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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

02 Oct '11

Delivering on the promise

This afternoon I will be speaking to individuals who are in the final process of application for service in ReachGlobal and missionaries. In the several hours I have as RG's senior leader to unpack who we are I am in essence unpacking a promise to them about the kind of organization we are, what we believe in, how we do what we do and the culture we have. I won't call it the promise but those who end up on our staff will come with an expectation that what they heard is what they will find.

All organizations make explicit and implicit promises to those who work for them. These include the kind of culture and ethos we claim to be, the way we relate to one another, our ethical code, our treatment of our constituents and the mission that drives us. However, we often underestimate the importance of delivering on that promise.

Ministries (and I am including local churches here) that are faithful to the promise made to their staff are great places to work. Where this is found it is always the result of a senior leader and leadership team that take seriously a healthy and consistent culture within the staff. This is rarely accidental and almost always deeply intentional. No ministry wins an award for being a wonderful place to work accidentally.

I am privileged to consult with various ministries. In one recent situation I found a deeply cynical staff. General cynicism among staff is almost always an indicator that there is a significant gap between the ministry's stated culture and promise and reality which breeds the jaded attitudes. Further, the cynicism is generally aimed at the senior leader who is seen as saying one thing and doing another.

In both ministry and the business world we are very good at talking the right verbiage: values, mission, vision, trust, team, cooperation, synergy, "right people, right seat" and all the rest. That verbiage is often simply words and not lived out by senior staff and therefore by the organization hence the cynicism.

Good leaders are as intentional in their actions as they are with their words. They define a culture and put systems and commitments into place to ensure that the culture matches their words. And while they require all staff to live up to their commitments it always starts with the consistent actions of senior leaders.

They are also continually looking for gaps between the promise and reality. Because many staff will not volunteer to senior leaders where those gaps exist they go looking for gaps and ask a lot of questions. There are many senior leaders who are the only ones in the whole organization who don't know there are gaps and that is a bad thing. Leaders never assume that all is well. They find ways to either verify that the promise is being delivered or they find the gaps and backfill them.

I know that there are gaps in the ministry I lead as we have set the bar high. But my senior team also knows that I am resolved that we deliver on the promise I will be unpacking this afternoon with new potential staff and that we are serious that our words match our reality. Staff will be patient and forgiving if they know that senior leaders are serious and fill the gaps where they find them. That breeds confidence and trust rather than cynicism.

Why is this so important? First it is a matter of simple integrity: do our words match our commitments. Second, we owe our staff a healthy place to work - especially in the Christian ministry setting where anything else is inexcusable. Third, those we serve will be directly affected by the attitudes and health of our staff. In other words our delivering on the promise impacts our ability to deliver on our mission.