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Kevin East Christian Blog and Commentary

What Makes the Soul of an Organization?

  • Kevin East
    Kevin East
    Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
  • 2012 Jan 26
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As leaders, we have an issue to face: How can we really influence the culture within the organization we work?

We have all experienced those ministries, organizations, or businesses where we wonder who is at the helm.  How, based on their leadership, is that organization the way it is?  I mean, doesn't the gas station owner know that the nastiness of the bathroom has to affect those who want to stop there?  The owner of the gas station chain in Texas, Bucky's, sure does.  And it sure shows.

Over the last few years, our ministry has had to grapple with this question.  Now we have 8 different properties and over 50,000 campers each year.  With each area of our ministry, we want our culture to be consistent, and our "soul" the same. We finally landed on three key components we feel are critical to creating a culture where the entire organization is rowing in the same direction, with similar passion.

1. Who we hire Sounds simple doesn't it?  It's not. We might start out with good intentions, but it is easy for us to fall into what is quick or easy.  A friend recently told me that in an organization he used to work with he had to hire, "anyone with a heartbeat."  With that type of culture, you might have warm bodies taking up space, but few people who will help propel the mission. Be selective.  In his book, Good to Great: And the Social Sectors, Jim Collins describes Wendy Kopp and her organization, Teach for America.  Asked how she convinced graduates to work for low pay in tough classrooms, Wendy answered, "First, by tapping their idealistic passions and second, by making the process selective."  I believe she is on to something, and we all could learn from it.

2. How we train who we hire You can't just expect to hire great people and then let them loose.  I heard someone say once that nobody ever drifts toward anything good.  Said differently, people will always gravitate to where they are most comfortable. Once we have great people, we need to:

  • Set the mission before them
  • Cast the vision of what could be
  • Give the necessary instruction on how to get there

This process of training shouldn't be boring and predictable.  If you believe in what your mission is all about, your level of training will reflect it.

3.  What we expect of who we hire This rests on our shoulders as leaders.  I've seen great people who were trained well eventually fizzle out.  Give your staff one load too many, helping them understand God's faithfulness when they step out in faith.  The Spirit of the living God is in each believer.  Therefore, we have the power to love when its seemingly impossible or have joy in the midst of tough circumstances. Think about an old coach you had at one point in your life.  They pushed you hard, taught you in the process, and encouraged you when they saw those glimmers of hope that you could perform at a new level.  As leaders, we can do the same.  After all, when someone is a part of a winning team, they love it. Below is a video we recently posted online.  In it, I address these three areas to parents looking to send their kids to Pine Cove.  My goal in the video was to explain the soul of our ministry, with all the little facts to help paint that picture.

How about yours?  What makes the soul in your organization?  What would you add or change to what I've said here?

For more blog posts like this on leading, following, parenting, fostering, and family, visit Kevin's blog at http://www.followingtolead.com.