Define it before you derail it

April 2015 

“If you don’t know what the driving force is [that makes your culture great], you are one dumb decision away from derailing it, dismantling it, or undermining it.” I heard Andy Stanley say this on a podcast when I was in the process of reading and listening to everything I could about what makes remarkable organizational cultures. I was on a quest to not only preserve the culture that made CARE for AIDS so special but to make it even stronger as we grow.

In this same podcast, Andy talks about the importance of creating a list of core organizational behaviors. These behaviors are a step beyond core values. Not to diminish the importance of core values, but they can be ideals that are so general and intangible that they are not integrated into daily decisions. Instead, Andy encourages the listeners to create a list of organizationalbehaviors that reflect the values but are much more specific and actionable.


So, our team set aside part of our weekly team meeting for three weeks in a row to discuss and debate what behaviors currently define our culture and which ones we aspire to. As Andy says, “The process is often as important or more important than the product.” We were very happy with the final product, but the process was essential to create full ownership and adoption among our team.

As a disclaimer, when it was all said and done, we borrowed two of the six behaviors verbatim from Northpoint Church because we think they nailed it.

Here is the final list:

Make it better

Take it personally

Stay focused

Be healthy

Grow continuously

Help others win

In just a few short months, these behaviors are informing how we select candidates, evaluate performance, make decisions, and talk about our culture.

Over the next few months, I will write a post about each of these behaviors and why they are important to our culture. I hope this will encourage you to invest the time in your organization or your family, for that matter, to understand what behaviors you value.