Your Culture will eat your Mission Statement for Breakfast

So this is my first blog as I launch out on this new adventure. After 10 years in the corporate world and 12 years in the non-profit world, and a smorgasbord of interests and responsibilities, God has narrowed my journey to a single topic that is crucial to anyone who leads anything: Organizational Health. A company can have a brilliant idea, and a non-profit can have a compelling mission, but organizational health provides the context to bring out the best in people and most effectively serve the organization’s purpose. Organizational Health is about creating a flourishing culture, and what difference does that make? It’s easier to illustrate than to define:

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. It is also 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, and 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 maximum 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. Have you considered lately how things are going in your boat?

In this blog, we’ll look at examples of healthy organizations and explore practical disciplines leaders can implement to create a flourishing culture.

Kiwi popsicle