How to Build Longevity on Your Team

LONGEVITY As a young leader I was impressed to learn that well-known evangelist Billy Graham was surrounded by a team of long serving friends and co-workers, most of whom had been with him since the beginning of his campaign career. The team began to be formed in the mid-1940’s, and stayed together for over half a century.

Team familiarity and trust influences how a team performs. The trend both in the church and corporate world is fast turnover and rapid advancement, which leaves little room for permanence on teams. Churches and businesses alike suffer because of this trend. But research is showing that longevity on teams pays rich dividends in more than one way.

My impression is that teams, like individuals, experience learning curves. They do better as members become familiar with each one another. Roles may change within a team of secure individuals, but if egos are out of the way, the benefit of adjusting to one another’s strengths and limitations creates a learning culture.

A Harvard Business Review article on longevity on teams (December, 2013, page 28) suggests five factors are responsible for the effect long serving teams have on their organization:

1. Co-ordinated activities – team members that have learned to work together carry those relationships into future projects and activities

2. Learning where the knowledge lies – team members learn who has what strengths and rely on those strengths as they work together

3. Responding to change – team familiarity provides a stable environment and allows for change to happen in the least threatening manner possible

4. Integrating past knowledge with future innovation – creative solutions are usually the result of combinations of knowledge and experience from different people on the team

5. Capturing value – strong, united teams attract people and resources

Instead of focusing on solving conflict on teams, it is more helpful to focus on the life-giving strengths that hold teams together. Build on what gives life to your team, not what problems the team has to overcome to stay together. Life attracts life. Vision attracts vision. And healthy people attract healthy people.

Take a few moments to reflect on what your team does well. Share your reflections with your team, and ask the others to contribute to the list. Brag on those who have helped build the team. Give some thought as to how you can cultivate your strengths as a team.