Looking for a Culture Fit? Ask These 5 Questions
By: Brian Jensen
You’ve likely heard it before, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Druker’s famous line rings true for just about every organization that exists--even more so for mission-driven institutions like yours. It’s crucial to establish and maintain a healthy organizational culture. Of course, there is no shortage of authors out there who can help you navigate doing this. Schein, Buckingham, Sinek, and our own CEO William Vanderbloemen (yes, little shoutout).
No need for me to take a deep dive into organizational culture right now, many wiser than I have done a fabulous job of it. What I do want to offer is a quick thought on how you can identify the right leaders who will fit your institutional culture at any level in the organization.
There are dozens of questions you can ask in an interview to gauge culture fit, here are five of my favorites.
1. How will your work contribute to our institution’s mission?
This should be a no-brainer for mission-driven Christian institutions. Your mission is what drives your strategy and operations. You need everyone on your team rowing in the same direction when it comes to fulfilling your mission. Asking this question gives you insight into two things. One, do they know your mission? They should if they are interested in joining your work. Two, can they see themselves contributing to that mission? Mission fit goes hand-in-hand with culture fit.
2. Describe your leadership practices.
I use the word “practices” very intentionally when asking this question. Most people can describe their “leadership style,” but I want to know what their leadership looks like operationally. Every single person at your institution is charged with practicing their leadership and influence. You need to know how someone will fit in that space and if they can lead well while contributing to the mission.
"Every single person at your institution is charged with practicing their leadership and influence. You need to know how someone will fit in that space and if they can lead well while contributing to the mission."
3. Name your three top passions in life.
You know your people and what makes them passionate about working at your institution. Make sure you know what a potential candidate is passionate about. Will their passions align with those already serving at the institution? Will they find like minded colleagues who are passionate about the same things?
4. How does the narrative of the Gospel influence your work and daily life?
This is an “ask always” question for me, but it also gives insight to culture fit. You certainly want team members who are committed to fulfilling your institution’s mission, but more importantly, you want people who are devoted to building Christ’s kingdom through their work. Assuming you have built a team culture that prioritizes this, you want to make sure you are inviting new colleagues into joining this common vision.
5. What are you currently reading?
It is always helpful to know who the influential voices are in someone’s life. It will be very insightful to know what books and podcasts are shaping a person’s work and life. Will these influences align with your cultural values? Will they resonate with other team members? It also lets you know if the candidate is actually currently reading something--which they should be.
Whether you are hiring a part-time coach, a library aide, or a new Head of School, culture fit matters immensely. Make sure you are paying close attention to how a potential new team member will fit your institutional culture. It will make all the difference. Connect with our team if we can help you hire the perfect candidate for your culture.