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From Toxic to Flourishing with Al Lopus | Podcast Episode 009

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About This Episode -

Is the culture you are building in your workplace as a leader a flourishing one? How do you know? Catch today's replay of a IMPACT Breakfast from October 2022 featuring guest speaker Al Lopus and learn more about how to be a leader who helps to build a healthy culture for their staff and how it affects overall productivity.

Al Lopus is the co-founder of Best Christian Workplaces and author of Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being. Al also hosts the The Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast.

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Transcript -

Al Lopus: Thank you, Warren. So at your tables, you probably have, a copy of the book. It's also an audio book, so don't hesitate to check it out as an audio book. I'm really looking forward to being here. And, I know there's a lot of great leaders. I think there's probably over a hundred great leaders here in the room today, don't you think? And I want to thank Warren particularly for this opportunity to share with you. Also, I want to recognize Matt and the great work he's doing coaching the team here at SAMBICA and what a light SAMBICA is in this community for Christ. Also, I deeply appreciate IMPACT Players, and as I've gotten to know Warren, as I've actually participated last year, let's all help men and let's help ourselves to be better fathers, husbands, and leaders. And I'm going to talk a lot about leadership today, but what a great purpose because we can't do these things on our own. In fact, we can do more together than we can on our own and by ourselves. So let's work together as we seek to live out the call that God has on our lives.

My goal today is to help you measure and build a flourishing workplace where you and your people flourish. And as Warren said, at the best Christian workplaces, we have a unique vision. And that vision is that we believe that Christian workplaces should set the standard. Christian led workplaces should set the standard as the best, most effective places to work in the world. And oftentimes, and I know most of you have been involved in various Christian led workplaces, whether it's the church or even your own business, if it's led by Christians. Sometimes, that's not the case. And I believe that if we had Christian workplaces that set the standard as the best, most effective places in the world, not only would our employees be drawn to Christ, but so would our customers. So would our vendors, all of our relationships would see a unique culture, atmosphere, the way people work together and be drawn to it. You know, I've found, over time that in order to have a flourishing workplace, or to have a flourishing marriage, or to have a flourishing family, the only thing that we can bring is ourselves to those relationships.

And if we aren't full ourselves, then how can we bring what needs to be brought to those relationships? So the first thing I'd say this morning is let's make sure that we are flourishing. It starts with self-leadership when we're talking about bringing leadership to our family, our spouses, and our workplaces. Yes, I believe in order for our marriage to flourish, in order for your family to flourish, in order for your workplace to flourish, it starts with you. So how do you flourish? And I encourage you to think about that and begin your own road to flourishing. I'd like you to think of a time where you were totally engaged in your work. Describe what caused you to be so engaged. What were the keys that made your workplace experience where you really flourished to happen? Also, another resource for you to consider is, every week I do a podcast and I'm interviewing a Christian business owner, Christian led business leader.

I'm interviewing a church leader, a Christian nonprofit leader, or a leader in Christian education. And the stories are how to be more effective leaders to create flourishing cultures I show, a podcast also. In order to be a good, a good leader, you need to be a good husband. And Les Parrot is one of the more recent podcasts that we, that I did. And he's an expert on marriage relationships. But as we think about what God encourages us as leaders to be, I often think of 1 Peter 5:2. This is where Peter, at the end of his life, is kind of summarizing leadership and the effectiveness of leadership for Christian leaders, leaders like you and me. And he says, "Be shepherds of the flock under your care, watching over them. Not because you must, because you're willing as God wants you to be." And as I talk with leaders, I often then ask them, who is your flock?

Who is your flock? And many of you would say, well, it's the customers. It's the people we serve here at Camp SAMBICA. It might be the kids, the students, the people you're attracting to actually serve. But I'm going to say, your first flock is your staff. If you're leading a team, if you're leading an organization, the first flock is the staff because it's through them that the actual work is being done. And if you're one of those first line leaders, it's through you. But working through the staff is the key thing. So that's your first flock. Your clients, those you're serving would be the second. Now, of course, your family actually, you might argue, should be the first flock. But again in the workplaces is what I'm talking about. So the health of your staff today is the health of your clients tomorrow. If you're a church leader, I'll say that the health of your congregate.... the health of your staff, your church staff today is the health of your congregation tomorrow.

