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Transcript: Scaling Up Your School: Fostering Flourishing Workplace Culture During Rapid Expansion // Ryan Hyde, Calvary Christian School


Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast

"Scaling Up Your School: Fostering Flourishing Workplace Culture During Rapid Expansion"

October 30, 2023

Ryan Hyde

Intro: Imagine leading your organization as it triples in size over a short period of time while building a flourishing workplace culture. How would you facilitate such growth? And today, on episode number 361 of the Flourishing Cultural Leadership Podcast, my guest, Ryan Hyde, at Calvary Christian School in Bellefontaine, Ohio, shares several key initiatives that have been foundational to their growth. And as you listen, I'm sure you’ll learn ways that you can apply these to your own workplace.

Welcome: Welcome to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast, your home for open, honest, and insightful conversations to help develop your leadership, your team, and build a flourishing workplace culture.

Al Lopus: Hello, I'm Al Lopus, the co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces and author of the award-winning book Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being. And I'm passionate about helping Christian leaders like you create engaged, flourishing workplaces.

I’m delighted today to welcome Ryan Hyde to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast. Ryan is the Head of School for Calvary Christian School in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

And during our conversation, you’ll hear Ryan talk about creating a culture of appreciation in his workplace; keys to engaging younger employees in engagement; their core values and the role these values have in preserving their culture during a rapid growth; and how they created a playbook for all employees, to encourage alignment into their future.

I think you're going to love this interview with Ryan. But before we dive in, this episode is brought to you by the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey, and you can sign up today to discover the health of your organization's culture. This fall would be a wonderful time to listen to your employees, with our easy-to-administer online Engagement Survey by going to workplaces.org. Being a certified best Christian workplace improves your ability to attract more talented employees and keep them longer.

And hello to our new listeners. Thanks for joining us as we honor your investment of this time by creating valuable episodes like this.

Let me tell you a little bit more about Ryan. Ryan has been with Calvary Christian School for 14 years. First, he joined as a social studies teacher and now is the Head of School of this rapidly growing organization. He's a graduate of Cedarville University and Fort Hays State University. You know, Calvary Christian School in Bellefontaine, Ohio, features academics built upon the biblical perspective, through which students learn to view the world and their role in it. They strive for excellence, shaping their students to be world changers. The school uses leading technology combined with carefully selected curriculum and research-based instructional practices to deepen students’ intellectual skills.

I think you're really going to enjoy this conversation. Here's my conversation with Ryan Hyde.

Ryan, it's great to have you on the podcast.

Ryan Hyde: Hey, Al. Thank you very much. It's great to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Al: I’m really looking forward to our conversation. As I’ll say later, you really came up after a couple of discussions with one of our consultants and said, “We've got to meet Ryan Hyde.”

So, Ryan, first of all, give us a snapshot of Calvary Christian School and the community served. You’re in Bellefontaine, Ohio. So what's the mission and vision of your school? What's your community like?

Ryan: Yeah. So at Calvary, we partner with Christian families, and we have a preschool through the twelfth grade Christian education. Of course, we’re looking to equip students for this life, but, of course, we also, we want to prepare them for eternity. So, you know, our vision is focused on that aspect of discipling those students to be agents of transformation for Jesus Christ. You know, we want them to know what they believe, why they believe it. They're ready to go out into the world and make an impact for His Kingdom.

As far as where we're relocated, you know, like you say, we are in Bellefontaine, Ohio. This is a rural community. We're essential, we have about 15,000 people in our area. Geographically, what's unique for us, we're really not surrounded by any other K through 12 Christian schools, so we do partner with families from a pretty wide region in our area.

Al: Yeah. Fantastic.

And you're west of Columbus, I understand. And does that mean that everybody there is an Ohio State football fan?

Ryan: If you're from Ohio, you're an Ohio State football fan. You don't have a choice.

Al: Yeah. And I’m a Penn State alumnus.

So anyway, let's move on. Yeah. So, you know, Doug Waldo, who is one of our consultants at Best Christian Workplaces, just was excited to introduce you to me so that we could talk on this podcast. And he loves to talk about you and your school and your people. And we serve a number of Christian schools across the country and even around the world. And what made us sit up and take notice about what you're doing at your school was your Employee Engagement Survey results, which is well above your peers. And, you know, while you're not the largest Christian school in the world by any stretch, you certainly are well above your peers in employee engagement. And so when that happens, it just really kind of causes us to say, “What are you doing?”

