11.8 min
By: Joseph Bonifacio

So You Want a Deep Bench

We have always believed in developing leaders, but how do we make sure we have quality leaders in the pipeline?

One of the things every leader wants is a deep bench. That’s a sports metaphor that means having a lot of quality people on your team. After a few months of hiatus due to the pandemic, the NBA games are back on track. It will be interesting to observe which ones will go far, not just  because of their stars, but also because of key bench players coming up big in difficult times. (Please, let’s not get divisive about who we’re rooting for. We have the YouTube comments sections for that.)

A common observation of people regarding our church and our movement is the number of leaders on all levels. And they ask how this is done. To be honest, it’s been a priority from the beginning and always remains one, as a quick look through the blogs of a number of the leaders will show. We know that new leaders are the lifeblood of an organization. Strategies and models get old, technology can become obsolete, locations change, but leaders—men and women who are skilled, passionate, and united—will be able to hurdle whatever challenge may come.

So how do I get a deep bench? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, watching a number of teams in action through the years. Here are some common points I observed.

  1. First, make sure you really want one.

As appealing as it may sound, having a deep bench has its disadvantages. For one, if you’re the leader, you’ll have to give up some of your prime leadership opportunities to give others a chance. It means you won’t be getting credit for things that other people used to applaud you for. During a South Luzon Convergence in Los Baños, I watched the ENC National Director at that time, CJ Nunag, lead the entire event from behind the scenes. He did not get up onstage until he gave announcements to end the event and appreciate the staff. He gave up all the slots to other preachers, leaders, and hosts. Could he have been the one up there? Yes. Would he have been better? Most definitely. But to him, getting a deep bench was worth it.

Some leaders may say they want a deep bench, but when faced with the cost of giving up the limelight, or even getting replaced by better leaders, they resist. So before moving to the next points, think about it first. If you’re happy with where you are, then great. If staying small and ineffective doesn’t bother you, then excellent. But if you want your message to get across and impact more people, and you’ll do anything to do it (even step aside, if necessary), then read on.

  1. Give people a chance.

That’s a little obvious after the first point. But it takes a skilled, artful leader to maximize these opportunities every day. I appreciate people like Pastor Ferdie Cabiling, who’s a Jedi Master in discovering these openings. Any speaking, serving, or leading opportunity is quickly delegated to new leaders who can benefit from the experience.

If you play video games, think of it like an RPG. For new players, the slightest enemy kill gives experience points (XP) that allow them to level up. These basic kills are negligible to your high-level character, but they could be a big jump to a newbie. Don’t be greedy! Share those slots with people and watch your team level up.

You’ll need leveled-up teammates to take on the bigger challenges.

Nothing great is ever accomplished alone, so I hope this will help you go out there and build great teams to do great things!

  1. Encourage them to develop their strengths.

Every new leader will learn from you, but they will not do everything like you. One of the beauties of a deep bench is the variety of skills that people bring in to enrich the whole team. This is not a threat! Disunity, rebellion, gossip, deception, laziness—these are threats to the team. Difference is not.

Sameness is not a requirement for having unity. In fact, one of my favorite things about the people I work with is seeing how different they are and how their strengths cover my weaknesses. Some leaders make the mistake of automatically recruiting like-minded teammates from similar backgrounds and perspectives. This isn’t a barkada; it’s a team! You need to work. Amazingly though, when the team is healthy, it can become like a barkada in closeness. Let them run in their strengths. Let them be their own different and weird selves. It makes the whole stronger.

  1. Develop strong relationships.

You don’t have to be close—knowing each other’s secrets, having secret handshakes, calling each other BFFs—to work together. But if you want to work together effectively, you’ll need to get to know each other better. Most of the people I work with now aren’t exactly childhood playmates, but through the months and years of working together, we’ve become good friends.

I once asked one of my mentors, Bishop Manny Carlos, how he developed such strong relationships that ran beyond work and into family and personal life. His network includes a lot of great leaders, like my dad, whose strong respect for each other is apparent in every meeting. He said, in his distinctive way, “We do battle together, Joe.” I must’ve looked really confused because he continued, “We pray for each other. We support each other. When one of our family members is sick, we’re there. When someone’s got issues in life, we don’t kick them to the curb. We walk them out of it. It’s not so much a team-building gimmick; it’s more a lifestyle of being there for each other. It makes work light.”

  1. Grow yourself.

John Maxwell once said something about how our ability to attract skillful, committed people is proportional to our own skill and commitment. If you’re a Level 8 leader, you’ll get teammates who are 7s and below. (I’m not referring to their value as human beings, but what they bring to the working team.) So maybe the best thing we can do to get better leaders is to become a better leader ourselves.

Good people don’t lie around doing nothing. They’re busy doing stuff they care about. To get them, we need to attract them. What attracts good leaders? Better leaders. I used to begrudge the teams I’d watch other people form, especially when I’d want the same thing and couldn’t get it. I’d make a pitch to people to work with us who wouldn’t be interested. Then I remembered that John Maxwell quote. I was dreaming if I thought these quality men and women would want to work with me. (They also have their own call from God.)

From that point on, I tried to improve as a leader. Good thing I had men and women in my life to help me with that. “You’re too snobbish. You don’t seem to care. Stop interrupting. Don’t roll your eyes. Build with the others. Don’t say things like that anymore. Pray, pray, pray.” God’s got the team you’ll work with. We can only be faithful where we are now and trust Him for results.

  1. Grow your team.

So maybe our future team will be great. But what about the one we have now?

Well, we can always grow them. So many leaders are waiting to be discovered by people who believe in them and won’t give up on them. If we’re looking for a set of perfectly skilled demigods to descend from Olympus to join our cause, that’s gonna be a long (and impossible) wait. But if you can look around at the men and women (or boys and girls) within your reach, and if you’re willing to serve them and invest in them, you could very well have your Dream Team in a few years.

So those are some ideas on how to get your own deep bench. Is your cause worth it?

About the author
Joseph Bonifacio

Joseph Bonifacio is the director of Every Nation Campus Philippines and a lead pastor with Victory Katipunan. When he isn’t working in the campus or doing life with students, you can find him at home or in an adventure with his wife, Carla, and their two sons, Philip and Manu. Joe, as most people call him, admits that his hair (or lack of) never distracts him, but that the thought of a chocolate chip cookie almost always does.

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