Most of us think if we could hire or recruit a few superstar leaders, it would catalyze growth for our church.

What if that theory is just dead wrong?

Chris Lema, author, blogger and entrepreneur, walks you through how to build and develop a great team from inside your church or organization.

Welcome to Episode 39 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Chris Lema

Crowd Favorite

Chris Lema on Twitter

Chris Lema on Facebook


Links Mentioned in this Episode

Jay Leno

Reggie Joiner

Ashish Nanda – The Risky Business of Hiring Stars

John Sculley

Lorne Michaels

Will Ferrell

SNL’s Most Successful Cast Members Ever

Gary A. Klein

E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it

Books on team building, culture and leadership by Chris

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Most of us have a singular perspective around the teams we’ve been in. So we come at it with our default perspective, who is the right team person? What happens is the default approach if we keep looking for the one kind of person who will be the high performer, and that’s not really the scenario. Chris Lema tells us about his experience with team building and tells us what you can do as a leader.

  1. Stop looking to the outside for superstars. You would think that offering the right salary for the right talent would solve the problems of your organization, but statistics suggest otherwise. Half of people who start in a new environment performed 20 % worse over a five-year continual span, and one-third left after a period of three years. Hiring a performer and bringing them is a 50/50 shot. Companies such as Meryl Lynch spend two years finding the right leaders. More than 95% of players for the Green Bay Packers were developed only within that organization. When you bring someone new in, you have to say, “Our commitment to you over the next several years is to develop you.”
  2. Match the experienced with the inexperience. Chris emphasizes that diffusion of leadership doesn’t happen at a coffee table over coffee. It happens while being in context, and it happens while being able to articulate the essentials of how your organization is ran. Take Saturday Night Live, for example. Creator Lorne Michaels provides many opportunities for the new cast members to learn with the season cast members. He collaborates with their team of writers to ensure the success of each actor and the longevity of the show. Additionally, Chris encourages all leaders to write because it allows you to emphasize the abstraction from the lesson so that people who are coming behind you have a way to be fed. They understand your message, mission and values. “Write because you are articulating your understanding of things, and people will embrace and leverage it.”
  3. Meet daily with your teams and find a book to read. Leaders should spend at least 10-15 minutes a day with their teams to put projects, goals and agendas into context. You’ll develop a common vocabulary and develop a common vision among your group. Every six months, read one book as a group and spend time creating a conversation about development. At the end of six months, find another book, read and apply its context. “More often than not, we read and don’t apply, or we never read. But one thing remains – You have to move to get better, and we won’t get better naturally,” Chris says.

Quotes from Chris

Chris and Carey’s Top Ten Leadership Books

As promised, here are Chris and Carey’s Top Ten books to read as a church staff or as a church leader. Chris and I titled the list toward leadership, because we assume you’re going to read theology (and your Bible).

Chris Lema:

1. The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes & Posner

2. The Fifth Discipline, Senge

3. Leading at a Higher Level, Blanchard

4. Good to Great, Collins

5. Organizational Culture & Leadership, Schein

6. Multipliers, Wiseman

7. Visioneering, Stanley

8. Leadership & the New Science, Wheatley

9. Silos, Politics & Turf Wars, Lencioni

10. First Break All The Rules, Buckingham

Carey Nieuwhof:

1. The Advantage, Lencioni

2. Good to Great, Collins

3. Next Generation Leader, Stanley

4. Emotional Intelligence, Goleman

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey

6. Essentialism, McKeown

7. Leading Change, Kotter,

8. E-Myth Revisited, Gerber

9. Made to Stick, Heath

10. Getting to Yes, Fischer and Ury

Feel free to add your top leadership books to the list in the comments section!

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Next Episode: 


Of all the questions facing the church, reaching Millennials is one of the most pressing ones.

Author and church planting expert Geoff Surratt, shares how some churches are becoming effective at reaching millennials using widely different methods.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 40.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 039: How to Build a High-Performing Team from Scratch—An Interview with Chris Lema


  1. Lynette Lynn on June 23, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Carey, thank you for taking the time to pour into and grow leaders virtually through these podcasts. I have learned so much from your podcasts and I have been challenged in very practical ways as a leader. I also want to thank you for your willingness to be transparent in your own challenges as a leader!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 24, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Thank you Lynette. I’m learning and growing and it’s great to be in this together.

  2. jonperrin on June 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    I’m now listening to this podcast for the 3rd time. It may be, pound for pound, one of the best interviews you’ve hosted – especially on the importance of training your seasoned leaders to be able to verbalize why they make the decisions they do. This skill is HUGE in the process of passing the leadership baton on to the next generation.

  3. David King on June 18, 2015 at 9:52 am

    This podcast was great!!! i’ve spent the last couple of days listening to it… and i’m about to listen to it again… The daily huddles really hit me… have you found certain formats that work well for a church staff?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      Hey David…so glad. I haven’t done daily huddles but Chris is going to try to jump in the comments and answer.

      • David King on June 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

        Thank Carey… I would Love to have Chris jump in here and comment if he can

  4. Andrew Krayer-White on June 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hey Carey, really loved this podcast! You mentioned putting together a reading list w/Chris of the top 10 books you might recommend to read as a church staff. Is that something you guys are still going to put together? Also, you mentioned reading 2 books a year (which I love), recognizing that each context is different, are there two books that you would recommend reading together as a staff to get started this year?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 11, 2015 at 8:33 pm

      You know, we forgot! Hang on. We’ll get to that. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Joe Robideaux on June 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    One of my favorite podcasts. He had some really great metaphors for leadership I needed to hear… especially “learning to dribble with your left hand.” Thanks for interviewing Chris!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 11, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks Joe. Agreed…Chris really delivered.

  6. Zachary Verbracken on June 9, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Chris just seems like a really sharp guy. Great content.

    The best takeaway I got from it: Don’t worry about finding the right leaders and volunteers. Instead, focus on how to build up and improve whoever it is that you work with. It’s hard to find the “right person”. But it is much more possible to create a culture where the people around you can become the right people over time.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 10, 2015 at 7:09 am

      The Saturday Night Live analogy really made me think. 🙂 Thanks Zachary.

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