And, you know, you've now been in your second cycle of Surveying. You've even showed improvement from a very positive first year, and that tells us you're really taking this seriously. So let’s talk about a couple of these areas that really show up very positively. And the first one is uplifting growth. And of course, you know, schools are all about growth. I mean, that's why you exist. You're in business, if you will, or in ministry, for the growth of your students. But often, schools, you know, struggle to provide their own growth opportunities for their faculty and staff. You know, we've seen that many times. So two years ago, you had a good score in this, but it was lower than some of the other areas of strength. But it rose significantly in this last year. Again, it tells us that you really intentionally worked on this. So what are some of the—give us some practical ideas. Our listeners are interested. What are some practical ideas that you and your team invested in in providing opportunities for growth in your teachers and your staff?

Ryan: Well, I'll start by saying that was something that was very valuable, even with our first cycle of the Survey, to have these clear domains of areas that we could pour some energy and effort into. I'll go back and say we're in a position that probably many smaller or maybe medium-sized Christian schools find themselves in now, which is a season of just higher enrollment growth. And I think for smaller schools, that can mean maybe a higher percentage of significant operational change. We know larger schools are seeing growth as well, but they probably have departments that have been staffed already, and they already had processes in place, where I think many of the smaller schools are maybe hiring positions for the very first time and kind of starting from scratch.

So that's kind of where we were. We experienced some of that enrollment growth. And, you know, we came from this place where historically we had a small admin team, basically, of one. And, you know, it was pretty easy to have formal and informal discussions. You know, we could have a conversation, walking down the hall, in the lunchroom. You know, there was only 15 or so staff members for most of our school’s history. So it wasn't too difficult to have those discussions around growth.

But our first cycle of Survey data showed us we are a larger organization now. You know, we'd gone from about 150 students to about 450 students in a very short time period. So that level of scale, okay, that was an eye opener for us. What has worked in the past is not going to work in the future. So, again, it was great to see that Survey data very clear.

We've done a few things to address this. Maybe the most important thing has just been we talk about it more. When we're together as a staff, we make sure it's something that comes up in our discussions. We do have a list of values at Calvary Christian. One of those categories of our values is called an aspirational set of values, and these are values that they're important, and we want to be able to say, you know, we are living these out consistently. But we're working on it. We're maybe not there yet. So we threw growth into that aspirational set of values, and we use that to communicate that this is an important piece of who we are. Like you said, we're in the growth business with our students. Of course, we want to expect that of ourselves as well.

Of course, we've also worked to scale that admin team. Those had been financial investments that, to be honest, for a small school, are scary. You're not used to that type of, you know, investment maybe in your staff-wages line item. But we have grown that from one to eight. So that's been a huge jump for us. And you know, that in and of itself has allowed us to, of course, delegate more. So we have more staff, admin staff, that are having these discussions with our teachers and our support staff.

And then maybe the last obvious thing is, you know, we did use that new admin team to put in place a more formalized professional-development committee. And again, they've made this process more formal and intentional, more so than we've ever had in the past. Or maybe it was a bit more informal because we were small. Now it's something that it's a little bit more systematized, but it has to be at scale.

Al: Yeah. And you say “formal and intentional.” Give us an idea. I mean, is that a plan for every faculty and staff person? What does that mean?

Ryan: Yeah. So in the education world, we created a local public-development committee, or an LPDC, at Calvary. And we hadn't had that before, and that's just part of being a smaller school that isn't completely developed yet. And then in that, we had all of our whole team—so not just teachers but support staff—you know, everyone develops an individualized professional-development plan, or an IPDP. So that's pretty common language for educators, at least. So, yeah, we have a committee that is working with these employees through, you know, building goals. What do they want to grow professionally? Personal goals. How do they want to grow personally? And then, you know, as believers in Christ, we would like to be a part of, what are your goals as a brother and sister in Christ, and how can we come alongside you and help push you towards these areas that you want to grow in? And sometimes it doesn't completely relate to, you know, specific education. But we want to be people that are known for growth.

Al: Yeah. Fantastic. Well, yeah. So individual development plans, and, again, you call those IPDP?

Ryan: IPDP, you got it.