The health, if you're a business leader, the health of your employees today is the health of your customers. Tomorrow, I believe that this is your first calling, is the, to work with those in the staff. And I know many of you have the spiritual gift of leadership. That's one reason you're here today. And it says in Romans 12, leadership, the challenge is to lead with zeal. And so I encourage you to lead your staff. Don't overlook your staff to serve your customers, those you're serving, serve your staff and make sure they're healthy as they go forward. And in the next slide, we're talking about a proverb. Be sure you know the condition of your flocks. Do you know the condition of your flocks? Do you know the condition of your family? That's a little easier, but do you know the condition of your flocks? And I'm going to challenge you that the way to do that is to measure their health. And there's, and we've created an employee engagement survey that we've used to determine this over the last 20 years.

Can you imagine running your organization if you didn't have financial statements? I mean, how would you know? It's easy to see money in a lot of ways. And of course, you can see numbers on a sheet, but I'm going to say to actually look at your culture and measure culture. And that's harder to see because you really can't see the culture that you have in your organization. And I'll talk about defining that, but I'm going to say like a physical, I encourage you to get a physical every year, for example, because you never know. In fact, a friend of mine, Steve Hayes, just went to a physical two years ago, and he found out that he had an artery that was 90% blocked, had no idea. They call it the widow maker. And if he hadn't had that taken care of, he would've, he'd be gone.

But here he is. He had that taken care of, living a full, effective life, bringing more contribution to the world. And he's able to do that because he actually had a physical, I'm going to suggest that you can actually give a physical to your staff to see what the health of their culture is. So what is culture? And as I say here, the culture is the key to a flourishing, God honoring workplace. And I often think of it in terms of soil. Peter Greer, who's the president of Hope International, some of you know that he, wrote the foreword in my book. He said, you know, it's all about the soil. Do you have a culture that's a healthy soil? Because things grow in healthy soils. If you've got a toxic soil, we know that that's going to kill the plants.

There'll be no fruit from a toxic soil. So the culture in your organization that you work with, the culture that you're creating is really like soil. Think of it like soil. Healthy culture is an equivalent to fertile soil. Toxic culture is an equivalent to toxic soil. And in a workplace, you know, we oftentimes hear, you've read the stories about being a best company to work for. And you talk about, you read about, well, if you have free coffee and and donuts on Fridays, that creates a healthy workplace. So I'm going to tell you that's not true. That's not true. Free coffee and donuts, and maybe even paid holidays doesn't cultivate the kind of workplace that would be flourishing. So whether you choose to invest or ignore the soil in your culture workplace, the culture runs deep and it affects everything about your mission.

So the question that I talk about in the book is, I also help to define what culture is. And you, again, every leader has ultimate impact in their culture. And you, even if you're not in a leadership role, you have an impact on your culture. You help create the culture around you. And culture is just how we do things around here. That's the way I oftentimes will describe it. Every organization that you're working for does things different. It's based on your beliefs, the values of the group, and most importantly, the way the leaders set the priorities, the decisions. And above all, what are the behaviors that's acceptable in your organization? The leaders impact that. I managed a consulting firm here in Seattle for eight years. And as a Christian, I wanted to have a culture that was based on love and respect. And I didn't feel like I could actually use the word 'love' in my secular workplace. So I just said, the culture that we're going to have here is we're going to have a jerk free environment.

