Building a Killer Team | Shawn Lovejoy

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Shawn Lovejoy, Author of Killer Team and founder of Courage To Lead, discusses some of the keys to developing a Killer Team at your church.

Podcast Transcription


Jason Hamrock: [00:00:26] Well, Shawn, welcome back to the show. So good to see you. How are you doing?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:00:31] Jason, great to see you guys. Love what you guys do. And I love everyone, but I like you guys.

Jason Hamrock: [00:00:39] Well, the feelings are mutual. Thanks for things for being on here. I know you got a lot going on, and so glad to have you back because we’re going to dive into your brand-new book. But before we do that, give our listeners just a quick update on your story, your ministry, and what you’ve been up to. And also talk about this thing called Courage to Lead Coaching Services, and what’s that all about? So I’ll hand it off to you.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:01:06] Yeah. So for people who don’t know who I am or my story, I was a real estate developer, turned church planter, turned megachurch pastor, turned coach. And I began coaching pastors 20 years ago, just kind of how to get better between Sundays and how to become a better leader and how to build a good team and simple systems that can scale, and all of that stuff. I always felt like a business guy or an executive pastor trapped in a senior pastor’s body. And I just had a knack for coaching, so much so that I recognized that desire and gift about myself much better than my preaching. You know, I made the second scariest decision in my life to hand off the church I birthed in my living room, you know, and try to go all in on this coaching thing seven years ago as of the time of this recording, and it’s just been an amazing ride since then. We have 20 coaches now, we have a marketplace division which rests at, and a pastor’s division at And I’m literally having the time of my life, I have to pinch myself on a weekly basis. And when you’re running in your lane and you know God is using you for something significant, you know, you literally have to pinch yourself, and that’s the way I live and breathe these days.

Jason Hamrock: [00:02:27] Yeah, isn’t that the goal for everyone to kind of find that sweet spot where it’s never a job? It’s just it’s an honor.

Bart Blair: [00:02:35] You call it your spiritual what?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:02:37] I call it spiritual swagger for a leader to steward and maintain or regain, you know, their spiritual swagger. Not arrogance, but that holy confidence, that like, wait a minute, God called me to this and gifted me with this and anointed me to do this, and I add value when I do this, there’s no greater feeling in the world.

Jason Hamrock: [00:02:59] So you do a lot of coaching, and you mentioned both in the secular marketplace, but with pastors, with churches. Is it all kinds of church leaders? Your XP’s or lead pastors or comms or what does that look like?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:03:15] Yeah, it’s all over the map. I mean, we usually coach a leader and or their team, you know, depending upon the scope of work. But what we do is unique because we’re not just delivering content, we put a coach with a leader and or their team for a year or more usually. I mean, it’s deep dive, you know, and walk alongside them. But we usually have a primary liaison on the team that we’re working with and through, that recognizes the need for this. So sometimes that’s senior pastor, sometimes it’s worship pastor, sometimes that’s executive vice president, sometimes that’s the COO, sometimes it’s the worship pastor, it just depends, you know, and so we were able to pair them up with a coach regardless.

Jason Hamrock: [00:03:56] Yeah. You know, I see the value in that tremendously because it doesn’t matter if you’re the seasoned lead pastor for 30 years or you’re brand new, everyone needs a coach. You mentioned in your book, which we’re going to get to, you actually quoted, or you put a little section about Tom Brady, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL who still has a coach. And yet, you know, that’s probably the guy who doesn’t need one. but he’s still will use it.

Bart Blair: [00:04:25] I will note that I think you referred to him as retired quarterback Tom Brady in the book, which dates the 5 minutes in which the book got published because he was retired for 5 minutes.

