Organizational culture through common language

Keith Howard, Circle of Care

Circle of Care has been around for more than 100 years. Part of my tenure as a leader is that I want us to be around for another 100 years. If we’re going to do that, I need to be very focused on building a solid foundation.

Among the different challenges we’ve faced and tackled as a part of that, first and foremost was culture.

That’s a buzz word that we like to throw around. We say things like, “Oh, we need more culture.” But what does that actually look like? For us, it was creating common language that helped us focus.

First, one of the things we talk about often in our organization is that we take care of each other so we can then take care of others. It’s not that we don’t want to focus on our clients and impact our kids. But if I don’t take care of the people that are impacting those kids, young adults, and single moms, then I’ve failed as a leader.

When I first arrived at Circle of Care, I felt like we had multiple teams. We had the team that ran our single mom program. We had the team that did young adults. We had the foster care team. We had the admin team.

In reality, we’re one team! So early on in my tenure, I started using the hashtag #teamcircleofcare in emails, social media posts, and other places.

I’ll be honest, the first few times I used it, I worried that people were thinking, “That’s a real millennial thing to do.” I thought they were going to laugh at me. But I did it anyway! There’s a clear focus behind it. And now our team is saying, “Hey, we’re one team. We’re a collective group of people moving the organization forward.”

The second priority was our mission statement. Now you may say to yourself, “We have a mission statement. People should already know it.”

Mission statements are cute things we put on the wall, on business cards, and on our website. But do we really live it out?

So I took the cornerstone of our mission statement and created another hashtag. Our mission statement is “We provide Christian help, healing, and hope,” and the hashtag I created is #helphealinghope. It’s on almost every social media post and email I send out.

Now it’s our litmus test for asking if things fit our mission. Should we be doing this? Does it provide help? Does it provide healing? Does it provide hope?

Having a common language drives an organization forward. Different languages disrupt an organization. Are you using a common language in your organization to establish your foundation for the next 100 years?

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