FACT: The higher your position, the less likely you are to hear the truth. No, I’m not suggesting people are lying, but are you told the full story? Regardless of how approachable you are, your leadership position holds a level of power that causes people to want you to like them. Yet unfortunately, few people take the risk of telling you the necessary truth.
This is why it’s so important to tap into the power of listening in your workplace. Read on to learn three breakthrough listening strategies that can benefit every ministry organization—like yours!
Five years ago, the workplace culture of Southridge Community Church in St. Catharines, Ontario was hurting. Lead Pastor Jeff Lockyer remembers: “God had called us to put ourselves in closer proximity to people out of justice and compassion.
“Yet, our staff culture was a drastically different collection of workplace experiences. The BCWI Employee Engagement Survey zeroed in on the fact that, while some were thriving, others were borderline toxic. The health of our culture and our ministry calling was at stake. We needed to ensure all our departments, all our people, were led by the kind of leaders who could advocate for healthy, thriving workplaces.”
Jeff then began to unfold a clear sequence of three action steps that would soon transform their culture, and all three were directly tied to the power of listening. Here’s what he said.
1. Listen to the Data.
“The first thing behind our culture turnaround was that we listened to the data. We needed to listen to our people. Their honest feedback was captured in our low-to-borderline scores that said our culture was hurting.
“After we saw our low compensation-benefits scores, our board went to work, and we came up with a new and better plan. The fact is, if you care enough to listen to the data, you can make very practical, positive and significant changes to your people’s day-to-day workplace experience.
“What convinced me was that I could actually feel the score. I know what a 3.80 (“Critical”) feels like. I know what 4.25 (“Flourishing”) feels like. When people resonate together with feeling their culture, you get more buy-in. We did!”
2. Listen to What Your People Need.
“Second, by listening to the data, we learned to listen to what our people wanted and needed to flourish. They wanted better communication that would give them a voice. Not to passively receive leadership from us, but to actively be involved in decisions that affected them.
“I call it the difference between cake-serving and cake-baking. As our people got into the messiness of the cake-baking process – providing real-time input on organizational decisions as we were in the process of making them – we all became more transparent with each other. In a sense, we began to bake our future together and to taste a better culture as a result.”
3. Listen to God.
“Thirdly, as our culture began to practice healthier communication and grow outstanding talent, we kept listening for God and where God was working inside each of us. At the end of the day, this attention you need to pay to your culture isn’t an HR issue, it’s a spiritual issue, a discipleship issue.
“As leaders, we’re constantly inviting people to change and be transformed, because that’s the gospel. It’s the possibility that through the risen Jesus, change is possible.”
The attention you need to pay to your culture isn’t an HR issue, it’s a spiritual issue, a discipleship issue.
Today, thanks to the power of listening and the transforming power of God at work in their culture, Southridge now scores in the top 1% of all churches surveyed by BCWI. Jeff put the perfect exclamation point on our conversation, a huge takeaway I’d like you to experience as well, in your work today:
More than anything else, our ongoing culture journey and transformation has given us the integrity of experiencing, let alone modeling, the gospel. It’s allowed us to look at the brokenness and darkness that’s existed among our leadership and workplace environment. Looking at – and listening to – the good, the bad and the ugly of our culture has shown us that God wants to grow and sanctify us – personally, as teams, as a culture, an organization, and as followers of Christ. As church leaders are inviting others into life-change, it’s critical that your life is changing too.”
Amen. So be it.