Creating a Healthy Work Culture

Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) closed Catalyst Conference’s last and 10th session by discussing how to create a healthy work culture at your church.. Here is what he said:

I think that your church and your church culture should be the healthiest organizational culture in your city. I think that business people in your city should stop by during the week and say, “Wow! I have never seen an organization run so well!” I am not talking about on Sunday. I am talking about your church’s weekly work culture.

Think about this.

In the local church we have so much going for us culturally (if we follow the Bible… love, harmony, work as though unto the Lord) that we should have the best work cultures. Yet some of the meanest people I have met are on church staffs. Some of the laziest people I know are on church staffs. Some people think it doesn’t take much competency to work at a church because they lazy people who work at a church. And that is a shame.

Healthy people are drawn to healthy cultures. Healthy people don’t stay in unhealthy cultures. Unhealthy people thrive in unhealthy cultures.

Occasionally, there are gaps between what we expect people to do and what they actually do. As leaders, we choose what to put in this gap. And what you as a leader choose to put in that gap will shape your culture. And what you put into that gap, will also be what your staff puts in that gap. You will either assume the worst or expect the best.

There are a couple of things that determine what I put in that gap:

  1. What I see
    If someone consistently brings you poor quality, you will always assume the worst.
  2. Who I am
    Your past hurt and betrayal will influence what you put in that gap. We like certain types of people. And we dislike others.

Developing a culture of trust is critical to the health of your organization. Trust fuels productivity. The message of trust is this… I think you are smart enough to know what to do, and if you make a mistake, you will tell me then fix it.

A culture characterized by trust attracts healthy people.  You will never know who you can trust until you trust them. The longer you refuse to trust people, the longer that untrustworthy people can hide in your organization. The moment you feel to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake. And if you don’t address the hiring problem, you might create a culture where everyone distrusts each other. You will never know who you can trust until you trust them. Trusting is risky. Refusing to trust is riskier.

Trust enables an organization to move faster. In an organization of trust, the culture is fluid. When their is a high level of trust, I am going to act/email/write/communicate as if I believe the best. Teams use trust as currency. The development of trust then becomes a significant leadership strategy. It feels 100% relational and 90% emotional.

Developing a culture of trust begins with a leader. Trust and suspicion are both telegraphed from the leader throughout the organization. We must learn to choose to trust.

When you choose to trust, you must choose to confront. The moment there is suspicion in a person, everything he does is tainted. When you and I sit on our raw assumptions, and it leaks out to our family and organization, the energy makes our suspicion grows bigger and uglier. And then all of a sudden, a handful of offense gets a huge response. If you want to build a culture of trust, you must confront fairly and quickly and refuse to sit on it. Before I assume the worst, I should at least ask for the facts. The consequences of concealment are far greater than the consequences of confrontation.

To develop a culture of trust, leaders must be trustworthy. Worthy of trust does not mean perfect. It means when I create a gap where your expectations don’t line up with the experience I give you, I talk to you about it.

5 Essential Commitments of Trust

  1. I will believe the best.
  2. When other people assume the worst about you, I will come to your defense.
  3. If what I experience begins to erode my trust, I will come directly to you to talk about it.
  4. When I am convinced I will not be able to deliver on a promise, I will come to you ahead of time.
  5. When you confront me about the gaps I’ve created, I will tell you the truth.

The gaps are the opportunities… the gaps are the litmus test… for you to choose what culture you will have.

Questions to Ask

  1. Are there people in your organization you have a hard time trusting.
  2. Is it your issue or is it theirs? (if you have never chosen to trust it is still your issue)
  3. What can you do about your part?
  4. What do you need to address with them about their part?
  5. Who do you sense having a difficult time trusting you?
  6. Why?
  7. What can you do about it?

If you choose to trust, you will create an organization that is more nimble and effective.  

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Kent Shaffer
Kent Shaffer is the founder of ChurchRelevance.com an online resource created to inspire and train ministers to be more relevant and effective. He also co-owns BombayCreative.com, a ministry-oriented design firm, and AcreScout.com, a commercial listings site.