You Don’t Have to Choose Between Health & Results
When leading a team, it often feels like we have to make a choice: do we create a healthy team culture or do we get results? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Lance Witt is the author of Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul and is a former executive and teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. In this episode, Lance and I discuss how to lead your team to find the essential balance between health and performance.
In this conversation, we discussed:
How terminal niceness is killing your team
How to guard against your blind spots
The attributes of a high performing team
What you can do today to begin balancing the culture
Join the Conversation
We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.
Some things we are hoping to discuss:
- How have you been able to find balance between health and performance?
- What conversations do you regularly have with your team to create a health + performance culture?
- What systems do you have in place to stay aware of your blind spots?
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Tony Morgan: 00:42 Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Tony Morgan, and each week our team has a conversation about helping churches get unstuck. Today I’m going to be talking with Lance Witt. Lance is not only a good friend of mine, he’s also the founder of replenish ministries in his previous life. Lance was an executive and teaching pastor at Saddleback church. Today though, we’re going to be talking about his newest book. It’s called the high impact teams and this discussion about the need for teams to both be high performing and also healthy at the same time. So let’s join this conversation with Lance.
Tony Morgan: 01:25 So Lance, it’s good to be with you today and I just take it for granted because we’ve known each other for several years, but everybody probably doesn’t know who you are. So could you give a little bit of your backstory that lead into today’s conversation?
Lance Witt: 01:39 Absolutely. Thanks Tony. I always love being with you. I’m for 20 years I was a senior pastor in three different churches, kind of small, medium sized churches. Then in 1999 through kind of really a God story, I got invited to join the staff effort. Saddleback church, uh, first was the pastor of discipleship, became pastor, uh, overall the ministries executive pastor. And then one of the teaching pastors was there for seven years. I was there when Rick wrote purpose driven life, which was such a game changer for him and for all of us. And it was a lot of fun. It was a rocket ride, but in some ways it was also a crazy making season. And um, honestly I wasn’t leading myself very well. And after seven years I made the decision to step down and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Honestly, when I left, but again through a pretty dramatic sense of call, God led me to start this ministry that we now call replenish and I’ve been doing that for the last 12 years and so I coach pastors and their teams. I do live plans, do a lot of consulting, some speaking and coming alongside leaders to try to help them live and lead from a healthy soul.
Tony Morgan: 02:50 And we’ve actually had conversations in the past about your book called replenish, but the reason for today’s conversation is your newest book on high impact teams. And uh, thanks for giving me the opportunity to read through this several months ago even before it was released. I’m grateful for that opportunity. And here’s what struck me as I was reading through your book. I’ve read a lot of books on teams, leadership dynamic around building teams and so on. I think what’s really distinctive about your book though, is you raise these two key elements of what a high impact team looks like in that a high impact team has to both have health and they also need to be high performing. And what I find is those two attributes of a high impact team and there are often conflicting with each other and I just wanted to get your take on why do you think that’s the case?
Lance Witt: 03:50 Yeah. I, I don’t think that they have to inherently conflicted with one another, but I think the reason that they do is that almost none of us are good at both sides of this equation. You know, some of us are wired more naturally on the health side, so we’re more pastoral. We’re nurturing by our personality, we’re high on relationship, we care about the team getting along and so we’re going to sort of nurture the people side of this. But those kinds of people are usually not great at dealing with conflict, driving towards the results, that kind of thing. Managing the staff. On the other side, you have people who drive towards results and they’re all about the vision and mission, but unintentionally often they can sort of trample on people. And the people’s side sort of gets pushed to the margins because there’s so much focus on the mission. And so I, and I think all of us have a bent one way or the other, and because of that, when one side of the equation gets neglected, we end up feeling that tension and conflict like that one side is not working well. And I think that’s the reason why it often feels like they conflict.
Tony Morgan: 05:02 Alright, so let’s focus first on team health and here’s the assumption I’m working with Lance. Tell me if I’m wrong. Uh, we, you and I both work primarily with churches and churches are led by people who love Jesus. They love other people. I’m assuming team health in the context of churches. This is a nonissue, right? So why is it then that team health is still a challenge even within the context of the Church Ministry?
Lance Witt: 05:38 Well, so I think one of the big reasons is that I think we suffer from something that I like to call it terminal niceness. And um, you know, we’re so polite, we’re so kind. We are diplomatic. Generally. We don’t do conflict very well. And so often I think one of the reasons health is a problem is because there are issues underneath the culture sometimes that just aren’t dealt with and we never kind of get them out on the table and we never have those uncomfortable conversations. We never sort of press in and work through the hard stuff. And so we sort of have this veneer of politeness and niceness, but often underneath the car, underneath the surface, there’s resentment and there’s dysfunction, there’s a lot of sideways energy. Um, and, and I think so, you know, again, we just have to press into this place of being able to have those uncomfortable conversations.
