Larry Osborne. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 221 pp. Paperback. ISBN 9780310324545. $16.99.
A few months ago, I was sitting down with one of my pastor coaches, and he mentioned that I needed to read Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. For the record, I know this book is a bit on the older side for a book review, but I was fighting in Afghanistan as a Marine Officer when this book was published. The book maybe older in date, but the contents within this book are still applicable and relevant for any church leader today. This book review will summarize the contents of the book, make a few generic comments, and offer my recommendation.
Osborne’s stated purpose for writing this work reads, “When faced with differing agendas and clashing perspectives that every team must work through, sticky teams know how to deal with the issues at hand and still come out united in purpose and vision, with a genuine camaraderie undamaged by strong differences” (p. 19). In order to substantiate this thesis, Osborne divides his book into four parts with part one being the foundation for the other three.
Osborne begins with his essential concept of unity as the foundation for his work. He defines unity with three components: 1) doctrinal unity, 2) respect and friendship, and 3) philosophical unity (p. 28). Without these factors, our teams will quickly become disgruntled and ineffective. I highly recommend that you take your time reading the first two chapters of this book because if you miss this foundation, you will be unable to effectively implement the other three parts. Therefore–and I think Osborne would agree with me–unity of a team seems to be the main theme for which the rest of this book builds upon in the other three parts.
Parts two, three, and four are the pragmatics associated with his ideological concept of unity. To put it another way, unity as the main thrust of his argument can be accomplished, maintained, and protected when we identify our own church organizational charts (Part 1), our ability to align everyone on our team (Part 2), and clearly communicate to our teams and people (Part 3). These parts will help you put meat on the bones of his unity concept.
Osborne’s book will hopefully encourage you and get you to think about how to create unity on your leadership team. The versatility of this book should be highly noted. It does not matter if you are elder lead, deacon run (although this might be problematic biblically), staff lead, or board led, the contents presented in this book will help you think through and build unity with your leaders. The versatility of this book is probably the reason I was recommended to read it by my pastoral coach nine years after it was published.
Additionally, Osborne discusses some “hot topic” issues for church leadership. My staff and I have had some great discussions talking about the concepts presented by the author. How do you handle staff salaries? How do you prioritize the various aspects of ministry? How do you know what organizations to support and what organizations to pass on when they ask for donations? What information about church members should a church leader know and not know? Osborne will let you know his position on each question, but he will not push his agenda on his readers. He will present his position and let you and your leaders determine how you will proceed with the information he presents.
To some who are overly pragmatic, this might be a disappointing reality about the contents presented. Some pastors and leaders just want a “how to” manual for building leaders and teams. This book will not deliver on those expectations (the book is not meant to do that, by the way). You or your leadership team will have to decide how you will adopt these concepts in your current church setting. So, while some may see this as disappointing, I find it highly satisfying as a young church leader. Of course, Osborne gives some principles to use in dealing with fierce church battles, aligning staff, and making changes, but the tone of his writing is more recommendation rather than forceful intrusion on your leadership context and style. To me, this reflection is another strength.
Therefore, I highly recommend that you get your hands on this book in the near future. If you have read it in the past, pick it up and read it again. This book is like mining for gold. The work is hard, but in the end you will be glad you got the shiny golden nugget. Osborne’s Sticky Teams will be a work I come back to on a yearly basis.
If you have a book you would like me to review, feel free to send me a message through this website. If you are an author of a current book and want some further publicity, contact me through the website and we can discuss you sending me a copy of your book to review and share.Jeremy Bell