In 2009, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, while speaking to hundreds of his employees, introduced a phrase that would shape the culture of the company that is now the largest online video-on-demand service in the world:
We are a team, not a family.
During his presentation, Hastings stated that Netflix will be a company of leaders who “hire, develop, and cut smartly so we have stars in every position.” Comparing pro sports teams to kids’ recreational teams, Hastings added that giving employees an “A for effort” when they continue to demonstrate “B-level performance” could no longer be a company value. In conclusion, Hastings conveyed that values like loyalty may be a good stabilizer to have as a company, but was not an accelerant for long-term growth.
It is clear that for companies like Netflix, the goal of accomplishing great work is of far greater value than to do so with familiar faces around.
However, when examining the workplace culture of most churches, many fully embrace the metaphor of staff and leaders operating like a ‘family.’ With a greater emphasis on a sense of belonging and relational fit, the local church strives to model what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:5, that ‘we are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Yet, when it comes to hiring for our ‘family,’ there is often an underlining tension between hiring those that are great to be around, and those who are great at what they do.
In his best-selling book, Riding The Waves of Culture, management consultant Fons Trompenaars states that family-led organizations can be high in “subjective context,” focusing less on “what they do” and more on “who they do it with.” Whereas high performance teams seek to provide new opportunities based upon specialization, family-led organizations can tend to do so through benevolence.
Simply put, churches often reward people by hiring them. However, those two processes are not the same.
If your church is void of a competitive hiring process, where each role is clearly defined and a pool of talented people are sought before selections are made, it is quite possible that under-performing team members will become too difficult to transition off of staff due to the emotional toll it can cost to fire ‘family.’ As Mark Miller, Vice-President of Organizational Effectiveness at Chick-fil-A Restaurant says:
If you are a manager of a baseball team and your second baseman can’t catch ground balls you replace him. However, if rather than a team paradigm, you’ve chosen to embrace a family paradigm, you probably let the underperforming second baseman stay – not only does he stay on the team, he will likely stay on the field. You feel helpless to replace him because he’s part of the family.
Every church must take the time to evaluate the kind of vocabulary that defines its culture, and that ultimately undergirds their internal and external hiring processes. Even if the lean is towards fostering a family-like culture, make sure every ‘relative’ knows first what it feels like to try out for the team.
That way, everybody wins.