Jason Hamrock: [00:04:36] So the coaching aspect of it, I think is one of those things where it seems like ministry leaders, we just don’t do that enough because we’re so busy focusing on the weekends and getting ready for Sunday type of a thing that that just kind of…We read about it, but we don’t have somebody there walking beside us with a roadmap of how to get better.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:04:59] You and I talked about it last time I was on Jason, just after 20 years of doing this is still, what was the number one mistake 20 years ago is still the number one mistake I see leaders make today, isolation. Isolation. And when you get isolated, you know, there’s personal detriments, but there are professional detriments. You know, you can skip over another leader’s pain if you put yourself in a learning relationship. But if you’re isolated, you’re recreating the wheel man, you’re reliving every other leader’s pain the hard way. You can literally shortcut and skip over a leader’s pain, by learning from someone who’s further ahead than you are. I’ve done it, I’ve lived that, that’s my testimony.

Jason Hamrock: [00:05:46] Yeah, that’s so rich. Okay, so you came out with a new book, and I would like to talk a little bit about this book, but the title of it is Building a Killer Team Without Killing Yourself or Your Team. And why did you write this book and who’s the audience for this book?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:06:07] Well, I talked about the number one mistake. You know, we’ve talked for years about coaching leaders through what keeps them awake at night. And the number one thread I’ve seen over 20 years, the number one tension that will keep you awake at night are people’s tensions. And I state in the book the two biggest lies from hell that I ever believed. When we get to here, it’ll be easier. And when I hire this next person, it’ll solve all our problems. And they’re both myths, it gets more complicated, there are more personalities, there’s more responsibility, all of that. And so this was a desire, we talk about the gears of growth, culture, team, and system in our coaching, so this was a desire to really make public this framework we had been coaching on and around for years called the Killer Team Framework. We really help people with like how to build that amazing team, you know, without killing them, you know, or without killing you in the process. I fought for the tagline, to keep it in there because, you know, I know guys that are all about building the killer team, but they’re killing everybody in the process and killing themselves in the process, killing their marriages in the process, like, I’m not for that you know?

Jason Hamrock: [00:07:26] Yeah, and we go through everything that’s in the book, which I don’t want to go through all the chapters, a lot of great chapters in here, but every chapter, everybody deals with all this stuff. And it almost, I would make the statement, hopefully, you’ll agree with the statement, that it doesn’t matter where you are in the food chain if you will, this book will add value to your career, your leadership development. Because everybody’s leading at some point, you’re either leading yourself or you’re leading a team of people. Would that be accurate?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:07:55] Yeah. And I have a business administration undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in theology, and I was not taught a single thing in this book.

Bart Blair: [00:08:07] Learning on the job. Shawn, define a killer team for us. What is a killer team?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:08:14] Great question, I’m so glad you asked. And my coach told me yesterday, that the best thing I did for the book was to define it on the back cover. You know, the first definition of the word killer is, of course, to kill, is to be ruthless, to be harsh, to murder, you know. But the second definition, the adjective description of the book, it means to be strikingly impressive or effective. You know, and that’s the kind of team I want to help guys build strikingly impressive or effective teams, that’s a killer team.

Jason Hamrock: [00:08:52] Do you ever arrive?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:08:54] No, I think that’s a scary place to be when you think you’ve arrived. Because it’s people, you’re in the people business, it’s always messy, it’s always complicated, and you can always get better, you can always get better at it. IQ, you never get better than what you’re born with. EQ, your self-awareness, you know, the ability to manage your emotions and deal with people. But your LQ, how you leverage your impact, and influence, and your gifting, those can get infinitely better. And for someone who’s from Alabama, that’s the most encouraging truth in the world.

Bart Blair: [00:09:33] So can you define the difference between a staff and a team? You’re using the word team, and a lot of people throw that term around in the business world or in the church world. What’s the difference between a staff, the staff of a church, or a team in a church? A staff in a corporation organization and a team, what’s the difference?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:09:55] Yeah, so I like to say that, you know, and I say this in the book, that a staff is a group of people who are working together, committed to a collective vision, but killer teams are mutually devoted. They’re devoted to the mission, but they’re devoted to each other. And I can say that here, I don’t say it in the marketplace everywhere, but Acts chapter two says they were devoted to the apostle’s teaching, they were devoted to correct doctrine, but they were devoted to the fellowship, they had each other’s backs, they were loyal. The nature of relationships in the church were so close, you had people of different races and tribes calling each other brother for the first time in human history, that was huge, and everybody wanted to be on that team. That was strikingly impressive or effective, not just what they said, but like the bond this group of people had, and it was the outside world recognized it and wanted a piece of it. It’s what gave calls to the Christian church, not just the…The Pharisees had been teaching the doctrine, you know, what the church had was the community in which they delivered and lived the doctrine, that was the real power. So in the marketplace, it’s not your strategy, it’s not your product, I mean like Patrick Lencioni says this in The Advantage, the competitive advantage in the marketplace, and I would say the church, is a highly aligned, highly cohesive leadership team. It’s true.

