What kind of culture are you creating?
I have been reading Scott Harrison's book Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World. Harrison is the founder of Charity: Water, and tells a compelling story of his prodigal years as a successful New York City club promoter, his return to faith, and how he found himself launching a non-profit that has made a significant impact on the world around us.
One of the more fascinating parts of the book is how Harrison is forced to learn to lead a rapidly growing organization quickly. The learning curve was quick and unforgiving, scaling up from a couple of people working out of a friend's apartment wondering if it would work to now having built thousands of wells and raised tens of millions of dollars with a team of over seventy people on staff. Along the way there were bumps, bruises, missteps, and hard truths... This particular learning struck me:
It was a radical notion for me, the idea that I was responsible for reading the room. And I wasn’t even sure why it was important, until Linda sharpened Ross’s point: “Everything you do is a clue for other people about how it is and isn’t okay to behave,” she said. “When you yawn during a presentation, or miss a deadline, or interrupt a speaker, you’re telling everyone that that behavior is acceptable.”
This has been a lesson that I have had to learn, relearn, and learn again. As a youth pastor, executive pastor, and even now as Todd and I work to lead Chemistry Staffing, I have to constantly remind myself that I need to be aware of the tone that I am setting and how others react to that tone. I need to realize that what I say and do have a significant impact on the teams I lead and the culture of the entire organization.
The things that we say, the things that we do, and the things that we don't do communicate volumes to those that we lead. As leaders, we need to be intentional about our words and deeds and realize that everything that we do is amplified exponentially. The random comments that we make become edicts, the deadlines that we miss become permission to allow everyone else to do the same, and our lack of appreciation creates a miserable place to serve.
Culture is created, stewarded, and modeled from the top. As leaders, we all have the choice to be intentional about creating a healthy culture... or to let one develop on its own. A word of caution: when culture develops on its own, it is rarely healthy.