Teach Your Team to Fish: Using Ancient Wisdom for Inspired Teamwork

Teach Your Team to Fish: Using Ancient Wisdom for Inspired Teamwork

by Laurie Beth Jones

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Laurie Beth Jones has given hundreds of thousands of business readers insight into how the ideas of Jesus can be used to enhance performance. One of the most critical work areas for anyone, whether a manager or a CEO, a teacher or a pastor, is cooperative teamwork. Leaders today face their greatest challenges not only in defining strategies and getting updated information but also in getting diverse human beings to pull together without falling apart.

Jesus can be a role model for team leaders everywhere. When Jesus called out to his future disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he transformed them from people who worked for themselves to people who were part of a larger team. Jesus was constantly exhorting his people to “gather in my name” and “go out two by two” and always think and pray “as one.” Jesus’ final prayer was “that they might be one, Father, even as you and I are one,” which is ultimately about union and communion, common values and purpose—all of which form the bedrock of an inspired team.

Teach Your Team to Fish offers dozens of stories from the Bible showing how Jesus managed his team of disciples and other followers, with suggestions for how to apply these lessons to real-world teambuilding and management problems. It offers guidance and inspiration on:

* how to excite your team in order to motivate them;
* how to ground them so they’ll be realistic about what can be achieved;
* how to transform them into a truly well-functioning team;
* and how to release them into the world to improve other teams elsewhere.

Along the way, the book gives examples of companies in which teams work well together and offers lessons that can help team leaders everywhere sustain themselves and achieve their common goals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400045280
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/07/2011
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 991,790
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

LAURIE BETH JONES is the author of the national bestsellers Jesus, CEO; Jesus in Blue Jeans; and The Path. She is an acclaimed speaker whose topics include leadership and management skills and teambuilding. She also consults one on one with CEOs and leadership teams and trains facilitators to help coach their organizations, departments, and groups. For more information, visit her website at www.jesusceo.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

He Excited Them

As I carefully made my way across the rocks that littered the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I marveled at being in the actual place where so many people's lives, and careers, were changed by the presence of a single man. I tried to imagine what must have coursed through Peter's mind when he looked up at the figure that was silhouetted on the shore, and heard the words "Drop your nets, and follow me." History records that Peter did just that. As did the woman at the well and the woman who was given her life back when the stone-carrying mob dropped their accusations against her and let her go free. Jesus had an incredible ability to excite people-causing them to take their lives and minds and hearts in totally new directions.

What was it that allowed Jesus to excite people so much? Was it pure charisma–the promise of adventure–the presence of God? Certainly it was all three of those, and more.

In this part we will explore some of the things Jesus did to excite his team. For example, he offered them a clear path to advancement, which in that culture was very limited, or even nonexistent. He turned work into cause, elevated the dialogue, and wisely used the power of presentation. He taught his team the importance of systems thinking, and how to run a "family" business. He turned criticism into collaboration and showed them the SQM Method: Simplify, Quantify, and Multiply. Most of all, he embodied the mission of which he spoke.

Jesus brought fire into these people's lives. Those who had once sat in great darkness suddenly saw a great light.

He excited them.

He Turned Work into Cause

I must work the works of him that sent me.
–John 9:4

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:17-20). And then he put his arms around them and began to show them the Big Picture, one day at a time.

Study after study now confirms that people function better in their specific tasks when they know the big picture of which they are a part. A recent survey presented in the book Values Shift: The New Work Ethic and What It Means for Business, by John B. Izzo, Ph.D., and Pam Withers (Fairwinds Press, 2001), reveals that 91 percent of staff workers at every level would like to know details of the budgets of their organizations, even though their paycheck may be only a very small part.

One of the main reasons people underperform in their jobs is that they don't know "why" they are doing them in the first place.

To understand why this knowledge is so important, consider an example from the human body. Science continues to reveal the higher intelligence at work in our bodies. For example, red blood cells do the same thing in the body forever, but they never tire of their work. The red blood cell's job is to take oxygen to other cells in the body and exchange it for carbon dioxide. In this nonstop activity the red blood cell is not depleted but in fact nourished by its "job."

Scientists now know that the red blood cell contains within it the complete DNA code for the entire body. In other words, it carries a map of the whole body in its structure even as it continues to carry out a single, specific, highly specialized task. Some scientists theorize that perhaps because the red blood cell "knows" the function of the whole, it can be content in its "micro" task, and perform it without exhaustion.

In fact, every cell in the body contains the DNA code or "map" of the whole. Could it be that God already knew what management theorists are just now discovering-that even the least part of the body performs best when it "knows" the map of the whole?

If you have ever had the privilege of encountering an enthusiastic janitor or a humming cook or a singing maid, you have probably met the equivalent of a red blood cell that does not tire of its task because it knows its energy exchange is vital to the organization as a whole.

The number three reason people now stay in their jobs, again according to John Izzo, is that the mission of the organization engages and excites them. People also leave their jobs because the mission of the organization doesn't excite or engage them.

Perhaps as we move into a society that is literally linked by the dynamic exchange of intelligence, we experience a greater need to know the "macro" plans of our organizations so we can be fully engaged in our "micro" tasks. This represents a huge shift from the isolated feudalism or smokestack industrialism that preceded us.

Leaders who believe that they can threaten red blood cells into doing their jobs are asking for trouble up ahead. The famous basketball coach Pat Riley says, "You don't have to yell at someone who wants the same thing that you do."

Teambuilders inspire people to look up. Jesus did this with Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, as well as with all his other disciples and followers. By revealing the Bigger Picture, he turned work into cause.


1.Does your team understand the "DNA code" of the entire organization?

