Within thirty seconds of walking into a restaurant, hotel, doctor’s office, bank, church, etc., you know if you feel welcomed, comfortable, and if you want to come back.
That’s the culture of the organization. It’s easy to see and feel, and you immediately know if you like it or not.
Creating a healthy culture takes intentional effort on a consistent basis over a long period of time.
- How intentional are you about the culture of your church?
- And for the focus of this post, how intentional are you about the culture of your staff team?
The overall outcomes of your mission and vision are directly connected to the strength and health of your staff culture.
Essentially, your culture is who you are, what you believe, your values and norms and how you get things done.
Your staff culture starts with the senior leaders, but it doesn’t end there, it’s a team effort.
Your staff culture deepens or erodes on a daily basis, but relationally-based change is always slow, so the change isn’t easy to see. It seems steady, but it’s always getting a little stronger or weaker on a daily basis.
Without intentional and consistent investment, typically based on specific values, your culture will head in a direction you never intended. Many a leader has called me saying “all of a sudden the staff are not happy and less productive.” It’s never all of a sudden, it’s been slowly eroding for some time.
No culture is perfect, and all teams have “bad days” and “rough seasons” but their overall values-based strength helps them return to health in a relatively short period of time.
7 real barriers to a healthy staff culture:
- Immaturity on a staff team is essentially when a person doesn’t get what they want, and lets others know about it in a way that hurts the team.
- Undermining on a staff takes place when we fail to give the benefit of the doubt, gossip, and take a “let’s wait and see how this new idea unfolds,” rather than helping make it happen.
- Divisiveness occurs in the staff when individuals rally others to their agenda rather than wholeheartedly supporting the vision.
- Lack of clarity in vision and expectations takes its toll on a staff culture because the team isn’t sure where you’re going or what they are supposed to do.
- Poor Communication is lethal to a staff culture. The team needs to know what’s going on, (successes and struggles,) what coming up, and what isexpected.
- Unhealthy competition is when a staff member puts their success above the success of the whole team. And if they are rewarded for that behavior its an extra blow to the staff culture.
- Inattention to consistently modeling, championing and rewarding your staff values leads to the erosion of staff culture.
7 Essential Builders for a Healthy Staff Culture:
1) Deep and abiding trust
Trust in any organization is the cornerstone of a great culture.
Trust is the runway for psychological safety. It’s a different way to think about trust. It’s about the ability to take interpersonal risks on the team without feeling insecure, embarrassed, or potentially criticized.
This doesn’t mean that everyone will agree or that anything goes, but there is a trust in relationships that you can count on.
Inside this value of trust, sometimes you are the person with more influence and sometimes you are the person with less influence.
To increase trust in your staff culture:
- Those who have more influence must lean into your character to not embarrass, reject or punish others.
- Those who have less influence must lean into your courage to be real, honest and speak up.
2) Consistent and unwavering honesty
When you build trust, your staff team can be honest.
We often don’t speak up, or speak with complete honesty, from fear of conflict. This leads to poor decision-making and an unhealthy staff culture.
When we don’t speak up, we grow to distrust each other because we sense a lack of candor, or later learn in a hallway conversation that someone was holding back.
Conflict is inevitable in any organization because it’s inevitable in any relationship. Two things are important. What (not who) you make the target of the conflict, and your ability to resolve the conflict.
Honesty always leads back to trust.
3) Christ-like grace
Just like no relationship can survive a lack of grace, no church staff team can thrive without grace as well.
Isolation over intimacy reduces grace. Isolation isn’t just physical distance, it’s also emotional distance. It’s about feeling alone, indifferent and like your voice doesn’t matter.
Different forms of isolation shrink your world, which shrinks your thinking and can skew your perspective.
When you add your pressures and problems to the mix, grace is greatly diminished and judgment takes its place.
When judgment overtakes grace, your staff culture is headed in the wrong direction.
Fight for grace:
- If I offend you, let me know. I want to apologize.
- If you wrong someone, go make it right.
- If someone just bugs you, extend grace, seek unity – not judgment.
4) Aligned and strategic clarity
5 things staff members want to know:
- Where are we headed?
- What is expected?
- How am I doing?
- Am I appreciated?
- How can I get better?
Make these consistently clear and communicate them well and you will enhance your staff culture in noticeable ways.
5) Skilled and joyful dependability
Trust, honesty, grace, clarity… “That’s all good and important, but are you ever going to talk about staff actually doing their job.”
Yup, I am.
The value of dependability is huge. It addresses core issues such as:
- Can your teammates count on you to show up and be all in?
- Can your teammates count on you to pray, love people and make the team better?
- Can your teammates count on you to do your job and do it well?
- Can your teammates count on you to become a better leader and do your best to advance the mission of the church?
- Can your teammates count on you to solve problems and make the church stronger?
How would you assess yourself or your team with these questions?
6) Purposeful and prayerful intentionality
As you can tell, the theme of intentionality is important. No staff or church can merely “say” what their culture is, they must live, breathe and practice it, but you can’t do that without knowing what your values are.
What are the values that shape your staff culture?
Define them clearly and communicate them regularly.
Our staff values at 12Stone Church are:
- We love Jesus.
- Pray First, Pray often
- Walk in the Spirit
- Pursue Holiness
- We are people people.
- Believe the best
- Encourage somebody
- Champion Unity
- We love what we do.
- Come thankful
- Find the fun
- Laugh a lot
- We grow leaders.
- Start with yourself
- Invest in someone
- Empower to lead
- We move forward.
- Own your job
- Find a better way
- Dream big and embrace change
(I’ve just got to take a second to brag on our staff team. They are amazing and truly live out these values.)
Emphasize your values at staff meetings, make them part of leadership development and coaching conversations. Publicly recognize and encourage staff members who live a certain value in an exemplary way. There are many ways to continually lift your values up and actively use them to shape your culture.
The values you lift up shape you and you shape the values.
7) Mature and measurable accountability
All great teams are accountable for progress oriented results and favorable outcomes in alignment with the vision and values. How is your team accountable for those results?
The best teams follow a pattern in their culture that looks something like this:
- Shepherd each person on the team well, care about who they are as a human being.
- Invest in their development as leaders and coach their progress regularly.
- Make the vision and expectations clear. Establish clear goals.
- Have periodic reviews to assess personal growth, overall progress, and agreed upon outcomes.
- Celebrate the successes and coach the struggles.