by Ian Rock
I remember the first time I learned about the work environment Google creates at its various offices around the world. I was blown away by the sprawling recreation and break rooms, world-class restaurants (which are free for employees), massage services (also free), and unique meeting spaces around their campuses. Year after year, the tech-giant finds itself among the ranks of the best companies to work for, and a major factor in their success is the enjoyable culture they have created for their employees. I have to admit, at first it frustrated me, a ministry leader who is challenged to keep a culture of excellence in all I do. How in the world has Google established one of the most valuable and powerful companies in history, while also creating a culture known for fun and celebration?
Even with the added value of having a job or role that aligns with our passions and beliefs, for those of us in ministry or the nonprofit world, Monday is still Monday. Workaholism is rampant in our spaces. Ironically, the thing that we have committed our whole lives to often becomes the very thing sucking the life out our veins.
Rather than remain frustrated, I decided to take Google’s lead, asking: Is it possible to pursue excellence and innovation without causing ourselves, or those we lead, to lose their passion? Is it possible to prioritize the development of a fun and celebratory work culture with the same tenacity we pursue excellence?
How do we breathe life into the grind of an organization when we can’t afford to drop $13,000 on a spot to take a nap? This is what I’ve learned—and what has proven to work.
Create a culture where those you lead feel safe and known.
Above all else, know your people. The depth and trust in a relationship between a supervisor and those they lead, whether staff or volunteer, is directly proportionate to the amount of relational investment made from the top down. Our ability to cast vision, recruit, and inspire can do wonders in giving those we lead the satisfaction of having a purpose. However, if we, as leaders, can take the time to know the stories, struggles, and dreams of those we lead (which only happens if we carve out time to make it happen), we instill more than our purpose. We celebrate theirs.
All of this contributes to a culture where teams feel safe enough to be vulnerable. If you want to create a culture of fun, you must first foster a culture where people feel like they can let their guard down. Otherwise, that staff pool party you excitedly planned will be tremendously awkward for those who couldn’t come up with a good excuse to avoid.
Celebrate success, while not overlooking progress or letting teammates drown.
This one is simple. Regularly celebrate the good work you see in those you lead. Whether they crushed a massive special project or event, or did a low-profile task on their job description, let them and your team know that you noticed and that you care. Whether through verbal or written words, taking the team out to a special lunch, or sending your team home early before the weekend, it doesn’t take much to show you value their work.
At the same time, we can’t neglect to invest in teammates that are underperforming. We have to face the temptation to ignore the problem and be willing to step in with grace and bold humility. A solid leader is willing to get to know the challenges a teammate is facing, and through accountability and encouragement, lead them back to an acceptable performance level. Otherwise, our teammate will be left in isolation, a dangerous place where ignorance, apathy, shame, and insecurity run rampant.
Budget and schedule for the culture you want to create.
No two things can blow up your dreams quite like the limitations associated with time and money. The sad reality of both limitations exist, not because of a scarcity of resources, but with how we prioritize them. The staff retreat or outing you want to plan will never exist unless you allow it to be a priority. There will ALWAYS be something important on the calendar, just as there will ALWAYS be a ministry need waiting. Sometimes it’s necessary to say no to good things in order to equip our teams to deliver a better product.
Ian Rock has been investing in the lives of students and their families for the last decade, spending the last seven years pastoring in Austin, TX. He’s passionate about seeing parents, students, and leaders live freely and fully in a world where the cross and culture intersect. His favorite leadership moments are when he’s witnessed others find opportunities for impact that match their natural wiring and gifting. His joy comes from spending time with his bride, Gina, their son, Sawyer (4), and daughter, Tyler (2). He loves discovering new music, eating from food trucks, gaming, naps, and all things related to Texas A&M. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.