2.Have you shared it with them, or do you think it's a secret between you and God?

3.Why would one part of an organization need to know how another part functions?


Dear Lord–
Help me share with my "cell mates" all that I know of your master plan for us . . . so that they too can work with ease and nourishment and joy.

He Taught Community

. . . that they may be one, even as we are.
–John 17:11

Jesus sought to build community through expanded thinking. His earnest desire, reflecting his Father's desire, was that no seat at the banquet table should be empty-that anyone who was hungry for the team benefits of right standing with God would be fed.

When Jesus gave a blessing to the Samaritan woman at the well, he was opening the door of commerce and exchange with a group that had been previously "off limits." After she had her initial meeting with him, she ran back into the village and brought along her friends-multiplying the effect of Jesus' words. When he praised the faith of the Roman centurion who sought healing for his servant and required only that Jesus use his word to heal him, Jesus was opening up awareness that God's blessing and favor could exist outside the social construct of strict Judaism. He gave the example of a king throwing a banquet and inviting his family, only to have his family decline because they were too busy to come. So the king angrily opened up the party to anyone who was hungry. He did this because he wanted the table to be full of happy partygoers, rather than empty with self-righteous, self-involved people. When Jesus was giving his final prayer to God right before his death, recorded in John 17, he asked "that they may be one, even as we are."

Here he was seeking the ultimate merger of hearts and minds and souls–community.

Jesus had a huge heart and a big eye when it came to seeing the possibilities of unity among people of like hearts and minds. He wanted everyone to see their connection to each other, and to God. As I write this, there is a growing phenomenon called "coaching." Whereas coaching was once reserved for athletic teams, and "consultants" were hired to improve the profitability of companies, thousands of people are now working at helping others to achieve their highest and best. Some of the people I know who are doing this say that there is nothing as satisfying as seeing someone blossom into the truth of how loved and talented and bright they are. "When you are coaching," I asked one of them, "whom are you working for?" "Them," he replied with a smile. "And me. And God, too. And that is what is so great about it. It's like we're all in this one big company together."

Coaching helps people merge with others of like mind, and acquire new talents, often through expanding to the resources of the community. I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to Robert Willig, an internationally known economist who teaches at Princeton University. He was preparing a talk on Old Testament economics, and asked me what economic principle drove the New Testament. Not being an economics professor, I had to think about it for a moment, and then I replied, "Well, if you look at the early Christian movement as detailed in the Acts of the Apostles, the people sold everything they had and held it in common. They were instructed to use what goods they had to give gifts to others, and not to worry about what they were going to eat and drink. Finally I looked at Professor Willig and said, "New Testament economics was about mergers and acquisitions ending up in community."

Jesus built his team to think like a community. The benefits of such thinking were increased spiritual power, a sense of joy and praise, defense against impending dangers, mutual helpfulness, and deepened faith.

As I write this, I am in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains. I've been invited to be the guests of Dave Cowan and Susanna Palomares, who are dues-paying members of the Fourth Lake community, which comprises families who own individual camps or cabins here, but come together to share facilities at the clubhouse on a weekly basis. Friday night is square dancing. Saturday night is charades. Monday night is children's night. Wednesday night is lecture night. And on the nights in between, someone will call and invite you to a potluck supper. In the afternoon everyone goes down to the lake, where they share canoes and kayaks and paddles and oars and life preservers and chairs. They take turns watching the children. It is an amazing thing. I have only been here three days, yet I know with certainty that if I lacked anything, I would only have to alert Jay or Albert or Loretta, and whatever I needed would somehow be provided. Arnie, whom I met at one of the potluck dinner gatherings, has come up from New York City, where he teaches a filmmaking class. He, too, marveled at the sense of community. "This is all we Jews ever wanted–to dwell with one another in peace," he sighed, taking a bite out of Katherine's chocolate cake. The Fourth Lake community has somehow successfully merged people of different ages and ethnicities, economic levels and beliefs, and brought them together around a very calm, beautiful, and tiny lake.

Gloria Gaither, a highly successful gospel singer and author, tells a beautiful story as she sits on the stage at the Praise Gathering. Every year, ten thousand people fill the Indianapolis Civic Center to bursting, as people from all over the country come together to feast on praise and worship, and listen to some of her husband Bill's corny jokes. When the spotlight goes on Gloria, and she gathers up her skirt and gets out the book, the whole auditorium hushes itself like a child about to be read a bedtime story.

Gloria tells about a person who was asked to bring a chicken salad to the neighborhood picnic. This person starts to grouse and complain, saying, "Sure-everyone else gets to bring ice, and I have to cook a whole chicken." Then the person eventually shows up, and finds to her surprise that there is an entire banquet laid out, almost as far as the eye can see–not only her chicken salad, but also fried chicken and cooked corn and mashed potatoes and watermelon and chocolate cake. Suddenly the woman realizes that "God didn't need my chicken salad. He just wanted me to come to the banquet so I could sample Bev's chocolate cake."

There is a lot to be said for one team's opening up to another team's talents, and joining them in a community banquet table. As Jesus said, "Happy are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb," implying that we shall receive the benefits of two becoming one, the multiplied happiness that results from them doing so.


1.Have you had an air of exclusivity about your team?

2.What would happen if you were to open it up to others?

3.Why do you think Jesus' new policy of expanding the community threatened the religious leaders of his time?

4.What are some other entities that might be willing to share or merge their gifts and talents with yours?


Dear Lord,
Help me get off my high horse and realize that the field is indeed ripe for harvest, and the laborers are few. Help me and my team develop an attitude of openness, generosity, and trust that will advance what we are doing, and bring about your glory.

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