Weekly Thoughts

The Culture of Mistrust

By Elaine Vitikainen

A client opened up to me about the difficulties she was having at work. She described, “During the coffee breaks in our team meetings, my boss frequently takes one of my colleagues to the corner and talk together in a low whisper. I was paranoid they were talking about me”. She went on to explain that although she had later found out that they were not in fact talking about her, but just gossiping in general, the damage had already been done. She admitted, “The real impact this has had is on me. I learned not to trust my colleagues.”

Trust is such a fragile commodity. It can easily be broken even before it is built. Yet we know trust is the foundation for healthy organisational behaviour.

This got me thinking about my own behaviour. When I’m in a situation where there is not much trust, I don’t want to put myself on the line. I hold back. As a result, I don’t bring my best ideas to a situation. As I reflected further I began to ask myself – how have I unintentionally contributed to organisational mistrust? When I go to work do my actions actively encourage trust or do they sometimes breed mistrust?

1 John 3:18 calls us to love with actions and in truth, not just with our mouth. As leaders, staff members and facilitators, our actions will speak much much louder than any fine words.

This week: What might I do a little bit differently to help trust nourish in the groups and organisations that I’m involved with?

Identity in a fishbowl

By Lorentz Forsberg

I was in the middle of an organisational change process. It was a scary thing, yet both interesting and challenging. My organisation was small and as staff, we knew one another quite well. But with changes brought to us in the form of restructured departmental architecture, I found myself questioning what I really knew about my colleagues.

In my unit, we realised early that we needed external help to facilitate the merger of our two small teams. We were so different in our approach, culture and work methods. For ten years, we had grown our own ways, and somewhat resistant, we found ourselves in this new arrangement.

As we met the first time with the consultant and as a unit, we talked about many things we had never talked about before. I learned new things about each of my colleagues, including my old team partners. I even learned new things about myself, some of which I really liked.

One helpful exercise we used is called the fish bowl. Each of the former teams were seated in the middle and encouraged to talk about their culture and work methods, while the other team was listening in silence as they were seated around. Then the teams switched places, and the team in the middle talked about what they had heard while listening to the other team. Then the first team got back in the middle to reflect on what the other team had heard as they listened. This exercise and the dialogue that followed gave new insights and opened a new window of understanding to what we had been as teams and what we wanted to be as a unit.

On a personal level, all this brought me back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16: “And you, who do you say I am?” As things around were getting more confused, and arguments heated up on who this Jesus was, he was able to invite his closest followers to reflect on what others said, and what they themselves believed. I imagine that the team of disciples became closer and grew individually from this. I know Peter did, and today we are many that echo his answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This week, take the time to listen carefully to your colleagues and find out something new about them. Make sure you also share something new about yourself.

Greed in disguise

By Rick James

Greed is good at disguise. It can masquerade as success or even blessing…

People used to talk a lot about ‘small is beautiful’. But nowadays bigger always seems to be better. Some agencies (and even churches) may have become ‘fiscally mesmerised’ by ever increasing income targets. A desire for growth becomes the main driver for decision-making. We use size to define success. We are really proud of growth. We justify this fixation on the basis that growth means we can reach more people and change more lives. But there may be a shadow side to this growth objective. Our motives may not be wholly pure. Our desire for growth may be influenced by greed.

Greed is not just something out there in organisations, it affects us all as individuals. As an OD consultant, I am deeply uncomfortable when clients ask ‘What do you charge?’ I know I have to earn an income, but how much is enough? I may only charge ‘the market rate’, but my daily fee may be much more than a local salary for a month or even two… Am I really worth that amount of money? Or has greed altered my perspective?

Greed is all around us. It is not just in richer countries. We need to be on a constant look-out. We need to grapple with the uncomfortable questions. If we feel we have fully answered them, perhaps this just shows we have lost our way.

  • What disguises does greed wear in your life?
  • How can you fight against it this week?

Grace in conflict

By Elaine Vitikainen

My stomach tightened as I remembered the situation. I was catching up with a friend about some work colleagues I used to supervise. I cringed inside when I thought about the intense conflict which I had tried for months to mediate. They were good people with genuine intentions, but they had incompatible styles of working. Things got so bad that in the end we all agreed that the only way forward was to separate. I was so sad. I’d failed to fix things. But as we ended it, we created opportunities for them to forgive each other as they moved on.

Imagine my delight when I found out some years later that these people were working together again – this time successfully. At the time, trying to mediate had been so emotionally draining. But what I see now is that, when human strength and wisdom are not enough, God’s grace is always sufficient. It is only God’s undeserved grace which can genuinely restore relationships.

  • How can I be a ‘steward of grace’ (1 Peter 4:10) this week?
  • Who do I need to apologise to or forgive?
  • Where do I need to rely more on God’s transforming grace?

