My friends and bandmates. That’s me in the middle, the Leader of the Band.

I look at this picture and smile.

One of my passions is playing guitar and singing on my church’s worship team. Sometimes I’m even the leader of the band!

These are my friends and fellow bandmates in the picture (except the baby, of course!).

I smile because we make a great team. We’ve made great music and have had a lot of fun together in the process. 

I say all this as a backdrop to what I’d like to write about today.

One essential building block for true transformation to occur is excellent teamwork. Since I’ve learned so much about this from leading a band, I want to give you real-life examples to illustrate some team-building best practices you can apply to your teams.

Let’s dive in!

Great teams:

1. Come Prepared to Work, Yet Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously

It makes sense that our team does best when everyone comes prepared. And even when our team doesn’t, taking a lighthearted approach can be effective.

For instance, my worship pastor kept making mistakes one morning, and I was prepared. I kept making fun of him: “Hey, you’re the one who’s supposed to be prepared!” We all laughed at his expense, and that loosened everyone up.

Lessons Learned: Do the necessary homework to lead your team. And when you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t prepared, be quick to make fun of yourself or laugh at your own expense when your team members poke fun at you. And it’s essential to create an environment where team members feel safe to do that.

2. Ensure Everyone’s on the Same Page

As a bandleader, I’ve learned the importance of ensuring that team members play or sing the right thing in the right place at the right time. I’ll often give specific directions well in advance of our rehearsal. For example, I’ll make sure to tell the electric guitarist to play a particular riff in one section of a song. Doing so helps our rehearsal to go much smoother.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page also involves giving special attention to new team members. I often spend time with them outside rehearsals to help them feel welcome and be more easily integrated into the team.

A great example is something I did last week. I worked one-on-one with a new background vocalist to help prepare her for our Sunday service and lessen her nerves. The result was outstanding! She did well and enjoyed herself!

Lessons Learned: Give specific directions to team members well before you typically would to help ensure projects stay on track. Also, take particular actions to help new team members quickly assimilate into the team. Doing so can help with their morale and future contributions to the team.

3. Work Through Obstacles with Grit and Grace

Several months ago, the worship pastor was out of town, and I was in charge. I had done everything I knew how to prepare, but everything went off the rails during rehearsal.  We had three new team members, and since I was relatively new at leading, I didn’t know what direction to give to the newer team members to make it work. My frustration level was pretty high, but I still lead with grit and grace. Despite our challenging rehearsal, we did relatively well during the service. 

Lessons Learned:  Keep forging ahead during challenging times, keeping your team encouraged, and giving clear, level-headed direction to hold them together. Doing so sets the tone for them to continue working towards achieving team goals.

4. Learn from Your Mistakes

After that challenging Sunday, it became evident is that I have a few things to learn about being a better leader to the team! I lacked the experience to do #2 above (Ensure Everyone’s on the Same Page). I discovered I needed to learn more about the drummer’s and keyboardist’s role in a band, which tripped me up that day. So, I have my homework cut out for me before I lead again. AND, then I’d be more equipped to do #2!

One significant outcome is that if this hadn’t happened, I would’ve never learned what I needed to get better.

Lessons Learned: Take an objective view of your mistakes without judgment and latch onto the opportunity to learn from them. By taking action in those areas, you’ll improve your team-building and leadership skills.

5. Create Feedback Loops for Improvement Purposes

Throughout our practice time that Sunday, I asked for feedback from the team as I ran the rehearsal. Since I didn’t know the next best thing to do, I asked for their thoughts. As the team worked together, we ironed out the most significant problems and made it work in the end.

Lessons Learned: Individual team members are often your best source of advice in helping to overcome obstacles. Many times, they know a lot more than you do about different aspects of your projects. Let them know that you are always open to hearing their advice to help the team run more effectively.

6. Have Fun Together

I left this one for last because your team is much more apt to have fun together if you do all the above things. Remembering to laugh at yourself and laugh together is a vital part of that.

That’s one reason why I smile when I look at the picture above–we’ve worked through all these five areas at various times to become a great team that has fun together. Great teams do that.

Lessons Learned: Creating that culture of fun can make all the difference in the success of projects. When you can celebrate your victories, overcome your obstacles with grit and grace and still laugh together, you’re helping to create that fun culture. And that’s a great building block for great teamwork.