Bart Blair: [00:11:33] If you’re listening to this podcast, you can’t see the smile on Shawn’s face when he’s talking about this stuff. This is, it’s infectious. If you’re watching on our YouTube channel, you see Shawn’s smile. We’re running in a lane here, conversationally, that turns his crank, clearly.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:11:52] You can probably tell that just by the tone of my voice.

Bart Blair: [00:11:54] Yeah. Yeah. Jason, you had a follow-up question there?

Jason Hamrock: [00:11:57] Yeah. So I think about the churches we get to serve, I think about the people who listen to this podcast and they’re probably going, oh, great, another leadership book, you know, but the things you’re saying go deeper than that. Here’s a question for you, because I want to help churches understand this. Out of all the churches that you work with or talk to, how many, I mean it doesn’t probably matter the size of the church or even the size of the staff, are they super dysfunctional? Are they way off base with this stuff? Yeah, we’re all equally yoked because we all love Jesus, but you just see all this stuff on the outside, you see the catastrophe coming. Does that happen with every church you work with? Or what’s that look like?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:12:45] The answer is yes, though some would disqualify themselves and discredit themselves because we don’t have a large staff, or we have a lot of part-timers, or we have a lot of lay leaders or whatever. You know, the truth is, you know, God’s not going to send us more than we can handle, so if we can’t steward well the team we have now…

Jason Hamrock: [00:13:08] Then don’t expect work growth.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:13:10] Yeah, yeah.

Jason Hamrock: [00:13:11] Yeah, it might make sense…Oh, go ahead, sorry.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:13:14] We got to get better. And in today’s world, especially, the fast-growing churches, you know, are tempted to use people to get the ministry done. And man, on the heels of the pandemic, you know, Van der Blumen, and chemistry staffing, and all the church staff, they’re getting resumes like crazy. Guys are like, I’m done, I don’t care how great the big picture is and the lives that are being changed, this rollercoaster is negatively affecting my quality of life and my family, and I’m out. I’m out! Literally, it’s affecting my quality of life as a human being to make this great thing happen. So we got to we’ve got to circle around, we’ve got to get better at loving and serving and caring for the people that we’re trying to take the hill with.

Jason Hamrock: [00:14:04] Yeah, we see that all the time with church staff turnover, you know, and since the pandemic, it has skyrocketed, you know? And now they’re trying to find new people, so they’re looking for the unicorn that doesn’t exist, but they hire the person just because they’re available.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:14:23] And by the way, the pandemic didn’t cause it, there’s a lot of victim mentality out there wrapped up in that with pastors, it exposed it, it revealed it, not caused it. So we’ve got to take responsibility to get better, you know, as leaders.

Bart Blair: [00:14:41] Shawn, what are some things that kill a killer team, or prevent a team from being a killer team? What are some practical things that our listeners or our viewers are kind of going through their own mental checklist, things that they may love about their team, things they don’t love about their team, what are some things that keep a killer team from being a killer team, or a potential killer team from being a killer team?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:15:02] Yeah. So Jesus was full of grace and truth, and either one out of balance is incomplete, you know? And so churches, in particular, are famous for being nice to a fault and giving grace to a fault. And I’ll have pastors call me and they’ll say, well, my worship pastor did this, it’s always a worship pastor, or my student pastor did this. And my question is always, have you told him or her what you just told me? Do you know what the answer is 99 out of 100 times, can you guess?

