As a pastor and a leader, you have a framework when you teach people about the basics of faith in Jesus. You help them understand the big picture of their relationship with God and the practical outworking of that relationship in everyday life. You may guide them through aspects of engaging with God through prayer, Bible study, and life together in a Christian community.
In the same way, as you lead the staff of your church or organization, you want to guide your staff team through topics related to your organizational culture. You want them to understand how their actions and interactions create a culture and point them to shared values and norms that will result in a flourishing culture.
If you want to teach about organizational culture, where do you start? What is your “curriculum for culture” or what shared language can inform your progress?
As I consult with many churches and Christian organizations, I’ve found that the Flourish Model of a healthy workplace developed by Best Christian Workplaces (BCW) offers a helpful framework to guide leaders and staff in conversations about culture. The model includes eight attributes of a flourishing culture:
Independent researchers used thousands of survey responses in the BCW database to establish clusters of qualities that lead to flourishing. So, paying attention to these attributes of workplace culture isn’t just a good idea, but is shown to directly impact flourishing.
Start with Good Questions
People remember the truths that they discover for themselves. Jesus used good questions frequently in his storytelling, as he was explaining the Kingdom of God to his followers. Questions are central to helping people learn about faith, and they also are fruitful in conversations about workplace culture.
When I’m consulting with organizations, I tell them I didn’t bring all the answers for them, but I bring good questions, and together we can learn how to move forward effectively. Recently in a presentation to educational leaders about the importance of workplace culture in school settings, a very simple graphic caught their attention.
? > !
Questions are greater than declarative statements. As educators, they intuitively knew that asking good questions was an important teaching technique. They hadn’t yet applied what they knew from the classroom to their interactions with colleagues related to workplace culture. Once I framed the idea of teaching organizational culture in this way, it made sense to their paradigm as educators.
In the same way, pastors know effective ways to communicate and interact around truth when they are teaching biblical principles. Teaching about workplace culture offers us a similar opportunity—to make a difference in someone’s life—by making the workplace a healthy, positive environment.
A Model for Improving Culture
In a practical sense, what does teaching workplace culture look like? While all eight aspects of the flourish model for a healthy workplace are essential, which ones should you emphasize or start with in your organization?
Sometimes you’re forced into addressing issues of culture when problems crop up, such as when teamwork or communication is going off the rails. This is reactive posture. Understanding the underlying health of your organization will help you to teach workplace culture in a systematic way, rather than just reacting to problems.
An assessment of your existing workplace culture offers a starting place for identifying areas for emphasis. The Best Christian Workplaces Institute Employee Engagement Survey provides a baseline for organizations starting on the journey to healthy workplace culture. Once a commitment to teaching culture is implemented, then periodic surveys provide checkpoints to see progress.
In addition to surveys, asking questions in a group setting can lead to the discovery of strengths and weaknesses in your workplace culture. Discovery groups are facilitated focus groups led by a trained BCW consultant. In a discovery group, your people become the textbook for learning about workplace culture. By engaging small groups of staff in discussions, leaders can identify the root causes of the findings from the Employee Engagement Survey. Involving staff in the discovery process affirms the value of each person on the team and highlights the interrelated nature of workplace culture. This process creates positive momentum toward a flourishing culture.
An Ongoing Process
Learning about workplace culture and teaching to improve culture is an iterative process. A growing, flourishing culture needs continual watering. The ongoing, gentle aspect of improving workplace culture reminds me of the image of teaching as gentle rain that we see in Deuteronomy 32:2: “May my teaching drop as the rain … like gentle rain upon the tender grass.”
We don’t discuss workplace culture once and then move on to other topics. It’s part of the regular rhythm of leading a team—to keep coming back to the components of flourishing and to keep watering areas for new growth and deepening roots. As a Christian leader, you could compare this to the reality that you don’t teach once about prayer and then never address the topic again. Teaching is layered and repeated in different formats, as we keep focused on the overarching goal of flourishing.
This ongoing process also moves from senior leadership to team leaders, to upcoming leaders. As you continue training on culture, you are also modeling the importance of workplace culture for those under your leadership, and for those who will lead in the future.
While the process of growing toward a flourishing culture is ongoing, it starts when you decide that you want to understand the health of your workplace culture. Then the growth continues as you teach and model culture in the workplace.
What step can you implement now to move in the direction of flourishing?