Building a Culture of Simplicity

In your line of work, your home or church, there is a culture. There are unwritten rules that people adhere to and unspoken expectations that create the overall feel and the drum that creates the beat that people march to. This idea of culture intrigues me because no matter how gifted someone may be, they will always have to deal with culture. Culture is created by shared values, not mission statements on a wall or a business card. Culture is defined by who you are as a leader because ultimately culture is shaped by who you are.

Culture is also determined by what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Culture is created, defined and refined by what consistently happens within your home or organization. The good news about culture is that even the toxic ones can become healthy if you as a leader are willing to pay the price to change that culture. Change starts with you.

Whether you are trying to establish culture or redefine it, you need to cherish these words: “Build a culture of simplicity.” When we over-regulate, we may get people to adhere to a culture out of fear but the healthiest cultures are built in a culture of trust.

Trust is the key to constructing a healthy culture. It is the foundation. When you look to build on trust, think simple. Complicated cultures are tied up in Human Resource disasters, lengthy forms for every situation imaginable, poor communication between people consistently and so many steps that people forget what the next step in the process is to get from point A to point B.

At the church I lead, we had a complicated system with a complicated structure. That was my fault because I thought more rules equaled more predictable, consistent outcomes. What I did in hindsight was cuff the creativity and giftedness of our team. I also elevated my way of doing things as “the” way of doing things instead of opening options and empowering gifted, sharp people. We took a step back from the mess and began trusting people more. We instead began to respond to people by saying, “You decide” and “What do you think?”. This became common-place in our culture and it was a major factor in turning the culture from a dictated, complicated environment into a place where people felt empowered.

We also looked for creative ways to say “yes” to people and keep on-boarding and empowering people as simple as possible. Evaluate your values. Do your processes align with your values? Even at home this can be true. My wife and I were going round-and-round regarding certain chores in the home. We had this same conversation for years and I finally said one evening, “Let’s stop having this conversation and evaluate our values as a family.” We had one of the best conversations I have ever had with my wife about how we need to align our values regarding our home. It began to change the culture and make one another feel more empowered. The expectations around simplicity will be shared when the values of your home or organization are decided upon, communicated regularly and lived out in practice.

Is your culture complicated or simple? What are some ways you have clarified values and shared them to create a simple and effective healthy culture?

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