Leadership Vision

5 Signs of a Great Staff Culture

January 18, 2019

We spent some time this week reflecting on our staff culture.

Culture, as we write in Rebuilt, is the potent brew of what an organization believes, what it does, and how it operates. It encompasses traditions, values, norms, behaviors. Author and management consultant, Peter Drucker, writes simply: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  It affects everything.


Of course we want a healthy culture for our parish staff, but we actually aspire to more…we want a great culture. It’s a work in progress for sure, but here are five signs you’re headed in the right direction.


#1. Clear Vision, Mission  and Purpose

The mission of the Church is given by Christ. Even so, lots of parishes lose sight of it. When it comes to vision, many churches can be even less clear and more confused.

Without vision the people perish, as the Bible tells us.

Even when parish leaders cast clear vision people can lose sight of it. As others have said before “vision leaks.” It has got to be repeated consistently and constantly. Purpose, or why we do what we do, is also important, especially in churchworld where turning the flywheel week after week can lead us to question our purpose.


#2. Core Values

While a parish might be lacking in vision and foggy on mission and purpose, every parish has operational values…whether they know it or not. These are all about how we proceed in fulfilling our mission. At Nativity we have identified six:


  • Simple: we’re not that smart.
  • Adaptable: keep calm and carry on
  • Growth Oriented: go deeper, go wider
  • Excellent: outstanding fitness for purpose
  • Committed: dedicated to the greater good
  • Hospitality: wow-ing people with extraordinary service


These are ours but values can vary from organization to organization, and can really be anything you want. But if you don’t go ahead and identify specific values your team will inadvertently adapt unarticulated values, more likely negative ones like “meetings always start late” or “we talk about one another when they’re not in the room.” Specifying values can keep everyone positive and accountable.


#3. Collaboration

As our staff has grown we have outgrown our parish office. Currently we are in the midst of an experiment in an open office plan. That means most everybody, including me, does not have assigned offices or workspaces, we just have open work stations. It is too early in the experiment to know if it is successful, but given our situation it was worth a try. But whether we stick with it or not, I think it has definitely gotten people out of the nests they tend to create for themselves, especially if they’ve been working in the same space for awhile.

This, in turn, can easily lead to silo ministries and programs and events that become the personal province of individuals.

Physical presence and proximity stimulate collaboration.

No technology can replace face-to-face interaction in which people know about what the others are doing and even get involved in it, when helpful.


#4. Trust

Nothing can unite a team more solidly and successfully than a culture of trust. Nothing can pull it apart more completely than the lack of it. I need to trust my staff and if someone comes along I don’t trust, that should disqualify them from remaining on the team. Conversely my staff needs to trust me. Trust is also actually a huge factor in productivity, creativity, and performance. A whole lot more is going to get done in a culture of trust.


#5. Health

A great staff culture is going to include an environment that emphasizes learning and personal development. It’s one where people have goals and are held accountable for them. It’s one where success is recognized, celebrated, and rewarded. Health includes a proper work/life balance: personal issues and problems do not intrude into work and work honors personal and family boundaries. Health also includes….health.


Having a great staff culture is not easy, and it is always a work in progress. And even one person can damage it. It requires vigilance and commitment to develop it and maintain it.


For a more complete treatment of this topic see William Vanderbloemen’s insightful new book Culture Wins @ culturewins.org

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