Lance Witt: 06:36 I think another big reason why health is an issue is, um, we don’t always do a great job of hiring and getting the right person in the right spot. And when that isn’t right, you know, again, sometimes because we don’t deal with the heart issues, um, we ended up with wrong people in the wrong spot and it creates this culture of a unhealth and also lack of performance. And so, um, you know, and I, I wish it wasn’t so, but gosh, I feel like churches, we have a long way to go when it comes to really having healthy relationships and healthy dynamics inside the team.
Tony Morgan: 07:17 Here’s my suspicion when it comes to team health, that if the senior pastor isn’t healthy, the team’s not going to be healthy. And so help us. For those of us that are leading the team, uh, how, how do we begin to take the right steps so that not only we are healthy but then also the teams who are leading are healthy.
Lance Witt: 07:40 No, I think your assumption is right on. I mean, you know, there’s an old saying that speed of the team or speed of the leader, speed of the team. I think that applies here as well. It’s not just about performance, but even about
Lance Witt: 07:52 health and the leader’s self awareness I think is absolutely critical. I, one of my favorite sayings is that self awareness is your best defense against self deceit. And I think that a lot of senior leaders live in self deceit about their own health. And the problem with our blind spots is everybody sees our stuff before we do. And so I think a senior leaders, you have to become a student of your own soul. You have to explore where are your blind spots, what are your insecure charities, what are the old scripts that have governed your life through the years that are still impacting you today? And by the way, all of those scripts always leak out in how we lead teams. And um, and so I think senior pastors have to lean in, they have to be open to honest feedback. And by the way, that means we can’t be defensive when people show up with feedback that feels a little stinging to us and we have to be able to receive that and, and honestly lean in to get better by seeking feedback from those around us. And, you know, I feel like a lot of times senior pastors are not really willing to do that. And you know, a great question for all of us to ask the people that we work with is what’s it like to be on the other side of me? And, and that just opens up a conversation that I think can lead us to a better place of health.
Tony Morgan: 09:19 Let’s flip the conversation a bit. We’ve talked about team health. Let’s flip it to high performance. Again, we work with churches. I’m assuming church teams that high Christian work ethic. Uh, there were building teams based on spiritual gifts. Everybody’s performing the way that God created them, the way that God wired them up. Uh, we serve a great mission, so everybody’s going hard after accomplishing that mission. In other words, there are never any performance issues within the context of church teams. Is that right lance?
Lance Witt: 09:54 Well, and that is absolutely true. And then you and I wake up from our dream and we’re back in reality that that’s not the case.
Tony Morgan: 10:05 Alright? So
Lance Witt: 10:07 I remember one time doing a talk for a group of pastors on Sabbath and I had the leader of the denomination come up to me afterwards and he said, you know, that was a great talk for about 70 percent of the room. He said, but for the other 30 percent the last thing they need is more time to rest and refresh and they got, they need to up their game. When it comes to work ethic, you know, I feel generally that most of us in ministry positions do work hard and we believe in what we’re doing. We’re passionate about that. But I think that doesn’t always translate in the high performance.
Tony Morgan: 10:47 So given that, why do you think there are barriers to performance in the context of the Church Ministry?
Lance Witt: 10:53 I think sometimes honestly it’s just because Sunday is always coming. There’s just a sense of every week we’ve got these services to produce, we’ve got children’s ministry to Ryan, we’ve got new programs that we’re starting. And so this tyranny of the urgent always living in the moment of preparation for what’s coming this week, I think sometimes keeps us from stepping back and going, are we really on mission? Are we really focused on our priorities? Um, you know, in the book the four disciplines of execution, these guys talk about that in their survey of hundreds of businesses that 81 percent of people said that they were not held accountable for results. And so again, I think part of the problem is we’re not having performance conversations, but we can’t have really good performance conversations until we’re really clear about priorities and what people are supposed to be working on.
Lance Witt: 11:51 So not long. I taught on this in a church in Tampa and I asked people to write down what were their top three priorities and I had one of the guys who was a department director write down what he thought were the top priorities for everybody on his team. And then he got together with them one on one and he said, I was absolutely shocked how different their list was the mindless. And he goes. And it wasn’t their fault. It was my fault. I wasn’t clear about what they should be working on. And so I think one of the biggest reasons that people struggle with this is that we’re not clearly identifying what people are supposed to be working on and then holding them accountable for results. So again, there’s a whole lot we can go into that, but I just think, again, this is one of those areas where we have to learn how to be better managers.
Tony Morgan: 12:36 So I don’t know if this will surprise you or not land at the unstuck group. We’re of course working with a number of churches and certainly the churches that we’re working with, Eric are going to be a handful of pastors that are, uh, more, more mission minded, more vision minded and as you alluded to for them, I think the challenge is going to be not only personal health but then leading healthy teams. But more commonly what we find at the unstuck group, it’s the reverse. Um, it’s, it’s the pastor that’s wired relationally. They’re really concerned about personal connection with not only people in the congregation, but people on their staff teams and volunteer leadership. They’re not wired though for performance, for fulfilling the mission and driving towards accomplishing that mission. And so if your that senior Pastor, what would your coaching be? How can. Well, I guess the basic question is, can they overcome that? Can, can they also lead for performance? What should their first steps look like there?
