"Accountability breeds response-ability."

- Stephen R. Covey

Building a Church Safety Ministry (CSM) (www.churchsafetyministry.com) involves first aid and medical emergency responses, finding lost children, patrolling the building and grounds during services, watching for possible security threats in parking lots, watching and escorting the offerings and yes, training and exercising for an armed intruder. Each of these duties requires policies, exercises, honed skills and accountability.

To achieve a Model of Excellence CSM team, we have acknowledged there must be a high level of trust, and that conflict and debate about policies and procedures are essential to ensure an understanding of and a commitment to the mission.

The fourth dysfunction of the five dysfunctions of a team is avoidance of accountability among team members. In the context of teamwork, this refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on their performance or behaviors that might hurt the team and prevent the team from achieving the overall church safety mission.

At the heart of avoidance of accountability is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior.

Of course, there is also the general tendency to avoid awkward conversations. Members of Model of Excellence teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to "enter the danger" with one another.

One way to make it easier for your team members to hold one another accountable is to clarify publicly and precisely to them what tasks and responsibilities are to be accomplished, who will perform each, and how everyone must collaborate and behave to succeed.

As a leader, it is imperative to take the time to define what success looks, sounds, and feels like and to create a culture of accountability in the process.

Team members should regularly and consistently communicate the metrics about how they think and feel they and their teammates are doing against stated objectives and standards.

The enemy

of accountability

is ambiguity

Leaders must articulate carefully and ensure everyone understands their team duties, roles, and responsibilities and how they impact each other and the overall safety mission.

It is more about the makeup of teams than individual roles. Don't accept all volunteers, although it will be tempting to do so. Select volunteers with a service-orientation (a servant's heart) who can communicate well and with warmth, who understand the mission of the church safety program and not just their responsibility, and who can empathize with the mind-sets of the congregants and church leadership.

As your safety ministry takes shape, document these required skills and roles, what the expectations and dependencies are, and any critical performance indicators you want the team to achieve.

Leaders have to be willing to set the behavioral examples to make this work and avoid team dysfunction. Leaders must model the behavior they expect, confront difficult issues and crucial conversations with empathy and understanding attitudes, and demand personal accountability from all their team members as well as themselves.

Each of the dysfunctions and the fixes to the dysfunction requires time and commitment. There will be situations where you will miss the mark. Expect this. When you are creating a Model of Excellence team, it takes time, commitment, willingness and openness to learning lessons from your mistakes. Once the lesson is learned, don't make the mistake again.

L. Darryl Armstrong, Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC, a firm providing crisis communications and consulting training nationwide.

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