Here’s one of the best stories I’ve ever heard for how to eliminate needless, destructive organizational silos and experience a new spirit of unity so your people are more together, more focused and more productive than ever.
Sam Barfell is Superintendent of Southside Christian School in Simpsonville, South Carolina. In March 2016, their 200-member staff completed the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey that revealed a healthy workplace culture. Yet, like every organization, there were unresolved issues. One in particular:
The school, pre-K through 12th grade, operates three separate schools for early education, middle school, and high school, on one campus. However, by nature the three separate schools fostered siloed mentalities and departments that isolated people and actually hindered the school from fulfilling its mission to “serve as partners with Christian parents in providing an excellent Christian education consistent with biblical truth.”
Barfell committed to collaborating with all three principals and school directors who celebrated the clear, measurable strengths of their culture. Then he led the team to understand what the survey data revealed. What actions were needed to improve their already-healthy culture?
The answer: a four-fold initiative that emphasized
- School unity,
- Sustainable strategy,
- Life-giving work & compensation, and
- Healthy communications.
Leadership and staff worked the plan through all-employee communication, goal setting at the department and organization level and regular progress reports at all-employee meetings. Barfell told me, “As a leadership team, we read a powerful book by Dan Allender, Leading With a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness. Piggybacking on this truth, one of our principals adopted a slogan for his team: ‘Broken together, stronger together.’ What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ when it functions in the spirit of humility.
“I came eye-to-eye with the improving health of our culture when a teacher stopped me in the hall and said, ‘Thank you for listening to our faculty concerns.’”
By asking our staff, ‘How can we make our organization a better place to work?’ we’ve seen the level of trust increase.
Wise initiatives worked out with Christ-like humility have created a more unified culture of happier, more productive employees. In one of the biggest single-year gains in the 15-year history of the survey, Southside Christian School elevated its culture from healthy to flourishing.
Says Barfell, “By asking our staff, ‘How can we make our organization a better place to work?’ we’ve seen the level of trust increase.” And it gets better.
Consider these three personal commitments Barfell is now using to help ensure that the best days for the school’s culture are still ahead:
- “In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni writes, ’The single greatest advantage a company can achieve is organizational health. Yet, it’s ignored by most leaders even though it’s simple, free and absolutely available to everyone who wants it.’ How can I act upon this truth for the sake of our school’s culture and how we’re advancing God’s Kingdom on earth?
- In his book, Boundaries for Leaders, Henry Cloud said, ‘In the end, as a leader, you are always going to get a combination of two things: what you create and what you allow.’ The BCWI survey has given me the data to make the decisions and set the priority to create and maintain a healthy organizational culture. How can I continue to follow through on this ongoing commitment?
- “I’ve quickly come to see that we could have taken the survey one time. However, if we truly want to increase our ministry impact, we need to constantly measure the health of our culture. How can we say ‘No’?
How would you answer these questions, as you think about your culture?
Employee Engagement Survey