Beware… “The Culture – CULT-ure GAP”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

What Sort of Culture Do You Work In? “Putrid Petri Dish”? Or “Living Water”?

There’s no question that the most important area for any organization of any kind to focus its energies on is assuring it establishes and maintains the very best culture. Which is really all about leadership, right? The American Heritage dictionary defines the word culture as, “The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.”

The area of an organization which has the greatest influence on what sort of cultural attributes will characterize the organization is threefold: leadership, leadership, and leadership. I emphasize leadership because it is an exponentially important role and responsibility of leadership to set the example and assure the very best culture for success. Stephen Covey said, “In a very real sense there is no such thing as ‘organizational behavior’. There is only individual behavior. Everything else flows out of that.” (“Principled-Centered Leadership”) The “individual” Covey is referring to is none other than leadership.

Now, more than any time in the history of business organizations, a flourishing cultural credo, and a commensurate process and technology support system, should be job number one! The one BIG problem? The market is making demands on leadership, and leadership is more ill-equipped at the heart level than ever, which are both completely counterintuitive to devoting the necessary time, talent, and treasure investment in CULTURE. Or, put another way, whatever it take to guarantee the flourishing of human beings.

The main point of this feast at The Training Table is to warn the reader about the potential GAP between establishing the best organizational culture, and the reality of a culture of a highly dysfunctional nature. We all know that a “dysfunctional organization” of any kind doesn’t mean it can’t function. It just means that a wide variety coping mechanisms must exist that allow the organization to function at varying degrees of success. But, “coping mechanisms” = waste. Wasted capital resources, wasted innovation, and wasted people. To be honest, these days far too many organizations of ALL kinds are a wasteland of human flourishing. And that’s such a crying shame.

Interestingly enough, I have found that the study of how cults indoctrinate members to be very instructive about the symptoms and the behavior to recognize (or stop denying) and avoid (or start working on it today) when (re-)establishing a healthy organizational culture. Some indoctrination techniques of cults include:

1) Subjection to stress and fatigue
2) Social disruption, isolation and pressure
3) Self-criticism and humiliation
4) Fear, anxiety, and paranoia
5) Control of information
6) Escalating commitment
7) Use of auto-hypnosis to induce ‘peak’ experiences

Now, with the exception of the more extreme end of the list in all but a very few corporate organizations, this set of indoctrination techniques commonly utilized by CULTS might feel “pretty much like every organization I’ve worked for”! Well, don’t be surprised or overly cynical. This might be true mainly because it’s actually quite rare to find organizations that match the description below of how to assure a healthy organizational culture, and some of the “must-do’s” to keep it that way:

1) Leadership maintains ” a contact leadership” plan – regularly visits the frontline folks in the trenches
2) Organizational values are established – measured, recognized and utilized in all performance reviews
3) Customers are really valued – all internal and external key customer entities and their key satisfiers are known, measured and habitually used to improve
4) Elevating people as the only sustainable competitive advantage – in any / all communication channels
5) Meaningful work / life guidelines – includes a holistic approach, empathy, trust and accountability
6) Significant business process and / or technology changes aren’t rushed – because people are the key to their effectiveness
7) Community service opportunities, giving back, are genuine – area of greatest need, high humility, low arrogance factor

Finally, a word picture that most aptly describes the GAP between a great organizational culture and the dangers of organizational “CULT-ure” is that of jumping into and swimming in a pool of water: There’s a world of difference between diving into a stagnant and putrefied pool and one which has clean, fresh, aerated (nice big waterfall) water running in and out of it!

Cults are inwardly focused.

By deep contrast, an invigorating and inspiring organizational culture is focused outwardly. It stays fresh, clean, cold and clear because of the continual in-flow and out-flow of behavior-changing knowledge, ideas, and needs from all customer, stakeholder entities.

This “pool of living water” must be inspired, established, and maintained by leadership or else the organisms attempting to thrive in any organizational culture will perish – or find another pool to swim in!

Let’s be real here: employee satisfaction scores have never been lower, more dismal and depressing, than they are today. Yes, this is due to a complex array of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical factors; but good-to-great leadership has the ability to mitigate most every one!

The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart of leadership!

“Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so. Leaders are environmentalists.” (John Gardner)

Have a good and Godly day,

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