How can you enhance unity in your international Christian school?

Wow! When I think of being part of ACSI’s international Christian school movement, I think, “Wow!” Worldwide, ASCI serves 5.5 million children in 26,000 schools and with member schools in 108 countries and regional offices in 28 countries. I’ve been part of that, having served for over 30 years at 3 ASCI member schools in Japan.

One of the blessings of international Christian education is serving with Christians from all over the globe. I’ve been blessed to have served with Christians from New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, the UK, Russia, Japan, Australia, Philippines, Canada, India, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, and the US. It’s a foretaste of Revelations 7:9 (ESV): “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “’Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

And while it’s truly a blessing to serve with others from different nations, from different cultures, it’s also a challenge. Why? Because, for example, Christians from different cultures have a variety of perspectives and practices: 

  • Do meetings start precisely at 9:00 (Germany) or around 9:00 (Nigeria)?
  • Are decisions made by the group (Japan) or by the leader (US)?
  • When being evaluated, do staff prefer direct negative feedback (Netherlands) or indirect negative feedback (Korea)?
  • When there is disagreement, do staff confront (Denmark) or avoid confrontation (Brazil)?

Enhancing unity in a national Christian school is a challenge, and enhancing unity in an international Christian school is a challenge with its own special complications. When I think of enhancing unity in an international Christian school (which is a multicultural organization), questions that come to mind include:

  1. What’s our perspective on unity (in a school with a multicultural staff)?
  2. What’s our school’s current level of unity?
  3. In terms of the current level of unity, how is our school’s culture perfectly designed to get the results we are getting?
  4. What are potential sources of tension in terms of cultural backgrounds/practices like communicating, evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling, and persuading? (To learn more, read The Culture Map and complete this assessment.)
  5. To increase unity, what do we need to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing?
  6. What mindsets, models, and processes could help us as we work to increase unity?
  7. How could working on unity be effortless?

Recently, I consulted for an international Christian school leadership team. The 4 members represented 3 countries (from 3 different continents), 2 of the members were married to citizens of the host country, and all 4 of the members had lived in the host country for quite a while. First, we mapped out possible sources of tension in terms of working geniuses and by personality types.

Then, we mapped out possible sources of tension in terms of cultural practices related to communicating, evaluating, deciding, disagreeing, and scheduling (in terms of planning and in terms of following meeting agendas). We identified that while the team had similar views on evaluating and disagreeing, there was a range of views on communication, deciding, and scheduling. I really enjoyed the interaction, and participants shared that mapping possible sources of tension was helpful!

What about you? What’s your experience with working with people from other cultures? When you think of enhancing unity in your international Christian school, what questions come to mind? How can you enhance unity in your international Christian school?

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of 8 quotations from things I’ve read that contain the word multicultural or multinational:

  1. “For multinationals, the potential payoff of integrating employees with overseas experience into their workforce is huge” (The Untapped Value of Overseas Experience).
  2. “The advantage to having people from all over the world on a team is that you may find that you have more innovation and creativity, and that you’re closer to your local markets. The disadvantage is that multinational teamwork is usually a lot less efficient than monocultural teamwork” (Erin Meyer Can Make Your Global Team Work).
  3. “On a multicultural team, most misunderstanding takes place between people who come from two high-context cultures with entirely different roots, such as the Brazilians communicating with the Chinese” (The Culture Map, p. 55).
  4. “Fortunately, if you are leading a multicultural team, there’s no need to count the number of team members from the left and right hand of the scale and multiply by the number of members to figure out what to do. There is just one easy strategy to remember: Multicultural teams need low-context processes” (The Culture Map, p. 55).
  5. “If you are leading a multicultural team, figuring out how to get all the group members to express their ideas openly and comfortably may be a challenge. Here are some strategies that can help. First, if you’re the boss, consider skipping the meeting” (The Culture Map, p. 210).
  6. “I’ve devoted my career to studying communication in multinational organizations and on global teams. Over and over again, Asian and European business professionals ask me the same thing: ‘Why do Americans speak so much in meetings?’” (How Not to Run a Meeting with Your International Colleagues)
  7. …multinational companies need to think hard about how to prepare their managers to adapt their leadership style to be effective in all the different countries they might be working in, and that’s complex“ (Erin Meyer Can Make Your Global Team Work).
  8. “Most multinational companies think, ‘Cultural differences, that’s about how to exchange business cards, or what kind of gifts to buy,’ instead of recognizing that [managing these differences] is really about understanding psychology—the subtle differences in what types of arguments we find persuasive and what leads us to trust a person from another part of the world. Companies often put someone in a leadership role abroad simply because that person was a top performer at home. They think, ‘This guy’s a dynamo, let’s give him more responsibility.’ But sometimes, the people who have been the most successful in their own culture—especially, for instance, if they’re over 40, and they’ve had some 20 years of thorough conditioning on how to succeed—struggle when put in charge of a team in another country because it calls into question much of what they have learned over their career” (Erin Meyer Can Make Your Global Team Work).

What happens when you walk?

6:21AM—I’m on my morning walk. I see rice that is ready for harvest, I see a yellow and black spider that my grandkids would like to see, and I see a white heron. I keep walking, getting into a rhythm and letting my mind float around. What happens when you go walking?

As I keep walking, something predictable happens—thoughts rise up:

  1. God’s goodness pursues me!
  2. Identifying sources of tension for team members can help improve team dynamics. (I’ve found it helpful to identify sources of tension related to personality types, working geniuses, and cultural practices.)
  3. Using multiple timeframes when analyzing organizational finances helps me. (Recently, I’ve been using 2 sets of timeframes: (Set A) current year, 5 years, and 10 years; and (Set B) 3years, 6 years, and 9 years.)
  4. Being genuinely curious helps me ask difficult questions and share candid observations, while reducing potential pushback.
  5. It’s all too easy for me to move from wanting to have the right idea to wanting to be right (no matter what).
  6. Discipline, patience, time, and effectiveness are related—as in practicing discipline and patience over time contributes to effectiveness.
  7. Process is powerful—both for good (if the process is effective) and for bad (if the process is ineffective).
  8. A question can be more powerful than a statement.
  9. The CEO is the CRO—the chief reminding officer.
  10. Developing a culture in which people thrive takes planning and prayer. Leaving organizational culture to chance can result in a toxic culture where people focus on surviving.
  11. Improvement starts with me. Before leading change, I need to be the change I want to see, and I need to do this for a sustained period of time.

These thoughts help me reframe the challenges of the past week and prepare for the challenges of the next week. What about you? What happens when you go for a walk? What are you thinking about? What helps you reframe your challenges?

