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What Most Leaders Don't Know About Outstanding Talent

What Most Leaders Don't Know About Outstanding Talent

How healthy do you want your workplace culture to be? Your answer has a lot to with Outstanding Talent, the fourth of eight factors that make up BCWI’s Flourish Model. Why does Outstanding Talent matter so much? Here’s a true story. . . .

The Challenge


Dan Busby, ECFA


When Dan Busby was named President of ECFA (the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) in 2008, the organization had just endured two years of what could be described as, a failed presidency.

“There was little joy in the office, and I wondered how long it would be until there was laughter in the office again,” recalls Dan.

“The atmosphere was toxic. Staff were very insecure, and they were afraid that they could lose their jobs at any moment.  Trust had left the office.  Productivity was low and tension was high.  Simply put, we were not in a good place.”

And then Dan, his senior leadership team and staff went to work.

In January 2019, ECFA completed their second BCWI Staff Engagement Survey. On our 5.0 scale for measuring the health of a workplace culture, where 4.00 is considered healthy and 4.25 is the benchmark for a flourishing culture, ECFA scored 4.83. It is the highest survey score out the 1,100 organizations that have surveyed with BCWI.

The Action Steps

If you want to improve the health of your workplace culture, then consider these five words: “We Want to be Better.” It’s the commitment behind three, wise action steps Dan and his team have created to increase the overall efficiency and productivity of their people. As Dan says, “Yes, we received a 4.83 and we always want to be better.” Here are three, specific ways ECFA is paying off Dan’s pledge:

  1. “More” is better. “We increased our frequency in meeting with staff,” says Dan.  “We want to master the John D. Rockefeller habit of more meetings; not less—all found in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish.  We focus on our rhythm of daily, weekly, and monthly meetings—with a different agenda for each.”
  2. Early-warning detection. “We are also initiating monthly meetings to check-in with staff. This also gives us an early warning if there is any staff dissatisfaction.”
  3. Strength-based feedback. “We moved away from traditional personnel evaluation forms. We found the typical 0-5 personnel rating forms are not productive for us. When a staff member receives a 3 or a 4 on a scale of five, but mostly fives, they tend to focus on the one 3 or the one 4—they don’t focus on the 5s they received.  Instead of focusing on a grading scale, we are focusing on how we are helping staff use their strengths.”

[shareable cite="Dan Busby"]My goal is to inspire people to follow ECFA’s cause, not to follow me.”[/shareable]

Whatever action-step strategy you use to improve the health of your culture, you couldn’t go wrong by emulating Dan’s leadership approach:

“While I’m a CPA, to be a ministry leader, it’s important for me not to focus on my professional credentials, but rather on my people skills. My goal is to inspire people to follow ECFA’s cause, not to follow me.  As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, ‘Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done.’ It all starts with knowing what must be done (and usually being right), then getting people to want to do what must be done.”

And if you want to maximize the four pillars of Outstanding Talent-- attracting, retaining, rewarding, and promotion—consider how ECFA continues to cultivate the kind of top people needed to improve the health of their workplace culture and thus fulfill their mission:

  1. Attracting. “As ECFA’s reputation for excellence has grown, our ability to attract talent has similarly been enhanced,” says Dan. “We have become a destination organization for people with humility, a commitment to excellence, and a passion to serve Christ-centered churches and ministries.

“It’s the Jim Collins concept found in Turning the Flywheel. There’s no miracle moment.  Rather, it feels like turning a giant, heavy flywheel.  Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward. You keep pushing, and with persistent effort you get the flywheel to complete one complete turn. You don’t stop. You keep pushing. The flywheel moves a bit faster, building momentum.  Then at some point, the flywheel flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

  1. Retaining. “We try to treat our staff with high respect and take care of our people. And, our people take care of each other. When one member runs short of PTO time perhaps because of a serious illness, we have a policy that another staff member can donate some time from their paid-time off (PTO) bank to help the other staff person.  This often happens behind the scenes.”
  2. Rewarding. “We start with a very generous compensation and fringe benefit structure and we reward staff members who live our values. We do this in two ways:
    • Through our year-end bonus structure
    • By providing some variability in our annual increases

“In other words, it takes more than just showing up for work to qualify for an annual bonus or above average annual salary increases.”

  1. Promoting. “Leaders must always be aware of opportunities to promote highly capable staff—those who are living out the values of the ministry.  The smaller the organization, the more challenging it is to provide upward mobility.  However, any organization can encourage individual employee growth even when a higher position is not available.”

The Result

How does a healthy, flourishing workplace culture relate to THE organization’s overall impact?

“Culture has had everything to do with ECFA’s impact and outcomes,” says Dan. “We focus on providing an outstanding culture—without a strong culture, other issues pale into insignificance.  As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“Because we focus on culture, we have many long-term employees. You know, keeping a good employee is easier and less expensive than trying to replace one.”

It all comes down to leadership.

“Ministry leadership starts and ends with personal humility.  I love what Carey Nieuwhof says in his new book, Didn’t See It Coming. He says, ‘Only humility will get you out of what pride got you into.’ He goes on to say, ‘The proud take the high place.  They always want something better.  The humble, by contrast, take the low place, intent on serving rather than being served.  They shake off titles and offer someone their seat on the bus or subway.  Nothing is below them when they adopt a humble stance.'”

[callout]Founded in 1979, ECFA, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, fundraising and board governance. Members include Christian ministries, denominations, churches, educational institutions, and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. ECFA enhances trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying ECFA's Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship to accredited organizations.[/callout]


Additional Resources

Buy Dan's book: Lessons From the Church Boardroom

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