We continue in our “E5” season of “Enriching Culture”. It might not seem very strategic to you, I mean there are places to go and drug addicts to save. We’re on a mission here. Is all this “culture stuff” really necessary? I’d like to propose that after cultivating a life of prayer, the most important thing a leader can do is build a healthy, flourishing culture for the teams they lead. Sure, ultimately leadership and team is about results – accomplishing tasks, goals and the mission.In Teen Challenge, we’re all sold out to the mission of offering life-transformation through Christ, so what difference does culture make?
Imagine two row boats in a race: boat #1 has 10 rowers vigorously rowing in sync, in the same direction, cheering each other on. Boat #2 has 5 rowers rowing in the same direction (but not quite in sync and not quite all out), 2 rowers who are arguing about which direction to row, 1 rower who is asleep, 1 rower who is rowing in the opposite direction, and 1 rower who is trying to sink the boat. Which boat wins? Culture is the single factor that will determine what is happening in your boat. A healthy culture is like the fertile soil that yields a hundred-fold at harvest time, like the firm foundation a lasting structure is built upon, or like the careful planning that makes a long journey more productive. Culture is the sole responsibility of the leader – you will either build a healthy culture by intention, or allow a dysfunctional culture by default. People will get in the boat because of the mission, but they’ll get out (or get tossed overboard) if the culture is not healthy. People don’t leave organizations or missions, they leave leaders. Bill Hybels, senior leader of Willowcreek Church, says, “staff cultures will only be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be.” A healthy culture ensures that the right people are on the boat, that they find the best seat for their gifts and strengths, that all the rowers are synced up and rowing in the same direction, that every rower is fully engaged because they show up every day exclaiming, “I was born for this! I can’t imagine doing anything else! This is what makes me feel alive!” And a healthy culture gets results.
Like the example of the two row boats above, it’s astonishing how much more productive a flourishing culture is from a dysfunctional or toxic culture. Has God called you to lead? Then He’s called you to be a culture-bearer, to build and enrich a strong and healthy team culture. There’s no short cut in cultivating culture, it takes time and effort and skill. But it will lay the foundation and create the momentum that will save much time and effort in the long run. In the upcoming series of articles, we’ll see that enriching culture is actually pretty practical, and we’ll look at how leaders enrich culture as well as reasons why leaders don’t place an importance on culture. In the meantime, how are things in your boat?
Written by: Karissa Corpeny (Director of Corporate Training, TC Southeast)