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of 10 quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word walk or walking:

  1. “…take a walk every day” (On Leadership—Ancient History. Modern Application: Ryan Holiday).
  2. “‘If we are facing the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. —Joseph Goldstein’” (Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Make Positive Changes That Stick, 145)
  3. “81 percent of participants saw their scores for giving creative suggestions go up when they were walking rather than sitting (the average increase was 60 percent)” (Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job, loc 459).
  4. “In the words of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking’” (Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job, loc 492).
  5. “I’ve seen all too many extremely talented CEOs squander their opportunities to lead their organizations because they saw their job as a playground for their curiosities and predilections. I’ve seen them ignore real problems that didn’t excite them and walk away from situations that held no promise of glory or notoriety or fun” (T(he Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities, loc 1569).
  6. “Any time you’re walking around the world thinking you’re better at something than you are, you need to know that that’s inhibiting your ability to build relationships with people and it’s hurting your ability to have trust…” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 44. What Do You Suck At?).
  7. “Harmony itself is good, I suppose, if it comes as a result of working through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But if it comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing. I’d trade that false kind of harmony any day for a team’s willingness to argue effectively about an issue and then walk away with no collateral damage” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, loc 1199).
  8. “Don’t expect nice from a mentor or coach who loves you too much to leave you at the level you are. They won’t ever let you throw a pity party; they’ll push you to get back up on your own and then run a second mile. I realized kindness can bring hard-to-swallow truth, correction, and guidance during a trial by fire. Sometimes this is the only way we learn. It sounds backward but a kind mentor or coach will walk you right into the flames in order for you to learn the lesson” (Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone, loc 823).
  9. “When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending. And when we don’t own our stories of failure, setbacks, and hurt—they own us” (Daring to Lead, loc 3404).
  10. “The best spanning leaders make an impression when they walk into a room. They balance confidence with appropriate humility. They speak less and listen more. They are skilled at getting to the essence of a discussion. As a result, people tend to listen more closely and to remember what they say. Their statements carry more weight in discussions and have greater influence. The quirks that might have been amusing character traits in an expert have been smoothed out” (You Can’t Know It All, p. 158).

What helps you build a unified culture in a multicultural organization?

Culture—it’s fascinating. (Be sure to watch the above video!) And working with people from other cultures is fascinating. In my work in international Christian education, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with people from a variety of cultures including (in alphabetical order) Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guam, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, UK, USA, and Zimbabwe.

Our increasingly connected world provides increased opportunities to work in multicultural organizations. A key challenge multicultural organizations face is, understandably, building a unified culture, and leaders are interested in how to address this challenge:

Building a unified culture in a multicultural organization is no small task. So, you might be wondering, “Why build a unified culture in a multicultural organization?” Reasons that come to mind for me include:

  • To help staff, the heart and soul of the organization, to thrive: “If the environment is designed well, people can thrive and perform at their best. If the design is poor, people wither and results suffer” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 3268).
  • To increase organizational health: “When culture happens by default, it is usually toxic, reflecting the broken world we live in. Culture must be prayed over, thought through, and fought for. Designing and overseeing the culture of the school is the non-delegable responsibility of the head of school or building principal” (“Constructing Your Ship: Three Keys to Redemptive School Culture” by Jay Ferguson in Christian School Educator 19.1, p. 12). 
  • To increase collaboration, clarity, and performance: “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance” (Peter Drucker).
  • To increase the likelihood that strategy will be effectively implemented: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker).

For me, building a unified culture in a multicultural organization means at least 7 things:

(1) A desire to see others (with their diverse gifts) thriving and working together toward the purpose (I Corinthians 12:12-27, NIV).

(2) Using an outward mindset (see video), which includes me striving to be the kind of leader my organization needs and making adjustments so I can serve others more effectively.

(3) Using a team approach and ensuring the team has a compelling purpose, the right people, a solid structure, a supportive context, and team coaching.

(4) ​​Practicing discipline and patience over time: Building unity is a significant challenge that requires focus, persistence, and saying no to other priorities. Building unity requires patience because building unity involves people, people from different cultures. With people slow is fast, and fast is slow. And building unity takes time. In terms of an overall time period, possibly 3 or more years. In terms of a daily basis, it takes time to communicate the mission, vision, and values; it takes time to embed the mission, vision, and values into the organizational culture; and it takes time for people to process and grow.

(5) Using a multi-level approach that addresses purpose (mission), parameters (vision, philosophy, values, strategy) and practices (like reviewing organizational purpose and parameters at each and every staff meeting). Note: For Christian organizations, purpose, parameters, and practices must be addressed at the Christian level and the organizational level

(6) Using a plan, goals that are SMART and/or FAST, an assessment, and a scorecard that are readily accessible to all and that are frequently talked about. The plan lets everyone know what’s happening, the specific goals help everyone know what we intend to accomplish, the assessment helps us know our baseline and our improvement, and a scorecard lets us know how we’re doing our action steps and goals.

(7) Using models—models I’ve found especially helpful for culture building include (A) the 4 Disciplines of Organizational Health, (B) The Culture Map with its 8 dimensions of culture, and (C) See-Adjust-Measure. Let me explain:

(7A) 4 Disciplines of Organizational Health: To build a healthy, unified culture in a multicultural organization, (1) build a cohesive leadership team, (2) create clarity, (3) overcommunicate clarity, and (4) reinforce clarity.

(7B) The Culture Map: Our cultures affect our behavior across 8 dimensions: (1) communicating, (2) evaluating, (3) leading, (4) deciding, (5) trusting, (6) disagreeing, (7) scheduling, and (8) persuading. Multicultural teams and organizations benefit from reviewing the impact of cultural backgrounds and in establishing which cultural practices will be used, for example, low context communication (like the US) and consensual decision-making (like Japan).

(7C) See-Adjust-Measure (SAM): SAM has helped me serve others more effectively. Consider if it can help you as you work to building a unified culture in a multicultural organization:

  • See others—find out what would help actually others (instead of guessing and then possibly accidentally diminishing them).
  • Adjust efforts—do something to be even more helpful.
  • Measure impact—talk to the person to see how helpful my adjustment was. 

To learn more about the SAM process, watch 3 minutes of How Outward Mindset Improves Results and Makes Things Easier (15:13 – 18:27):

What about you? What’s your experience with working with people from other cultures? Why build a unified culture in a multicultural organization? What helps you build a unified culture in a multicultural organization?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • “…when actions and words don’t consistently match…you’ve institutionalized duplicity” (Honesty is a Muscle One: Be Who You Say You Are).
  • “Be who you say you are. Don’t just declare your mission and values—learn to embody them…. Make dignity and fairness the foundations of how you treat the contributions of others and yourself…. [Invite] spirited dissent and honest information into your decision-making processes…. Stitch the seams between your silos where organizational rivalries happen” (Building Your Honesty Muscle – Introduction).
  • ​​”How many people in the last week have come into your office and said something to you that was uncomfortable to hear about your leadership, about your behavior, about your department and team? Because here’s what’s factual: if on a regular basis there are not people coming into your office telling you things that are difficult for you to hear, you can be very confident that your leadership sucks—because the absence of that data is loud data. If you’re assuming that everybody’s happy because nobody’s coming into your office, then you’re foolish” (Leading Transformational Change with Tobias Sturesson: 009. Ron Carucci: Building an Honest Organization).

