An Ideal Culture

Culture is one of those terms that seems theoretical and uncontrollable at first glance. We see cultural differences between countries; even regions within the same country. In some cultures, things move fast. In others, the world seems more relaxed. Culture helps to dictate what is “normal”; what actions and priorities are considered to be kind of default.

If you lead a team of people, hopefully you know that a culture exists within this group as well. It would be a mistake to assume that the culture of this team is, as I said above, theoretical and uncontrollable. As leaders, it is our responsibility to not only understand the culture and keep a pulse on how it’s made up, but also to speak to it directly and influence how it is made up.

I’m finding myself right now in the middle of a culture review and revision. The team that I lead is made up of a very diverse group of people. Though we share a responsibility for media ministry, that category includes engineers, artists, administrators and all other sorts. This means that everyone sees the world differently, and therefore responds differently by default. It is the team environment, the culture, that will bind us together and define a new default.

If I had to identify one thing that we struggle with, it’s a constant shift toward default negativity. As a group being subjected to several demands from all sides, cynicism and wrong perspective can easily creep in.

This week, I sat down with my team of coordinators and we talked through what an ideal culture looks like. These are the people who will ultimately be responsible for defending and promoting this ideal culture. Here are the elements we identified:

Mutual Submission/Respect: At all levels of the team, we want to display submission to each other and trust by default

Everyone has “ownership”: Rather than just task delegation, we want everyone on the team to buy in and have a voice for creative ideas

Commitment and willingness: Everyone on the team should be committed to the goals of the whole, willing to be flexible in making that happen. No attitude of “that’s not my job”

Promotion of healthy families: While we want commitment, we also want marriages to succeed! No unsustainable long-term scheduling

Honorable communication: Our discussion should be honorable to all involved. No grumbling or putting down people, especially when they aren’t present.

Optimism: We want our team to have a generally optimistic view on tasks, entering them with excitement instead of an assumption something won’t work or isn’t worth our time

Focus, discipline, and work ethic: Results are expected. We want to be a team that is focused on planning in advance, finding ways to be more efficient, and working hard.

High Standards of Excellence: No half-done stuff on this team. We do it well, always.

Appreciation for others: This applies to our volunteers and to each other. We want to recognize how we’re different, and verbally communicate that we appreciate the other.


As I said above, it’s up to me to keep a pulse on this and help to shape the direction, but a simple “do this” just won’t work. Culture takes effort and takes intentionality, but it also takes buy-in by others and defense by those others. Our coordinators group will come to agreement over the next few weeks on all of these items, tweaking and refining the message, and then discuss in specifics what we’re doing to promote it, what we’re doing to tear it down (that needs to be eliminated) and what’s missing that we need to add.

Culture exists in every team. You either shape it, or it shapes itself. What is the culture like on your team?

Author: Jon Cook

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