Building the Right Team

Dear Christian Radio,

When I was a kid I loved the Tinkertoy sets. I would play for hours building everything from cars to skyscrapers. That’s the way I see building a team, because with the right team you can build anything. Just like the Tinkertoy set, there are so many ways the pieces can fit together, but as a leader it is up to you to make sure all the pieces come together to build the mission. Otherwise, you will just have a mound of bits and pieces that never fulfill their purpose.

Now, to build the right team there are a lot of ways to go about it and many things you will need to do to pull it off. I’ve compiled my top five requirements to build the right team.

1. Think Differently – You need people on your team who think differently than you do. You aren’t going to grow outside your own ideas, so add team members who can help you think outside your own experiences and specialties. Don’t confuse this with those who have a different mission or passion—you will still need a team that is chasing after the mission together. What I mean is, don’t be afraid of people with different backgrounds, different skills, different opinions, and different life experiences.

Even Abraham Lincoln valued a difference of opinion. Lincoln’s cabinet was made up of former opponents, people who didn’t belong to the same party as him, and some that didn’t even think he could do the job. What did this accomplish? It gave Lincoln a better picture of all sides of an argument and different opinions on where he should focus his efforts. Then, when he had all sides, Lincoln would make the final decision knowing he had thought it through from all angles.

2. Passion and Teach-Ability vs. Talent and Experience – There are some very talented people with years of experience who could be terrible hires to add to your team. Now, not to write off all that have years of valuable experience, but they must get behind the mission of your organization and stay teachable. When bringing on a new team member, don’t assume the one person with all the talent and experience will be the best for your team or organization. Look more for passion and teach-ability. Find that someone who is energized by your mission and vision. Look for a person who will be willing to learn and grow—a student, not a stubborn superstar.

3. Empower Your Team – You should not be the expert in everything…and let’s be honest, you can’t be the expert in everything. Not even the best leaders can pull this off. Make your team the experts in their area. Give them the tools and the training they need: send them to conferences, pay for their training software, or buy them a beneficial book or video series. When you empower them, they will be more invested and more engaged because you are entrusting them with an important piece of the mission. When you give them a voice in the direction of the organization you will have someone who is deeply invested and passionate about fulfilling the mission.

4. Let Them Fail – Letting your team fail is a risk you have to take if you truly want to empower them. The reward will far outweigh the risks. When you let them fail, you allow them to learn from their mistakes. Those lessons are priceless. Now, does this mean you allow someone to run wild and get off mission and end up making a mistake that derails everything? No, heavens no! You still have to guide and make sure they are heading in the right direction, that’s called accountability. Allow them to weigh the risks and compile a proposal for you. If the proposal has merit, sign off on it with your full blessing, but also with the knowledge that it could fail.

Give your team permission to fail. You take fear off the table when you show your team that you trust them, even if the project fails. Most of the time fear is more debilitating than the failure itself. Where there is fear, ideas and progress are limited. It’s risky to do this, but worth it. Failures make the best lessons.

5. Square Peg, Round Hole – If someone isn’t the right fit, either change their role to better suit them (if they are valuable) or get rid of them…especially if they are toxic. This sounds harsh, especially in the Christian community, right? Here’s what I mean…if a person doesn’t fit the culture, you are holding everyone back. Releasing that person may be the door God is trying to open for them to find a place where their gifts are better suited. Don’t hold onto someone because you are afraid of how they will react. If you have given them many chances, communicated clear expectations, provided the tools for the job, and they still don’t get it or refuse to change or grow, then release them. You will be opening the door for someone else to join the team who can add value.

These are my top five things for building a strong team, but ultimately, building the right team starts with you. You must be growing and investing in yourself (podcast, Ted Talks, books, etc). As a leader, it’s your job to encourage and empower others. You hold your team accountable and have the hard, awkward conversations, when necessary. The reason you have those conversations is because they benefit everyone…you and your staff will be better because of it. You have to cast a vision and build a mission your team wants to follow and chase. Be vulnerable with your team. Let them see you fail—then, keep pushing forward. You are the cheerleader and the principle all in one. It is up to you to set a clear expectations and goals.

As the leader, you can’t blame your team if you don’t have the right people in place. It starts and ends with you.

Dear Christian Radio, to build the right team…

1. Hire people who think differently than you.
2. Understand that talent and experience aren’t always best; look for passion and teach-ability as well.
3. Empower your team and make them the experts. You can’t do it all.
4. Have the courage to let them fail.
5. If someone doesn’t fit your culture, release them.


Adam McCain
General Manager, 88.3 WCQR
Positive Alternative Radio


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