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of 20 quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word culture:

  1. “…lousy leaders create culture by default, while great leaders create culture by design” (On Leadership: Master the Leadership Code: Alain Hunkins).
  2. “People don’t quit their jobs. They quit their boss and their culture” (How to Become the Leader You Would Follow).
  3. “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate. — Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker, Authors of School Culture Rewired” (Leading with Grace: Leaning into the Soft Skills of Leadership)
  4. “It’s got to start with you. You’ve got to care about yourself, and you’ve got to challenge yourself. If you want to change a culture, be the change you want to see in the world” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 11: Creating a Culture of Radical Candor).
  5. “As a positive leader, you can’t just show the way and talk about the way. You must also lead the way. You must live your culture and know that it is an extension of who you are as a leader. If you don’t set the example and live the values—if you aren’t on a mission—your culture won’t come to life” (The Power of Positive Leadership, loc 460).
  6. “As a leader, you get the culture you create, and the nature of the culture affects what you can or cannot do in your organization” (The Leader’s Greatest Return, loc 397).
  7. Culture isn’t just one thing. It’s everything. Culture drives expectations and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits. And habits create the future” (The Power of a Positive Team, loc 330).
  8. “…culture is the unseen force that drives operating results…culture is nothing more and nothing less than the behavior of its leaders. If you want to change an organization’s culture, you have to change the behavior of its leaders. That requires sometimes a long hard look in the mirror, because sometimes we’re the problem we have to fix” (Lead to Win: How to Create a Collaborative Team Culture).
  9. “Creating a good working culture helps futureproof our workplaces” (Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job, loc 82).
  10. “Driving a positive, high-performing culture requires more than words. After all, everyone has a mission statement, but only the great organizations also have people who are on a mission. The greatest mission statement in the world is pointless unless your people are on a mission” (The Power of Positive Leadership, loc 456).
  11. “School leaders who maintain high levels of trust invest intentional time, energy and focus on building school culture” (TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement, loc 2228). 
  12. “Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Nothing is as agile as a culture of trust…” (On Leadership: Innovate at The Speed of Trust: Stephen M. R. Covey).
  13. “Your most important job as a leader is to drive the culture—and not just any culture. You must create a positive culture that energizes and encourages people, fosters connected relationships and great teamwork, empowers and enables people to learn and grow, and provides an opportunity for people to do their best work. Culture is not just one thing; it’s everything. Culture drives expectation and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behaviors. Behaviors drive habits. And habits create the future. It all starts with the culture you create and drive throughout the organization. That’s where all success and great results begin” (The Power of Positive Leadership, loc 383).
  14. “By extending trust, you empower people. You leverage your leadership. You create a high-trust culture that brings out the best in people, creates high-level synergy, and maximizes the ability of any organization—whether it be a business, a school, a non-profit organization, or a family—to accomplish what it sets out to do” (The Speed of Trust, p. 235).
  15. “In almost any discussion of trust, keeping commitments comes up as the number one influencing behavior. In a study on business ethics, “keeping promises” was ranked as the number one behavior in creating an ethical culture” (The Speed of Trust, p 223). 
  16. “The culture sets a range, and within that range each individual makes a choice. It is not a question of culture or personality, but of culture and personality” (The Culture Map, p 20).
  17. “…you can create a collaborative culture by taking three actions: embrace your own unique working style; appreciate your teammates’ unique working styles; hire people who are uniquely wired for their work and who balance out your team” (Lead to Win: How to Create a Collaborative Team Culture).
  18. “While we might think great performance requires a lot of rules, policies, and procedures, research suggests just the opposite. Too many rules, policies, and procedures often create rigidity and bureaucracy. The key to unleashing talent is to create a culture of freedom with clear responsibilities and accountability” (Talent Unleashed, loc 1585).
  19. “Empathic leaders recognize that you can’t create a culture of innovation without fostering a climate that supports it. They know that new ideas, like young seedlings, are not fully formed yet, and they need support and nurturance to take root and grow. When people know that you support their ideas, they feel comfortable to speak up and share what they think and feel” Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 1722). 
  20. “If you want to create a culture that values feedback, you have to model it yourself and create a discipline of regularly asking for feedback from those around you—which means being aware of how you might react in the moment when receiving this feedback” (Building Champions Podcast: 3.2 Feedback Phobia).

As a leader, what’s it take to build organizational unity?


Three words. Give me a 3-word answer to a question, OK? Ready? As a leader, what’s it take to build organizational unity? Leaders I know responded: 

  • “Vision, communication, persistence.”
  • “Community, grace, vision.”
  • “Communication, vision, perspective.”

How would I answer that question? Discipline, patience, time. Why? Because I think that to build unity, you have to practice discipline and patience over time. What role do discipline, patience, and time play in building unity? Let me explain:

(1) Discipline: Building unity is a significant challenge that requires focus, persistence, and saying no to other priorities. Building unity is not a quick to-do list item that can be done while multitasking, that can be simply added to everything else I’m already doing. Neither is building unity something that requires intellectual sophistication. 

What building unity really requires is discipline—focus, persistence, constancy. Patrick Lencioni notes that “…most of life comes down to simple disciplines…life isn’t all that complicated, but it’s hard…. It’s more about the work than it is about the insight” (Emerge Stronger Conference).

(2) Patience: Building unity requires patience. Why? Because building unity involves people. And with people slow is fast, and fast is slow. To effect real change, to build real unity, I practice patience. In my experience, building unity cannot be done instantly or hurriedly; instead, building unity involves slow conversations and personal reflection. 

(3) Time: Building unity takes time. In terms of an overall time period, possibly 3 or more years. In terms of a daily basis, it takes time to communicate the mission, vision, and values; it takes time to embed the mission, vision, and values into the organizational culture; and it takes time for people to process and grow.

What helps you practice discipline and patience over time? What helps me includes:

  • Limited priorities: Having no more than 3 big priorities I’m working on at once, and preferably only having 1. This means saying no to quite a few things.
  • A plan: Using a collaboratively developed plan that is documented, that is readily accessible to others, and that specifies key steps, resources, the responsible party, and deadlines. This gives all those involved a map of how we are going to get from here to there, and this gives others a way of holding me accountable to carry out the plan.
  • Assessments that measure progress over time.
  • Models: Using and providing training in appropriate models like the 4 disciplines of organizational health (which includes the 5 dysfunctions of a team) and/or the GRIP model.
  • Coaching: Meeting weekly with a coach to practice accountability and to determine next steps.
  • Quarterly progress updates: Communicating on a quarterly basis how we are progressing toward increased unity.

