A few years ago Pastor Larry Osborne and I were speaking at a leadership event and I heard him say something that I haven’t been able to shake since. He said:
“Your organizational antibodies will eat up the things that don’t fit your culture.”
I scurried to jot down the idea in my journal and then locked eyes with one of our team members across the room, both of us exhilarated by the word picture he had painted and the implications it could have to help the leaders we serve.
Not certain I could fully trust my memory of 8th grade Biology class, I did a quick Google search that yielded this definition: “Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the immune system to help stop intruders from harming the body.” If your immune system exists to keep your body healthy and functioning at its best, the same can be said of your organization’s culture. Culture exists to keep our team moving healthily forward in pursuit of our stated purpose.
We do all kinds of things to bolster our immune systems, right? Hydration, hand sanitizer, elderberry, sleep, exercise.
So, how do we bolster our organization’s culture?
1) Define it. Antibodies exist specific to the virus or bacteria they’re designed to eliminate. Chicken pox antibodies stick around to make sure that anytime you might be exposed to that same virus, you’ll also be protected. When we clearly define our vision, mission and values, our teams know what stays and what must be eliminated in order for us to keep healthy.
2) Infuse it. It should appear in your hiring process. And in your weekly and monthly rhythms. And in the ways your team gives and receives feedback. Truthfully, it should appear everywhere.
For instance, an organization I work with is unapologetic about the incredible rapid pace they maintain. It’s something they’re extremely upfront about in interview processes, which allows candidates to weigh whether or not that element of the team fits well with their own values and working style. And they find that mismatched candidates will self-select out of their hiring processes, protecting them both from the turmoil of a poor culture fit.
Another team I’ve observed uses their organizational values as part of their annual performance review process, allowing candid conversations about alignment and engagement. When you’re intentional to infuse culture throughout the employee experience, it leads to higher-functioning teams.
3) Feed it. It’s an indisputable biological fact that healthy things grow. So when we’ve done the patient and persistent work to build a healthy culture, then we have the pleasure of feeding it to help it grow. Developing those you lead, providing them with challenges and new opportunities, and seeing them flourish as they move the organization forward will undoubtedly be worth the time and internal effort it takes to bolster your organizational immune system.
Leaders, we get the remarkable privilege of building healthy cultures where the teams we serve can flourish. Be proactive. Be intentional.
And keep leading well!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Free Workbook for a Culture Jump Start Most leaders agree that a healthy culture is essential in any organization. Everything we do as leaders is either building or eroding culture. We want to help you develop an extraordinary team culture, so if you haven’t downloaded our free workbook, please access this resource. This guide will help you define your culture, develop your vision statement, and develop your plan for an extraordinary team culture!
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning there is no additional cost to you, but I will earn a small commission if you use the links to make a purchase.