Arrogance, or its sister self-righteousness, almost always leads to the misuse of power and authority (see my last post). Then typically what I call “playing politics” quickly follows behind any misuse of power and authority. And, at SpringHill, playing politics is one of the seven attitudes and behaviors that will ultimately cause someone to lose their job.
What qualifies as playing politics?
- Creating division by building alliances against others within the organization
- Endorsing one thing to one team followed by endorsing something different to another
- Telling people what they want to hear instead of what needs to be said
- Treating those with more power and authority better than those who have less
- Working to advance personal agendas while appearing to advance the organization’s
- Building and maintaining relationships primarily for the purpose of what can be gained from the relationship
The list could go on but you get the idea.
What all these behaviors have in common is the lack of transparency, duplicity and questionable motives that can so easily become a part of a person’s pattern of work. You see, when people misuse power and authority there becomes an overriding need to hold onto and obtain more of it. When this happens people become vulnerable to the temptation to play politics as a way to accomplish this goal.
In my experience, playing politics can become so ingrained into a person’s work style they may not even know they’re doing it. When this happens playing politics can become a cancer that infiltrates, not just a person’s career, but an entire organization’s work culture. This cancer causes breakdowns in communication, trust, efficiency (people spend more time dealing with politics than doing real work), and leads to ineffectiveness. I’m convinced that it’s impossible for an organization to become world-class if the cancer of playing politics takes hold.
This is why, we at SpringHill, have so little tolerance for those who play politics. It simply gets in the way of us accomplishing our mission and vision.43.928283-85.286682
A close friend of mine was asked to give a talk to business leaders centered on the theme of “thriving not just surviving” and asked if I would share with him some of the things we do at SpringHill to thrive. Below is my answer to my friend’s request.
Like a garden there are four areas of focus that I’m convinced have helped SpringHill not just survive during these rocky economic and industry challenging times but actually thrive.
- People – always assuring people, whether it is staff, partners, or customers, are the organization’s top priority. Why? Because it’s the committed and talented people who make SpringHill a healthy and thriving ministry.
Alignment – having clarity and commitment throughout the organization on the answers to the most important questions an organization faces such as:
- Why do we exist? Mission
- What’s important to us? Core Values
- What do we want to become? Vision
- What do we want to accomplish? Goals, both short and long-term
- What makes us distinct? Brand
- Culture – creating an organizational culture that is positive about the possibilities, respectful of people, appropriately challenging and accountable, and finally celebratory.
- Work – like a garden, creating a thriving organization requires ongoing attention and care of these three elements – the people, alignment and the culture of the organization.
There may be other elements necessary to thrive, but these four have been the center of SpringHill’s healthy growth for many years.43.928283-85.286682
In my last post about being an organizational culture bearer I quoted Max De Pree from his book Leadership Jazz. I now share the context of that quote because I believe it provides weight to De Pree’s quote as well as a deeper understanding of what it means to be a culture bearer.
“Esther, my wife, and I have a granddaughter named Zoe, the Greek word for ‘life’. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound, seven ounces, so small that my wedding band could slide up her arm to her shoulder. The neonatologist who first examined her told us that she had a 5 to 10 percent chance of living three days. When Esther and I scrubbed up for our first visit and saw Zoe in her isolette in the neonatal intensive care unit, she had two IV’s in her naval, one in her foot, a monitor on each side of her chest, and a respirator tube and a feeding tube in her mouth.
To complicate matters, Zoe’s biological father had jumped ship the month before Zoe was born. Realizing this, a wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave me instructions. ‘For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come, I would like you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.’
Ruth was doing exactly the right thing on Zoe’s behalf (and, of course, on my behalf as well), and without realizing it she was giving me one of the best possible descriptions of the work of the leader. At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice and one’s touch.”43.928283-85.286682
“At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice to one’s touch” Max De Pree in Leadership Jazz
Within any group of people, whether it is a friendship, marriage, family, or organization, holding shared values, a common purpose, and set of beliefs creates meaningful, enduring, and influential relationships. Without these commonalities, relationships become superficial, temporary and incapable of making a significant difference in the lives of the people in the relationship, or to others in the world.
So how does a family, team or an organization achieve a unified commitment to such important issues? Ultimately it’s through leadership.
After Mark Olson hired me to replace him as Director of our Michigan overnight camp I asked him what his expectations were for me. He simply said “maintain our culture”. In other words my job was to not only assure that our core values, mission and beliefs were never compromised but that they were also reinforced and advanced. Mark understood the absolute importance of a leader’s role in creating this kind of organizational clarity and commitment.
Today, at SpringHill, we call leaders who do this “Culture Bearers”. And being a Culture Bearer isn’t just a philosophical ideal disconnected from the real work of our staff. Instead being a culture bearer, I believe, may be the most important personal quality a leader at SpringHill must demonstrate.
Because it’s only through leaders fully and visibly living out SpringHill’s mission, values and beliefs, in other words “connecting our voice to our touch”, that these important truths become baked into our culture. And as they’ve become baked into our culture, I believe it’s given SpringHill a true opportunity to make a significant and enduring difference in the lives of young people.
This is the final post of 14 in a series of about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682