Al: Oh, great.

Ryan: You're already talking like an educator.

Al: All right. That's the first time I've heard that term. All right, well, you know, okay. So that's uplifting growth. Really outstanding work. And I can see how, you know, as you've grown and been more purposeful and put in programs, that's been helpful.

You know, another area of strength is employee recognition. And people appreciate that they're recognized for doing a good job. It builds employee engagement. And again, in this area, you know, you're above your peers. So what are some of the processes? Help our listeners who want to be really good at recognizing other people. But what are some of your processes for recognizing your faculty, your staff, and giving them recognition for doing a good job?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. You know, there are a few, I guess, practical tips that I can share that we've done. I know there's so many more things that we could be doing that we're not. Maybe it's important to say at the beginning that I think having an overall culture of appreciation and showing gratitude, that has to be evident in all of our interactions, especially coming down from the leadership team. You know, I think that in the realm of employee recognition, you can be more effective when your approaches are more personal than formal. You know, a lot of companies will have, you know, employee-of-the-month or employee-of-the-week type of recognition programs. But then, ultimately what happens is, you know, maybe some employee hasn't gotten it at some point, and, “Hey, we got to make sure they get it because they haven't gotten it yet.” And maybe that doesn't come off as, “Okay. This is truly a—we're recognizing people for the work they're doing that's pushing our mission forward.” So I do think you want these interactions to be personalized and not always so formal.

Some things we've done that I would say have been practical and would probably be easy for anybody to do, one, simply write notes of thanks and recognition. I have a reminder on my phone. I will try to write these. Sometimes some weeks I fail, but I will try to write these to our staff, and I'll also try to write these to our school families. It's usually an email to our school family; sometimes it's a handwritten note. But it's usually a handwritten note that goes into our staff mailbox. And, you know, especially in the world of education, if school's writing to Mom and Dad, what's that mean? You know, your kid's in trouble, probably. So, you know, they get a positive note, well, that can really go a long way.

In staff meetings, I would also say that we like to highlight those values that maybe we'll talk about later, and we'll share stories about how our team has specifically lived those values out. So, you know, in those situations, we’re recognizing our staff for, you know, work that we want to emphasize. So they're getting that recognition, and we're also reinforcing our values at the same time. So it's not something that's maybe can just be easily forgotten.

We've also done some random things just to say thanks. It could be as simple as, “Let's cater in lunch for everybody.” One of the more unique things we've done is we brought in a masseuse one day. Our team, during their planning period, you know, went and scheduled a massage. So, you know, I don’t know, it's a little bit different. But my admin assistant—her name’s Nikki—she's been so helpful to us in coming up with some of these more unique things. I don't necessarily have as creative a mind. We rely on our team, of course. So super helpful and thankful for that info.

And I think that leads into, you know, as a leadership group, we got to be people that have that appreciation. And we show that culture of gratefulness in that, you know, we do speak more especially publicly than maybe our team has the opportunity to do that. So we can be people that look like we're grabbing attention or we're trying to soak up the spotlight. We got to try to continually use that language that's, you know, “Hey, we accomplished this. We did this together as a team,” and make sure we're recognizing everybody that way as well.

Al: Yeah. Team focus. Yeah, these are great ideas, Ryan. First of all, let me appreciate, I appreciate that you might recognize that you're not the one to figure all these things out. There's other talented people that can do that. And I encourage our leaders to. I'll be the first to say I am not that person either. But we know and can see who those people are, and that is great to have them in that role and to even coach us in that process. But yeah, just to have a personal approach. Yeah. You're just causing me to think about notes of thanks and appreciation. It’s something I've done over time. And again, I encourage our listeners to think about that. Even in this electronic age, a handwritten note really goes a long way. And yeah, you did bring back some memories of my children in school. Notes from the principal wasn't always a good thing. But encouraging note, wow, that's a great idea. Yeah. You know, having regular staff meetings. Yeah. Those are just great ideas. Thanks so much.

Now let's talk a little bit about we oftentimes we’ll—kind of like a laser—we'll look in at specific layers of the organization, and your newer and younger employees really have high levels of engagement. And that was so encouraging to see this. You know, it's often difficult for new employees, especially, some would say, for the younger generation of the workforce, to be engaged. So what are you doing to recruit and onboard and keep people and help them feel like they're an important part of the mission and vision of the school? What would you say, Ryan, to that question?

