In my years of consulting with both churches and non-profit organizations I have come to the conclusion that the single greatest indicator of the organization's health is the health and culture of the staff. When the culture of the staff is healthy, the rest of the organization is usually healthy. When there is dysfunction at the staff level, that is likely to be mirrored in the congregation. 

When I have been asked help to solve issues in a local church, the first thing I do is to interview all staff. What I learn there is usually the key indicator of why there are issues within the church. Some of the typical dysfunctions at the staff level (when the staff culture is not healthy) include the following. 

  • Leaders who are threatened by others, must have their own way and create an atmosphere where candid conversation is not safe or invited.
  • Leaders who operate out of ego and pride and don't build a collegial atmosphere where everyone's contribution is valued.
  • Leaders who micromanage their staff, leaving staff feeling unappreciated and unempowered.
  • Gossip and subtle power groups on staff.
  • A lack of cooperation between staff and departments.
  • Politics, silos and turf wars to quote Lencioni.
  • A fundamental lack of trust.
  • A lack of missional alignment where various leaders or staff travel in their own direction.
  • A lack of clarity around the direction and vision of the church.
  • A culture where the feeding and development of staff is lacking.
  • The inability or unwillingness to deal with staff who are no longer effective in their roles.
  • A culture that is agenda driven rather than Jesus driven.

Leaders and staff often portray a façade of health to the congregation or constituents but the dysfunction at the staff level will eventually catch up in subtle or not so subtle ways. It follows that the first step in ensuring that a church is healthy is to focus on the internal staff dynamics and relationships. Until there is health on the staff, there will not be health in the overall organization.

How does one determine where the issues are on staff? Where there are significant issues, one of the best ways to surface those issues is to conduct a staff audit using an outside, experienced consultant where open ended questions can be used to surface issues and where trends and issues can be surfaced. Coming out of those interviews, a plan of action can be constructed to bring greater health to the team. One is not looking for individual, one off issues here but for general trends and attitudes. 

Here are some of the questions I use in doing a culture audit of the staff.  Depending on the answer I will often probe further. This is a confidential conversation where individual answers are protected.

  • What do you love about working here?
  • Describe for me the culture of the staff?
  • Are there things that frustrate you?
  • Are you using your gifts to the greatest potential?
  • Organizations can be permission granting where staff are empowered within boundaries or permission withholding where one can only act with permission. Is your organization more permission granting or permission withholding?
  • Do you have good clarity around your responsibilities and do you have the tools you need to accomplish your work?
  • How does your supervisor interact with you and how would you characterize the relationship?
  • What are the three greatest strengths of the staff culture?
  • What are the three greatest weaknesses of the staff culture?
  • Is there anyone on staff who you think is in the wrong place?
  • If you were in my place as the consultant, what would you recommend to increase the health of the staff?

These kinds of conversations surface issues that are often known but have not been acted on. It gives you a roadmap to address areas of dysfunction and increase the relative health of staff. The bottom  line is that when staff is not healthy, the organization is not healthy because the dishealth will eventually catch up and impact the organization as a whole.

The lesson is that if you want to know and grow the health of your organization, start with the health of staff.

  • Jan 03, 2021
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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