Hybels: Practical Steps to Turn a Culture Around

This year’s Global Leadership Summit was my spiritual highpoint of the year. It was challenging and inspirational.  Bill Hybels led off with a talk right from the heart about Practical Steps to Turn a Culture Around.

GLS Willow CreekBill’s transparency about the nearly toxic culture he faced upon returning to Willow’s day-to-day leadership in 2009 is becoming legend. He reflected again about the staff survey report that pierced his heart and began Willow’s journey to becoming a flourishing culture. The comment that got his attention was where a staff member said, ‘I love our church, but I feel like a grunt’.

He expressed sincere remorse that it took him decades to understand the importance of having a healthy staff culture. He explained what I have seen in many ministries. Visionary leaders become so consumed with the vision, that the condition of the team becomes secondary…even to the point where people are expendable. He reminded us that what matters most to God is people, not vision.

Hybels explained how over the past seven years he has become even more passionate about the church and his people. These were the steps that led to Willow’s culture turnaround:

Practical Steps to Turn a Culture Around

  1. Measure the current reality with a third-party. Willow has conducted their staff engagement survey with the Best Christian Workplaces Institute for seven years in a row. He cautioned organizations that trying to do your own internal survey was folly.
  2. The top leader must own the turnaround. The culture will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be and relegating responsibility to a staff function will doom it.
  3. Get serious about training managers. “It should be illegal for some people to be managers” got everybody laughing, but he was dead serious. Every people manager must lead well and love well, and that requires training.
  4. Raise the level of candor in performance reviews. Everyone wants to know the answer to the question “how am I doing?”. Quoting Jack Welch, he said, “the kindest form of management is the truth”. Recently, Bill’s team added Start, Stop, Continue to their performance discussions to improve communication.
  5. Ruthlessly commit to resolving relationship conflict. At Willow conflict is now seen as a way to build commitment because it is a real opportunity to develop deeper levels of trust. He suggested the book Reconcile by John Paul Lederach.

Only 54% of staff in Christian organizations are engaged he said quoting Best Christian Workplaces research of 2014 staff engagement levels. Then he shared that this year’s BCW survey indicated the remarkable statistic that 81% of Willows staff are engaged, and that 100% is his goal.

This talk begs the question. How healthy is the culture in your organization? Do you really know? Join Bill, and hundreds of other churches and Christian organizations who have taken the first step.

 

 

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