What about you? What’s it take to build organizational unity? What helps you practice discipline and patience over time?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • “Why is waiting on God so important? Why is impatience such a serious sin? Because when we take things into our own hands, we are saying we don’t trust God. That we think our timing is better than His. That we don’t trust God to fulfill His promises and thus we must fulfill them” (The Surprising Sin of Not Waiting on God).
  • “Impatience can transform leaders into agitated, poor decision makers. It can harm our reputation, damage our relationships and escalate already difficult situations” (How Leaders Can Cultivate Patience in an Impatient World).
  • “…92% of CEOs say that their organizations are empathetic, only 50% of employees in those organizations say their CEOs are empathetic…there are 2 big obstacles to empathy…impatience and fear” (On Leadership: Master the Leadership Code: Alain Hunkins).

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word patience, patient, or patiently:

  1. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesisan 4:2, NIV).
  2. “Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience. HYMAN RICKOVER” (Conversational Capacity, loc 2259)
  3. Patience and flexibility are key. Cross-cultural effectiveness takes time. Developing your own ability to recognize others’ reactions and adapt accordingly will help you to be increasingly persuasive (and therefore effective) when working internationally” (The Culture Map, p. 104).
  4. “If you find yourself working with a team of people who employ a more consensual decision-making process than the one you’re accustomed to, try applying the following strategies…. Do your best to demonstrate patience and commitment throughout the process…even when diverging opinions lead to seemingly interminable discussions and indecision” (The Culture Map,p. 158).
  5. “Rebuilding trust requires patience, time, and endurance” (TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement, loc 2927).
  6. “Kindness also means listening more, relaxing in your realness, and being patient with those who are on a different growth track and timeline than you are” (Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone, loc 830).
  7. “Listening to views you disagree with, and taking them seriously enough to have a shot at changing your mind, requires mental effort, emotional effort, and, above all, patience. You have to be willing to say to yourself, ‘It seems like this person is wrong, but maybe I’m misunderstanding him—let me check,’ or ‘I still don’t agree, but maybe over time I’ll start to see examples of what she’s talking about’” (The Scout Mindset, loc 2701).
  8. “Be patient when things feel broken” (The Art of Leadership, loc 150).
  9. “Have I asked for wisdom?… Do I act wisely?… Do I measure my words?… Do I patiently look under the surface?” (Leading with Questions: Five “Wisdom” Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves)
  10. “Don’t expect the vision to come into focus instantaneously, like some blinding flash of revelation. It probably won’t. Martin compares clarity to a habit, which takes time to develop. ‘Patient persistence is key,’ she says” (The Vision Driven Leader, loc 1204).

How does integrity impact unity?

“…poor communication, gossip, unresolved disagreements, lack of shared purpose, and sanctioned incompetence.” You’re sitting in your office, watching a Dave Ramsey video entitled The Power of Unity. At the end, Ramsey identifies the “5 main enemies of unity: poor communication, gossip, unresolved disagreements, lack of shared purpose, and sanctioned incompetence.”

What captures your attention is “lack of shared purpose.” Both as a Christian and as a leader, you recognize the importance of unity. For some time now, you’ve been wondering about your organization’s level of shared purpose and unity—it feels more like the unity of a pick-up basketball game at the park than the unity of a basketball team playing to win the season-end tournament. Not good. 

You decide explore unity a bit more, noting the following:

  1. “While I am grateful to work in Christian organizations where there is unity around key Christian basics, these Christian basics are insufficient at the organizational level” (How can you increase unity in your Christian organization?).
  2. What happens when Christian organizations are not deeply unified?… What happens? The leader heads in a good direction; each leadership team member in different, good directions; and each staff member in other good directions.” 
  3. “…imagine working for an organization where no one talks about the core documents (mission, vision, philosophy) and where staff don’t really understand what the documents mean. Not good. No talking and no no real understanding lead to no (significant) implementation and the perception that core documents are irrelevant” (How can reading make your mission, vision, and philosophy faster?).
  4. “…the root of division is…[having] two visions. [Staff] are not always intending to create…disunity…[but] for lack of clarity of vision they created their own” (GC 2015 Leadership Focus “The Importance of Unity”). 
  5. “Dissect your company’s various statements (vision, purpose, mission, brand, values, etc.) and identify the implied promises to yourself, colleagues, employees, and customers. What commitments are being honored?” (To Be Honest, loc 1508).

And then it hits you: lack of shared purpose, over-reliance on Christian unity (instead of on both Christian and organizational unity), multiple operational mission statements, a lack of understanding and implementation of the official mission statement. Your organization lacks integrity—and that lack of integrity is negatively affecting unity. Ouch.

You recall that your organization has recently updated its mission statement. Then you recall that you didn’t really launch the updated mission statement, you haven’t been really emphasizing the updated mission statement, you didn’t de-emphasize the previous mission statement or the previous (unofficial) operational mission statements, possibly including “remain financially solvent” and “preserve jobs and a way of life for staff.” And then you think, “If we have multiple missions (only one of which is our official mission statement), then we lack integrity. And if we lack integrity because we have multiple competing missions, then we can’t or won’t have unity around doing 1 thing—our official mission statement.” Double ouch.

Question: How can you help your organization increase its integrity (and thereby increase its unity)? Things that come to mind for me include: (1) further assessing the situation, (2) starting with yourself, and (3) learning more. Let me explain:

(1) Further assessing the situation: Ways to do this include discussing the situation with other leaders, inviting a consultant to assess the situation, taking the “How Honest Is Your Team?” self-assessment, and taking the following self-assessment (using the following scale: Strongly Agree • Agree • Disagree • Strongly Disagree):

  1. Staff have received training on the mission statement.
  2. Staff deeply understand the mission statement. 
  3. Staff can readily explain how what they do each day is aligned with the mission statement.
  4. Staff have memorized the mission statement.
  5. Staff regularly recite the mission statement when talking with others. 
  6. Staff actively use the mission statement to guide decision making.
  7. Staff are focused on achieving the mission.
  8. In terms of our mission statement (our organizational promise), we are who we say we are.

Reflect on your assessment results: What do you observe? To increase both integrity and unity, which of the above would you initially work on?

(2) Starting with yourself: Having considered the situation and the self-assessment results, now it’s time for action. It’s time for you to take action—it’s not time for you call others to action: 

  • Start with yourself, working to become a model of the mission statement in terms of each of the 8 self-assessment items. Using this approach has 2 advantages: others get to see what the mission looks like in action and you gain credibility with others. (If you are looking for a way to deepen your understanding, try the 6-question exercise at the end of the above video.)
  • You also need to solicit criticism from others by asking questions, for example, “To be a better model of the mission, what should I start doing and stop doing?”

(3) Learning more about organizational integrity and unity. Watch the playlist for To Be Honest, listen to a podcast (Leading Transformational Change with Tobias Sturesson: 009. Ron Carucci: Building an Honest Organization), read To Be Honest, and read blog entries: 

What about you? How might the 5 enemies of unity be affecting your organization? How does integrity impact unity? How can you help your organization increase its integrity (and thereby increase its unity)?

