Would you trust your organization to a highly-respected Boeing engineer and team leader who could to take your ministry to new heights? Please buckle your seatbelt in case there’s a little turbulence.
Meet Deborah Limb, Executive VP and COO of Seattle-based CRISTA Ministries, whose mission is to love God by serving people. She’s the former Boeing engineering leader who led a variety of large, complex teams including the group that helped create the fuselage for the 787 Dreamliner. From her perspective, God prepared her to shift careers nearly three years back and tackle the challenge of leading CRISTA’s seven individual ministries and its complex and sometimes bumpy culture.
Inside the organization’s healthy culture loomed four threats. In our recent interview, Deborah pinpointed the problem and the strategic approach to each risk.
1. Conflict Avoidance
“CRISTA’s strength is a unified belief system shaped by three core values of our people being Christ centered, service driven and professional. Yet, in a ministry setting, blessing and the desire for unity can lead to complacency—and the tendency to avoid conflict.
Solution: “Good Crucial Conversations training and practice to identify and address the specific conflict showed our leadership to seek resolution as soon as possible so that we can actually strengthen the relationships and preserve the trust of the team. By resolving conflict, we can reach the outcome God intends for our people, our times, and our ministry.
2. Undefined Expectations
“At CRISTA, we’ve learned that we, as leaders, can’t afford to be misunderstood because we failed to clearly communicate our expectation.
Solution: “We strive to know our people and to develop and use clear measures documented on organization dashboards. The dashboards help us pinpoint and affirm right actions that drive focus toward desired outcomes. We strive to leverage measurable data and engage the team toward our ministry goals.
3. Fear and Pride
“We recognized through recent training that we edge God out of our leadership when we allow fear or pride to enter into relationships or problem resolution. Leaving fear or pride unrecognized and unresolved diminishes our ability as leaders to respond constructively and reflect Christ to each other.
Solution: “Setting aside your own personal agenda to focus on service and collaboration toward a greater organizational goal goes a long way. At CRISTA we invite people to start with the ‘heart’ first as they consider their colleagues and face the resolution of challenges.
“Continuous improvement of CRISTA’s leaders and our overall culture has been the antidote for the false assumption that ‘Hey, we’ve arrived!’
Solution: “The fantastic training of Lead Like Jesus has allowed each of our seven ministry directors and 78 managers to examine their own leadership, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, see what each person needs to work on in a simple, straight-forward way. The leader’s question, ‘What would Christ have me do in how I approach people and challenges?’ resonates across our 56-acre campus and in 22 countries abroad.
In organizational leadership, I’ve learned that the journey God takes us on is not a straight line.
CRISTA’s workplace culture continues to improve as we walk together on a journey of individual surrender and unity in the mission.
“As an engineer,” says Deborah, “I’ve always sought the shortest distance between two points. In organizational leadership, I’ve learned that the journey God takes us on is not a straight line.
“As leaders, when we truly surrender our heart, our agenda, our performance, and our future to the Lord, and lean into the effort it takes to be the best leaders for Christ, we’ll be that much closer to the solutions that can truly transform our culture and thus advance the work God is doing and delighting in through our organizations.”