How Not to Loathe the Culture You Are Leading

One of the dangers of a growing organization or ministry is the temptation to quickly bring people on to the team to meet the demands of the growth. Of course, there is nothing wrong with desiring to scale the team. As the organization grows, wise leaders expand the leadership base.

The temptation is to take shortcuts on ensuring those joining the team are deeply committed to the mission and values of the organization/ministry. The temptation is to settle, to quickly grab a person and put him or her in a role. When work is piling up, unread emails in the inbox are growing, and demands seem to be rising, the easy solution seems to be quickly putting someone in a role. But wise leaders know—likely they have learned—that putting the wrong person in a role is a short-term solution with adverse long-term implications.

Tony Hsieh (founder & CEO of Zappos) tells the story about his former company, LinkExchange, which was sold to Microsoft for 265 million. When the company was just getting started, Tony and his friends loved the culture. They worked together all the time, sometimes forgetting what day it was. As the company initially grew, they hired their friends, people who shared the same values and understood the culture of the team. But as they continued to grow, “they ran out of friends to hire.” In other words, people began to join the team who did not share the same values. And the culture quickly deteriorated, so much so that Tony said he no longer wanted to come to work at his own company. He now obsesses over cultural fit in his current role at Zappos, and rightly so. Over half of an employee’s annual evaluation is based on living their values, and he has said, “An employee can be a superstar in job performance, but if they don’t live up to core values, we will fire them just for that.”

While we often imagine that declining and crumbling organizations begin to fall apart because they have grown complacent, Jim Collins, in his book How the Mighty Fall, states that complacency is not the issue. Decline begins when the growth of an organization outpaces the organization’s ability to have the right people at the table.

Surely one aspect of “the right people” is a deep-seated commitment to the mission and values that drive the organization. As the organization grows, new people will be invited to join the team. If you move too quickly and fail to ensure the alignment of values, you may end up loathing the culture of the team you are leading.

How can you not loathe the culture you are leading? Do everything you can to ensure the people joining the team, at their very core, carry the DNA of the culture you envision.