Leadership influences every facet of an organization. Healthy leaders create healthy organizations. This is as true in churches and church-related organizations as anywhere else.
There can be many types of organizations within a church, and each will have its own culture. Whether a church staff, a pulpit search committee, or a Women in the Church group, the leader is responsible for cultivating a positive and healthy culture.
Perry Anne Scott is the founder of Converge Coaching & Consulting. After serving as a leader in learning and development for Delta Air Lines, she now helps client organizations across three continents grow their leaders so they can be more effective. Perry Anne worships with her family at Church of the Redeemer (PCA) in Atlanta. We asked her to share some insights from her experience in the for-profit world that can help churches and non-profit ministries build a motivating organizational culture.
What is a motivating organizational environment?
It’s an environment where participants feel energized, committed, and appreciated. It’s where people are able to do work they feel is meaningful and that aligns with their skills and giftedness.
To create this kind of environment, leaders need to get to know their people well enough to understand what motivates them, what drives them, and what drains them. As members of the body of Christ, we’re designed with different skills, leanings, and personalities and we’re most engaged with our work when what we do is connected to what motivates us.
How do you learn what motivates your team members?
What’s motivating can really differ from person to person. It’s easy to assume people are motivated by the same things we are, but it’s often not true. In fact, things that motivate one person can completely stress someone else. God made us so different from one another!
As a leader, listen to and observe your team members. Ask them what they value in their work. Sometimes we forget to simply ask! Have a curious mindset.
It’s so important to create an environment where everyone feels heard and known. Often the people who are most “heard” are those who are dominant and fast-paced. Leaders need to take the time to invite introverted people into the conversation space. Otherwise, the loudest voices dominate the room. The goal in all of this is to create an environment where various perspectives are considered before a decision is made.
People are more committed to a decision if they’ve had a chance to weigh in. While the final decision might not be the one each person would have made alone, everyone can agree that they’re part of a larger body and they’re going to commit together. They are much more motivated to do this if they feel their perspectives have been heard and considered.
What are roadblocks that hinder cultivating a motivating culture?
Lack of clarity. Sometimes we’re not clear at the outset what we should be focused on as a team. Other times we lose our way on the journey. People really lose energy when things get murky and bogged down. The drive for clarity has to be constant and the leader must be vigilant with this.
Lack of resources. This is a common one: “We don’t have enough money or resources.” That can take the wind out of people’s sails. While it can be a difficult one to solve, there are often more creative ways to come up with a solution. Take it upon yourself as the leader to listen and encourage your people to push past the friction by getting creative.
A perfectionist leader. When the leader has to do it his or her way…every single time…it really stifles creativity and joy. Micromanaging is very demotivating. It can also cultivate a “learned helplessness” where people abdicate responsibility for their work because they know someone will come behind to finish it or change it. People need some autonomy. As a leader, you can foster an ownership mentality so people stay responsible and engaged with their work.
What are some steps to take to cultivate a motivating environment?
- Listen and learn. Talk to your people and learn about their personal stories. Find out what lights them up. See what makes them tick and what discourages them. Create opportunities for team members to get to know one another. People enjoy working with people they consider to be friends, so give space for friendships to flourish.
- Clarify the mission. While every PCA church has a mission that is rooted in the Bible and the church’s constitution, there’s also some uniqueness to every local congregation. And there’s a uniqueness to each team within a church.
A leader can often feel too much pressure to have all the answers. Sometimes a leader needs to be the person who asks the right questions instead. Try asking your people the following questions:
- What are we here to do?
- How do we get that done?
- What does “success” look like for us?
- Celebrate. It’s so easy for us to forget this, but it’s important to remember to celebrate. Instead of constantly asking what comes next, take a lesson out of the Old Testament and put some time aside for a celebration. This can be so refreshing to a team and creates a good memory and a nice mile marker or ending to an effort.
Churches and church-related organizations are different from for-profit organizations in many ways. But they are all made up of people. Finding ways to tap into what motivates people can be a powerful way to create a healthy culture.
PCA Retirement & Benefits is committed to helping ministry employees focus on their ministry and become healthier leaders during the process. Whether it is helping you plan for the future or providing counseling support during your ministry years, RBI offers a suite of services and products to create healthier leaders. Set up a consultation with one of our Financial Planning Advisors today.
Geneva Benefits Group serves those who serve others, providing practical support for the financial, physical, and mental wellbeing of people who work in full-time ministry.