5 min read

Mentoring Alliance Case Study: The Journey from Toxic to Healthy Through Measurement and Data

Mentoring Alliance Case Study: The Journey from Toxic to Healthy Through Measurement and Data

Is your organization struggling to foster a thriving workplace culture despite countless efforts and initiatives? Do you feel stuck and in need of a more structured approach?

Before partnering with Best Christian Workplaces, Mentoring Alliance, a Christian mentoring ministry in Texas, relied mainly on guesswork and subjective evaluations to make culture improvements. After countless rounds of trial and error, the culture was still suffering and they recognized a need for a tool that provided actionable data, rather than relying on hunches.

Partnering with Best Christian Workplaces was a turning point for Mentoring Alliance. The data provided brought clarity and insight that was not available before, allowing Kevin East, president of Mentoring Alliance, and his team to make strategic changes. Culture shortcuts and anecdotal evidence left the team with questions and unsolved problems, but the insightful data from the survey and partnership with the Best Christian Workplaces team has proved to be an invaluable resource.

This case study explores how Mentoring Alliance used the data gathered from the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey to evaluate the health of their organization and implement sustainable change, moving the organization from toxic to solidly healthy.

The Road to a Healthy Culture

In 2013, Kevin East joined Mentoring Alliance as president and CEO. Motivated by his passion for Christ and his commitment to impacting kids and families, especially those from difficult backgrounds, Kevin has been instrumental in the growth of Mentoring Alliance over the past decade. A cancer survivor, Kevin's personal experience with overcoming adversity enhances his leadership style, inspiring those around him to face challenges with courage and optimism.

Mentoring Alliance’s first survey results in 2015 painted a sobering picture - toxic. Despite various efforts to boost morale and engagement, and implementing various initiatives, progress remained stagnant. The turning point came when Kevin decided to focus on strengthening his team and not just on the issues that seemed to cause them to struggle.

Kevin went through a long season of evaluating leaders and deciding whether they had the right mix of skills to take Mentoring Alliance to the next level. He had to make tough decisions about some of the current staff and brought on several new members. These new leaders, along with the addition of a competent VP of People and Culture, played a crucial role in steering the organization toward a healthier culture.

“...On a day-to-day basis, it was really getting key leaders in there that were trusted both with their character and with their competence. That's when our culture really started to improve.” – Kevin

In addition to evaluating the leaders already on the team, Kevin also evaluated and modified his leadership approach. He recognized not only did the leadership team need an upgrade, but also his own leadership. His humble approach to leadership and continuous improvement, even today, has led to the overall success of Mentoring Alliance. All leaders, including himself, are held accountable and to a high standard.

This focus on character and competency also revealed an area of opportunity to craft a set of team values. With the help of the leadership team, Kevin crafted nine values, which now serve as guiding principles, outlining the behaviors and attitudes expected within the team. These values encapsulate the essence of the workplace culture and serve as benchmarks for evaluating future hires.

With a strong team and clear cultural values, things started to move in a more positive direction. And as culture improved, so did missional impact. Originating in Tyler, TX, Mentoring Alliance has recently expanded to Waco, with expansions to Abilene planned for this summer, and additional locations in the future as well. Despite a widespread geographic team, there is still a common DNA from location to location due to a concerted effort to unify the mission around the values. There is a strong sense of community, and team members embrace and live out the core values regardless of location.

Staff praise Mentoring Alliance for the people and culture. It is a community with an outstanding culture, with people who love what they do, where they do it, and who they get to do it with. This unified sense of belonging is at the heart of the mission and vision of Mentoring Alliance.


Champions of Culture

Since first surveying in 2015, Mentoring Alliance has consistently surveyed and shown incredible improvements - moving from Toxic to Healthy, and making tremendous gains by focusing each year on what they can learn from their data. Their persistence and dedication to improving are evident in their positive results.

Kevin has also showcased a commitment to regularly evaluating the health of his culture - Mentoring Alliance hasn’t missed a survey in nearly a decade! Not only is he dedicated to getting recent data, but the health of the culture is always a topic of discussion. There’s no room for complacency.

"We talk about our culture often… in my experience, culture can just shift overnight. [Culture] is like a small plant that you're constantly nourishing. I would emphasize a small plant because they're so fragile. It's like your workplace culture can be so fragile, where something’s done wrong, a wrong hire or things like that, it can just make the whole thing start wobbling.” - Kevin

The benefits of surveying annually have proved to be extremely helpful for Kevin and his team. With such a robust history of data to pull from, Kevin can work with the BCW team to look for long-tail trends as well as anomalies year over year. Especially since Mentoring Alliance has experienced a great deal of leadership transition and growth, this historical data helps tell a data story that takes into account the context of the current moment.

Kevin is Best Christian Workplace’s best referrer - his passion for the data provided and the impact of working with Best Christian Workplaces transcends not just his own ministry.

“I purely speak about it [the Survey] to people because I believe in it. The process gives us data that's actionable.” – Kevin

Kevin’s enthusiasm to recruit others as well as the positive results within his own organization demonstrate the substantial impact surveying has made for Mentoring Alliance.

Where Vision Meets Persistence

Despite humble beginnings, Kevin and the team at Mentoring Alliance have remained committed to improving their workplace culture. Even in the early years when it was difficult and challenging to figure out why things were not improving, they persisted. They stayed the course and believed that what the data was saying needed to be received as true and actionable.

When some leaders receive the results from the survey, they have a hard time believing them to be true. Initially, even Kevin interpreted those initial results as a judgment on him personally. However, he later understood the importance of owning the data and using it to find solutions. He also recognized the necessity of having people strong in areas where he was weak to facilitate improvement.

“I have to make myself stop to remember that God cares about the people that are executing that mission and not just the mission. And so what I love about, again, this whole process with BCW is that it reminds me that people matter; that they're important; that I need to stop, slow down, listen to them, love them.” - Kevin

Change takes time, and Kevin and the team at Mentoring Alliance have embraced this as an opportunity to continue to be creative. They keep the vision front and center and call people to that vision. They believe the data to be true and look for ways to do things differently because of the data.

Transforming from a toxic workplace to a healthy one didn’t happen overnight. It took perseverance, self-reflection, and a shift toward data-driven strategies and leadership changes. By prioritizing team values and empowering leaders who embody them, Mentoring Alliance has established a healthy workplace culture centered on unity, celebration, and a shared mission.

For more information about Mentoring Alliance’s success with the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey, listen to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast where Al Lopus, Cofounder & Board Chair of Best Christian Workplaces, talks with Kevin East, president of Mentoring Alliance.


Take the Next Step Toward a Healthy Workplace Culture

Kingdom impact increases when organizations with a higher purpose prioritize the well-being of their own people. Like Kevin and Mentoring Alliance, you can maximize your effectiveness by identifying blind spots and improving workplace culture

Ready to get started? Request a sample report here.




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