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read that contain the word integrity:

  1. “An organization has integrity—is healthy—when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense” (The Advantage, p. 5).
  2. “Trustworthy leaders…. demonstrate competence by having the knowledge, skills, and expertise for their roles…act with integrity when they tell the truth, keep confidences, and admit their mistakes…care about others…. People trust leaders who honor their commitments” (Leading with Trust: If You Build It, They Will Come – 4 Characteristics of Trustworthy Leaders).
  3. “Guard your integrity” (Leading with Trust: 10 Powerful Ways to Build Trust).
  4. “To become the most effective vision-driven leader, tenacity, integrity, and courage are essential” (The Vision Driven Leader, loc 2299).
  5. “When we refer to integrity, we are not referring to its popular definition—things such as not stealing from the company or being generally honest. Rather, integrity was manifested in the senior leadership teams we studied by these behaviors: • Putting enterprise-affecting issues on the table for discussion by the group even when resolution of the issues could have negative implications for one’s own area of responsibility • Keeping discussions among senior executives confidential, not sharing them with one’s group or gossiping to others about who argued for which position in senior team meetings • Actually implementing decisions that have been agreed to by the team • Holding the team accountable for making choices that are consistent with publicly espoused team and organizational values” (Senior Leadership: What It Takes to Make Them Great, p. 93).
  6. “In his best-selling book The Speed of Trust,15 Stephen M.R. Covey describes two sources of trustworthiness: character and competence. Character is who you are—your personal maturity, integrity, and commitment to principles. An immature, unprincipled person cannot be trusted regardless of his or her skills. Your competence is what you do—your talents, skills, and capabilities. Even a person of high character cannot be trusted if they lack the skills to do the job in a high quality way. Both character and competence are essential to have trust and credibility” (Unlocking Potential, loc 491).
  7. “Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust—distrust—is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them—in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them—of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities, or their track record” (The Speed of Trust, p. 5).
  8. “Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions” ((The Speed of Trust p. 147).
  9. “What is trust? It is predictability. When you trust someone, you know how they will react to new or unknown circumstances. It is a measure of assurance of someone’s honesty and integrityYou’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most, p. 107).
  10. “One of the major faults leaders can make is to assume they get trust just because of their title. Your title might get you watched, but what will others see? The next move is yours. Your credibility exists only insofar as others believe in you: in your integrity, track record, and commitment” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 2412).

How do you maintain unity when you are frustrated with someone?

Not. Getting. Along. Frustration. It happens in families. It happens on sports teams. It happens on church committees and ministry leadership teams. Just yesterday as I was reading a book to my grandsons, one was needling the other. The result? Crying and a quick intervention by mom. What about you? What’s your experience with not getting along with someone?

Like I said – not getting along happens. And when it happens at work, organizational unity is put at risk. And that is not good. We need unity to carry out our God-given organizational missions, and when we don’t get along, we don’t carry out the mission productively. In my life, I’ve found that taking responsibility for myself results in more unity than if I blame others, use passive/aggressive behavior, or use a victim mindset.

Question: When you’re frustrated, say, with someone at work, what do you do? What comes to mind for me includes:

  • Checking my health: To what extent is my frustration actually attributable to lack of sleep, lack of exercise, eating too much junk food, or just not feeling well?
  • Recognizing how I’ve contributed to the situation: This isn’t always easy. Sometimes, I want to just blame the other person, but I know that I’ve played a part, and I know that God wants me to take responsibility to be at peace with others (Romans 12:18).
  • Reflecting on what the Bible says: God wants me to love my neighbor (Matthew 22:39), “to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and to bear the fruit of the Spirit—”love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).
  • Focusing on the main thing, which, for example, in a Christian organization would be the mission and vision.
  • Taking a break. Getting some space. Getting some perspective.

I also consider things I’ve read to see what role various factors might be playing, for example, the fundamental attribution error, lack of healthy conflict, and a confusing of niceness with kindness: 

  • “At the heart of the fundamental attribution error is the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities, while attributing their own negative or frustrating behaviors to environmental factors” (The Advantage, p. 32).
  • “Why would team members who don’t engage in conflict start to resent one another? When people fail to be honest with one another about an issue they disagree on, their disagreement around that issue festers and ferments over time until it transforms into frustration around that person” (The Advantage, p. 41).
  • “Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind” (The Advantage, p. 44).

(I acknowledge that I have not consistently practiced open, honest communication about how I’m seeing things, resulting in me getting frustrated about the person, not the behavior. Not good.)

Additionally, I use best practice to analyze what might be happening and what action steps I can take:

  • Personality type differences: This is a real thing, and it can result in frustration. Here’s a helpful resource that allows you to get advice on getting along with someone who has a different personality type. For example, I’m an INTJ and, say, the other party is an INFP. Advice for building trust includes, “INFPs are likely to trust INTJs who work to avoid being overly critical of INFPs’ emotions and ideas.”
  • Cultural differences related to (1) communicating, (2) evaluating, (3) leading, (4) deciding, (5) trusting, (6) disagreeing, (7) scheduling, and (8) persuading. As a North American, I come from a culture that tends toward egalitarianism and planning ahead—so for me, it’s a challenge to collaborate with someone who comes from a culture that tends toward hierarchy and making decisions in real time.

What about you? What’s your experience with being frustrated with others? How does not getting along with others impact unity? When you’re frustrated, say, with someone at work, what do you do? 

Here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word frustrated, frustration(s), or frustrating:

  1. “Processing Steps to Take When Someone Ticks You Off 1. Take responsibility for your role in what happened. 2. State specifically what you did to create the problem. 3. Channel your frustration into getting better and preventing future problems” (Your Next Five Moves, loc 983). 
  2. “Kindness will keep you sane. The cure for anger, frustration, or disappointment is kindness” (Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone, loc 2222).
  3. “…are you empathizing and understanding, or are you judging and getting frustrated?” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 8. The Power of Personality Profiles)
  4. “Here are some common triggers I’ve observed in senior leaders: Physical: one too many nights without enough sleep, one too many drinks, nonstop stress leading to chronic sickness or weight gain Intellectual: thinking dominated by assumptions rather than facts, obsessive thoughts that crowd out other thinking, nonstop negative thinking about what is going wrong or what could go wrong Emotional: allowing certain emotions to build and take over, such as frustration, fear, shame, or sadness Spiritual: listening only to external voices while tuning out the “inner voice” of their spiritual core, questioning their self-worth or purpose in life The point is that we all have triggers unique to us that conspire to keep us from being at our best and from leading with our best” (Lead Like You Were Meant To: Switch from Autopilot to Intentional, p. 236).
  5. “When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration. When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand, people thrive” (Essentialism, p. 121). 
  6. “Silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals. But beyond all that, they exact a considerable human toll too. They cause frustration, stress, and disillusionment by forcing employees to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with people who should be their teammates. There is perhaps no greater cause of professional anxiety and exasperation—not to mention turnover—than employees having to fight with people in their own organization. Understandably and inevitably, this bleeds over into their personal lives, affecting family and friends in profound ways” (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, loc 125).
  7. “One of the most frustrating aspects of being human is our knack for undermining our own goals” (The Scout Mindset, loc 591).
  8. “Being micromanaged is unbelievably frustrating” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 13: Help! My Boss Is a Micromanager).
  9. “As we’ve seen, those who work with Diminishers feel worn down and burdened. But if we unwisely unload all our frustrations, the Diminisher will only feel attacked and retreat to what they know how to do best—shut down ideas that are not their own. Instead, introduce one small idea at a time” (Multipliers, loc 3606).
  10. “What gets you to “yes” in one culture gets you to “no” in another. To be effective, a negotiator must have a sense of how his counterpart is reacting. Does she want to cooperate? Is she eager, frustrated, doubtful? If you take stock of subtle messages, you can adjust your own behavior accordingly. In an international negotiation, however, you may not have the contextual understanding to interpret your counterpart’s communication—especially unspoken signals—accurately. In my work and research, I find that when managers from different parts of the world negotiate, they frequently misread such signals, reach erroneous conclusions, and act, as Tim Carr did, in ways that thwart their ultimate goals” (Getting to Si, Ja, Oui, Hai, and Da).