Ryan: Yeah. Well, it's such an important question, you know, and I think it’s probably important to take a step back when, you know, thinking about how we’d answer this to say, you know, it's our job to provide clarity throughout our organization. And we work to do this with our whole team, but especially those who are going through the hiring process. We want people to join our team and to know all of the important answers about who we are, what we do, where we're going, on day one. So we want to be very clear about those things that our organization does, who we are, what's our vision. And we bring people in that are a natural fit to help us accomplish those goals. So that clarity early on, I think, can help give people meaning and engagement in their work.

One thing I'm always reminded of when I'm talking about this is there's a story. I think I originally read about this in a book from Michael Hyatt, where he was talking about vision. It’s probably Vision Driven Leader. And he says, you know, the early days of NASA, there's a custodian that's interviewed, and he's basically asked, “What's your role?” And he responds, you know, “I'm sending a man to the moon.” And that's the exact response we want everybody on our team to come up with. Everybody on staff, no matter what your role is, we're going to partner with families to disciple and prepare these students. They're going to head out in the world after graduation. They're going to know what they believe. They're going to know why they believe it. They're equipped to be successful. What an incredible thing. I mean, that is an amazing cause that we have. And that can't be accomplished by one person. Everybody in our organization has a role in helping develop that, along with the family, of course, and the church and other institutions.

But we're so fortunate to do what we do. We have that incredible mission, and there's a clear, eternal significance to that. I mean, how many workplaces can truly say there's such an easy and natural connection to something with eternal significance? So you talk about getting pumped up about what you do. I think our younger employees today are drawn to work that they believe matters. So we want to make sure we connect those lines very clearly for them. What you do matters. It has an eternal significance.

So in our very first meetings with a potential hire, we try to paint that picture. We're going to discuss all those things. And we want to make sure this is a good fit for them, this is a good fit for us, but even if it's not, we have total clarity in what this is here and if you join us, what kind of work you're going to be involved in. So again, there's no vagueness about what we're doing.

And we also pursue people who, they’re cultural fits, and we're going to prioritize a cultural hire over maybe a technical hire. They've got this great technical skill or background or specific experience that's really attractive, but culturally, we may have some questions. If that's the case, we're not going to continue to pursue that hire. You know, we can work on whatever technical aspects we need to work on. The cultural points of this, they need to be on point from day one.

So when you talk about that onboarding process, you know, we do have some probably traditional strategies we use. We do have some videos that we share very early, series of emails, meetings. But I would say our most effective tool is the rest of our staff. They do a great job, again, living out those values. And of course, that feeds into this question I really don't have to ask our staff, “Hey, we have a new member here. Can you guys take this person under your wing and make sure it's a smooth transition?” It happens naturally as our staff just live out those core values that we have.

So I think if anybody came to Calvary and maybe walked down the halls or saw our staff engaging with each other, our families, our students, you know, they would never be able to tell who's been here for decades and who's in their first year. And again, that's a testament to our staff and the team we have, and just all this going together.

Al: Great. It’s inspiring. And you're, really, right. Your employees are looking for life-giving work. It’s one of the keys to engagement. But we call it life-giving work, you know. And I love how you are much like that Michael Hyatt example, where he calls out the custodian who says they’re sending a man to the moon. No matter what the job is, how you can point to that. And then, you talk about your values a lot. You've mentioned values now a couple of times, how central they are. You talk about them in the hiring process; how it helps you identify cultural fit for new employees; how even in your all-staff meetings, you'll talk about your values and then identify individuals who are actually, you know, meeting and demonstrating your values.

So, well, tell me about your values. What are they? I'm sure our listeners are interested in knowing.

Ryan: Let me open up a document here so I can figure out what they are because—no, I'm just kidding. Wouldn't that be terrible? But the truth is, that's probably what happens with most of these core values and things that organizations have. We proclaim these things, and then maybe we don't even know what they are. We're certainly not following them. The “how do we behave?” category are our series of values. It’s so important, and it gives us a framework that helps build our culture as a staff. If we are cohesive and we know the values, of course, first of all, we're living them. Well, yeah, from a leadership team to our staff to our students, that culture should flow throughout the organization. So we've really built this from Pat Lencioni’s work in The Advantage. Really great book about organizational clarity. Would certainly recommend that to anybody. But he's got a series of kind of levels, and we've really adopted some of those.

