Mike Henderson
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Toxic Cultures

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!

Are You Indispensable?

iStockValuesRecently I had coffee with a friend who had worked with Lou Gerstner, one of my favorite CEO’s.  Back in the 1990’s IBM was about to go under. They reported the biggest corporate loss of all time, and Gerstner was brought in to restructure and rebuild the company.

While initially IBM was forced to lay people off, today they boast a workforce of 400,000 and the company is thriving.  However, in the midst of the turmoil Gerstner fired the #1 producer in the company!

Why would he do that?  Because the employee operated against the cultural value of teamwork.  On a side note I totally understand.  At New Hope Church we believe people are hurting and living with a great deal of stress.  The church should be the one place they can come and be accepted and welcomed. If you have a hard time accepting everyone, then you would be uncomfortable in a leadership role at New Hope. One of our core tenets is a welcoming atmosphere.

Back to IBM.  After they fired their #1 producer what was the fallout? There wasn’t one.  The company never missed a beat.

Think about it.  The #1 producer was not indispensable.

As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, “Every day, bosses, customers, and investors make hard choices about whom to support and whom to eliminate, downsize, or avoid.”

In most fields tenure is no longer a guarantee. You must show up every day living out the company values.

Perhaps now you know the answer to the question, “Are you indispensable?”