Team Development: The Afterburner  Mission Accomplished

Team Development: The Afterburner Mission Accomplished

If the clear understanding is that operating in afterburner mode all the time will burn up all the fuel it is not an efficient way to do things. It is there for when you really need that quick boost to escape harm, with the expectation that one eventually return to normal operating mode.

Having spent more than 20 years as a volunteer at my church, and also 20 years as a systems integrator I have had the opportunity to see how teams work on both sides of the coin.

I know in my travels and talking with friends who work in churches as tech directors or worship leaders, the normal work flow is enough for two to four people, but week in and week out, you are asked to do it by yourself.

That coin exemplifies being the person in charge on one side, and the person not in charge on the other. What is it about teamwork that is so powerful?  An F-16 cannot carry out any mission on its own, and the pilot cannot either, without the F-16.

There are countless books out there telling the stories of different teams and how they came to a level of success or reached some pinnacle of excellence. The problem in life is that it is not a painting that you "finish," as it is always in motion and dynamics are changing. To keep a team working it takes continual refueling, otherwise entropy (rust) takes over.

For me personally, one of the biggest things I have learned is that my view or perspective is usually very different from that of my coworker or leader. If I take the CEO position and look at my business financials I may decide that in order to reduce my taxable income, I should buy a new truck. Here the question comes who should drive that truck? Should I let my team keep driving 10-plus year old vehicles that are breakdown-prone, and have a high emotional cost on my technicians, or should I buy myself a new cowboy Cadillac?

You may wonder how does this relate to me?

Well from one side, business choices need to be made daily, no matter if it is a church or a business. My pastor has taught that God is not one to just drop a bag of money on your head, but instead He give you wisdom or ability to work, and then He will bless your hand.  He is also the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills it is just the stewards of said cattle can be stingy at times.

Being that I started working in my church youth group The Rock - at age 13, when mullets were cool and the Christian rock group DeGarmo and Key was a popular band the system that was there was just a mashup of what people could cobble together for a sound system. It was not a system that an integrator designed or installed to say the least, and it was far from optimized.

It worked for us and we made the best of it.

Budgets at that time were nonexistent, but there was a vision to carry out, and kids that needed to hear about Jesus.

So with all that no new gear, no pay what kept me involved for 20 years? It was Steve Munds the youth pastor. He had learned the value of a team and made huge strides in not only communicating the vision for the youth group, but also was very good in showing appreciation towards us.

I'll never forget one time (OK, so many times) that I was able to fix something or make some improvement on the sound system, and as an offer of appreciation, Steve would with a large smile tell me that he was so proud, and that would double my pay! So being pretty sharp in math, I knew that double of nothing was still nothing. But the gratitude was more than enough.

With all of this at The Rock, there was a foundation of trust. The communication was clear and the appreciation was verbalized in a way that it was understood.

Let's fast forward back to the present day. I am now the person in leadership and have a staff that reports to my management team, which reports to me. With some of the changes that this year has brought, there have been difficulties across the board for the team to deal with. If I operate in a vacuum and don't communicate with my team it will lead to a lack of trust, which needs to be the foundation of our team.

I know in my travels and talking with friends who work in churches as tech directors or worship leaders, the normal work flow is enough for two to four people, but week in and week out, you are asked to do it by yourself.

And. You. Do. Every week.

Now in comes Christmas and the production value of the services have tripled.

And. You. Do. It.

So that turns into the work of four people. Or maybe six people.

The leadership of the church sees the "flawless" execution of the services that are held during Christmas, and they now assume that it is just not a problem to keep going at a higher level, because we achieved it for Christmas.

But the emotional fuel burnt was at a high cost.

The same can be true in my seat leading the company.  We just pulled off the largest quarter of revenue with the team we have.

So why can't next quarter be just as big with the same team?

To answer this question I will use the F-16 fighter jet as an example, because I just like using analogies. The F-16 at full military speed flies at about 450-550 knots and uses around 8,000 pounds of fuel per hour. At this burn rate, there is roughly two hours of run time. With this, an F-16 can carry out its mission as planned and return to the base or aircraft carrier to refuel. If for some reason, the jet needs to move out of harm's way, it can increase it's speed to 700-800 knots, using the afterburner, which then causes the consumption of fuel to rise to a rate of 64,000 pounds per hour. So at this rate, burning eight times the amount of fuel, you get about 50 percent more speed.

So it will run for just 20 minutes on afterburner.

If the clear understanding is that operating in afterburner mode all the time will burn up all the fuel it is not an efficient way to do things. It is there for when you really need that quick boost to escape harm, with the expectation that one eventually return to normal operating mode.

If a jet plane has been designed to operate with two engines for its design capacity and payload, it can operate with just one, but the burn rate increases a lot if you need to run the afterburner vs. running with the two at a lower load. The efficiency of two working is far greater and it is sometimes difficult as a business owner looking at the cost of acquisition vs. the operating costs can be a blind spot for many.

So it is critical that communication is a two-way street. Let's say I am the pilot of the plane and I don't have any gauges that tell me the operational mode of the engines? If I just push the go stick until I get my desired speed, but don't realize that I am in afterburn mode it will come as a surprise to me if we run out of fuel 21 minutes into the mission.

With proper gauges, I am able to monitor the burn rate and fuel level to keep us in a safe operating zone and allow us to return to base after the mission has been completed.

I need to watch and be aware of the condition and status of the F-16.

You need to clearly communicate with your pilot the real-time status. And your ground crew.

Once these parameters are working and the pilot and plane have been up for more than one or two missions there is trust built in the predictable and reliable operation and navigation.

Do all of us a favor and don't let your engine get to the place where it melts or runs out of fuel, because of overuse. First, communicate. Second, communicate. Third, communicate.

Once the basis of trust is established, then you can start working on the next level of leadership.

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