Bart Blair: [00:15:39] Negative.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:15:39] Well, no, not really, I mean…You’re not being honest, it lacks integrity, and they don’t even know you’re frustrated at them. So grace to a fault, but then also truth to a fault. In this high honor culture, I really believe in having a culture of honor. But if I’m not touchable and I’m not approachable and no one can challenge me, what many of these situations in where the leader of the team disqualified themselves morally from continuing vocational ministry, it was money, sex, or power, those were just the symptoms. The common thread they all have, was that leader allowed a fear-based culture to form within the team, and I was unapproachable, and I was untouchable, and no one could challenge me. You know, so it’s that balance of grace and truth, and me being approachable as a leader, and everybody on our team being a coachable leader. And us committing to honest, robust, dialog, healthy conflict, as opposed to artificial harmony. You know, all of those are the ingredients of like a really, really healthy environment, or in a toxic culture that begins to form on the team.

Jason Hamrock: [00:17:07] You mentioned that when you’re coaching, it’s like a year-long, I mean, you’re sometimes with at least a year or so. Is that because, you know, the church obviously goes through different seasons, right? And through those different time frames that…

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:17:19] Yeah, I think a good coach, I mean let’s use the Tom Brady analogy for just a moment. You know a best coach like watches the player play and has a relationship with them, you know, gets to know the little intricacies of everything about them. And the longer they coach them, the better they become. because you know their tendencies, and you’re on the sidelines meeting the rest of the team. So the longer you walk with that player, the better coach you are. So I tell leaders, the longer we walk with you, you will become a better coach. And part of our coaching relationship involves even meeting the key players on the leadership team. So I always tell leaders, man, after we meet the key players on your team, I will instantly become a better coach because I’m going to have my own thoughts from an outside perspective of who’s with you, who can’t make it to the next level, who won’t make it to the next level. And I have a different set of lenses that I’m looking at them than you are, so I’ll become a much better coach to you even after I meet the key players on the team. So in general, we don’t have any contracts or agreements in our coaching, but guys recognize, wow, they’re giving me better counsel like every month we go along because I trust them more, number one, I’m dropping the pose. And number two, the key players are kind of becoming part of that process too.

Jason Hamrock: [00:18:42] Yeah. You’re sinking into the culture, which then allows you to coach up.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:18:48] Yeah.

Bart Blair: [00:18:49] I want to back up to the last statement that you were making when were talking about things that kill the potential of killer teams being killer teams. And you talked about approachability, coachability. The vast majority of people who listen to this podcast are probably communications directors, there are some senior pastors and some executive pastors that would tune in, but there are people that would typically find themselves somewhere in the middle of the leadership ladder within their organization. If I’m that guy or that gal and I am recognizing that there’s some level of toxicity, there’s some level of conflict, there’s something that isn’t healthy for our team. I mean, granted, there are all kinds of books about leading up and that sort of thing, but if I want to be a catalyst for helping my team get better but I’m not the head coach of the team, what are some practical things that I can do? TI could buy a copy of the book and give it to my boss, or fill in the blank, Shawn, what else can I do?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:20:02] Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest that in general. I hated it, as a senior pastor, when any staff member or church member, here’s a book I think you need to read. There’s always an agenda there.

