What culture are you creating?
Two friends of mine who are freelancers mentioned that they had been working at a church over the weekend. When I asked them how it went, they said, "Great..." (But you could tell by the way they said it that there was more, so I asked for the rest of the story.) As they finally sorted it out, my friend made an interesting statement..."The church tech team has a culture of criticism."The story that followed was about a continual loop of negative feedback, sarcastic comments and last minute input on how things should be done from everyone from casual church members to leadership to within the tech team itself. The thing is, this is a great church with a vibrant, thriving ministry, but, it can be easy to get into bad relational habits when you are working under pressure. (True confession: I once had someone say to me, "Cathy, you are highly relational...unless you are on a deadline." Ouch.)Just like people have personalities, groups pick up personalities too. (Haven't you ever noticed yourself adapting when in a group?) And maybe more importantly, when something is part of the culture, the people inside that culture don't tend to notice. It usually takes an outsider (like my freelance friends), to be able to label that problem when the "vibe" is off. Pete Briscoe of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas told a story many years ago from the pulpit that his leadership team had gotten into the habit of "zinging" each other. (You know the 'zing." It's a clever one liner that makes people laugh but usually at the expense of the person you are sitting across from.) It was pointed out to them from someone outside of their team. Pete said they made a deliberate effort to change that culture by adopting a "no tolerance" culture for zinging. If you zing'ed someone in a meeting you would have to leave the room and serve an adult time out. Through that practice, they changed the culture of zings within their leadership team and created a safer environment for sharing and connection. We have the power to influence--and in some cases dramatically change--the culture of the churches in which we serve. So how do you influence the kind of culture you are co-creating on your team? You can shift culture by what you pay attention to. You can find clues by listening to the conversations. Is the majority positive? Are people building each other up? Or is there a vibe of connection via complaining? If your attention is continually focused on what is lacking, then your team will begin to focus there too. But if you begin calling out and noticing what is succeeding, then you can create something that people want to be a part of. This isn't about "kumbaya moments" but rather about creating a desire in your team to invest in their strengths. (People tend to play toward what is acknowledged.)You can shift culture by what you model. The famous Gandhi quote "be the change you want to see in the world" definitely applies when it comes to organizational dynamics. Deciding what you want the culture to be, and then modeling that culture can have influence. You don't even have to be the person at the top. Modeling can have great effect when it is done from the middle. And if you are the one in leadership, then not only modeling but also actively selecting people based on what they model can have a huge effect. You can shift culture by "pulling."In most organizations, people "push" culture. Like a general handing down orders, they tell people the way things need to be. But if you want to create ownership, then you need to become good at "pulling." Good questions, skillfully asked, bring energy from the people that you want to have ownership of the culture. Building on other's ideas creates ownership. You can shift culture by inspiring. Never underestimate your power to inspire. Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." What you are doing matters. It makes a difference in people's lives. Not only do we need to remind our teams of that, but sometimes, we need to remind ourselves.
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