Culture is one of things that is hard to define but easy to feel. You certainly feel it when you visit a foreign country and you bump up against different customs and ways of doing things, but you also feel it when you enter a business or a church. There is a certain style or personality of an organization that is an expression of culture. I sometimes think of culture as the organization’s “way” of doing what they do. There is a Ritz Carlton “way” of doing customer service. There is a Starbucks “way” of doing business. There is a Crossroads Church “way” of doing ministry.
I recently read the story of a guy who visited Dave Ramsey’s organization called The Lampo Group. Let me read a couple of sentences of this guy’s experience. “Every team member I encountered (and I mean every team member) demonstrated passion, a positive attitude and outstanding customer service…When we toured the organization’s building, we received nothing but a warm reception, homemade sweets at the café, and a positive attitude from each staff member we met.” Wow! What he was describing was culture. And here’s what you need to understand… you will NEVER drift into a great team culture.
You see, EVERY organization has a culture… a kind of unique DNA that makes them who they are.
Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it is accidental, but the best companies and churches are very intentional in their focus on culture. In churches, doctrine or music or style of preaching can be a differentiator… but culture is also a differentiator. You could walk into churches that have almost identical style of worship, philosophy of ministry, and doctrine, but they could have a very different kind of culture. The problem is that most churches have not taken the time to articulate the culture they want.
It is very possible to have organizational clarity and team confusion. And, you can have functional plans but dysfunctional teams.
Every organization has a culture and even though you can’t see it, it is real. Someone has said culture is the “unspoken rules of how things get done.” For team health, someone must “speak” the “unspoken” rules. The culture of most churches I have been around is squishy and loaded with landmines.
That’s why leaders must take responsibility to bring clarity to their team culture. Marcus Buckingham said “Clarity is the pre-occupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.”
I’ve given this whole issue of culture a lot of thought… and my observation is that there are 2 concepts that help flesh out how we can think about culture.
1. Behind every great culture there is a clear set of leadership values that permeate the organization. Obviously, one of Dave Ramsey’s leadership values is extraordinary customer service. It was interesting to me that the guy who visited Ramsey’s organization commented that EVERY single team member demonstrated outstanding customer service. I guarantee that is something Dave is passionate about and is part of their training of new employees.
2. The other concept that helps me think about culture is to see culture as the “how” more than the “what”. One of the churches I work with has a high value on hospitality, so what differentiates them from many other churches is “HOW” they treat their guests. Hospitality is a high value for the leaders and it is now part of the DNA of the entire organization.
I want to give you an exercise I would encourage you to do with your team. Set aside a couple of hours and get in a room with a whiteboard or some flip charts. Then, have an unhurried conversation about the leadership values that define your culture. You are seeking to define your church’s unique leadership DNA. You are trying to discern and discover the leadership values that already exist. Most often those leadership values are a reflection of the senior leader. So, you might begin by asking “what really matters to our leader?” “what are their personal leadership values”?
Sometimes a good way to discover a value is to ask what makes you pound your fist on the table. Sometimes what causes you to react strongly is that a value has been violated.
It is also great to brainstorm a leadership value or two that isn’t real strong in your culture right now but you authentically value them and want them to be part of what defines your culture. We call those aspirational values. You don’t want more than a couple of these, but having one or two you want to work on is great.
I challenge you to come up with a clear list of your church’s unique leadership values. Then, begin to train your team in these values. It will serve you well.
The Co-Founder of the company Hubspot said…
“In our early years, we didn't talk about culture much. We hadn't documented it at all. We just built a business that we wanted to work in. And, that was great. But the real return on culture happened when we started getting more deliberate about it. By writing it down. By debating it. By taking it apart, polishing the pieces and putting it back together. Iterating. Again. And again.”
May you become just as intentional about building a great team culture in your church.