Bart Blair: [00:20:12] It’s awful when it’s the Bible, too, when they hand you the Bible and say, I don’t think you’re reading the same Bible I’m reading. I’ve had that happen.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:20:19] I tell you, if you’re a second or third chair leader in the church, you know, you need to know what I tell senior pastors. I tell senior pastors, you do not need to listen to most people in your church, don’t listen to them, only listen to people in your church, including on your team who have to meet three requirements, three fundamental requirements, they have to meet all three, they got to love God with all their hearts, they got to love the vision with all their hearts, and they got to love you with all their hearts. If they don’t meet all three, don’t listen to them. If your mandate is to find you a few people that meet all three requirements and listen to them. So if you’re a second or third chair leader, flip that around, if I want to be listened to, the first thing my leader needs to hear is not what they’re doing wrong, not all the things that I see that are broken, not to point out their blind spot. The first thing I’ve got to communicate is, Pastor, I’m with you, I’m for you, I’m behind you, I love you, I got your back no matter what, and no matter what kind of dialog we have behind closed doors when we walk out, I got you. You know, and them feeling that consistently, but not just implied, like spoken, spoken. And that will give you access to your leader that 999 out of 1000 do not get, do not get. And I have found majority of the time he’ll listen, she’ll listen, if they know you love God, you’re pursuing God, and you totally are in love with the vision, and you love them. And I’m telling senior pastors, if they meet all three requirements, listen to them, listen to them.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:22:11] And the second thing I would say is, that their response is not your responsibility, your responsibility is to speak the truth in love. If you’re not doing that, then you’re part of the problem. If you’re living in fear of your job, rather than speaking the truth in love and biblical community, you’re becoming part of the issue. So I also get calls from second and third chair leaders and I’m like, have you told your pastor that? Oh, no, no, I would never do that. Well, you owe it to him as a human being. Do you want him to get better? Do you have hopes that he could get better? Do you believe God can do anything when he uses the church? You know? And so if you meet those three requirements, you need to go to him, you need to go to her, and begin with what’s right. that’s where every coaching conversation should start. But then say, I see some things, I want what’s great for you, it bothers me sometimes what I hear people say or think or whatever, I read the room, you know, whatever. I’ve got your back and I think I can help you with a couple blind spots if you’re open to it, you know, and don’t say no for them. Let them decide whether they’re going to be insecure, defensive, dismissive, whatever, that’s not our responsibility, but to speak to truth in love in hopes we could win that person back, Scripture says. I hope that’s in the bandwidth somewhere, the spectrum of what you were looking for.

Bart Blair: [00:23:34] Yeah, absolutely. Now, let me follow up that question with, if I’m on a team, this is going in maybe a totally different direction. But if I’m on a team, and let’s say I believe that I am doing those things and I have been doing those things, but I’m not seeing the change organizationally that I want or feel like I need to see changing, what are the cues for me that I might be on the wrong bus? What are the things that might be cues for me that let me know that, hey, this team might not ever get to be a killer team and I might need to go look for a killer team somewhere else?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:24:12] Yeah. Why are 75 to 85% of churches in North America plateaued or declining? You know, because the leader is defensive and insecure and won’t learn anything from anybody, won’t get a coach, isolated, doing the way he did things 20 years ago, and is hell-bent on doing it. So it’s a deep change or slow death, so I’ve got to decide to stay here and die a slow death, or leave, it’s a free country. I’d rather live in a van down by the river, Bart, than serve under a leader that won’t listen to anybody. It’s a free country in our country, you know, you can work anywhere, you can do anything. And I’m not going to bide my best years of my life, my greatest potential, under a leader that won’t listen. Jesus said they won’t listen, shake the dust off your sandals and move on to the next one. You know, leave in the name of Jesus, you know, if you’ve spoken your peace, and that’s a big if, if you’ve spoken your peace, not taking a shot on the way out, I’m talking about a true appeal and desire to lead up, and create a win, and help this leader peel back his blind spots, and there’s been nothing, nada, crickets, you know, or passive aggressiveness, you know, all this stuff that happens that’s unhealthy, retribution, perhaps, you know, or at the least nothing. You know, I got to decide, am I just going to die and be okay with that and learn to kind of submit that, and maybe together as a collective mission, we still can accomplish a lot? Or, do I want to go serve under a leader that I can potentially impact up, you know, because there are lots of great pastors out there that are not insecure, that are not defensive, that will listen, that are collaborative. There are a lot of great guys out there, and gals, that will listen to you, so go for it.

Jason Hamrock: [00:26:17] Wow. There’s truth and nuggets for everybody who’s listening right there.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:26:25] I just ruined some person’s life today.

