Craig Groeschel - How to Keep Your Organization Healthy
Hey, I'm Craig Groeschel and you've tuned in for another episode of the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. I'm incredibly honored that you spend a little bit of time with us each month. We're passionate about building leaders, because we believe that when the leader gets better, everyone gets better. If you're new to our community, let me just tell you what we do on the first Thursday of every month, there will be a brand new leadership episode just for you. If you have not subscribed yet, I would encourage you to subscribe, it will come directly to you. If you'd like detailed notes, you can go to life.church/leadershippodcast and you can ask for the leader's guide, we'll send that to you every month. It has questions and very detailed notes in case you want to cover this with your team.
As always, I want to say thank you to those of you who are getting the word out on social media. It means so much to me. Also, if this is helpful to you, if you can rate the podcast or write a review, that actually gives us more visibility, and I would just say thank you for that. Before we dive in to today's teaching, let me tell you something fun. Two weeks from today we're going to be releasing a bonus episode. Recently, I sat down with my good friend, Pastor Steven Furtick, who is one of the most creative leadership geniuses alive. And I interviewed him about creative leadership. You may say, I'm not a pastor, how will that help. I promise you it doesn't matter what you do, this interview on how to be a creative leader will be something that you'll go back to and revisit again.
Let's review what we covered last episode, and dive into new teaching. In the last episode, we talked about how to grow a healthy organization. We talked about organizational life cycles. All organizations have life cycles, we talked about the seven phases. Reviewing very quickly, phase one is Getting Started. It's the launch, the blast off phase. It's the single most scary time in your organization, you don't have a clue what you're doing, you're way under resourced, you're just trying to survive.
Phase two, I call it Blowing and Going. Others have called it go go and fun, this is when things start working. The right things are happening. You do crazy, stupid stuff, it seems to work. You're innocent, maybe even naive. You don't know what can't be done.
Phase three, I call it Hanging On. Others have called it adolescence or whitewater. It feels like there's too much going on. Your success has out grown your systems. You could go big, you could go away, you don't know. It's frustrating because you see where you need to be, but you don't really know how to get there.
Phase four is The Zone, or others have called it prime. This is when you're growing, but not too fast. This is when you have the right people, the right resources, and the right systems. Today we're going to talk about how do you stay in that zone, or how do you keep your organization healthy. How do you max out and continue to produce the desired results.
Phase five is not as much fun, it's The Treadmill. Decisions take longer, progress is slower, frustration is higher.
Phase six, I call it The Mud. Things are complicated, you feel bogged down, your actions organizationally don't align with your values. You're in trouble, but the leaders are still denying it.
Phase seven is called The Titanic. If you don't change, the ship is going to sink.
Let's talk about how do you stay in the zone. How do you keep your organization healthy. If you manage to get in the zone, what you have is you've got the right people, the right resources, and the right systems. Enjoy it, but don't take it for granted because you're still vulnerable of slipping out of the zone. What is the big problem? We have to remember that when you're successful, what does success do. Well, unfortunately, success tends to feed pride. What does pride do? Pride feeds complacency, and that's why nothing fails like success. What I want to talk about in this episode is five qualities to stay in the zone. What are the five things you want to be creating to stay in that maximum point of impact.
The first thing you want to do is you want to create a cult-like culture. A cult-like culture. One of the funniest compliments I ever received was from a consultant that came and studied our organization. And he said, I talked to everybody, they all say the same thing. He said, you got a cult-like culture, and I thought that sounded bad, but he said in the best sort of way. Everybody's on the same page.
To be clear, what is a culture. The culture is, it's your beliefs, it's your standards, it's your expectations. It's the vibe of your organization. It's the unwritten code that determines the behaviors. We have to understand that every organization has a culture. Your culture you have either by design or by default. It's either intentional or it's accidental. What's your culture like, it might be formal, it might be casual. It might be kind of boring and dull, it might be fun and exciting. You might expect a little from people, or you might demand everybody to bring their best.
