Creating a core team: Vetting your team members

By Chris Causey

It is incredible that Jesus’ intention in His three-year ministry was to start a global movement in a pre-internet people not even aware of the existence of most of the continents on Earth.

Christ’s global vision was truly unprecedented. Even more amazing was His plan to create this global movement with a team He had three years to build. Jesus didn’t travel through Israel collecting religious talent. He intentionally built a great team filled with people that He saw for who they currently were and the aspiration for who they could become.

In order to build a great team, we have to start by vetting potential teammates, and to properly vet them, one needs a framework within which to assess. The ideal core team member would, in some form, reflect all of our framework. I want to credit the work of Patrick Lencioni in The Ideal Teamplayer, Brad Lomenck’s H3 Leader, and the leadership of Steve Stroope at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. Their writings and teaching helped us articulate the framework below.

1. Holy

Team members should have a life-giving and life-changing relationship with Christ. They weren’t just saved by the gospel, but are regularly sustained and shaped by it. This sustaining and shaping work overflows from their consistent practice of private and corporate spiritual disciplines.

Question for vetting conversation: Ask questions about their rhythms and rituals that fuel their spiritual growth.

Insight: What you are looking for is the candidate’s ability to have an understanding and practice of spiritual disciplines, both interpersonal and intra-personal.

Specifics to look for that reflect this trait: Christian faith ∙ Character ∙ Calling ∙ Soul care ∙ Self-feeder ∙ Gratitude ∙ Fruit of the Spirit

Specifics to watch out for that are potential pitfalls: Areas of deliberate disobedience to God ∙ Sustained lack of spiritual disciplines ∙ Lack of boundaries with sin and/or no accountability structures

2. Humility

Humble team members value “we” over “me.” They are quick to receive coaching and celebrate others’ contributions. In the words of C.S. Lewis, they aren’t marked by thinking less of themselves but in thinking about themselves less.

Question for vetting conversation: What has been one of your biggest failures? How did you handle that embarrassment or failure?

Insight: You want to look for specifics about how they handled it. Look for an ability to recognize and take responsibility. What did they learn from it? Have they acted on what was learned?

Specifics to look for that reflect this trait: Self-awareness of strengths and weakness ∙ Vulnerability ∙ Other-centeredness ∙ Growth mindset

Specifics to watch out for that are potential pitfalls: Public criticism of their current leadership ∙ Privately undermines the part of leader’s vision they don’t support ∙ Need to be the center of attention

3. Hustle

Team members that reflect this trait are self-motivated and disciplined. Jesus found the disciples already working hard. He redirected their focused hard work. Peter just started fishing for something different. Jesus’ actions reflect the axiom that it is easier to redirect a doer than to activate a thinker.

Question for vetting conversation: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Insight: Look for specific examples or details that reflect deliberate sacrifice. You want to see they accomplished something that required discipline, persistence, and planning.

Specifics to look for that reflect this trait: High standards of excellence ∙ Hard-working ∙ Disciplined ∙ Ability to form and execute a plan to completion ∙ Productive doer ∙ Reputation as a go-to person

Specifics to watch out for that are potential pitfalls: Pattern of unfinished tasks or commitment avoidance ∙ Excessive hobbies ∙ More dreaming than doing ∙ Sporadic work ethic

4. Hungry

Hungry team members have a passionate desire to grow. They have a selfless ambition that provides a focus to their attention and action. They are courageous and curious. They are motivated by what could be and not the status quo.

Question for vetting conversation: What is a significant problem you have recently overcome?

Insight: Look for specifics about how the candidate applied focused learning, good question asking, and the overall process they employed to solve the problem.

Specifics to look for that reflect this trait: Curiosity ∙ Selfless ambition ∙ Passion ∙ Innovation ∙ Strategic thinker

Specifics to watch out for that are potential pitfalls: Doesn’t enjoy learning ∙ Quickly says no to possibilities or potential solutions ∙ Unmotivated ∙ Selfish ambition ∙ Overly anxious

5. High emotional intelligence

Team members with high emotional intelligence are interpersonally appropriate and aware. They are also attuned to their own emotions and motivations. They have good sense around the nuances of group dynamics and understand the impact of their words and actions on others.

Question for vetting conversation (from The Ideal Team Player): What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?

Insight: What you’re looking for here is the candidate’s self-awareness and self-control. People with high emotional intelligence know their pet peeves, and they own the fact that some of those pet peeves are their own issues. They also know how to deal with annoying people in a productive, constructive way.

Specifics to look for that reflect this trait: Builds effective teams ∙ Collaborates well with others ∙ Encouraging ∙ Emotionally healthy ∙ Self-awareness ∙ Social awareness ∙ Practice self-care

Specifics to watch out for that are potential pitfalls: Does not self-filter inappropriate statements ∙ Emotionally demanding or needy ∙ Expects to be your best friend

By carefully examining potential team members within this framework, you are able to prevent some of the common pitfalls that comes with building a core team — a core team that doesn’t just help start the church, but which reflects what those outside the church could become in Christ.

In the end, a great core team is the trailer that makes our communities want to see the whole movie.

Published March 19, 2018

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Chris Causey

Chris Causey is the lead pastor of Encounter Church in Dedham, Massachusetts, where he and his wife, Ginny, raise their only daughter.