Bart Blair: [00:26:29] Well, I mean, you know, Jason and I have been around the church world, you’ve been around the church world, and we’ve seen people come out of the church and out of ministry, amazingly wounded, like really, really hurt. And a lot of times the reason that the wounds are so deep is that there is an unbridled loyalty to the church, and an unbridled loyalty to the mission, and the person on the staff team doesn’t have enough self-respect or believe that it’s okay to leave if and when things are unhealthy for them. But at the same time, I’ve also seen those people leave and go somewhere else and plugin and find that the patterns are repeated without being self-aware enough that maybe they are contributing to some of the reasons that their situation isn’t healthy and it’s not the best for them. So it does take a level of self-awareness to know that, you know, if I go from church to church B to church C, and I’m miserable in every single one of those and it’s not working out, I might be the common denominator, but that’s not always the case, but it is sometimes the case.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:27:48] Henry Cloud, I recommend the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. You know, he said it takes a healthy, self-aware person to recognize it’s time to exit before everyone else comes to that conclusion.

Bart Blair: [00:28:04] Yeah. In my pre-ministry, I boast about this, I had about five years in the corporate world before I went into ministry and I had a pretty high-level role in the organization that I worked in. And I can honestly say in the five years that I led this team, I never had to let anyone go. But I did have a lot of those conversations with staff where I said, you might need to think about whether or not this is the best long-term fit for you before somebody else has to make that decision for you.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:28:40] That’s exactly right. Clarity with your team members allows room for the Holy Spirit to speak to them more loudly and for them to come to the conclusion that this is no longer a fit for them, and it’s always better for them to come to that conclusion than you. But they can’t come to that conclusion most of the time unless you are painting a clear picture of where we’re going and what you need from them and where they’re falling short, what their blind spots are, what you need from them in the future, etc., etc., etc. And when you shy back from that, you’re harming the church, but you’re harming that person as well because they’re running in a lane that doesn’t put a smile on their face every day. If they’re in over their heads from a capacity standpoint, or the vision has shifted a little bit over time and they are no longer 1,000% mutually devoted to this thing, it’s going to suck the life out of them too, not only their team, their department, but that human being. There’s a reason why they call them preachers kids, you know, because you got this man, this woman running outside of their lane, and then they get inside, they get in the car and grumble every Sunday afternoon to their kids, you know? So we do them a favor by getting really clear about what the future looks like for us and for them. It’s not to their detriment, it should never be to their detriment, it’s for their good and for the organization’s good. We lean into courage.

Jason Hamrock: [00:30:14] Well, let’s land this. Shawn, thank you for your ministry and for your years of experience, and for sharing this with us. Just today I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully, you have too as the listeners are listening to this. How can they get in touch with you, with your organization, and buy the book?

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:30:36] Sure. is the book. I self-published this one so I could literally send in the first one for the cost of the printing and the shipping. So the first one’s on me really right there, and then you can get extra books for your team and all of that. But I just say to guys, like, the book is never intended to be a fix-all. You know, that’s one of the detriments in our society right now, the next book I read, the next conference I go to, you know, the next podcast I listen to, ok, and I lead two, you know, but you need a coach. You need a coach, so we’d love to talk with you about that. You know, We’ll jump on a zoom call, we’ll assess whether it be a good time or fit to talk with you and your team about coaching you. That’s our end game every time, you know, not to write books or speak or do podcasts, but to coach leaders.

Jason Hamrock: [00:31:36] Excellent. Shawn, I appreciate you. I know you’re busy and your schedule is full, so thank you for being on this podcast, writing this book, and sharing some of the details with us. We appreciate it.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:31:48] Thank you guys, for what you do. Thanks for bringing your gift to the church. And wow, I can think of a lot of former staff members that could have used your coaching, your help, your support, and your insight over the years. So I just praise God for what he’s doing in and through you all.

Jason Hamrock: [00:32:06] Amen.

Bart Blair: [00:32:07] Thank you, sir. Appreciate the opportunity to hang out with you today and calling you a friend. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Lovejoy: [00:32:14] Yeah.

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