Center for Organizational Leadership

Empowering Effective Leaders

Cultivating a Culture of Honor: The Value of Teamwork and Gold Mining

By Todd Miller

Todd Miller is a professor of team building and dynamics for the MAOL and the
lead youth minister for College Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas

My wife, Marcie, and I are the parents of four sons — I like to joke that I have my own Miller six-pack — and the importance of being a good teammate has been an ongoing conversation in our home for years. Our boys have had daily doses of this mantra from Marcie and me since they were old enough to join a team, and now the younger brothers get a steady dose of it from their older brothers. We are a household of competitors, with four athletic sons and two parents who support them, and our schedules are filled with practices and games. The concept of teamwork is simply part of our lives. Of course, I believe the value of teamwork extends far beyond a football field or baseball diamond.

Most of us have experienced both healthy and toxic team environments, so we know that healthy teams are made up of people who support one another while toxic teams are often made up of people who put themselves above others. God gave me a highly competitive spirit, and like anything, this can be used for good towards others, or the enemy can use it for selfish motivations. For teamwork to thrive, we must cultivate a culture of honor. Author Danny Silk defines true honor as “the practice of two powerful people putting one another before themselves, empowering one another, working together to meet one another’s needs, and adjusting as necessary in order to move together toward the shared goals of the relationship.” True honor involves respect, admiration, integrity and intentionality. True honor means being devoted to one another and honoring each other above ourselves (Romans 12:10). So, how can you be a good teammate?

I would like to share five fundamental ways to intentionally cultivate a culture of honor within your workplace and home.

  1. Look for the gold in others . Authentic encouragement is vastly underrated in our culture. To be an authentic encourager, we must actively mine for the gold in those around us. This often means sifting through the sand until we see that gold. It means focusing on the good we see in others. It means pointing out and celebrating the strengths we see in our coworkers. We all desire to be celebrated, not just tolerated. Admittedly, looking for gold in others takes a secure and unselfish spirit, but the result is authentic encouragement that honors the unique gifts of others.
  2. Serve and build others up . In a world often consumed with minimizing others and subsequently tearing them down, we must seek ways to serve and build each other up. When consumed with self, we tend to put energy into relationships that only benefit our own goals and aspirations. Serving and building each other up contributes to a strong team foundation, which benefits all team members. We are able to rejoice in the successes of others. There truly is no better way to live than consistently rejoicing in the success of those around us even if we haven’t had the same success. When I truly feel security, significance and acceptance through my identity in Christ, I can rejoice in the success of those around me. No strings attached. While not easy, celebrating the successes of others isvital for a team to continue to accomplish long-term goals and is the ultimate way we can build one another up.
  3. Respect leadership . Hebrews 13:17 tells us to have confidence in leaders and submit to their authority so that their work will be a joy, not a burden. I take this very seriously in my role as a minister. In all workplaces, leaders can be easy targets at which we launch our complaints and blame. In my own work, my leadership comes from a group of five elders. I make it a point to talk positively about my leadership when they aren’t in the room, and I try to shut down any unnecessary negativity toward them. Regardless of our workplaces, we must honor our leadership whenever we can, even when we don’t agree with some of their decisions.
  4. Assume the best . Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost our ability to assume the best about our coworkers, family and friends. An absence of trust leads to not assuming the best because trust is at the core of every healthy relationship. I highly value assuming the best about those I work closely with, and I expect them to give me the same benefit of the doubt. Assuming the best can be very freeing in the battlefield of the mind, and it is one essential way to cultivate a healthy team.
  5. Be honest and honoring . Every vital relationship will face conflict at some point, and, unfortunately, when emotions are high, logic is typically low. For healthy confrontation and conflict resolution, we need to be honest and honoring at the same time. This must be a top priority for a healthy teamwork culture. This doesn’t mean we avoid tough conversations. It just means that when having tough conversations, we are taking care of one another’s hearts at the same time. It is possible to be honest and honoring with those at work and at home.

If a team is cultivating all five of these points, then the natural by-product is team unity. When we receive and release unconditional love and prioritize team unity, we respect leadership, assume the best in team members, engage with honesty and honor, seek out the gold in others, and serve and build up one another while truly rejoicing in their successes. After experiencing a team like this, you’ll never want to go back to anything else. As we all strive to be better leaders and more effective team members, we need to remember that, ultimately, we are responsible to people, not for them or for their actions. We must strive to do our part to cultivate a culture of honor within our team settings.

Within every team situation, it is essential to accept what we can and cannot control. I can only control me, and you can only control you. We can control our effort, attitudes, reactions to adversity, and ability to motivate ourselves and those around us. I tell my sons that if they show up to practice every day willing to give it 100% whether they feel like it or not then they are successful regardless of any score or statistic. The same is true in all areas of life. We play like we practice. Half-hearted practice leads to half-hearted performance. We must give each day our best effort. We must work with all our hearts as if we work for God (Colossians 3:23). Jesus expects a spirit of excellence from each of us; he expects us to be good teammates and to give others our best.

Be devoted to one another in love.

Honor one another above yourselves.

Mine for gold today.