So we have a permission-to-play level. And of course, you got to keep these small. You can have an overwhelming amount of values. A lot of things are important. The permission-to-play level for us that we're communicating with people is that, of course, we expect that our people are Christ followers. We have plenty of evidence that says this person is a real follower of Christ, and they're living that out. They're demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in their everyday life and all of their interactions. We have an aspirational set of values that, again, I kind of said this earlier, but, you know, these are values that are important to us, but maybe we can't say we really, truly live these 100% of the time, if we're being honest with ourselves. So we want to continue to pull this more into who we are naturally.

But the first one is humor. You know, we work with kids. At the end of the day, we got to be able to loosen up. We can take our work seriously. We're not going to take ourselves seriously. You know, have fun with the kids, sing songs, be goofy, take a pie in the face, whatever it takes. And in our world, that builds rapport with the kids. It builds relationships. It's so important.

We've got to be people who are flexible. You know, that one is probably so important for any sector of the workforce. But school, you know, schedules are changing, and we all like our routines, but those are always getting interrupted. So we've got to be people who are who are flexible.

And also, I mentioned earlier that growth is a topic that we threw into the aspirational values when we saw, “Hey, this is something that we need to focus on here.” We always want to be rethinking things and intentionally growing.

And as far as our core values, core values are our last subset, and these are key values. These have to be natural to the people that we hire and how we behave when we're working. And, you know, you really, you don't clock out from a job that's a ministry. I mean, it's just something that you got to live intentionally all the time. We want our people to be authentic. No politics, authentic followers of Christ. You know, I don't feel like, “Hey, well, I work at the Christian school, so I'm going to act this way. But then when I leave, you know, it's almost going to look like I'm living a double life.” We can't be doing that, of course. We have to be people who are humble. We have to show humility. We know that we're not better than others. We may have different roles. We may be higher or lower in the work structure, but we're people who have strong teamwork. We're willing to help each other out. We're willing to push the goals forward of our organization, whatever that means.

And then, we have to be people that show grit. And that's a combination of passion and perseverance. It certainly takes a lot of grit to survive in the education world. There's a physical grit, there's that mental grit, and I think there's a spiritual grit as well that's needed to be effective in what we do.

So those are the core values, the aspirational values, and the permission to play.

Al: Well, okay.

I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.

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Al: Welcome back to my conversation with Ryan Hyde.

Thanks, Ryan. I can see where, you know, in the interview process, you go through those, you ask people how they live those out, and that gives you a lot of information, doesn’t it, on who is going to fit into your culture. Yeah. Wow.

Well, you know, you have, first of all, you've tripled in size, from 150 to 450 students, and now you're even on two campuses. So that can be a challenge to keep everyone united on the mission and everybody living the same values and to have effective communication between the teams on different campuses. So what are some of the ways that your leadership team brings the faculty and staff together? How do you handle the challenges of having two different sites, people coming from two different places?

Ryan: Well, we are on two campuses right now, like you had mentioned, and we know that those strategies can be an effective way to scale a system or increase the reach of your mission. Currently, that's not a strategy that we're looking to do long term at the moment. And I'll kind of rewind here to just give you a brief snapshot of where we're at. About a year ago, with that enrollment growth, we made the decision, alongside our founding church, to launch the school independent. And that was Calvary Baptist here in Bellefontaine. You know, we believed that that move would allow the school and the church to best pursue their missions and the growth of our organizations. There's just a lot that goes into a church and school operating together. And it was clear that now was the right time to do that.

So church was so generous. They donated about a 40-acre plot of land and said, “Hey, go ahead, begin development, and start your campus there.” So that's what we did in our first phase. We moved in this past January, and it's a smaller building. We're working on the second building right now. So that moved most of our elementary out to that first location.

And your opening statements are accurate because we pretty immediately saw some of the challenges that come from operating on two campuses. So to combat that, we made a few decisions. First of all, we said we're going to keep our morning staff meetings as an all-staff meeting. You know, we didn't want to separate those by building meetings. We thought it was important for everybody to be together and see each other. That, you know, thankfully, the two campuses are, like, a two-minute drive. So I know that that's not possible for everybody. But that gave us a chance to quickly talk. We could share prayer requests. We could pray for each other, pray for our school families there in the morning. And that was certainly important as we looked to stay connected.

