Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
My husband and I have some friends from different parts of the country. We are from the midwest and try to be diplomatic when we communicate.
Our friends, however, are very direct and to the point – often without taking others’ feelings into consideration.
This type of communication is foreign to us but I try to explain to my husband that it is foreign to us because we are not familiar with their culture.
Culture is a social system that consists of howAmerican Society for Quality
people communicate, interrelate and make decisions.
Cultures are a part of every society and every organization. And, cultures are either intentional or evolve over time.
It is a display of the norms, values, and behavioral assumptions of members of the society or organization.
For instance, I worked with someone from another English-speaking country. It was easy to understand each other (or so I thought) because our words were the same.
However, I learned that his country had different meanings for some of our language, and this caused unintended miscommunication. After we learned this, it helped us communicate with each other more clearly.
How Does Culture Affect an Organization?
In an organization, culture is communicated through expectations of behaviors and how decisions are made.
Organizational Culture may show up in the following ways:
Through its vision, mission, values, policies, and practices. For instance, a Values Statement will dictate priorities and impact how decisions are made and employees behave.
Culture is evident in how the organization responds to mistakes. Does your organization hide mistakes, punish mistakes, or try and learn from them? For instance, does your church take the time to learn from mistakes or make someone a scapegoat that gets punished?
Culture is how power is used or shared with others. For instance, how is power used? I’ve worked with people who had no authority but employees were afraid of them simply because of who they worked for. This is what I called perceived power – no authority but very powerful!
Culture can manifest in how a building/office is designed, furnished, or decorated. For instance, do employees work in an open space so they can easily communicate, or are all employees in closed offices?
Culture is simply, “how we do things here.”
How Does Culture Impact a Church Staff?
Church offices have very defined cultures. Some are intentionally created and some simply evolve. Those cultures that evolve can be difficult to work in because there is no real reason for behaviors, other than they happen.
I don’t know if you listen to Andy Stanley’s leadership podcasts or not but if you don’t it is a great resource for church leaders.
Anyone who has ever listened to Andy knows that he is a great communicator and addresses many of the challenges church leaders face every day.
One of his recent podcasts titled, Trust vs Suspicion is a great teaching on how to steer a church employee culture toward trusting that others are doing the right thing and encouraging employees to demonstrate behaviors that warrant trustworthiness.
We know that trust is important in all organizations, but it is also one of those things that is difficult to measure or define.
When trust is ingrained in the organization, daily operations run smoother than when a culture of suspicion exists.
Often there is, what Andy calls a gap, between what happens in a work environment and what was expected to happen.
How we respond to this breach, and what we place in that gap, determines the culture and impacts our relationships.
These gaps very often happen because we are all human and sometimes life events impact our ability to perform at expected levels.
An example that Andy gives is when someone is late for a meeting and we make the judgment as to whether the person has a good reason for being late or if we place judgment on that person for not showing up on time.
The way we intentionally respond to these gaps is what determines if we have a culture of trust or suspicion.
Effective leaders work to build a culture that gives people the benefit of the doubt.
In this type of culture, leaders assume the best in people instead of the worst, resulting in employees feeling safe when they make mistakes.
But it also encourages employee behaviors that correct mistakes and bridge those gaps.
However, when an employee creates the same gap time and time again there needs to be a conversation about employee performance to eliminate that gap.
When we have the conversation with the employee we need to assume that there is information that we are missing (trust) instead of assuming the worst (suspicion).
“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth in an attempt to find the best possible answer.” Andy Stanley
We need to be deliberate in believing the best in others and to fill the gaps with trust instead of suspicion.
Very often there are things going on in an employee’s personal life that can impact their behavior at work.
When leaders support employees through personal challenges they can oftentimes help resolve those issues and ultimately bridge those performance gaps.
We Are Responsible For Owning Our Gaps
We know that we need to trust others but we also need to demonstrate our own trustworthiness by owning gaps that we create.
For example, if we know we are going to be late for a meeting, we need to let others know that we are going to be late.
When we take responsibility for the gaps that we create and fix our mistakes we demonstrate our own trustworthiness.
By giving people the benefit of the doubt you ultimately create a culture of trust where employees feel safe in admitting and correcting mistakes.
And isn’t that what we are striving for?
How would you describe your work culture – trust or suspicion?
Learn more tips for managing your church by enrolling in our Fundamentals of Church Administration course.