photo courtesy of Vida Mia Photography

Last night while watching a documentary, The Pixar Story, I was reminded of an important leadership practice. In the course of the documentary, John Lasseter, founder of Pixar and current Chief Creative Officer of Disney, made a statement about what he calls “UNPLANNED COLLABORATION”. It is this unplanned collaboration for which he attributes the survival and success of Pixar through tough times in the early years, and soaring victory through some of the most creative days in their ground breaking movie making.

They just hung out all the time.
Cubicles were nowhere to be found.
“meetings” were informal and happened often.
While departments had their expertise there remained lots of cross-pollination throughout the team.

As I talk with long-haul leaders, especially founding pastors, they often reminisce of the “good ol days” when their leadership and/or staff team hung out all the time. They talk fondly of the early days when the lines of work and play blurred so regularly it was hard to decipher the difference. This was genius, and one of the important things all leaders, especially church leaders, need to be mindful of fostering. Most of us recognize the value of setting up some office time in a local coffee shop, the value of being in the community and meeting new people constantly. But as things grow and the complexity heightens there is a natural movement towards silos. We departmentalize, get private offices and it just becomes work.

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This past month our church has embarked on a risky marketing campaign designed to rattle awareness and say something about Disciples Church. yard signs were posted all over our region, a website launched, newspaper ads and more. It has been one of the most electrifying collaborations in our young life as a church.  I saw soccer moms meeting at 4:00am to set up signs; 20-something’s gracefully fielding angry emails; photographers capturing the whole thing. At the end of the day, this campaign like others will pass. But the culture of collaboration, especially unplanned collaboration has played a key role in keeping the momentum going and the excitement high — that should never pass.

So whether you are a church planter, youth pastor, small group leader or 2nd grade Sunday school teacher, the idea remains the same. Keep it fresh and look for chances to hang out with your team. Create a work space and environment where people are naturally collaborating. Here are a few tips that might help you ensure you don’t lose that lovin feelin…

  • If you have office space, encourage your staff to intentionally office together, both in proximity & scheduling while still respecting introverts.
  • share meals as often as you can, taking turns picking up the tab: it’s the same as ‘going dutch’ but communicates so much more relationship.
  • bounce ideas for your ministry area off other team members, even if they are not experts in your area…you might be surprised.
  • create margin in your schedule so drop-ins are encouraged. When you need privacy to study/work/focus communicate that well.
  • Keep the organizational structure flat, so weigh-in is encouraged & valued.

Doing even a few of these things will create such an electric environment around your team and your office, people will truly look forward to coming in to work in the morning!