Imagine being a senior pastor and getting this honest, direct feedback from your staff:
“We have never doubted how much leadership loves us, however we’re not sure where we’re going as a church. We get lost, and we want to better develop our culture. (Oh, and while you’re at it, please develop my boss as well.”)
Chris Taylor, Director of Human Resources for the church, recalls what happened next.
“Pastor Josh called Seacoast’s leaders together and said, ‘We need to open our arms and welcome this feedback. It’s going to hurt, and before we address the staff, we’ll take some time to mourn.’”
Three years after Seacoast openly admitted to a staff culture stuck at a “critical moment” level, are celebrating the move to fully “healthy.” Their inspiring turnaround offers four very wise, practical choices any church, organization, or Christian-led business can use to improve the health of its culture.
First, do the wiring
“It was essential we ‘wired up’ our culture and put the needed systems in place. If we wanted to build a healthy culture, we couldn’t afford to recreate programs and processes along the way. If we want a learning initiative to thrive, for instance, we are currently working on a whole new staff development program and the 15th class session has to be every bit as good as the first.
“Wiring our culture” meant evaluating every position and determining the size and scope of every job. This helped get us to our first real win, compensation and benefits.
Second, identify a handful of key initiatives
“Compensation and benefits was one of what we called “Culture Builders” that involved our people from every level of leadership and staff. We used external benchmarking and megachurch data to determine what’s fair and right. We concluded a lot of our people were underpaid, so we initiated a two-step pay increase, the first based on performance and the second a ‘catch up’ adjustment over two years.”
The proof of measuring employee engagement is in the metrics of human lives.”
Third, value emotional intelligence
“Part of building a healthier culture, is understanding our own emotions as well as we understand others’. Developing emotional intelligence takes work; it’s like peeling back the onion. We wanted every person to understand his or her emotions in both favorable situations and those in which one feels cornered to either ‘fight or flight.’ To help our people better understand themselves, we developed four areas of people involvement that will be rolled out: Learn, Love, Labor, and Lead.
Learn and Love are about behaviors
Labor and Lead are about performance and getting results through self and others
How an employee pays attention to these four areas underpins one’s competency.
Fourth, think systematically while practicing grace
“Over the past 30 years, Seacoast has grown from a single building to a multi-site campus of 13 locations. We’ve grown from a tightly-knit group that sat down together for lunch, to 300 employees. We have no choice but to think systematically. And yet we’re a “high grace” culture, and because of that staff really anticipate the opportunity to participate in initiatives that allow us more to reach our goal, which is to see us as God sees us.”
Chris sums up the value of seeking, receiving, and acting on direct, honest feedback.
“The proof of measuring employee engagement is in the metrics of human lives of our leadership and staff. It starts with people who are finding God, growing in their faith, discovering their life purpose, and making a difference in the world. We’ve built our culture by welcoming, hearing, and responding to the honest feedback in strategic ways that help people find God, grow their faith, discover their purpose, and make a difference.”
It’s Your Turn!
What’s one ah-ha! idea, or question you may want to explore with your colleague(s), leadership, or direct report after reading this post? What could you, your culture, or your church, organization or company potentially stand to lose if you did nothing and remained silent?
“Six Steps to a Healthy Communication Strategy”
Pam Marmon, CEO, Threefold Tribe
The Employee Engagement Survey
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