a major transition in life

Why Be Ordinary?

The first step to becoming extraordinary is simply to stop being ordinary.

Here are five suggestions to help you:

  • Avidly collect firsthand experiences– Sherlock Holmes’ greatest claim to fame was his power of observation. Make the effort to observe and understand the nuances of what is going on in your organization. Just one among many leaders? You are still the only “you”, and you know your experiences better than anyone else. Get out from behind your desk, and know what’s happening out there. First-hand observations are critically important-make it a part of your regular routine to gather them.
  • Have a “beginner’s mind” – set aside what you know and be open to looking at things with a fresh perspective. You have extensive education and experience, you may understand tradition, you probably have preconceived notions about things. Don’t forget the importance of starting with a blank page when confronted with new opportunity.
  • Keep an “idea wallet” so you don’t lose momentary insights– anthropologists carry a notebook and camera to record their discoveries. Try recording ideas in real-time – make use of current technologies like your mobile phone with camera, or do it the old-fashioned way with a journal or index card. When you see or hear something interesting, record it for later development and exploration with your team.
  • Become a proactive “idea-broker” and practice continuous cross-pollination– Develop solid, trusted relationships across departments and lines in your organization so that you can understand and apply the lessons you learn in one context to another. Combine learning and collaboration so that you become a conduit for fresh ideas for your team.
  • Embrace the power of storytelling – telling a story has an emotional appeal that transcends the raw data we often collect. Listen to your team. Encourage them to listen to those they come into contact with. Let the stories that come out of those conversations become the vehicles for communicating your message. It will be powerful, memorable, and uniquely yours.

Stop being ordinary TODAY. Reject routine and set yourself and your team on a course to becoming extraordinary.

The world will notice.

inspired by and adapted from The Big Moo, edited by Seth Godin

The Big Moo

The Heart of Leadership

There is a lot more to leadership than great individual work. – Mark Miller, The Heart of Leadership

The Heart of LeadershipMark Miller, VP of Organizational Effectiveness at Chick-Fil-A, has just released his newest book, The Heart of Leadership. In his latest enlightening and entertaining business fable, he describes the five unique character traits exhibited by exceptional leaders and how to cultivate them.


If you don’t demonstrate leadership character, your skills, and your results will be discounted, if not dismissed. – Mark Miller



In setting up the true “heart” of leadership, Miller uses the familiar and helpful metaphor of the iceberg: typically we only see about 10% above the waterline, with 90% below. Miller depicts the iceberg as a picture of leadership, with leadership skills being the visible 10%.

Great Leaders SERVE

  • See the Future
  • Engage and Develop Others
  • Reinvent Continuously
  • Value Results and Relationships
  • Embody the Values

That metaphor in itself is a helpful reminder, but the true strength of the book comes as Miller develops the “heart” of leadership – the 90% below the waterline.

Leadership is not about what you do nearly as much as it’s about who you are becoming – the heart of leadership is a matter of the heart. – Mark Miller

Download a sample chapter here.

Applying the Power of AND: Understanding the Universal Needs of the People You Serve AND Innovating to Meet the Unique Needs of Your Local Environment

There is an ongoing debate among cultural anthropologists between the two conflicting perspectives of universalism and cultural relativism. Universalism suggests that the underlying similarities among all people are greater than their cultural differences, while cultural relativism asserts that cultural differences have a profound effect on people, making it difficult for “outsiders” to fully understand the relevant context of behavior.

As a church leader, you may not consider yourself a cultural anthropologist, but go back and read that last phrase and you will probably change your mind.

To put it a different way, how easy is it for “outsiders” to become connected to your organization?

In Leading the Starbucks Way, organizational consultant Joseph Michelli uses two years of research with dozens of leaders in the Starbucks organization to develop five actionable principles that forge emotional connections that drive innovation, grow new business product lines, and foster employee and customer loyalty. These principles are “brief and clear, and put the customers, products, and experiences at the purposeful center of Starbucks.”

Leadership Principle #3: Reach for Common Ground

Starbucks leaders have made their share of mistakes in attempting to strike a balance between the universal and the cultural. In the process of their setbacks and victories, Starbucks serves as a helpful guide on how to make powerful and respectful connections in new opportunities.     – Joseph Michelli, Leading the Starbucks Way

The goal of leadership is to create the right environment for human connections to occur and to help staff members manage the inevitable issues that surface.

ChurchWorld Application

  1. Are you paying attention to your Guests’ needs to be seen and heard?
  2. Would you go so far as to say your Guests feel understood and known?
  3. Do your team members say thank you, offer a fond farewell, and invite guests into future opportunities to connect?
  4. When it comes to seeing, hearing, and knowing your Guests, what are the strengths and opportunities for your organization?
  5. Are you connecting with each Guest verbally and nonverbally upon first contact?
  6. Do you go from listening to Guests to Guest knowledge on which you can act?

Your community has all kinds of specific challenges. Do you know what they are?

Understanding your local predicament is about having an intimate grasp of the soil where God has called you to minister. It’s about walking firsthand your contours of locality.

Starbucks leadership has deployed a series of key approaches and adjustments to maximize the local relevance of products, services, and physical environment. They include decentralization and revitalization of their corporate structure, developing relationships with local allies, and understanding the physical properties of history of the community they serve.