What happens when Christian organizations are not deeply unified?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

———————————————————————————————————————

What comes to mind when you read the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat? For me, it’s a lack of direction, a lack of destination, a lack of intentionality. It’s a focus on activity (instead of results), on distance (instead of destination), on urgent tasks (instead of important, non-urgent tasks). All of which brings to mind what happens in Christian organizations when everyone isn’t deeply unified around the mission, vision, and philosophy. 

What happens? The leader heads in a good direction; each leadership team member in different, good directions; and each staff member in other good directions. Each direction is good, and each direction is different, ranging from slightly different to dramatically different.

When this happens, it’s sort of like a basketball team where… 

  • Player 1 thinks each team has 5 players, with each player playing both offense and defense.
  • Player 2 thinks each team has 6 players—3 for offense and 3 for defense.
  • Player 3 thinks the team is playing zone and going for fast breaks.
  • Player 4 thinks the team is playing man-to-man and not going for fast breaks.
  • Player 5 (who is 6’9’’ and can jump really, really high) is convinced that goal tending is allowed.

To put it nicely, let’s just say that when this happens, the team underperforms. And it reminds me of Judges 17:6—”Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (ESV). 

How different these results are from those when a group is really unified. God describes the power of unity when He says about those building the Tower of Babel, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and …nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6, ESV). Notice again the result of unity: “nothing…will…be impossible for them.” And this describes people who were not working toward a godly end. What might happen if Christian organizations were deeply unified?

So, how can we as leaders of Christian organizations increase unity? What comes to mind for me is rallying staff around the organizational mission, vision, and philosophy (MVP). Here’s a list of some ways to do that: 

  1. Regularly recite the MVP statements in conversation with others.
  2. Each day ask yourself, “What am I doing as a result of intentionally implementing the MVP?” Write down your answers. At the end of each week, reflect on your answers.
  3. Write out your elevator speech (60-90 seconds) in which you explain your organization’s MVP. Practice your speech until you can do it effectively, naturally, and effortlessly. Look for opportunities to give your speech.
  4. Post a large, attractive MVP (mission, vision, philosophy) poster in your office. 
  5. Explicitly and routinely use the MVP to guide decision-making and to explain your decisions.
  6. Make it a habit to ask others questions about the MVP, for example, when someone is making a proposal you can ask, “How will that help us do the MVP?”
  7. Begin meetings with a review of the MVP and/or a devotional on the MVP.
  8. Get a daily 10-minute prayer meeting going for staff, and during that meeting pray for the MVP.
  9. Use prayer time at board meetings to focus on the MVP.
  10. Implement a goal to deepen your understanding and implementation of the MVP. Share your goals with appropriate staff and invite them to help you succeed. Share what you learn with those you shared your goal with.
  11. Find articles on unity and on your MVP. Read them. Share them.
  12. Develop a list of books on your MVP and provide funding to purchase a book for any who are willing to read one of the books.
  13. Read an MVP book (each month) and share what you learned with others.
  14. Get a book discussion going on an MVP book. 
  15. Reflect on the extent to which your direct reports (and possibly all staff) understand, focus on, and intentionally implement the MVP. Then, determine next steps, possibly including MVP training.
  16. Study how other organizations communicate their MVP to stakeholders.
  17. Send a monthly email to all staff that includes an MVP focus.
  18. Develop a strategic plan that helps the organization achieve the vision. Overcommunicate the strategic plan to staff, donors, and parents.
  19. Measure the achievement of the organizational vision.
  20. Several times each year, host a celebration of achievement of the vision.
  21. Focus the annual report on MVP.

What about you? What comes to mind when you read the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat? What happens when Christian organizations are not deeply unified? How can you increase unity? What will you do today?

Here’s what I’m learning from Morgenstern’s Maxims:

  • “Miracles still happen; but not often enough to include them in your business plan.”
  • “Emails don’t create dialogue; they create sequential monologue.”
  • “An expectation unarticulated is a disappointment guaranteed.”
  • “Great management knows that power is obligation; not privilege.”
  • “If you put your head in the lion’s mouth often enough, eventually the lion wins.”
  • “You can only spend the same dollar one time. And you can only spend the same hour one time.”

And here are some related blog posts:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word together:

  1. “The right vision reminds people what we’re building and why it matters. It inspires and energizes people across the organization by stirring within them the motivation to follow and do great things together. People can see how their actions contribute to the organization’s vision” (The Vision Driven Leader, loc 701).
  2. “When people can rally around a common goal, reaching for a summit that’s consistent with their values, they’ll sacrifice together, lift each other’s burdens, and do their utmost not to let each other down” (The 10 Laws of Trust, loc 989).
  3. “An organization has integrity—is healthy—when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense” (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, p. 5).
  4. “Positive leaders unite instead of divide. They are able to get everyone on the bus and moving in the right direction. They are able to create unity, which is the difference between a great team and an average team. The more united and connected a team and organization is, the more they are able to accomplish together” (The Power of a Positive Team, loc 1212).
  5. “In most situations, silos rise up not because of what executives are doing purposefully but rather because of what they are failing to do: provide themselves and their employees with a compelling context for working together” (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, loc 1890).
  6. “…how do you harness a group of high-performing, high-spirited thoroughbreds, in all probability the most talented individuals in your organization, so that they all run together and pull the organization in the direction it should be headed? How do you create a real, effective, top leadership team?” (Senior Leadership: What It Takes to Make Them Great, p. 8)
  7. “Too many leaders work on developing and relying on their technical competency or knowledge and overlook the influence part of leadership…. That ability to effectively communicate your ideas and vision, to rally people around a common idea or mission, to connect people and help them to come together to achieve something extraordinary—that’s what leadership influence is all about” (Building Champions Podcast: 3.3 Multiplicative Systems).
  8. “Focusing on the ‘what’ escalates tensions, while focusing on the ‘why’ pulls teams together” (Sticking Points, loc 543).
  9. “…teams need time together to maintain, restore, and build trust” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 86. Wanna Get Away?).
  10. “Multipliers look at the complex opportunities and challenges swirling around them and think, There are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process. And they see that their job is to bring the right people together in an environment that liberates everyone’s best thinking—and then to get out of their way and let them do it!” (Multipliers, loc 493).

