How Not to Loathe the Culture You Are Leading

One of the dangers of a growing organization or ministry is the temptation to quickly bring people on to the team to meet the demands of the growth. Of course, there is nothing wrong with desiring to scale the team. As the organization grows, wise leaders expand the leadership base.

The temptation is to take shortcuts on ensuring those joining the team are deeply committed to the mission and values of the organization/ministry. The temptation is to settle, to quickly grab a person and put him or her in a role. When work is piling up, unread emails in the inbox are growing, and demands seem to be rising, the easy solution seems to be quickly putting someone in a role. But wise leaders know—likely they have learned—that putting the wrong person in a role is a short-term solution with adverse long-term implications.

Tony Hsieh (founder & CEO of Zappos) tells the story about his former company, LinkExchange, which was sold to Microsoft for 265 million. When the company was just getting started, Tony and his friends loved the culture. They worked together all the time, sometimes forgetting what day it was. As the company initially grew, they hired their friends, people who shared the same values and understood the culture of the team. But as they continued to grow, “they ran out of friends to hire.” In other words, people began to join the team who did not share the same values. And the culture quickly deteriorated, so much so that Tony said he no longer wanted to come to work at his own company. He now obsesses over cultural fit in his current role at Zappos, and rightly so. Over half of an employee’s annual evaluation is based on living their values, and he has said, “An employee can be a superstar in job performance, but if they don’t live up to core values, we will fire them just for that.”

While we often imagine that declining and crumbling organizations begin to fall apart because they have grown complacent, Jim Collins, in his book How the Mighty Fall, states that complacency is not the issue. Decline begins when the growth of an organization outpaces the organization’s ability to have the right people at the table.

Surely one aspect of “the right people” is a deep-seated commitment to the mission and values that drive the organization. As the organization grows, new people will be invited to join the team. If you move too quickly and fail to ensure the alignment of values, you may end up loathing the culture of the team you are leading.

How can you not loathe the culture you are leading? Do everything you can to ensure the people joining the team, at their very core, carry the DNA of the culture you envision.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
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