Collaboration Starts with the Leader First

How can I help my team of independent “doers” learn to work together and grow as visionary leaders?

The beauty of clarity is how it is discovered together. The crucible of community isn’t easy, but with collaboration the yield of fruit is 10 times greater and 10 times sweeter. Those who are gifted in creativity and visioning can also excel in helping complementary perspectives align around that vision.

Often, though, the problem is that you lead a team of independent “doers,” who though capable of being visionary leaders, are measured by the tasks of ministry and rarely get to demonstrate their collaborative leadership.

Solution – Collaboration starts with the leader first.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Collaboration Begins With You, by Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, and Eunice Parisi-Carew

Everyone knows collaboration creates high performing teams and organizations—and with today’s diverse, globalized workforce it’s absolutely crucial. Yet it often doesn’t happen because people and groups typically believe that the problem is always outside: the other team member, the other department, and the other company.

Bestselling author Ken Blanchard and his coauthors use Blanchard’s signature business parable style to show that, in fact, if collaboration is to succeed it must begin with you.

This book teaches people at all levels—from new associates to top executives—that it’s up to each of us to help promote and preserve a winning culture of collaboration. The authors show that busting silos and bringing people together is an inside-out process that involves the heart (your character and intentions), the head (your beliefs and attitudes), and the hands (your actions and behaviors). Working with this three-part approach, Collaboration Begins with You helps readers develop a collaborative culture that uses differences to spur contribution and creativity; provides a safe and trusting environment; involves everyone in creating a clear sense of purpose, values, and goals; encourages people to share information; and turns everyone into an empowered self-leader.

None of us is as smart as all of us. When people recognize their own erroneous beliefs regarding collaboration and work to change them, silos are broken down, failures are turned into successes, and breakthrough results are achieved at every level. 


It’s a common belief that a successful organization is built on teams. And while that is true, there is also a hidden implication within that assumption: the idea of a team implies that its members are competing with an outside force, often another team. Teams also have starters, sixth (or twelfth) men, and bench players.

How can you as a leader work with a group of individuals to encourage everyone to contribute to the common good, with a depth and shared accountability that goes beyond the concept of a typical team?

The secret to successful collaboration is for every person at every level to take responsibility.

Collaboration is a whole order of magnitude beyond teams. It’s in the DNA of the organizational culture. It’s the mindset of every member of the organization – the air the company breathes. It’s an environment that promotes communication, learning, maximum contribution, and innovation.

Collaboration is an inside-out mindset. It has to start on the inside, with the Heart. If you don’t get the Heart part right, you’ll never be effective as a collaborative leader, because the Heart is really who you are as a collaborator – your character and intentions.

Then it moves to the Head, which is about what you know – your beliefs and attitudes about collaboration.

Finally, the Hands are all about what you do – your actions and behavior during collaboration.

Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, and Eunice Parisi-Carew, Collaboration Begins with You


Make sure each of your team members has a basic understanding of the Heart, Head, and Hands as described above and how they represent a different domain of collaboration.

Challenge your team to use those three different concepts over the next month in a group collaboration exercise by creating a “Vision Room” for one month.

Create an inspiring, freethinking environment by designating a secluded area, such as a small room or large closet, for team members to experience reflective, God-inspired moments in solitude. In this space they can pray, plan, create and engage in vivid, risk-taking, visionary thinking.

Make available tools and props: paper, markers, scissors, whiteboards, toys, books – anything to stimulate ideas. Invite the team to take advantage of this space. Encourage team members to leave behind whiteboard thoughts, objects, pictures, highlighted articles, challenges and inspirations for one another.

Schedule regular times together to meet in the Vision Room (even if you are all crammed in and standing) and discuss the team’s experiences each week. Gather ideas, then discuss, collaborate, and clarify your team’s dreams for your church. At the end of the month, make a large “Vision Room” list, then prioritize and execute the strategic actions that will build momentum for your church.

Leaders who practice disciplined collaboration must learn to work at all levels: they cultivate collaboration by transforming themselves, their organization, and the people working in the organization.

Collaboration will remain a key part of church leadership as senior pastors and elder teams will always need to unite disparate parts within and across organizations.


Taken from SUMS Remix 35-1, published March 2016



This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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