Short-Term Thinking Kills Any Team-Building Strategy

One of the things I love about students is their passion and energy. Combine their natural excitement with an energy drink or coffee, and they are ready to take on just about anything. It is infectious which is why I work so intentionally to surround myself with students on a regular basis.

But one thing I notice in many students is that they are in a hurry. They are in a hurry to finish the semester, get their degree, land a great job, find a spouse, have 2.3 children, and live in a house with a white picket fence. No matter what they are doing or where they are going, they want to get their fast.

I can certainly relate. I’m not always patient. I sometimes drive to fast, drink too much coffee, and forget that life is an endurance sport rather than a sprint. The older I get (and by no means do I consider myself old yet … and probably never will), the more I appreciate and understand that great things take time to design, build, and develop. There is no way around it.

This is especially true when it comes to building great teams. It’s easy to justify skipping over this leadership function and relegate it to a “nice to have” instead of a “need to have.” This type of thinking will end up limiting you in some important ways.


The pressure to perform and achieve certain outcomes as a leader can be great. And if you find yourself in a difficult spot where you’re rebuilding the track while you’re running down it, it can feel impossible. The temptation will be to take short-cuts to get to the goal as fast as possible is great. And team building is the primary place a leader will cut corners when the heat is on.

Make no mistake about it; a great team-building strategy will take longer than you think, require more of you than you estimate, and cause you to evolve, change, and grow as a leader because of it. This is why most leaders choose to circumvent the team process and simply stretch for the goal.

Here is what focusing on short-term goals at the expense of building teams will ultimately net you:

1.     High turnover. You will never build the relational capital necessary to keep your best people.

2.     Inability to attract great talent. You will gain a reputation of a “leader eater.” Your best candidates will pick up on this quickly.

3.     Distractions. You will be constantly sidetracked which will suck the energy right out of you and keep you from focusing on the most important things.

4.     Choke out the fun along the way. You will be robbed of any joy along the way.

Conversely, a leader who focuses on building a great team first will ultimately experience:

1.     High degree of affinity. When people are in the right positions and leveraging their divine design, they will operate at peak performance which will lift the entire team.

2.     Commitment of discretionary time and effort. When your team leans in, you will elevate your capacity to achieve and accomplish great things.

3.     Innovative thinking. Finding momentum will often uncover new thinking which will help you overcome persistent obstacles.

4.     Loyalty through the difficult seasons. Difficult seasons will come to every leader and organization. If you've built relational capital, you will be able to keep your team intact through the dip.


Here are my suggestions for how to avoid short-term thinking:

1.     Make sure you build solid relationships with your team. They are people first and employees second.

2.     Celebrate the victories together. Do this regularly and often.

3.     Process through the speed bumps together. Reflect on what went wrong as a team. Make sure everyone walks away having learned something rather than feeling defeated.

4.     Help each team member find a way to contribute that is squarely within their giftedness. Don’t assume they will do this on their own.

5.     Own the responsibility to build a great team and not let short-term thinking get in the way. Your team is your job. Period.

The leaders who impacted me the most focused on developing me as a leader, and they did the same thing for everyone on the team. I don’t think I recognized it when it was happening because I was so focused on delivering my commitments to my team and working toward the vision of my leader. Now that I hold the senior chair, I want my team to have the same experience.

No one said leadership was easy. Organizations are made up of people, and people are inherently flawed. (That includes you and me.) But you will never regret missing a short-term goal to build your team. You’ll develop strength, momentum, and endurance that will carry you through to your biggest goals and outcomes.

CHALLENGE: Are you sacrificing great team building habits to achieve short-term goals? How is that affecting you as a leader? What would have to change in you to adjust your focus and re-engage your team in a way that empowers them to be great? How would this change what you can accomplish this quarter, this year, and beyond?