How can you increase unity in your Christian organization?

Unity! I can hear the chants: “U-ni-ty! U-ni-ty! U-ni-ty!” I’m in 9th grade, we’re playing basketball against Unity Christian in their gym, and we’re focusing on aggressive defense and getting ball to the post. Our team is unified, our unity disrupts their team unity, and we go on to defeat Unity. My first real taste of what team unity could do—I liked it!

I’ve coached basketball, I’ve served as a leader in Christian organizations, and I can tell you that with unity, there is clarity, focus, and increased mission achievement; without unity, there tends to be confusion, frustration, and increased everyone-doing-their-own-thing achievement. (Think Tower of Babel after God changed language—see Genesis 11:1-9.) I can also tell you that:

  1. Unity is Biblical. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” And Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” 
  2. Unity is not uniformity. In the Body of Christ, there are many parts (that do different things) but 1 body (1 Corinthians 12:12). On a basketball team, there are different positions (that do different things) but 1 team. In an organization, there are many different job positions (that do different things), but 1 organization.
  3. Unity is the result of effective coaching/leadership. My 9th grade basketball coach (Dan Vander Ark) focused our team and prepared us with effective drills—including very strenuous defensive slide drills that paid off in the victory over Unity Christian. My first international Christian school headmaster (Bruce Hekman) focused staff on being a caring community—he rallied us around developing healthy relationships.
  4. Unity is impacted by the level of clarity regarding purpose, parameters, and practice. Let me explain.

Christian organizations have unity around key basics. These basics need to be reviewed and reinforced, in part because we all need to continue growing in Christ and because there may be new Christians on staff who do not yet sufficiently understand the basics. By basics, I mean the following: 

While I am grateful to work in Christian organizations where there is unity around key Christian basics, these Christian basics are insufficient at the organizational level. Why? 

  • Because Christian organizations vary—think accounting office, retirement home, school, church planting mission, and sports ministry.
  • Because key Christian basics do not provide enough clarify and focus to help specific organizations increase the achievement of their mission and vision. 
  • And because Christian organizations are often composed of staff from different cultural backgrounds—meaning, even more things need to be clarified.

In addition to Christian basics, Christian organizations need organizational basics. Here’s what I mean:

(1) Purpose: Mission statement—a user-friendly statement (short, memorable, memorizable) that identifies your Christian organization’s specific purpose.

(2) Parameters: Vision: Where do we want to go? Strategy: How do we get from here to there? Values: How do we behave?  Philosophy: What’s our perspective on our work?

(3) Practices: 

  • Reviewing organizational purpose and parameters at each and every staff meeting.
  • Using collaboratively developed and documented cultural practices regarding communicating, evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling, and persuading (see The Culture Map). 
  • Documenting and using job descriptions, plans (strategy, marketing), policies (hiring, grievance/whistleblowing), and processes (school admissions and enrollment).
  • Measuring achievement so everyone understands what’s been accomplished—measure achievement of the purpose, parameters, compliance best practice (like ACSI’s 84 indicators for Christian schools), and financial health (as monitored by a financial dashboard that includes KPI’s like net profit and % of expenses from compensation/benefits). 
  • Using the 4 disciplines of organizational health at the leadership team level.

So, how can you increase unity in your Christian organization? Things that come to mind for me include (A) doing devotionals at team/staff meetings on unity, (B) encouraging staff to memorize the mission and to talk about the mission, (C) implementing a strategic plan that is supported by strategic financial management, and (D) sharing my view of a unified team: Unified teams are smart and healthy, use appropriate cultural practices, and are composed of members who are smart, healthy, and self-aware:

What about you? What’s your experience with unity/disunity? Based on your experience, what have you learned about unity? How can you increase unity in your Christian organization?

Here’s what I’m learning from The Power of Positive Leadership on unity:

  • “Positive leaders unite instead of divide. They are able to get everyone on the bus and moving in the right direction. They are able to create unity, which is the difference between a great team and an average team. The more united and connected a team and organization is, the more they are able to accomplish together” (loc 1212).
  • “It’s important to create unity and wholeness. It needs to be a priority and it doesn’t happen without intentionality and action” (loc 1256).
  • “If unity and connection are so essential, then I must address why so many teams and organizations aren’t more united and why more leaders don’t create unity and connection. I’m convinced that besides selfishness, the enemies are busyness and stress” (loc 1323).

And here are some related blog posts:

Michael

What are you learning?

I’m walking with my wife along a beach in northern Japan. We’re both teachers, readers, and bloggers. And we’re both curious—meaning, we like to learn. As we walk, we talk about 4 questions. Here’s a summary of what I shared:

(1) What did you learn today? I learned…

  • That my 3-year-old grandson likes looking at bronze statues.
  • That before the Dewey decimal system, libraries arranged books by height and by acquisition date. Wow!
  • That the following 4-point plan is helpful when negotiating: “People: Separate the people from the problem. Interests: Focus on interests, not positions. Options: Invent multiple options looks for mutual gains before deciding what to do. Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard” (Getting to Yes, loc 488).

(2) What did you learn last week? Effective teams are smart and healthy, use appropriate cultural practices, and are composed of members who are smart, healthy, and self-aware. Let me explain:

(3) What did you learn within the past month? I deepened my understanding about my toolbox. Having a documented set of best practices (my toolbox) that have been intentionally selected, are limited in number, actually get used, and are actually useful. Recent additions to my toolbox include: 

(4) What did you learn within the past year? That I deeply enjoy learning about the growth of leaders, teams, and organizations. That I deeply enjoy helping others grow. That I am curious. And that using research-based best practice inspires confidence and increases effectiveness—and I don’t have to come up with everything on my own!

What about you? What did you learn today? What did you learn last week? What did you learn within the last month? What did you learn within the past year?

