By cultivating a culture of stewardship, your organization can strengthen its service of clients and colleagues alike.
C.S. Lewis said, “If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.” Work is a way of participating in God’s creation. Similarly, a business, whether profit or nonprofit, is more than a way to make a living; it is a way of serving people.
An organization’s culture is simply defined as the shared values and practices that align its employees. In other words, it is the glue that holds an organization together. The more a company’s leaders care about its culture, the more likely it is to be successful. Less successful organizations might struggle to define their culture, but they certainly have one (and it’s likely negative).
Christian business leaders should cultivate a culture of stewardship.
Innovest’s mission explicitly establishes such a culture: “We are not just an investment firm. We are stewards to our clients, professionals, and the community.” Pedro Arrupe, former Superior General of the Jesuits, popularized the description "men and women for others" for those following a Christian path. Stewardship is not only a concrete concept for all Christians, but a powerful culture for all businesses.
There are several reasons to promote a stewardship culture at your business:
- A collaborative workplace: employees who are men and women for others are great teammates. They strive for the best outcomes for clients and work well together because they truly care about each other.
- Low employee turnover: employees recognize the value that they add to the organization, appreciate the quality of their work friendships, and are proud to be at the firm.
- High employment demand: the firm develops a reputation as a great place to work that high-quality individuals want to join.
- Improved individual character: Monsignor James Shea, an expert on business and leadership at the University of Mary, has spoken on “linking Sundays and Mondays,” i.e., keeping character consistent throughout the week. Stewardship becomes a way of life and a key tenet of each employee’s character.
- Greater employee responsibility and accountability: it is easy to delegate when employees are eager to add value. Business owners (like me) often struggle with a desire to control, but when they finally relax their grip, stewardship culture takes over and creates a better organization.
TIPS ON CREATING A STEWARDSHIP CULTURE
A healthy company culture—a stewardship culture—won’t create itself. You need to be thoughtful and intentional about fostering a strong culture at your business. Here are a few tips:
- Flatten corporate structure: it is hard for entrepreneurs to relinquish control, which I know from experience. Consider forming committees and task forces to delegate responsibilities and gather disparate views. Employees thrive when given responsibility and accountability.
- Implement 360° reviews: teammates should formally review each other. The reviews should figure in to overall performance evaluation and compensation, especially bonuses.
- Celebrate small successes: “We Love Mondays at Innovest” is a weekly communication that I send to the entire firm, highlighting positive developments, especially great service provided to a client or a colleague. All employees, especially managers, commend exceptional performance. Awards and rewards are also given throughout the year for great service to others.
- Encourage philanthropy: consider forming a committee to determine service work on behalf of the firm and financial stipends to charities. Volunteering promotes team building, comradery, and a sense of accomplishment. In the last year, Innovest employees worked at homeless shelters, built trails, and painted houses.
- Prioritize character: make strong character the number one qualification for a new hire. If your firm has low-character employees, replace them. The best source of high-character candidates is your current employees, clients, and friends of the firm.
- Hire only stewards: when interviewing, look for multiple examples of stewardship in a candidate’s life. Be on the lookout for arrogance and self-centeredness.
- Demonstrate stewardship at the highest level: your organization’s leaders must be active in their communities. As an example, Innovest’s philanthropic mission is inner-city education. One area of outreach is our employment of four inner-city Arrupe Jesuit students through a work-study program.
- Build community in your firm: forestall any finger pointing between departments by fostering comradery across the firm. Innovest sponsors a weekly lunch for its employees, on the condition that they attend the whole lunch hour. A round-robin personal update helps keep up with each other, and work talk is verboten.
- Put family first: as an employer, you should acknowledge family accomplishments, encouraging your employees to attend their children’s events, even if they occur during the workday.
Billy Graham said, “Since the beginning, work has been a part of God’s plan for humanity. He created it. That means you can view the act of working as a gift.” The gift of a stewardship culture creates a healthier organization where customers are better served, and society reaps the benefits.