How To Lead Your Team Through Exponential Growth


As it says on the Morton’s Salt container, “When it rains, it pours.” Leaders know that at times, the floodgates open and your team experiences more growth than expected. Maybe that growth is a surprising increase in a new ministry, a flood of sign-ups for an upcoming event, or an exponential increase in requests for a service your organization is offering. Whatever it is, sometimes your church or organization grows faster than you expected, which turns that success into a challenge. When leading a team faced with this plethora of good-fortune, it is easy to become overwhelmed.

Taking a few deliberate steps in the midst of the rush can help you lead well through the challenge and make sure that your success is truly successful. Here are 5 ways to lead your team well through a period of growth.

1. Encourage and remind.

If you, as the leader, are feeling overwhelmed, chances are that you are not the only one. If you are in a period of growth, your team probably could use some encouragement. As John C. Maxwell says, “Remember, man does not live on bread alone; sometimes he needs a little buttering up.“ This encouragement can come in many forms: A quick, kind word or two, a note or card, or praise in a team setting. A kind word is always a good idea, but it is even more important when the stress level rises. Also, when things are busy, it is easy to focus on the details of what needs to be done. Take time to remind your team of the “why” behind your mission. The big picture - the mission - is likely the reason your staff members wanted to be a part of your team in the first place.  

2. Set expectations.

Whenever you first notice clear, consistent growth happening, it is time to inform your team and set the expectations for how to move forward. Determine what projects need to be prioritized and what projects need to be set aside. Communicate the commitment you need from your team in order to succeed. If someone isn’t onboard, it is better to know this now than when it's too late so that you have time to address it and find someone to fill that spot if necessary. If everyone on your team knows what to expect and what is expected of them, you will get better results.   

3. Pool your resources.

I drive through a construction zone every day on my way to work. Have you ever noticed that one guy on the construction site just standing there holding something? He looks the part – meaning he’s dressed for work – but he’s not really doing anything. My guess is that you have someone in your organization like this. Maybe they aren’t on your team, but they are around enough to know what is happening. It’s time to bring them in and give them a vision. Be an ambassador for your team and recruit people to join in.

4. Leave room for feedback.

During a busy season, communication tends to only go one direction. The leader makes decisions and informs the team, leaving no room for feedback or collaboration. This may be necessary in the short term, but it will lead to failure in the long-term. For example, I think of my wife and I during a party at our house, when our kids become our sweet little helpers as we prepare and host. However, as we ask them to do small tasks without paying attention to them, we may overlook them doing the potty dance until it's too late. Make sure to create and maintain environments for feedback even in times of high growth.

5. Celebrate your wins; Learn from your losses.

If you have good systems and a great team, you can probably make it through this season of growth without making any big mistakes. That is something to be celebrated. Once you’ve worked through the initial torrent, take some time to celebrate (and reward) your team for the hard work. It is probably a good idea to repeat step 1 here as well.

However, if you hit some bumps along the way, address those within the context of growth and then make a plan for next time. Don’t wallow in the missed opportunities if the net result was positive. Learn from it, and move forward.

By the end of the season of growth, you will know how your team will handle this type of event in the future. It may be time to formalize some training on how to get through it next time while it is still fresh in your mind. You may also need to take a look at your team from a staffing perspective. Do you have who you need to address that next wave of growth? Take time on your own to assess your staffing or volunteer needs, because if you are doing things right, this time of growth may (and hopefully will) happen again. Next time around, when the wave of growth comes, you’ll be ready for it.

In what other ways can you effectively lead through growth?

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