Here’s what I’m learning from Senior Leadership: What It Takes to Make Them Great:

  • “You cannot create real teams by convening a set of people and calling them a team. Instead, it takes careful thought and planning about the work the team will do, its composition, and the way it will be launched and developed. To have an effective senior team requires, first of all, that it be a real team—and not a team in name only” (p. 16).
  • “In the best leadership teams we have studied, we discovered that their leaders found a way to provide a crystal-clear sense of the team’s unique added value in advancing the organization’s strategy” (p. 17).
  • “To identify the core interdependencies of your team, we have found these questions helpful: What do we need each other for? What are the most critical challenges facing the business? Does the team have a collective strategy for addressing those challenges? How well is our strategy working?” (p. 70)

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word curious and curiously:

  1. “We are remarkably perceptive of others’ shortcomings and sins, but curiously blind to our own. We see others’ problems and rigidity, but not our own. Jesus said, ‘All these evils come from inside’ (Mark 7:23)” (Love Walked among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus, p. 67).
  2. “Effective leaders remember that they’ve never truly arrived. They know they always have more to learn and more to contribute. To succeed, they accept that they must remain curious, stay open, and act with humility” (The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders, loc 329).
  3. Curiosity leads to empathy when you genuinely care about someone else. When you genuinely care, that’s when you become curious enough to listen to their answer” (How to Become the Leader You Would Follow).
  4. “You can be known as the person who helps articulate the critical issue or as the person who provides hasty answers to solve the wrong problem. Which would you prefer? Exactly. From now on, frame your role as helping to find the real challenge. What this really means is being relentless: staying curious long enough to allow the other person to create the insight and space to reach the heart of the matter” (The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever, p. 85).
  5. “One of the most compelling things you can do after asking a question is to genuinely listen to the answer. Stay curious, my friend” (The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, p. 155).
  6. “Because I don’t always have complete information, I use assumptions to fill the gaps. I need to remember that my assumptions are rarely 100 percent correct. I need to look for opportunities to ask curious questions to get more facts and reduce my use of assumptions for decision making and problem solving” (Lead Like You Were Meant To: Switch from Autopilot to Intentional, p. 104).
  7. “Demonstrate respect to the team by asking great questions. Be curious. Your experience has taught you lessons, and your questions often share those lessons better than your lectures” (The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well, p. 16).
  8. “Get curious…and you’ll build bridges” (On Leadership—Lead Across 5 Generations: Haydn Shaw).
  9. “…hustle and creativity are antithetical to each other. You can’t generate breakthroughs while clearing out your inbox. You must dig the well before you’re thirsty and become curious now—not when a crisis inevitably presents itself” (Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, loc 1412).
  10. “Remind yourself that feedback is a gift…. Ask for feedback 1-2 times per week…. Don’t get mad, get curious…. Schedule a time when you’re going to follow up” (Radical Candor Podcast Episode 16: Take Feedback Like a Boss).

What’s the condition of your team?

Two words. There are 2 words I do not want to hear when I ask someone to describe the condition of a given team: “dumb” and “sick.” Why? Because “dumb team” + “sick team” = miserable team. And by miserable, I mean that the team is both unproductive and unhappy. Not good.

And there are 2 words I want to hear when I ask someone about a team: “smart” and “healthy.” A smart, healthy team is a productive, happy team. The kind of team I want to be on. I mean, who doesn’t like being on a great team?

Two questions: What conditions make a team smart? And what conditions make a team healthy?

Let me start with the conditions of a healthy team, something addressed by Patrick Lencioni in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Lencioni emphasizes that a healthy team exhibits trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on team results.

A team missing 1 or more of Lencioni’s 5 conditions isn’t healthy. It’s sick. Meaning, unhappy and possibly toxic. Think black rain cloud. What about you? What conditions make a team healthy? To what extent does your team meet those conditions?

What conditions make a team smart? In Senior Leadership: What It Takes to Make Them Great, Ruth Wagemen describes the 6 conditions of a smart team: real team, compelling purpose, right people, solid structure, supportive context, and team coaching. 

Let me break down the 6 conditions of a smart team:

  1. “A real team is bounded [it’s clear who is on the team], stable, and interdependent.”
  2. “A compelling purpose is clear, challenging, and consequential.”
  3. “The right people take a big-picture perspective…work collaboratively…[and] are not derailers.”
  4. “The 3 components of…solid structure include right size, meaningful tasks, and norms of conduct.”
  5. “A supportive context relates to rewards and resources. An organization supports team effectiveness when it provides recognition and rewards based on excellent team performance.”
  6. Team coaching is an intervention in the practices teams use to interact. Coaches hold a mirror up to the team so they can see the behaviors that help or hinder performance.”

How can you improve your team’s condition?

  • For the 5 conditions of a healthy team, have team members take this free self-assessment, discuss results, and take appropriate action.
  • For the 6 conditions of a smart team, have your team discuss the extent to which the team currently meets the conditions and then take appropriate action.

What about you? What’s the condition of your team? What conditions make a team smart? What conditions make a team healthy? How can you improve your team’s condition?

Here’s what I’m learning :

  • “The difference between an exemplary leader and an individual risk-taker is that leaders create the conditions where people want to join with them in the struggle” (The Leadership Challenge, loc 3885). 
  • “…effective leaders use 1-on-1s to coach. They create the conditions for engagement by meeting regularly with each team member, drawing out issues through open-ended questions and Empathic Listening, and helping people solve problems” (Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team, loc 496).
  • “…you should not proceed with creating a senior team unless you can establish the three essential conditions: a real team, a compelling direction, and the right people” (Senior Leadership: What It Takes to Make Them Great, p. 208).

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of quotations from things I’ve read or listened to that contain the word condition(s), conditioned, or conditioning:

  1. “How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want?” (Jerry Colonna as quoted in 3-2-1: On Eliminating Clutter, Reinventing Yourself, and Unity
  2. “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23, NIV).
  3. “Trustworthy leaders are intentional about “fixing things” in themselves, about receiving feedback, and about making changes based on that feedback. Just as a great mechanic keeps a race car in top condition, high-trust individuals monitor and tune their behavior, striving to do better” (The 10 Laws of Trust, loc 561).
  4. “Leaders don’t, in fact, create engagement. People choose their level of engagement. Leaders create the conditions for engagement—for better or worse” (Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team, loc 459).
  5. “Although you can’t motivate anyone else, there is something you can do. You can create the conditions in which motivation is most likely to happen. This means creating an environment loaded with specific cues that will nudge people toward being motivated” (Cracking the Leadership Code, loc 3234).
  6. “Strategically planned and executed, 1-on-1s are arguably the best way to create the conditions for high engagement and ensure your team members are connected to you as their leader” (Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team, loc 485).
  7. “Your conditioning—notably your professional training and work experience—can interfere with the quality of attention by channeling your focus in particular directions, impacting what you notice and blinding you to radical insights” (ALIEN Thinking, loc 864).
  8. “To avoid diminishing returns on your time and effort, establish clear conditions for what “done” looks like, get there, then stop” (Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most, loc 1220).
  9. “…an organization’s strategic anchors should change whenever its competitive landscape shifts and market conditions call for a different approach” (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, p. 114).
  10. “Managers in different parts of the world are conditioned to give feedback in drastically different ways. The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly” (The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, p. 65).