Through an appreciative inquiry process, the EMAS leadership identified the shared Vision, and Mission, that bound the different teams. The process also revealed the existence of an unwritten but distinctive set of Core Values that were consistently expressed throughout the organisation. Definition or “what is EMAS?” became clearer: Christ-centered healthcare teams and, Direction:  or “what does it do?” was confirmed: proclaiming God’s love to all the world through healing and teaching.

There was now a better understanding of what God wanted it to be and to do. This knowledge became the impetus to the board for staff changes, renewed vigor in fundraising, improved governance, and an overhaul of communications tools; expectations rose beyond survival, there was hope for growth and continued relevance as a vehicle for the gospel.

An Achilles’ Heel:

Each EMAS team is uniquely, tailored to a specific area or country and its local needs. This strength by which we cater to a wide spectrum of Canadian healthcare workers and serve in such diverse situations can lead to isolation, and independence, as volunteers and team leaders self-select and function in silos defined by their ability to enter a unique cultural segment or country. The danger in excessive selectivity for particular mission focus/function is the weakening of body life and possible loss of vitality.

Team leaders are busy professionals who serving as volunteers tend to prioritize vertical relationships: to the team members they lead and to the board/staff, they report to; they give less effort to the horizontal: team leader to team leader relationship; they and their teams risk becoming insular.

We Have a Plan:

The value of horizontal teamwork is widely recognized.

One way we are working on serving our leaders is to create opportunities for more cross-team collaboration. We want to build on existing relationships between the board and the team leaders by leveraging the opportunity to create room for cross-team interaction.

In the two successive years our team leaders have met face to face in the spring, they have grappled with policy issues and made important contributions to the way EMAS is managed. They are getting a renewed sense of ownership over the mission.

We are learning new ways of doing mission by listening to one another and gaining practical wisdom by hearing how others are navigating through the sometimes-complicated process of relating to foreign governments, and healthcare systems.

Taking advantage of our shared vision in this way, we are increasing collaboration among our leaders. Cross-team bridges are being built with the leaders as the foundation.

We are blessed with wide ranging differences that are a potential for strength: the more our team leaders become a functioning unit harnessed in unison with Christ, the more potent our mosaic of our multi-cultural, intergenerational, interdenominational and multidisciplinary volunteers will be in their proclamation of God’s love to all the world.

We are working towards crafting our annual leaders’ retreat into an interface that will enable leaders and emerging leaders to serve and be served by complementing one another. We want it to be a place for sharing skills and experience for the good of our mission.

As part of our corporate succession plan, the development of a collegial leadership within by connecting the team leaders annually and providing opportunities that promote inter-team inspiration and impact will assure the safety of core values and vision, and the propagation of our mission.

Already, we have EMAS team leaders willing to collaborate. One is exploring a working partnership with another; and one leader has traveled as a team member on a different team to learn from them by observing and serving.

These cross-team interactions are bringing our leadership into a new chapter of shared stewardship of the task of delivering the Good News through healing and teaching.

Reading the following Harvard Business Review articles was helpful in developing my convictions about cross-team collaboration and writing this blog.

Cross-Silo Leadership” By Tiziana Casciaro, Amy C. Edmondson, Sujin Jang  May-June 2019. “The Most Creative Teams Have a Specific Type of Cultural Diversity” By Sujin Jang, July 24, 2018. All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)

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A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.

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