April 7, 2016 Ryan Stigile

How Senior Leaders Create Culture Every Day

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the greatest responsibility of a senior leader is to develop the culture of the organization.

You can try your best to control results and dictate responsibilities, but that will only end in confusion and disappointment. Staff members will ask you more questions than you have time to answer. High capacity leaders will leave for a place where they can actually use their gifts. And your church will be doing everything you want without actually achieving the results you desire. Maybe you are experiencing that right now.

A better approach is to create a culture in which everyone deeply understands your desired wins and values. When that level of culture is established, you can heavily empower leaders to make decisions and still trust that everyone is moving forward together in the right direction.

But how can a leader actually create a culture? While it is the most intangible aspect of an organization, it is created by several tangible components. Take a moment to consider the five below:

Your church’s culture is created by…

…What You Say.

Language is a powerful tool. Your stated values, when used correctly, define what is important for leaders to consider in every decision. Too often, churches write cliche values that go no further than the boardroom wall. Take time to craft the statements that truly define what your leaders should care about most. Tony recently shared his thoughts on why churches may need Team Values more than Organizational Values. Learn more about that distinction here.

Do you have a set of unique values that leaders use to make decisions?

…What You Celebrate.

It is not enough to just celebrate wins. To craft a clear culture, you must celebrate the right wins. I’ve seen leaders cut themselves off at the knees by praising results in an area they do not actually want their team to be focused on. Once you’ve developed the right values for your team, be sure to celebrate the stories that align with those values.

Do the stories you tell reflect what you truly desire?

…What You Spend.

My father-in-law is a successful business leader who has served also served as a lay leader. He once told me, “I should be able to know your church’s vision just by looking at its budget.” If you say that young families are your focus, your budget should favor your children’s ministry. If you say volunteers are your greatest resource, your budget should reflect your support and care for them. Every time you release an annual budget, you communicate to your staff what you deem most important. This is even more true in seasons when you are making budget cuts.

Does your budget fully reflect your vision and values?

…What You Systematize.

A system provides a repeatable process for predictable results. When a system is established for a ministry function, it says to everyone, “This is important enough to get right every time.” On the other hand, when systems are ignored, the opposite is inferred. For example, if you say you want excellent weekend services but do not establish a system for planning them, you are telling team it is not all that important.

Which aspects of your ministry deserve a repeatable process?

…What You Address.

It is natural for leaders to resist addressing a problem with a staff member. We can soothe ourselves by thinking the issue lies with just one person. What we fail to recognize in those moments is that our lack of response is sending a message to the entire team. When you leave negative behavior unaddressed, it leads others to believe that it is acceptable. Many will even begin to believe that it is the only way to get things done.

What staff issue have you been ignoring?

Refining these five contributors to culture is certainly not a simple task. It is much easier to lead heavy-handed and dictate tasks to your team. But if you want to build a church capable of growing beyond you to reach its community, you are going to have to trust the team to lead. By creating a culture that shares the right values, you will be able to do just that.

Photo Credit: unsplash.com // Robin Yang

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Ryan Stigile

Ryan Stigile

Ryan is the Director of Strategic Resources for The Unstuck Group. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University.
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