A jerk free environment. Our team loved it. They loved it and they accepted that. And I, so I was able to work with that. And, and of course, I couldn't be a jerk if I was going to lead a jerk free environment. The hardest part was actually telling other people that they were acting like jerks and that it needed to change. But that's what I'm talking about in terms of culture, you know, the behaviors that are accepted. I had a, one of my colleagues that her secretary made a couple of mistakes with her travel. And at midnight, after not being, after going to the hotel that she expected to be in and the hotel said, sorry, we don't have a reservation for you. And then she ends up traveling to another hotel. And I mean, just, we've all had those experiences in traveling, and she left a voicemail message that just was seething with anger. And I had to say, we all have trouble. But treating your secretary that way with anger is not the best behavior that you can exhibit. And everybody appreciated having that kind of a safe environment where they could work effectively.

And the culture then creates an environment for engagement. And that's what we're measuring. And let's talk about engagement at work. And I'm going to ask you again from a leadership perspective, and then from an employee perspective, are you engaged at work? And what I mean by engagement is this: are you intellectually and emotionally connected with your work and your employer? Are you motivated and committed to positively impact the organization's mission and goals? And I'm going to say that's what we're looking for in engagement. That's what, I've got a lot of stories in this book about, engagement. And I'm going to say that again, as Christians in our workplace, God wants us to honor him in the work that we do, that we serve God in the work that we do. We want to be engaged in the work that he's called us to. And we've defined three levels of engagement.

The first level is where employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their mission in their workplace, that they drive innovation and move the organization forward. So as a leader, I'm going to say, is this the kind of environment that you're creating? As an employee, I'm saying, is this you? And you can see in our research and tens of thousands of employees, we define that maybe about half of the employees in Christian led workplaces are engaged, just about 55%. In Gallup, you've heard it, heard this, it's maybe a third the way they measure it, but they don't tell you how they measure it. So, but the way we measure it is basically we ask over about 50 questions of employees, and if they answer it on average, they agree with the positively worded questions, we're saying they're engaged.

And that's about half. And so leaders, I'm going to challenge, if you've got half of your employees that are engaged, imagine what it would be like if it was 80%, not just half, but 8 out of 10. In the next category, we see employees that are neutral. Those that they're not giving any discretionary effort. They consider their job a paycheck, they put their time in, but there's no energy or passion into the job. And again, we need to move these neutral employees to engage to really be fully effective in the workplace to accomplish what God has called us to do.

Remember, this is based on real data. Tens of thousands of employees in Christian led workplaces. This is what our data is telling us. The next category, unfortunately, are those that are actively disengaged. Now, we've seen these employees, we've worked with these employees. They're unhappy at work. They make their unhappiness known. In fact, they often are undermining the engaged workers that you've got in your workplace. And we see about 6.6% of those. And I'm going to say, okay, let's really work to move disengaged employees. And if you're disengaged, then I'm going to encourage you to move to the neutral category. And I'm going to say, let's move people in the neutral category to the engaged category in your workplace. I often think of it this way. Imagine there's 10 people in a boat and you've got a series of boats in a race out here on Lake Sammamish. And imagine if you're trying to win the race, five of your people are rowing to win the race out of 10. And you've got four people who are with their oars on their laps or banging into those that are trying to really win the race, slowing them down. And then you've got one out of those 10 who are digging and drilling a hole in the boat as you're going across.

That's the typical workplace. The way I see it, and I'm going to say as Christians, let's change that. Imagine going from five people rowing to win the race in your organization to six or seven or eight or all 10 rowing to win the race. And I can tell you that's possible. And that's what, that's what our book talks about. Is there an advantage to having an engaged workplace? And as I show here, there's, this is some of Gallup's work, and that's, yeah, there's a difference in profitability. There's a difference in customer satisfaction. There's a difference in employee turnover. You've heard a lot about the great resignation. People are, 48% of people according to one survey, are actually looking or open to changing their jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there's 11.2 million open unfilled jobs out in the workplace. People are just changing their jobs regularly.