Broke or broken?

By Niklas Eklöv

Critics call the humanitarian system both “broke” and “broken”. There are many signs that they are right. The world is currently facing an overwhelming humanitarian crisis with around 60 million people refugees or internally displaced. According to the UNHCR, it’s likely to get worse.

The UN itself admits that the humanitarian system is broke, but not broken. The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 addressed the huge challenges.

These words “broke” and “broken” have kept coming to my mind. What is God’s perspective on this? Has not God turned things upside down making “brokenness” into an asset through Jesus?

The Bible tells us God sent Jesus to take all of humanity’s brokenness upon himself (Isaiah 53:5); to bring healing to the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:1, Psalm 147:3); and to restore us into a right relationship with God (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1). What a resource for a broken world. As children of God we are not broke, but broken people being healed by Jesus, and sent into the world following the example of Christ (John 20:21).

This week, take time to reflect on:

  • Is brokenness and vulnerability something that is accepted, encouraged or avoided in your organisation?
  • How could you in your situation this week be a resource for God to bring healing to the world?

We are related

By Elaine Vitikainen

A few weeks ago, I was sat at a Monday morning devotion of one local organisation in the province of Cambodia. Each of the local staff were taking turns reading the verses in Genesis 5, the written account of Adam’s family line. They read through names and the age of each of these people when they died. Personally, I did not really understand what was the point in reading this. Surely, there were other things in the Bible which are more interesting and life changing. 

The one leading the devotion ended by saying how people lived so much longer before. This did not resonate well with me. I still did not find the connection to how it will change my week of conducting an evaluation. However, one of the staff shared about what he thought about Genesis 5. He was reminded of how we are all connected, how we all came from one family line. He said, for him this means we are brothers and sisters. It does not matter where we came from. We are all related. 

This stuck with me. The 15 days of hard work in Cambodia was made a bit easier when I thought about how we are indeed related to one another. When irritation started to creep in with someone, I try to see them as my relative. Walking in the most remote villages, I suddenly saw how I am related to these people too. They don’t speak my language. I don’t speak theirs. I live very differently and my habits are very different from theirs. But in many ways, we are very similar. We are in fact, the same, related and all came from one family line.

This week:
Appreciate how unique and different we are from each other. Yet, remind ourselves that we are all related. We all came from one family line. 

 

Shaped by grace?

By Rick James

Grace is at the core of my faith. But is it at the core of the way I live? Does it really affect how I behave at work? I don’t think grace has even been used to describe my contribution or performance in any annual appraisal. And yet I believe we are called to be ‘stewards of grace’ (1 Pet 4:10) at work.

Grace is the distinctive feature of our faith. As Desmond Tutu wrote: ‘I preached my only sermon – that God loves us freely as an act of grace’. Grace is what sets Christianity apart from other religions. It is what should set Christian organisations apart from all others.

Yet grace does not fit easily with our current approaches to management. It’s counter-cultural, even scandalous. It’s often misunderstood and misused. Grace should not be an excuse for sweeping important stuff under the carpet. It is about dealing with openly and honestly and honestly with the human condition. Grace is radical and transforming.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if grace characterised our organisational cultures? Our leadership? The ways we relate to partners? Our theories of change? Our office culture?

It starts with you and me. This week think about:

  • How are you being shaped by grace at the moment?
  • What opportunities do you have to be a steward of radical grace?

Weekly Thoughts to inspire your leadership

Leadership is really difficult. Chances are it may be the costliest thing you will ever do. Leaders in the Bible all seemed to have a pretty hard time too. Leading with grace is a daunting calling.

To survive and even thrive in this demanding calling, we have to cultivate a vibrant relationship with God. We need to be able to say, like Peter, ‘Follow me, as I follow Christ’. (1 Cor 11). We believe God calls each of us to be ‘stewards of grace’ (1 Pet 4). We can only pass on what we have received.

We hope this Leading with Grace booklet will help you cultivate your character and your relationship with God. Not in the comparative safety of Sunday services, but in the messy frustrations of organisational life. Use them how you wish, each day, each week, on your own, in your team, at home, in the office… We pray that these thoughts leave you inspired, supported and challenged to become the leader God wants you to be.

Breathing new life, the song continues…

Space for Grace is an approach to inspiring change. It’s about integrating our Christian faith together with thoroughly professional methods in facilitating change. For ten years we have benefited from financial support from the mission councils in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This has helped us develop a rich resource of case studies and materials and share that learning with a community of more than 500 practitioners. It’s now time for us to stand on our own two feet. The funded element ended in December 2017, but the song will continue and expand. We will adapt the lyrics and melodies to our different contexts, secure in our faith that God is active in helping us and our organisations become the vehicles for this grace that we are called to be.