Continuing our ‘pairs’ of personality characteristics we will now consider the Initiator/Responder. This pairing is close to, but not identical with, Creator/Implementer. The Initiator is someone who wants to get on with the task in hand and is not frightened to take initiative. He or she will be willing to take the lead if there is no appointed leader. He will be peaceful about making decisions and taking responsibility for the consequences.
The Responder is waiting for a leader but will then serve faithfully. He is secure in a team framework and is not looking for personal profile or recognition (though a bit of encouragement always helps!).
A few years ago three couples in my local church approached the eldership to seek permission to start a ‘soup kitchen’ for those who were street homeless in our town. We were happy for them to do so as they had a good track record in related ministries. Once this was public news another 40 people identified themselves as wanting to get involved! These 40 had been waiting for Initiators to be identified so that they could respond and fulfil their passion to serve in this way.
Have you noticed how in the Olympics sprinters start from blocks while long distance runners are standing up when the starting gun is fired? In the church some people have huge amounts of pent up energy waiting to be released and, when the opportunity arises they let it out in a burst. However, a few weeks later they may no longer be involved. Meanwhile there are others who serve faithfully week after week with dedicated energy, tenacity and faithfulness. They are the ‘slow burners’ who are able to keep going and feel fulfilled in doing so.
To recognise this distinction is important. When, as a leader, you wish to delegate or mobilise someone it is vital to match the task to the personality. To give a ‘sprinter’ a task which requires a steady and sustained pace will lead to frustration for both of you. Similarly, don’t give a long-distance runner a task that requires high energy to get it going.
The final pairing that is worth considering differentiates between those who have an overall knowledge and experience of a situation or set of criteria, and those who apply themselves to the detail. To have those in a team who are able to ‘stand back’ from the minutiae of an activity and bring an overview is a powerful way of developing strategy. But to lack those who can take that overview and interpret it through reliable and efficient processes of planning and implementation may result only in discussion and theorising without practical application.
The pairings I have suggested are deliberately somewhat simplistic. There is inevitable overlap between some of the particular characteristics. However, to recognise that we are all different and to give each other permission to contribute from those differences without feeling threatened or vulnerable brings significant strength to a team.
Next time I want to show you a video update on the Kenya famine which is still very serious. Some may like to consider a Christmas offering. After that we shall look at the final section of this series on Teams, how members can support one another.