Sitting down to write this column (after two weeks off—so beware, my brain is a bit hazy), I almost dumped my original idea because part of me said, “It sounds like you’re writing a devotional.”
Yet, a good devotional is nothing more than practical advice to help us live life (and succeed in our work) more effectively.
So, perhaps today’s column is a devotional—just from a different perspective. It comes from a guy named Paul, who wrote what today we would call a powerful Facebook post or engaging tweet about “best practices” for our work. He just wrote it about 1,972 years ago, give or take.
Since Paul’s post still applies today, let’s invite him into our offices to hear his thoughts.
Before we capture Paul’s perspective, however, let’s agree on a few outcomes that we—the pregnancy help community--consistently measure and seek to improve.
One of course, is “babies born.” We pay close attention to those moms coming to us who are either seeking abortion or in a vulnerable category. We wish to see the percentage of these who choose life rising, year after year, month after month. Simple stuff.
Other outcomes we measure might be our number of new clients or patients, spiritual decisions, enrollment in parenting classes, adoption plans and more.
Point being, we want to improve these numbers. Fair enough. But how?
To improve outcomes, we shift, add, improve and track our methods.
For instance, years ago pregnancy help centers began offering ultrasound services to provide valuable fetal development information more effectively to our patients. The percentage of those choosing life went up.
In addition, we continually work on things like marketing, client advocate training and curriculum.
We do this because we believe—and rightly so— that improving our methods can improve outcomes. Again, common-sense stuff.
Paul the consultant arrives
Let’s say that one day, as we’re working on measurables and methods, our consultant—Paul—enters our offices and begins to look around. He looks a bit different but comes with plenty of recommendations from others in our work. He definitely looks old-school, but we’re ready to hear what he has to say.
After a few hours of asking probing questions and listening carefully to our responses, Paul is ready to share his insights.
“You’re focused on outcomes and you’ve got good methodology,” he says. “We might tweak a few things, but overall, you’re on track for success. For now, I see no reason to get in the weeds with details. We can do that later.”
We’re smiling. We’re doing it right. But then, he asks, “Do you want to take this organization to a level you’ve yet to experience?”
We’re nodding. Of course we do. Why wouldn’t we?
He says more.
“You’re already receiving word-of-mouth recommendations, which is good. But do you want even more of your patients and clients telling all their friends you are the go-to place when they are in a difficult situation? In short, do you want even more raving fans? So many it’s hard to keep up?”
Again, we’re all in. What do we need to do?
Once he is sure we will follow his advice, Paul shares his thoughts.
“Let’s strengthen your foundation, your culture,” he says. “Let’s build a positive atmosphere in this place so profound it is palpable. Your patients and clients—more than you can imagine—will embrace this culture. Your effectiveness and outcomes may change, significantly.”
We want to know more. What do we do?
Paul has one more thing to add before giving his recipe for exponential success.
“If the spirit of this organization is strong, everyone will notice. Honestly, not all will embrace it—but an overwhelming majority will. And you’ll never be the same.”
Tweet This: If the spirit of your organization is strong, everyone will notice. Not all will embrace it—but a majority will-& you’ll never be the same.
Whatever this Paul guy is selling, we’re buying. What’s the product?
Finally, he shares his gem of insight, the one piece of wisdom he desperately wants us to grasp: “To take this organization to a new stratosphere, every employee, board member and volunteer—without exception—must consistently, purposefully and passionately seek to develop the following characteristics: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
We’re a bit befuddled. There’s nothing new here.
“Sure, Mr. Paul,” one of us responds. “These are the ‘fruit of the spirit’ characteristics from The Book of Galatians.”
Paul smiles. “Yeah. I know. I wrote it.”
We’re still confused.
“But we know this. We’ve heard pastors and priests talk about this. Some of us have this memorized. It’s basic Christian stuff. We get it. It’s great, sure. But you were talking about raving fans and better outcomes—building a winning culture and all that.”
Paul listens. Waits. Then speaks again.
“But is your culture so full of these characteristics that when someone—anyone on staff or on the board—speaks with a tinge of anger, talks negatively about another, comes across as perturbed or upset, even that person suddenly realizes he or she is off track and affecting the entire organization?”
We’re uncomfortable. Even though we want this in our office, we know this isn’t always the case. Paul isn’t done.
“Asked another way,” Paul says, “If someone falls short—which we inevitably will—are others in the office so committed to these ideals that at least one person will take the struggler aside to quietly, confidentially and gently talk through the situation? Or do we let things like this fester more often than we want to admit?”
We know the truth. Because we’re not sure how to handle those times when there is tension in the office, we often don’t address it. Or when we do talk about issues, the tension often increases before we can find solutions. And while we sometimes create new policies out of the tension, we realize some issues never come to total resolution.
“You see,” Paul concludes, “When we unequivocally believe we cannot function effectively without these nine characteristics, we create a culture which is, in every sense of the word, unique. This culture permeates through everyone--client, patient, donor, church partner—so powerfully, our number of raving fans increases almost exponentially. This impacts everything from donations to marketing to client and patient outcomes.”
Our next question is, how do we develop this culture?
Paul the consultant gives us a starting point.
“We write down our goals, don’t we? In fact, an idea becomes a goal once it is on paper, right?” Paul has us nodding again.
“What if every person associated with this organization wrote down these nine characteristics and signed a statement committing to pursuing each – at any and all cost?
What if these were on our walls? What if these nine core values were stated as we opened each board meeting? What if these started our staff meetings? What if these were the foundation points for our in-service trainings?
What if we shared our commitment to this culture with the faith community at-large? What if we were so linked to these that everyone knew these were our values—and we lived them out?”
Our eyes light up. He makes a good point.
Before Paul leaves however, we have a skeptic who raises a hand. “But we’re about saving babies,” the skeptic says. “Can you guarantee these ideas will directly impact that number?”
Paul smiles again. “I don’t know. But wouldn’t it be fascinating to give it a try and see what happens?”