Why does your culture matter so much. It matters because of a couple reasons. What we value determines what we do. What we believe determines how we behave. Culture drives the organization. I like what my friend Dr. Sam Chan says. He says, "Culture eats vision and strategy for lunch". What does the right culture do? Well, the right culture does a lot. It corrects wrong behaviors. If you've got a strong culture, and someone is behaving outside of your values, people come along and say we don't do that here. It corrects wrong behaviors. It also tends to weed out the wrong team members. If someone isn't living consistently with your values, they don't get to stay and play. What does the right culture do. It also empowers the right people toward the right results. It drives what we do.
I like Disneyland. They create culture even with their words. Their words drive values, their values drive actions. Think about what they call employees, they don't just call them employees, they say you are cast members. You're cast members. The customers, they are our guests. The jobs, they're literally part of the performance. We're performing to please the customers. And they say our business is to make people happy. Just think about how that language creates emotion, that drives actions, that brings about the desired results.
Now, what happens. When your organization grows bigger and you finally hit the zone, you're finally in the prime. It's important to remember that your culture is really the sum total of smaller sub-cultures. Your culture is really the sum total of a lot of smaller sub-cultures. For example, my organization currently is in 32 different locations. We have a central organization. If you think about it, we've got a lot of sub-cultures. Every single sub-culture matters. If you've got one that's sick, a lot of times people don't worry about it. What I want to tell you is, you need to worry about it. Think about this when it comes to cultures.
What is the difference between sickness and health. What is the difference between sickness and health. Well, health isn't contagious. Nobody ever says, oh my gosh, I caught your health, right? Health isn't contagious. But sickness is. What does sickness do? Sickness spreads. Disfunction is contagious. So if we have a struggling sub-culture, that struggling sub-culture can negatively impact the broader culture. That's why we have to obsess with fixing it. It may take time. We have to acknowledge, healthy cultures never happen by accident, they are created. What is your culture? Your culture is always a combination of what you create and what you allow. It's a combination of what you create and what you allow. If you don't like what you have, change what you tolerate, and change what you expect.
If you want to know more about this, I did a whole episode called Creating A Value Driven Culture. But to stay in the zone, what you want to do is you want to guard the culture. Create a cult-like culture. Number two, you want to create what I call Obsessive Ownership, Obsessive Ownership. There's a massive difference between an employee mindset and an owner's mindset. What do employee's do? They typically will work for the business. An owner though, his mindset or her mindset will be to work on the business. Employees, they will spend resources. Owners don't, they're investing resources. I want to put this in the place to get the best return. Employees will ask, what's in it for me, what's best for me. Owners, a good owner, a healthy owner will say, what's best for the organization. The bottom line is this, that owners care about more than employees care about.
Now, listen carefully to what I say. I didn't say they care more, I said they care about more. They care about more things. Why does this matter? Because for team members, what you care about determines what you can be trusted with. If you care about a little, you can be trusted with a little. If you care about a lot, you can be trusted with more authority. Every phase of the organization we have to care. Now, in the early phases, in the start up, in the go go, and the fun phase, it seems like a lot of people care about a lot of things because they have to. But as your organization matures and as you become more successful, what do you do? You tend to start hiring specialists, which is important and you want to do it. But when you hire a specialist, people tend to categorize their responsibilities, and they'll start to say that's not my problem.
Okay, this is a problem. Anytime you have that mindset, it's a problem. Denying ownership is inviting death. What we want is we want all of our team to value problem solving. Every problem is important, and either I will solve it or I will see to it that it is solved. We want to care about a lot. Now, how do we create this obsessive ownership. Well, the only way to get your team to think like owners is to do what? Is to give them ownership. Is to give them responsibility, is to give them authority, is to give them ownership. That's why when you're in the zone we have to be really, really careful not to let decision making power drift to the top. This is what tends to happen, the more successful an organization becomes the more people think, well we need our top leaders to make the top decisions. No, this is incredibly dangerous, you do not want to do it.