 Considering local cultural influences is an important layer of our design process to ensure market relevance. For us, it starts with listening and observing the needs of our partners and customers. It’s about communicating up front, talking to customers, listening to partners, and it’s seeing through the lens of that collective experience.     – Thom Breslin, Director, Design, Starbucks UK

ChurchWorld Application

  1. Are you seeking to provide the same thing to everyone, or do you understand the needs of unique needs of different people?
  2. How far can and do you go to achieve local relevance?
  3. Have you completed a “sense of place” in your new markets such that you can blend your brand with local needs?

Leaders understand that maximized choice is essential to today’s consumer, but with choice comes a responsibility to ensure that you can execute the new product offerings at a level commensurate with your existing levels of excellence.

 If you don’t innovate, renovate, and constantly seek relevance – you die.     – Thom Breslin

ChurchWorld Application

  1. What are the product rituals and daily use patterns of prospective customers in new markets?
  2. How are you positioning your product (define or give examples) to capture customers in the context of their lifestyles?
  3. What are you doing to stay alive and thrive in new opportunities?

Starbucks leaders actively seek local relevance and adjust their product and service offerings accordingly. When leaders find the right business partners and make conscious and concerted efforts to give customers what they love, their business achieve lasting connections and maximal success.

What are the unique needs and opportunities where God has placed your church?

Part 6 of a series in the 2013 GsD Fall Term

Leading the Starbucks Way: Information, Insights, and Analysis Needed to Create a High-Performance Guest-Oriented Organization

inspired by and adapted from Leading The Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Level 5: Lead from the Pinnacle

Definition of a Level 5 Leader: People follow you because of who you are and what you represent

Leadership at Level 5 lifts the entire organization and creates an environment that benefits everyone in it, contributing to their success.

          John Maxwell, The 5 Levels of Leadership

Today’s post is the final in a series of five that takes a closer look at John Maxwell’s latest book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. As indicated in the introduction to this series, “5 Levels” has been five years in the making. I’ve been in leadership development in ChurchWorld for over 30 years – and I’ve been looking for a resource like this.

To whet your appetite and convince you to drop everything and get your own copy today, over this series I’m going to quote Maxwell’s top 3 points in each of five sections for each of the 5 Levels. In math shorthand, that’s 3 x 5 x 5. The product of that equation is a leadership development gold mine for you!

 Level 5– The Pinnacle

The Upside of the Pinnacle

  1. Pinnacle leadership creates a Level 5 organization
  2. Pinnacle leadership creates a legacy within the organization
  3. Pinnacle leadership provides an extended platform for leading

The Downside of the Pinnacle

  1. Being on the pinnacle can make you think you’ve arrived
  2. Being on the pinnacle can lead you to believe your own press
  3. Being on the pinnacle can make you lose focus

Best Behaviors on Level 5

  1. Make room for others at the top
  2. Continually mentor potential Level 5 leaders
  3. Create an inner circle that will keep you grounded

Help Others Move Up to Levels 4 and 5

  1. Identify and create the crucial leadership lessons they must learn
  2. Look for unexpected crucible moments they can learn from
  3. Use your own crucible moments as guidelines to teach others

Guide to Being Your Best at Level 5

  1. Remain and humble and teachable
  2. Maintain your core focus
  3. Create the right inner circle to keep you grounded

Developing leaders to the point where they are able and willing to develop other leaders is the most difficult leadership task of all. But here are the payoffs: Level 5 leaders develop Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. They create legacy in what they do. People follow them because of who they are and what they represent. In other words, their leadership gains a positive reputation. As a result, Level 5 leaders often transcend their position, their organization, and sometimes their field.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld asking “How can I develop leaders?”, then John Maxwell’s book The 5 Levels of Leadership will certainly provide you with proven steps to answer that question.



Level 4: Lead by People Development

Definition of a Level 4 Leader: People follow you because of what you have done for them personally

Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.

          John Maxwell, The 5 Levels of Leadership

Today’s post is the fourth of a series of five that takes a closer look at John Maxwell’s latest book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. As indicated in the introduction to this series, “5 Levels” has been five years in the making. I’ve been in leadership development in ChurchWorld for over 30 years – and I’ve been looking for a resource like this.

To whet your appetite and convince you to drop everything and get your own copy today, over this series I’m going to quote Maxwell’s top 3 points in each of five sections for each of the 5 Levels. In math shorthand, that’s 3 x 5 x 5. The product of that equation is a leadership development gold mine for you!

 Level 4 – People Development

 The Upside of People Development

  1. People development sets you apart from most leaders
  2. People development assures that growth can be sustained
  3. People development empowers others to fulfill their leadership responsibilities

 The Downside of People Development

  1. Self-centeredness can cause leaders to neglect people development
  2. Insecurity can make leaders feel threatened by people development
  3. Shortsightedness can keep leaders from seeing the need for people development

Best Behaviors on Level 4

  1. Recruiting – find the best people possible
  2. Positioning – placing the right people in the right position
  3. Modeling – showing others how to lead

Beliefs that Help a Leader Move Up to Level 5

  1. The highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders, not gain followers or do work
  2. To develop leaders, you must create a leadership culture
  3. Developing leaders is a life commitment, not a job commitment

 Guide to Growing Through Level 4

  1. Be willing to keep growing yourself
  2. Decide that people are worth the effort
  3. Work through your insecurities

 Good leaders on Level 4 invest their time, energy, money, and thinking into growing others as leaders. They look at every person and try to gauge his or her potential to grow and lead – regardless of the individual’s title, position, age, or experience. Every person is a potential candidate for development.

Tomorrow: Level 5 – The Pinnacle