Lance Witt: 13:46 Yeah, I think they absolutely can grow in this area and again, I think they have to acknowledge that they’re wiring is on the other side of this equation. What comes natural to them is the people side is shepherding, is caring for people, but what doesn’t come easy for them is leaning into the productivity and the high performance side of the equation. And so for me, I think it’s acknowledging where your strengths are understanding though that you have to work at getting better, um, you know, on the performance side of this. And so I think you’ve got to become a student of this. What is good management look like, read some good books like four disciplines of execution and figure out what is it going to look like to really ramp up. Um, you know, the performance of your team, you know, getting people around clear priorities and all that stuff I think is something that’s very trainable and all of us can learn it.
Lance Witt: 14:41 I think you have to be willing to lean on. And I think there’s another component of this. It’s not just the training and education issue, it’s also the courage issue. I think it takes courage for a pastor to go, this is not my strength, but I’m going to lean into the performance side. And by the way, when I do that, it’s going to make some things uncomfortable. Some people are going to get a little bit stressed out because we’re asking things of them now that we never did before. And so you’re creating a new culture and so you can expect that that’s going to cause a little bit of a conflict and tension within the organization, but it’s the right thing. I think when we come back to this issue of what we steward that we’ve been given resources and people and a mission and that there’s a lot at stake. We don’t have a choice, but to get better at the high performance side of this,
Tony Morgan: 15:33 since I’ve read your book already, I know you dive deep into both sides, both the health and the performance side, but us with some hope for the. For the teams that you’ve seen that have gotten to the right place and both of these areas and that you would now consider to be truly high impact teams. What are some of those attributes that we can be hoping to see with our teams as we move on?
Lance Witt: 16:03 Yeah, I, I guess Tony, the first thing I would say is you have to take a longterm view of this and a lot of this is. I sometimes will talk about the difference between dripping in a healthy culture in your organization versus power washing it and some times you know, we want to turn on the power washer and with all the pressure sort of just clean everything up, get it all, you know, a nice and neat now. And the truth is the culture is going to change just a little bit over time as you drip in healthy things. And so again, rather than getting in a room and having a big whiteboard session and mandate a new culture for your staff, my suggestion is just start doing healthy things. Just start, you know, investing in loving on the people in your team. Just start having conversations with people about priorities and what they’re working on.
Lance Witt: 16:56 Have Real time coaching conversations and just start to slowly, incrementally begin to drip in the things that will move you down the field and get traction for you as a team. And you can do this, you can get better, but it won’t happen by accident and you won’t get there. I just sort of coasting along, doing what you’ve always done. I think you have to be an aggressive, hungry learner. And you know, I’m always telling pastors these days, hey, if you want your team to be more productive, you need to get more productive. Personally. You need to model this because you’re going to set the tone and the pace. And so, you know, my, my challenge to leaders is, hey, you can do this, but you’ve got to light a little bit of a fire and you’ll get some hungry, you know, kind of attitude about learning and growing so that you and your team get better. And again, always connect it back to the why. It’s because of what the high calling that we have from Christ is. It leads us to, to kind of put the effort in.
Tony Morgan: 18:01 Lance, thanks again for today’s conversation. Uh, I just want to tell you, if you’re listening commonly to the unstuck church podcast, or if you watch videos on our websites, uh, you’re going to hear us talk about this a lot in the coming weeks and months. Uh, this, this concept of really being a high impact team. And primarily the reason why is as we’ve worked with hundreds of churches through the years, our focus at the unstuck group has always been on ministry strategy, helping to get clarity about where God’s taking the church in the future and then how we’re going to get there. But what we find is churches can have the best strategy around the best strategy in the world if the team is not healthy, if the team is not high performing, if it’s not a high impact team, it doesn’t matter. And so, uh, this is going to be a priority conversation for us in the coming months.
Tony Morgan: 18:57 We’ll continue not only to point you to Atlanta is doing with this book and his other resources, but will be coming alongside lance, uh, to also provide some more opportunities for churches in this area. So, uh, again, you might have great strategy, but we want your team to be healthy. We want your team to be a high performing and really that probably begins with your leadership. And so, uh, we were not going to just leave you hanging out there who are going to point you to lance to his book and then we’ll come alongside you with some other opportunities in the future. Lance, thanks again for, uh, not only writing the book for, for being just a good friend. I really, I really appreciate you.
Lance Witt: 19:39 Thank you, Tony. It’s always an honor to get to do anything with you. I love what you’re doing at the unstuck group and I just look forward to the future and how we’re going to partner together, so thank you for that.
Tony Morgan: 19:49 Well, thank you lance and thank you to our listeners. If you’d like to learn more about high impact, teams will link to resources in the show notes for this episode at the unstuck group Dot com, and if this episode has been helpful to you, we’d love for you to share the good news with others and do that through social media on twitter, facebook, just use, #unstuckchurch, and encourage your friends to listen to the podcast as well. We’ll look forward to being with you next week. You can get more information about the podcast and all of our other resources to equip you and your leadership at theunstuckgroup.com.