Staff-communication channels, they changed a little bit to some building communication, but we made sure to keep all staff channels open. You want to do whatever you can to avoid long periods of disconnection from, I think, any of your team members. Even if it's an elementary and a high school teacher, you still want your team connected at some level. So I'd say that for any leadership team, you know, whether they're overseeing schools at one campus or many campuses, you know, the problem is maybe the same, that, you know, your vision, your mission, your core values, all of that communication leaks. If you're at multiple campuses, it's going to be easier to see, and you're going to have a greater possibility of developing distinct cultures at those two campuses, but it always leaks.

So we have to really take it upon ourself to constantly be reminding, reinforcing our team of those foundational truths of the organization every time we're together. And the people who are in those buildings need to be sharing the same message. You know, we got building principal over there. They got to be saying the same stuff that I'm saying. And it probably gets to the point where you feel like, “Man, this is overkill. You know, all these people, we’re just drilling this and drilling this. They're going to get sick of it. I'm getting sick of saying it myself,” but yeah, when we've reached that point, you know, it's probably a good time to know that we're just starting and that we need to keep going. So we can't just let those truths of our organization, I guess, be words that are just on paper. We keep that at the forefront, and that can help us have the best chance of keeping our culture intact, maybe even as we are multiple campuses.

Al: Yeah. You know, people often ask, you know, “So how often do I have to say these things?” And, you know, I've heard different responses. A mentor of mine once described, it's like you're talking to a parade, and people are joining and leaving the parade at different times. And even as they're walking through the parade, they've forgotten what you've already talked with them about. And it's important just over and over the—you know, somebody, I think it's Patrick Lencioni, said you’re the chief reminding officer. That's the key role. But keeping the vision, mission, core values, you know, right in front, you know, consistently reminding people that this is the way, this is what we're doing and the way we do it. Yeah.

Now, another area, I guess, and just, again, one more area where you're doing really well, Ryan, is this sustainable-strategy idea. You know, you scored high on the questions related to strategy, and your staff and faculty have, they have got a high consensus on goals. Everybody seems to be on the same page, doing together what you're all about. So what are some of the specific ways that you come together as a team to commit to these goals for your school and to believe that what you're doing is really meaningful and that everybody is working together on the same page to achieve your strategy?

Ryan: Yeah, it's so important. And I would say that, again, going back to Pat Lencioni’s The Advantage, the practical steps in there for organizational health and clarity for us are we've taken a lot from that book. Our leadership team each year, we create and we review what we call the Calvary Playbook. This is a document that we'll share with our staff multiple times throughout the year, kind of like you said, the chief reminding officer. But this is a document that is going to clearly detail those answers about, you know, why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How are we going to succeed within? How are we going to succeed? What are the strategic anchors, those areas that we're focusing on? You know, one of the quotes that I like is most organizations, they don't struggle from starvation, but indigestion. How do we know what's a good opportunity that we need to pass on because there's a greater opportunity out there? And we're going to use those strategic anchors to help us make those decisions. I think that's especially hard in the world of ministry because everything sounds like a good idea. How do you say no to some things that have some type of clear ministry value to them?

You know, that Calvary Playbook is also going to say, what's the most important goal right now that we have to accomplish as an organization? It's going to have our BHAG, our big hairy audacious goal. Who specifically is doing what? What's our hedgehog concept? And that comes from, you know, Jim Collins’ work in Good to Great and Built to Last.

We also have a StoryBrand script. That is from Donald Miller's work, and he's got a few books that are really helpful, especially for those with developed marketing departments and admissions departments. Really good stuff from Donald Miller that I think is very practical.

And I just think over communicating those simple foundational truths gives us that framework, that it informs our daily decisions, and it makes sense of them to our team. Others can see how our decisions fit our organization. And I think as long as we collectively understand and we operate within that framework, we can prevent ourselves from making decisions that may cause disruption by, you know, maybe pursuing an initiative where everyone's like, “That's not who we are. That's not our hedgehog. That doesn't fit.” So I think as long as we follow that framework, it keeps our goals aligned.

Al: Okay. So Michael Hyatt, Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, Donald Miller. You're doing a lot of leadership reading, no question about that.

