Total Radical Transparency

James Cameron—known for writing, directing, exploring—enrolled in a 2-year community college but dropped out before graduating. How did he push through to create over 6 billion worldwide of box office receipts? Terminator? Aliens? Titanic? Avatar? How did he chronicle a record-breaking solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the lowest point on earth and film a documentary about it?

The deep sea exploration came to pass with the help of a “small, dedicated, multi-tasking crew” . But as they faced deadlines and challenges, the tension built, like it would anywhere.

In an interview with Josh Rottenburg of Fast Company Magazine, Cameron explains how the tensions were resolved and breakthroughs were made. His approach has struck a chord with me. It could change ministries if we could commit to the temporary pain of remaining in conflict and working through to a solution.

Here’s the thing, it requires commitment. Not the superficial, humor each other at the table, talk about each other away from it, kind we may experience. It requires skin in the game commitment.

I think every church, every youth ministry, every missions group, every team doing kingdom work should perk up and pay attention to his method. If we could do this—REALLY commit to doing this—we’d be able to accomplish many more seemingly impossible things together.

James calls it “TOTAL RADICAL TRANSPARENCY.”

When describing the effort it took to film his solo dive he explains how his team worked.

“Everybody working on the vehicle had to sit around a table every morning at 8:15 (not 8:14 or 8:16) and we’d air out our problems. There would be no offline conversations about the things that were going wrong. You bring your problems to the group, and we as a group would solve them. People thought I was crazy, but after about two weeks, we really started working as a team. They started to understand that you don’t hide your problems—you bring your problems to the group.” (Fast Company Magazine, Sept. 2014, p. 32)

I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredible teams. I didn’t realize why at the time, but I thrive in environments where we were collaborating toward solutions. One of the biggest factors to this mutual thriving was caring.

James didn’t explicitly say that his team cared. But he did imply it when he said that they showed up every morning at 8:15. Not 8:14 or 8:16. It showed that they were all-in. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always on time. I have distractions. I may show up with my head somewhere else. But when there is something on the line and we all need to be all-in and the leadership has communicated that, it changes my approach and it changes how I feel about what we are working on.

The other occasionally uncomfortable thing about this approach is that conversations need to be had at the table. I can think of nothing more devastating to a project than a team whose offline conversations have more of an impact on the decisions than the ones that happen at the table. It deflates the team. It disempowers the process. It disrespects the people that have been put together to work toward a solution.

Some of the most beautiful environments, movements, events, ideas, solutions that I have been a part of have been created around these types of spaces that were collaborative, honest, working, and more defined. We don’t have to be James Cameron to have this type of impact on a team. It takes men and women who aren’t afraid of the results of true team development. It takes men and women who aren’t afraid of each other. It takes men and women who value each others contributions deeply. It takes honesty. Respect. And I’m sure more than anything, a colossal sense of humor.

So, let’s get started–or continue–or remember…our biggest influence lies in how much we are willing to leave on the table. Want to get started? Why not try total radical transparency in your next meeting?

  • Set a start time and make it a priority.
  • Set the tone of TOTAL RADICAL TRANSPARENCY.
  • Set a meeting agenda, “What do we need to accomplish here to reach our goal”, “What challenge needs our creativity”, “What do we need to do to make what we’re working on a success.”
  • Set up your team to win. Try this for 2 weeks in a row. Meet every day for 30 minutes. Do whatever it takes to push through initial doubts in the process. Remind them that hiding problems doesn’t help anything, bring them to the group and work them out together.

When we play and work in radical transparency, we win a lot more. I know of another J.C. who led with TOTAL RADICAL TRANSPARENCY. I have no problem abandoning every inheritance of this world, to follow this man’s example. Jesus is our example in transparency.

How is your team working?
Could you use a dose of TOTAL RADICAL TRANSPARENCY?

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