I love leading teams and navigating all the unique nuances that come with that responsibility. One of these most artful nuances is discerning what is “too much” for the team, or a person on the team, to handle.
The complexity with this question is that load and pressure, though very real, are also very subjective. They are subjective because:
1. People have very different amounts of physical energy.
This doesn’t make anyone better or worse than their teammates, but it’s nonetheless a physical reality.
2. People have significant levels of endurance for what they love and want to do, over what they don’t prefer to do.
This gets complicated in guiding your staff on how to use their time wisely.
It is therefore essential for the team leader to know two things:
1. You have to know the people on your team personally.
Who is strong and who is playing hurt? How are things at home, and are they discouraged or encouraged? What makes them tick and what ticks them off? You get the idea.
2. You have to know the vision with such specific and strategic clarity that you know what is priority.
If the vision is not crystal clear in your mind, the demands of day to day ministry will allow your strategic emphasis to turn to mush. Nearly every ministry has value, but very few ministries are strategically essential to realize the greatest impact as defined by your vision. In fact, many ministry endeavors do the opposite, they distract you from true progress by keeping you busy, but not productive.
Know your vision with such a specific and strategic clarity that you know what is priority.
Let me be very candid.
Some on your team can withstand so much pressure that you have to protect them from themselves.
They will work till they drop. You need to coach them how to throttle their energy and enthusiasm. They need you to help them take their day off and play.
Some on your team can withstand so little pressure that you have to protect the vision from them.
We would never ask anything of an individual that would cause them to hurt themselves or their family—and in turn, don’t ask that we dumb down the vision because they can’t keep up.
You can’t actually take pressure off your team, because pressure never really goes away. It’s all about discerning when to push and when to back off. It also depends on your motives for going full throttle. Is it because you are panicked and want to “make” something happen, or because you are taking advantage of prayer-based God-sized momentum? Finally, it involves building healthy systems that help give permission for individuals to self-regulate in a fast paced environment.
The following points will help you lead your team to healthy practices:
1. Help your team discern if they are overworked or have a busy life.
I have found this to be an extremely helpful conversation. Someone tells me they are working 60-plus hours a week. So we climb into how many hours they are actually working after you take out going to the gym, lunch with a friend etc. Then we look at their whole life and it turns out they are working 80-90 hours a week, but 35-40 of those hours are actually church work. There’s the aha moment! They are not overworking at the church, but they do have a very full life!
The reason this distinction is so important is because each one requires a very different solution. If you have a staff member who is actually working 55-60 or more hours a week at their paid job (too much), that needs one solution. But if they are working 40-50 hours at the church, and the demands of their whole life (outside the church) never seem to let up (the other 40 plus hours), that requires a very different solution.
(Note: Number of hours is an example only, insert your own to fit your setting.)
2. Your leadership experience should help make the call.
Never sacrifice a person to accomplish a project. You disqualify yourself from ethical leadership when you do that. However, don’t immediately assume that an assignment is too big. Maybe someone else can handle it. It’s your job as the team leader to know if it’s too much and if you have the right person in the position. This is based on your experience and your knowledge of the person. If you don’t have an intuitive sense if the role is too much, ask other leaders who have more experience.
3) Provide relief valves during times of intensity.
A large part of the process is dealing with the job demands overall, 52 weeks a year. But there are also more intense (short term) seasons that require intentional monitoring. You can accomplish this by providing something as light as a couple hours of play, to hiring some short term contract help. Just don’t get caught up in the worst of all traps, “more bricks less straw.” No extra resources or manpower? Cut back on what you are doing rather than fail to provide relief.
4) Have the honest conversations.
Nothing takes the place of personal and honest conversations that get beneath the surface. The goal is to wrestle with the nuances of perception, reality and the ever so fine line of caring for the people and yet seeing the vision accomplished. Personally, I’ve found that if I care for my team, and make sure they are developed, they take care of the vision. Further, if they are genuinely loved and cared for, and developed well as leaders, the amount of pressure they can carry increases and they do so with joy.