But I've got to ask you a little more, Ryan. This Calvary Playbook, I love the idea. So just tell us a little bit more about that.

Ryan: Well, again, this is a five-page document, and I just pulled it up on my screen. So literally, that first page that we have, really, talks about those components of the advantage of those really simple foundational questions that every organization has to be able to answer. So, again, you know, we look through this, and you've got some of those simple answers. Why do we exist? How do we behave? But you know, I think the crazy thing is, if you're an organization that does not have this in writing and you've shared it, Al, it would be interesting to ask these questions to your team and then collect the answers, because you're probably going to get a lot of different answers maybe you would expect. But we continue to talk about, how are we going to get results at Calvary from trust to conflict, to commitment to accountability. And then, like I said, Jim Collins’ work and Donald Miller's work. It's all of those foundational concepts are wrapped in that one document so our team can see it.

Al: Okay. Thanks.

Well, another area, inspirational leadership is another one; in fact, our most highly weighted factor or key to employee engagement. And again, you scored high. So when leaders display fairness, integrity, putting Christ first, compassion, those kinds of Christian-character types of questions, we find that employees are willing to follow and trust leaders that demonstrate those kinds of character qualities. So, of course, humility is another attribute of inspirational leaders. And so I may be pushing you to articulate this, but so what are some specific ways that your leadership teams put these values into practice in the day to day? And how do you cascade these leadership qualities through the levels of your organization, your department heads, your team leaders? You know, and I go back to maybe your permission-to-play value of Christ follower, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. You've already mentioned that is a key. But tell us a little more about that.

Ryan: Well, the thing that comes to my mind first is John Maxwell and the law of the lid, which pretty simply says that, you know, the leadership team is going to put a lid or a cap on how deep our organization can go. And I think that applies to the characteristics that you mentioned as well. It may sound too simple, but if we're not actually people that are displaying those characteristics, I don't think it's possible to fake our way into a healthy situation here. You know, if we're not displaying fairness, integrity, putting Christ first, we can't put together some fancy marketing slogans or organizational jargon where people see us in that light. We just simply have to live it. So being authentic people and just living that way, first of all, that's a challenge, obviously, because, you know, in our sinful condition, that's not what comes natural to us. So obviously, we're trusting God. We're leaning on Him to give us the ability to behave that way. A lot of times our initial reaction to something that comes to our desk could be frustration or anger or disappointment, and we have to make sure that's not the first emotion people are seeing as we work with things, but we're showing the patience; we're showing the humility; we’re showing those godly attributes. So that's something that we have to be aware of.

You know, I also would say that we always have to be people who are determined to get to the right answer, and that has to take precedence over maybe what our preferred answer was. So, you know, that humility comes in. You know, we don't have to be these leaders who, “Well, leadership to me means I know the correct answer to everything. And I am the great dispenser of truth in our organization.” No. I'm the person who's—I need to tap the wisdom and strengths of our team to collectively get us to the correct answer. And maybe that’s showing humility in and of itself and maybe a vulnerability there that we have to be willing to show, “Look, I'm willing to change my opinion on something if I'm led to a better answer.”

And as far as how we cascade humility throughout the organization, you know, humility for us, like I said, is one of our three core values. So it's something that we communicate regularly, and that applies to how we work together in our teams. You know, we're not going to tolerate, let's say, like a political climate where people are, you know, maybe they're, “Hey, I'm going to withhold information from someone else on my team so I can maybe prop myself up,” or maybe, you know, of course, we want to be people who are humble, and we want to see the elevation of our teammates over ourselves. So, you know, we have to first expect our leadership team to display that, and it can't just be empty words that don't apply to us. And if we're displaying that at the top and consistently, you know, behaving in alignment with that core value, I think that's a natural trait that is going to get transferred down to your staff and your team, you know, for a school to our students. If we're not living that authentically, I don't think it's going to happen.

Al: Yeah. That's so great. Well, thanks for sharing. You know, leaders must display the Christian fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. And it must be part of our own personal transformation growth in Christ, being authentic. Absolutely. And humility is just part of that story.

But let me ask you one more question. You know, over the last few years, we're reminded that we should expect the unexpected as leaders and Christian organizations. You know, we continually have more and more unforeseen challenges, it seems, in our culture. So looking ahead, give us an insight. What challenges and opportunities do you see in the next few years that you'll be facing as a team and even with your school?

