Seven Steps to Change Your Culture

A church without values is like a river without banks-just a large puddle. It is missing an opportunity for white-water movement. As with any organization, your church has a set of shared motives, or values, underneath the surface of everyday activity. The problem is that they stay weak because they are unidentified and unharnessed in guiding the future.

The role of the leader is to identify the most important values and pull them above the waterline of people’s perception. Once they are in clear view, the leader can nurture their development, enabling the church to do more of what it does best.

Once your people know and own the values, it’s like creating the banks of a river to channel energy and momentum. Think of values not as what we do but rather as what characterizes everything we do.

Is it time to shape a culture change?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Where does great culture come from? How do you build and sustain it in your group, or strengthen a culture that needs fixing?

In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the world’s most successful organizations—including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs—and reveals what makes them tick. He demystifies the culture-building process by identifying three key skills that generate cohesion and cooperation, and explains how diverse groups learn to function with a single mind. Drawing on examples that range from Internet retailer Zappos to the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade to a daring gang of jewel thieves, Coyle offers specific strategies that trigger learning, spark collaboration, build trust, and drive positive change. Coyle unearths helpful stories of failure that illustrates what not to do, troubleshoots common pitfalls, and shares advice about reforming a toxic culture. Combining leading-edge science, on-the-ground insights from world-class leaders, and practical ideas for action, The Culture Code offers a roadmap for creating an environment where innovation flourishes, problems get solved, and expectations are exceeded.

Culture is not something you are—it’s something you do. The Culture Code puts the power in your hands. No matter the size of your group or your goal, this book can teach you the principles of cultural chemistry that transform individuals into teams that can accomplish amazing things together.


Whenever successful groups communicate anything about their purpose or their values, it starts with their surroundings. What’s more, the same focus exists within their language. You hear the same catchphrases and mottoes delivered in the same rhythms.

Building purpose is not as simple as carving a mission statement in granite or encouraging everyone to recite from a hymnal of catchphrases. It’s a never-ending process of trying, failing, reflecting, and above all, learning.

High-purpose environments don’t descend on groups from on high; they are dug out of the ground, over and over, as a group navigates its problems together and evolves to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world.

High-purpose environments are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future ideal. They provide the two simple locations that every navigation process requires: Here is where we are and Here is where we want to go.

Here are a few ideas to help you achieve that.

Name and Rank Your Priorities – In order to move toward a target, you must first have a target. Listing your priorities, which means wrestling with the choices that define your identity, is the first step.

Be Ten Times as Clear About Your Priorities as You Think You Should Be – Leaders are inherently biased to presume that everyone in the group sees things as they do, when in fact they don’t. That is why it’s necessary to drastically overcommunicate priorities.

Figure Out Where Your Group Aims for Proficiency and Where It Aims for Creativity – Skills of proficiency are about doing a task the same way, every single time. Creative skills, on the other hand, are about empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before. Most groups consist of a combination of these types; the key is to identify these areas and tailor leadership accordingly.

Embrace the Use of Catchphrases – When you look at successful groups, a lot of their internal language features catchphrases that often sound obvious, rah-rah, or corny. Their clarity, grating to the outsider’s ear, is precisely what helps them function.

Measure What Really Matters – A world cluttered with noise, distractions, and endless alternative purposes is a challenge to building a clear sense of purpose. One solution is to create simple universal measures that place focus on what matters.

Use Artifacts – Successful cultures have environments richly embedded with artifacts that embody their purpose and identity.

Focus on Bar-Setting Behaviors – Successful groups translate abstract ideas like values and mission into concrete terms by spotlighting a single task and using it to define their identity and set the bar for their expectations.

Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code


Write each one of the seven above steps on a separate chart tablet. Set aside time at a future team meeting to discuss and brainstorm the steps as follows.

First, for each one, spend no more than seven minutes for each, asking your team to give examples of each step currently being followed in a positive way.

Next, repeat the exercise, asking your team to give examples where the step is being done poorly or is missing altogether.

Finally, on the second set, choose the top two on each step, and for each, answer this question: “Here is where we want to go?”

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 89-2, released April 2018.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<


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