The Lift Project: Shaping Culture: Is Your Car Racing Along or Stuck in the Mud?

So is your leadership culture at work or at church (or in my case both) more like an Indy race car that is flying along the track or stuck in the mud?

Week 3 of Shaping Culture class in the LIFT Project featured a great excerpt from Samuel Chand’s book, “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration” that looked at Culture Killers.

His opening question is where on the spectrum of cultural health do you place your work/church?

Inspiring  …  Accepting  …  Stagnant  …  Discouraging  …  Toxic

He then compares each to an Indy race car’s performance as well as some highlight or low-lights depending on where you end on the spectrum.

Inspiring: Your Indy car flies along the track at amazing speeds. Organizational culture is operating at optimum levels of trust and respect, of thriving together, everyone contributing, everyone making an impact. If that feels like a dream sequence, for most places it is.

Accepting: Your Indy car still sails along the track, but does slow down for a few pot holes and a slight bump along the way. Organizational culture is humming along as the culture is primarily positive, strong leaders, highly motivated. Cultural bumps and potholes start showing up when tough decisions are put off, especially in removing poor leaders from leadership.

Stagnant: Your Indy car finds itself on the wrong surface. Instead of flying along the race track, imagine your car on a dirt road full of ruts and holes. The path is best suited to a pick up truck, but your in an Indy car and so progress is slow and the driver is worn out. Organizational culture may have great vision statements, but low vision accomplishment. Toleration is the form of motivation for work. Heroes are limited to top leaders putting the spotlight on themselves, and forgetting the work of others. The bar is set low for accomplishment.

Discouraging: Your Indy car is stuck in the mud. Engine may be going at full speed and getting nowhere as your tires simply spin. Organizational health may feature a new vision being cast by leaders, but no one caring by workers. Blame starts to become the game. Complaining the form of conversation. Leadership style becomes more authoritarian and threatening as success declines.

Toxic: Your Indy car is on the road, but the bridge ahead of you is out and no one knows it. Organizational health is motivated by fear which is never a healthy strategy. Leaders willingly delegate responsibility, but still hold on to authority. Lapses happen in ethics, finances, perhaps even morals. Turf wars are part of the culture. Good people are run, and only the naive or truly desperate apply for work.

So where on the continuum do you find your church/work culture? Perhaps even more where would you like it to be?

That was the beauty of the additional article this week by Michael Hyatt referring to the culture Thomas Nelson sought to build. They recognized that every organization has a culture, but the wise ones define the type of culture that desire to shape and build.

This week’s video featured an extended conversation between Jim Mellado of the Willow Creek Association interviewing Terry Kelley of Gore Industries, one of the highest ranked places to work. The excerpt was from a recent Leadership Summit. Even though I had seen this interview before it was a good reminder of developing teams that work together in a positive way, or in the continuum above, not just an accepting way, but an inspiring way.

Week 3 challenged me to look at my own leadership and how to build greater involvement and appreciation. I realized we are humming along at the accepting level, and I need to pick up leadership game as well as others to move to the inspiring level.


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