Ryan: Yeah. You know, specific to us, we have the challenge of developing that brand-new campus that I talked about, as we launch our organization independent from our founding church. That's been a big leap for us in many ways. It's an incredible opportunity, and it's a great challenge. There is a lot of, you know, logistics, of course, that go into that. The financing is super scary. We're dealing with zeros on documents that are very scary, and we're working with those processes while we also continue to balance those daily operations, and, you know, the current product that we provide at the school alongside of it. I would say that the secular culture that we live in as it can be a challenge as it's clearly not becoming more Christlike. And of course, I wouldn't say church involvement is increasing across America. You know, we see negative statistics of church involvement, things like that. We can interpret that and say, you know, “Hey, our prospective family pools are shrinking.” But I think the opportunity in that challenge is for Christian schools that do stand firm on the truths of Scripture, because more than ever, we have a real chance to look very different and very distinct and, you know, offer something that's very attractive to a lot of families in our community. I think Christian schools are able to create, if they can create a God-honoring culture and that rich, you know, Christ-centered educational experience, our missions have the chance to go further, faster than we've possibly ever seen before. So that certainly excites me.

Al: Stand firm and offer an attractive experience that's God honoring and culturally rich. Yeah, no question. Yeah, fantastic.

Well, thanks, Ryan. We've really enjoyed this conversation. I just look back at my notes, you know, starting with, you know, what you're doing and how you've improved and just the focus of growth with your professional staff and development, how you've created this culture of recognition, you know, where it's a personal approach to recognition and how that really seems to resonate. It clearly does. How you’ve worked with younger employees, how clarity is such an important part, which gives meaning to all of your employees and provides a real life-giving-work opportunity, and to make sure that you've got people that culturally fit. Then, I love the conversation about your values. You know, your permission-to-play value, which is being a Christ follower. You're aspirational and core values. Just really a great conversation and an encouragement for all of our listeners to really live and hone those values as you go forward. And then, the challenges you have to grow, how you've got—I'm starting to think about the Best Christian Workplace Playbook, and we do have something very similar to that, and how important it is for organizations to be able to share that, how leaders need to share what's the playbook so that everybody's on the same book, much like you'd be on any athletic team. Yeah. Great, great information and insight on inspirational leadership and a vision for the future. It’s just been a great conversation.

Ryan, how about, what would you like to add kind of as a bottom line of what we've talked about? Anything come to mind?

Ryan: I think you've summarized it well. I suppose I would just say as leaders, as Christian leaders, we have such an incredible opportunity to connect our people to our missions, which are so amazing, and the work is so rich and meaningful and life giving. So just make sure we are being intentional about how we communicate that. And if we're providing that clarity, it's incredible to see the change that can happen in your organization.

Al: Fantastic.

Well, Ryan, thanks so much for your contributions today. And most of all, I appreciate your commitment to leading and raising up the next generation of followers of Jesus, the next generation of Christian leaders, even. So thanks for taking your time out and speaking into the lives of so many listeners. Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan: Thank you, Al. I appreciate the opportunity to talk and, of course, our continued partnership with BCW.

Al: Thank you very much.

Thanks so much for listening to my conversation with Ryan Hyde, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I thought it was very encouraging.

You’ll find ways to connect with him and links to everything we discussed in the show notes and the transcript at workplaces.org/podcast.

If you have any suggestions for me about our podcast or any questions about creating a flourishing workplace, please email me, al@workplaces.org. That’s al@workplaces.org.

And finally, leaders, if you want to improve your leadership and expand your organization's impact for good and see greater faithfulness in our broader culture, please join me and help us to achieve our goal to see more flourishing Christian-led workplaces. To help, please share this podcast with another leader or even launch your own project to discover and improve the health of your workplace culture. And if you're interested in learning more, go to workplaces.org and request a sample report.

Outro: The Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast is sponsored by Best Christian Workplaces. If you need support building a flourishing workplace culture, please visit workplaces.org for more information.

We'll see you again next week for more valuable content to help you develop strong leaders and build a flourishing workplace culture.

Al: Next week, you're really going to love my conversation with Dr. JoAnn Flett. She's the executive director of the Center for Faithful Business at Seattle Pacific University. She'll be sharing about why faith is good for business.