The people in the trenches, on the front lines, they are essential for your continued success. If they're empowered to think like owners, guess what, they will solve problems that you don't even know exist. If they are not empowered, you know what they're going to do? They're going to stop thinking, or worse yet, they're going to stop caring. I always tell our team that the strength of our organization is determined by how deep into it people have the ability to make significant decisions. What do we want to do? To stay in the zone, the highest level performance, we want a cult-like culture and we want our team to have obsessive ownership into the health and the well being of our organization.
The third thing we want to do is what I call creating organizational trust. We want genuine organizational trust. I like what Stephen Covey said, he said, "Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, elusive quality that you either have or you don't. Rather, trust is pragmatic, tangible, an actionable asset that you can create". We want to create organizational trust. What is a key to building trust? Many people think that the key to building trust is simply telling the truth. This is true, but it's very, very incomplete. We have to acknowledge without truth you don't have trust, but there is so much more to creating deep, sincere organizational trust. In an organization the key to building trust is alignment. It's alignment. It's intentionally creating an organization where what we do aligns with what we value. What we do must align with what we value.
Here's the problem. The longer our organizations exist, and the more successful we become, the easier it is to lose alignment. Suddenly, we have more opportunities, and we start doing maybe less important things because we can and suddenly what we say we value isn't consistent with what we're doing, we lose alignment and we lost organizational trust. In my world, in churches, a church might say well, we exist to reach people far from God. But what we do is we're trying to keep church people happy. Maybe in your business you might say, we value customers, but everybody knows that we value personal profit over people. Perhaps you say, well we're innovative in our start up business. But, we're trying to protect what we already have. When we lose trust, when we lose organizational trust, we lose everything, we lose our ability to lead. To stay in the zone we have to focus on alignment. Alignment creates trust, and we need to do everything we can to guard, create that organizational trust.
Number four, what do we do when we're in the zone. Well, we continue to fixate on the future. We fixate on the future. In the earlier stages in your organization, this is all you did, because that's the only place you were looking. You were anticipating what was coming, you were leading toward it. Then, what happens is, once you start to become successful you tend to stop anticipating and instead you start reacting. Rather than thinking about and leading toward the future, you react to what's happening in the present. Now why do you do this? The reason is because honestly there's more things to react to. Now you've got employee problems. You're used to not even having employees, you know. Now you've got a lawsuit, or a volunteer quits, or your customers are complaining about something or a kid vomits on his way into your building, whatever. You've got more problems to react to.
What happens? Instead of creating the desired results for tomorrow, you're overwhelmed solving the problems of today. We have to resist settling in to a leadership posture of reacting, we have to anticipate. Fixate on the future. Here's another problem about a successful, maturing organization, is when you start to become successful, when you start to mature, people tend to move from a bias to action to a bias for discussion. Instead of saying let's attack, people say, let's talk about it. Let's analyze it, let's discuss it. In the early days this wasn't a problem, because in the early days, you didn't have time to discuss. It was kill or be killed, attack or die.
Then, you become successful and so what do you do? Well, let's hire some consultants, let's study, let's analyze, let's discuss and debate. What I'm not saying is that we shouldn't be wise and have due diligence before we more forward, but what I want to tell you is don't get slow. Don't get bulky. Do everything you can to fight against unnecessary bureaucracy. When you over complicate, you'll slip out of the peak performance and you'll find yourself in the mud where things get so much more difficult.
What's one practical thing you can do? What you can do is look at your meetings. Your meetings tell you so much about the tone, direction, and health of your organization. What you want to do in your meetings is you want to focus meetings towards action, not discussion. Look at your meetings. Analyze the meetings that you've had this week. You know that you're in trouble when you simply meet to discuss and not decide. If you're not acting, if you're not deciding and if you're just discussing, what you want to do is you want to change that culture, we're going to fixate on the future. In our meetings what we want to do is we want to push for decisions. We want to keep things moving, we want to take risks. Because you'll never become great, or stay great, by playing it safe.
