As a local church pastor for twenty-five years, Michael Lee was no stranger to personality differences in his congregation. Plus, his undergraduate degree in psychology had introduced him to dozens of kinds of personality assessments and tools.
But even so, when Michael enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he was not aware of the impact the strengths movement could have in relationships and teams. It was in the DMin program that Michael was introduced to Leading From Your Strengths profile for the first time.
“I was amazed at how clear and helpful the results are,” says Michael. “I say that not to denigrate other instruments out there, but because LFYS is the most comprehensive and useful tool I’ve encountered.”
Even though Michael and his church staff worked well together, nevertheless he used the profile with the team which in his words, “brought about even better communication and unity.”
Then Michael had the opportunity to use the profile with many more church teams and leaders than he imagined … and help them move from being simply okay to being vibrant and healthy.
Don’t Hinder Others: Profiles Make A Good Thing Even Better
Michael was halfway through his DMin program in 2015 when the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) called him to leave local church ministry and serve on MBCB staff. Soon afterward, in 2017, Michael traveled to the Ministry Insights Equipping Conference to become certified.
Now as executive director of the MBCB church growth division, Michael has a staff of 30 and uses the profile both for team building and with his direct reports. “I want to understand them better,” says Michael. “But also, if there is anything we need to address, I can do so in a nonthreatening way.”
Yet what has surprised Michael the most is how the profiles help him with personal responsibilities, particularly as he works with his ministry assistant. “She is fantastic, and we get along well,” says Michael. “But I didn’t know that there were ways I approached our work that was hindering her.” Michael’s hands-off management style allows staff the freedom and latitude to do things the way that is most comfortable for them. Yet his assistant works best with a specific direction given in a timely way. “I was being too broad and general with her, which created extra stress,” says Michael. Once he discussed his assistant’s data with her, Michael changed his approach. Now, he offers her a couple of options for ways to do things. She can focus on the tasks that are most important to complete without the stress of determining which option might be best for her boss.
“Just this one change has made her less stressed,” says Michael. “It’s been incredibly helpful for both me and her.”
Don’t Just Mark Time: Profiles Move Teams Off a Plateau
MBCB partner churches routinely ask for help from the church growth division as they face stagnation or plateaued growth. It’s here where Michael and his staff step in to offer counsel.
The LFYS profiles, says Michael, have led to some key breakthroughs for these church teams.
Recently, he met with a church team that had experienced a good bit of growth coupled with considerable staff changeover. The staff was equally represented by men and women and range in age from late 20s to mid-60s. While there were no overt conflicts among the staff, they were not operating as a team and had hit a growth ceiling.
As Michael led the staff through a three-hour LFYS experience, the lead pastor was able to share openly with the team in a way he had not until that point. Were they on board with his ideas energetic, fast-paced approach? The group looked at their Strengths Wheel and saw that most of the rest of the team needed time to process ideas at a slower pace than the lead pastor. When he wanted to move quickly, they felt they couldn’t catch up. Soon, team members began to feel incapable of handling what he asked them to do.
“It was a true ‘aha’ moment,” says Michael. Even after the team building session, when Michael joined the team for lunch, the discussion continued. Staff members apologized to each other for common problems and hurts. They laughed and enjoyed each other.
Since then, staff members have changed how they communicate and interact with each other. “They’re moving forward in a healthy way and the church has broken its growth ceiling,” says Michael. “Yet without intervention, they would have struggled to resolve these communication issues and hampered the church’s ability to grow further.”
Don’t “Settle”: Profiles Dispel Ignorance
Ministry leaders have been taught excellent fundamentals in so many areas, says Michael, such as sermon preparation and managing meetings, yet lack exposure to the strengths movement.
“Take me, for example,” he says. “I have a degree in psychology, but only in recent years learned about finding, using, and blending my strengths with others.” That ignorance contradicts the 1 Corinthians 12 teaching of each individual’s giftedness and can even stunt the church.
“The Leading From Your Strengths profiles are not just to be used in a crisis,” says Michael. “Any team can use them and move from okay to vibrant and thriving.”
In his experience, any team benefits tremendously from collecting and using the data. In fact, teams and relationships that are good – like the relationship he enjoys with his ministry assistant – can move into rich, vibrant, mutually-supportive magnets of growth when users understand and appreciate each other’s strengths.
“Unless we understand ourselves and our place in the body of Christ, we will miss out on spiritual opportunities and miss out on the unity Christ offers us,” says Michael.
Which means we needn’t settle for “just okay” when our teams can be great.