How do we, what's the antidote to the great resignation? I'm going to say it's building a flourishing culture in your workplace. Now, let's talk about some specific questions that we ask. We think that there's, you can see in this slide on the right hand side, you see organization culture at the bottom that leads to employee engagement. And then there's four elements of engagement. And we measure that with four different questions. And I'm just going, ask yourself, how would you respond to these questions? And the first question is, I would recommend my organization to others as a great place to work.

That's a energy question cause if you've, you can answer that strongly agree, then that you have energy that comes from your workplace. And where does that energy come from? It's often because there's positive relationships that you have with others in your workplace. And next, the next one is enthusiasm. Do you have, is there enthusiasm in the workplace? And the question that we ask is, I'd rate my organization as an exceptional place to work. And one of the things that comes from your ability to create enthusiasm is where there's positive emotions coming in the workplace. And that's because you're putting people in jobs that create flow where they kind of lose track of time because they love the work so much and enjoy it, that brings satisfaction and joy to the individual. The another thing you know is, and I've heard this, many times leaders will say, well, oh, I don't know that we really want to have all of this, this positive workplace experience.

Will we really, actually, will we be productive? We don't especially , in Christian organizations, I'll often, they'll say, well, it's great to sing Kumbaya and have good fellowship, but do we actually get anything done? And I'm going to say that people, each of us, aren't satisfied unless we're seeing something being accomplished. And so accomplishment is also a key to wellbeing and in an effective workplace. On the next, number three, as I prefer to remain in my organization. How would you score that on a scale of one to five> Strongly agree to agree. And this is commitment. And we want to build commitment in our workplace. Again, an anecdote to the great resignation. And then number four is passion. I'm motivated to put in extra effort beyond what's expected to help my organization succeed. And what we found with passion is, again, are we connecting people's roles to the work that we're doing? And that leads then to the core of the book: what drives employee engagement in Christian led businesses and organizations? And based on 20 years of research, eight factors came out.

Now, let me say, this is not what I think. This is based on the statistical research. We've teamed up with Seattle Pacific University's Industrial Organizational Psychology department. And, we've done the statistical research on our survey. And they, the factor analysis says that these eight groups of issues actually drive employee engagement in Christian led organizations. So this isn't what Al Lopus thinks about, thinks makes a great workplace. This is what the statistics tell us. And these eight keys, as we went through it, we thought, okay, well these groups of questions kind of reflect teams and life giving work and talent. And we thought, well, it needs to preach. So we need an acronym. And actually, so flourishes is the acronym that kind of describes it. So these are the factors where we have life-giving work.

I'm sorry, fantastic teams where work is life-giving and you know what that is. And the third thing is outstanding talent, uplifting growth, rewarding compensation, inspirational leadership, sustainable strategy, and healthy communication. These are the eight. We've actually figured out a way to measure it, and we'll show you a an example of that. I really respect, Matt Wimmer's work here at SAMBICA. He wanted to know what the health of his culture was and, we were able to show him, this is not the results, but he was able to see, how his culture was. And I want to say that there are different weights for each of these factors. So as you go back today, think about the most important weight here is how are you providing life-giving work? How are you experiencing life-giving work, where there's meaning and purpose in your work?

And how are you helping connect that to other people in your organization? And then I'll just say the second most important, oftentimes, in other sectors, the most important is inspirational leadership. And I'd encourage you to read those two chapters first in the book, "Life-Giving Work" and "Inspirational Leadership," because those are the most important to drive engagement in your organization. But here's the challenge. I'll leave with you. Do you really want to know the health of your organization? And in the book at the end, I have 16 questions that as part of our larger survey that identifies how you can measure the health of your organization. But as leaders, let me encourage you, people ask, "Al, who's your competition?" And I'll say, well, we don't really have competition in the Christian led space. The biggest competition is leaders that don't want to really know how their work and how their leadership is impacting those they work with. They're afraid to find out. And I'm going to say, men, we need to know how our leadership is impacting those around us so that we can be better servant leaders. Get some feedback and learn how to grow in your relationship with those around you and with your relationship with Christ. And I'll just leave it with that. Thank you.

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