Number five, what do you want to do. The final one is we want to create passionate, missional buy in. We want our team members to believe in and give their lives to a cause bigger than ourselves. What you want is you want people serving a mission not doing a job. Now, in the early years it was a little bit easier to attract mission minded people, because that's all you had. You didn't have the big perks and benefits to attract them, it was only the potential of making a difference or creating a great company in the future. Over time though, the type of person that you typically attract starts to change.
Now, you're mature, you're successful, you're in the flow. What do you do? You start to attract people who maybe want to build their resume. You might attract people who see your organization as a stepping stone in their career to something else. You could attract people who like the benefits you offer. You attract safer people who are attracted to a safer, more stable organization. Because of that, it's not a bad thing, it's just a thing thing. Because of that what you have to do is work really really hard to move their hearts toward the mission. Remember, vision leaks. In the early years, you lived on vision, that's all you had. In the later years, we tend to assume that people know it, they don't, vision leaks. That's why you have to keep the why white hot. The why drives your what.
If you don't keep the why front and center, the what becomes stale, meaningless, and suddenly they lose the missional buy in. When you keep the mission central, that drives the priorities of what you do. Put the mission on the walls, but more importantly, make sure it's written on the hearts. We have to understand why we're gathered and what we are doing. Then, keep our priorities straight, missional buy in. We exist to serve the organization. We exist to make the mission successful. The moment it changes and we start to wrongly believe that the organization exists for us, that's when we slip out of the zone and fall straight into decline.
What do we need to watch out for? If you're in the zone, if you're doing well right now, when your organization becomes successful, be on guard. It's easy for us as leaders to start to let up, to coast, or to be comfortable. Remember, if you as the leader are not all in, your people will check out. You set the tone. You work the hardest, you keep the why front and center. When it comes to your team eventually, you're going to realize this. You can buy their time, but you can't buy their hearts. You want their hearts. To have a truly great organization, you have to fight to keep the hearts, to keep the mission central to everything that you're doing. Let's review. The five qualities to stay in the zone:
Number one, create a cult-like culture. What does the right culture do? It corrects wrong behaviors, it weeds out the wrong team members, it empowers the right people toward the right results.
Number two, create obsessive ownership with your team members. There's a difference between an employee mindset and an owner's mindset. The only way to get your team members to think like owners is to give them ownership. Remember the strength of your organization is determined by how deep into it your people have the ability to make significant decisions.
Number three, create genuine organizational trust. In any organization, the key to trust is alignment. For our team to trust us, they have to know that what we're doing lines up with what we value.
Number four, fixate on the future. It's natural to stop anticipating and start reacting. Over time, people move from a bias to action to a bias for discussion. We're not going to let that happen. We're going to push for decisions, we're going to keep momentum going.
Number five, create passionate, missional buy in. You want people serving a mission, not doing a job. You as a leader set the tone. If you're not all in, your people will check out. You're going to realize, you can buy their time, but you can't buy their hearts. You want their hearts. Question for reflection to go over with your team. Of the five areas discussed, the five areas discussed, which one needs your focus the most, and as always, what are you going to do about it. Of the five areas discussed, which one needs your focus the most and what are you going to do about it.
Remember this, when you're struggling, when you find yourself hitting a wall, don't get bogged down trying to do 10 different things. Focus on creating a win, one win. Focus on the one thing that will add the most value. Maybe you need to create mission buy in, maybe you need to work on alignment. When you focus your leadership energy toward one win, things start to happen. Think about it. Just as losses tend to compound, wins cascade, creating more wins. It's so amazing when you win in one area, you tend to start winning in other areas as well. Which one area needs your focus the most and what are you going to do about it.
Remember, two weeks from today we're going to release a bonus episode on creative leadership. If you have not subscribed to the podcast, please do. Review it, rate it if you don't mind, talk about it on social media, invite others to be a part of our community. Because when the leader gets better, everyone gets better. As a leader, what do you want to do? Don't try to be somebody else. Don't try to be something that you're not. You don't have to have all the answers, you don't have to be perfect, just be yourself. Because why? People would rather follow a leader who's always real than one who's always right.