Changing An Ungracious Culture

October 25, 2014

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I’ve done a lot of reflecting recently on my past years in leadership when I worked with a multi-cultural international team overseeing a missions campus.

I am still haunted by several poor decisions we made.

These are clearly seen in hindsight, but in the midst of busy schedules and deadlines, often go unnoticed until it is too late.

When you are on the outside, it is much easier to work at identifying ungracious culture. We excel at pointing the finger or identifying dysfunction.

But when you are engaged in an organization in the day to day, I’ve found it hard to spot or react to in the moment until you are carried downstream by it, only becoming enlightened in retrospect.

This type of a culture manifests itself in multiple ways:

  • Working around leaders rather than confronting or dealing with issues head on.
  • Running end-arounds, accommodating unhealthy leadership styles for fear of the fallout.
  • Not dealing with difficult people because there is no better solution, so we compromise in the name of doing the job.
  • Treating people as children rather than adults. We assume they can’t handle the truth or direct conversations.
  • Tiptoeing around issues in the name of politics.

If you find yourself strategizing a presentation or a policy around the anticipated objections of one or two people, you have a culture problem.

I’m all for compromise and win/win. I’ve read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People! But there is a point where politicking and grandstanding becomes unhealthy.



How can we do a better job of seeing and identifying unhealthy culture while on the inside?

Seek outside input and evaluation. I remember Andy Stanley valuing the input of new hires. After 6 months of being in a culture, we become blind to some its faults.

Return often to the healthy culture you desire. Bill Hybels always says the vision needs to be cast every 30 days.

Provide training, feedback and correction. Teach people what healthy, gracious team culture looks like. Call out the lack of it.

Bring new people along in journey. We constantly must be training new people in our values and culture.

Be wiling to release toxic staff. If someone just doesn’t own the culture, there always another place for them to use their giftings.

Want to dive into this a bit more? I’ve blogged extensively on these topics.

Creating a Team Culture
Maintaining Core Values in our Teams
Does a Lack of Vision Bring Death?
8 Traits of Grace Filled Leadership

and created an Ebook, United We Build. Take a look!

What other suggestions do you have for identifying ungracious and unhealthy culture?


photo credit: dearbarbie via photopin cc

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God