They say that culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Knowing where you are going and having a plan for getting there is essential, but who you journey with and how you work together on the way is vitally important.
Every team has its culture, the way it operates that embodies its purpose, values, and approach to operating.
As the Cadaniño ministry grew over the past years, we tried to be intentional about creating a culture that embodied the things we saw as essential to a ministry that served vulnerable children and families.
Here are some of the things that have come to define who we are:
We are all servants
While we all have the unique jobs for which we are hired, no job is more important than another, and we all need to be willing to step and help when a need arises.
Since the beginning, with Eduardo, our first teacher, we always worked alongside him on what needed to be done.
Jesus said in Matthew 23:11 that “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
To be a servant leader is to be a servant first as opposed to being a leader first. It means you must be willing to do things that are a primary benefit to others instead of simply a benefit to yourself. It means that no job is beneath you.
In many work environments, things typically follow the traditional leadership style of the person at the top of the pyramid accumulating power and control to move things forward.
While we do have an organizational structure, what makes it effective is not a person’s power but their willingness to serve in a way that empowers the team.
Since day one, we have always ensured that there is nothing we ask of our team that we aren’t willing to do ourselves. Teaching classes, sweeping floors, painting walls, or cleaning the toilet, everyone in a leadership position has done it. Working alongside our team members in challenging tasks has been key to encouraging them to do the same.
We share knowledge freely
The idea that what we know, we should share with others, has taken time to take root with our team.
Knowledge as power is a concept deeply ingrained in the world. One’s unique ability to do something gives them a competitive edge over others and makes them more desirable as a candidate.
Convincing our staff to cross-train their peers, as well as people in other organizations, did not come easy. Most of our staff are teachers, and the techniques they’ve developed in their years on the job play into how good they are at helping kids learn.
More than once, we were met with resistance when we asked them to train new staff as they were worried that by sharing their skills with others, they were devaluing themselves and making themselves dispensable.
But with time and patience, our team understands that when they teach others what they know, they make themselves more valuable, not less.
While all of our teachers are salaried employees, our non-profit doesn’t exist to make money or produce financial wealth. Its purpose is to inspire, assist, and empower those we serve to achieve their greatest potential with the gifts and abilities they have been given, thereby generating eternal wealth in the lives of the people we serve.
If we are going to give education and information to those we serve freely, why would we not also give it to those we work with?
With time, our team has understood that they are making the team stronger when they train a co-worker in something they know. They have realized that having someone who can do their job is incredibly helpful when they have an emergency and need someone to cover for them.
Also, when you teach someone else to do your job, it frees you up to do something else. The additional responsibility they have now and the administrative work they do is only possible because they have been able to hand off work and responsibilities to someone else that they have trained.
We also share the classes, programs, and materials we produce with other likeminded organizations free of charge so that the work we do producing quality tools, can be a blessing to as many as possible.
We communicate openly
Building trust so that people are willing to be open and honest is something that has helped strengthen our team.
No matter the situation, anytime two people work together, you will eventually have conflict or tension of some kind.
Differences of opinion, preferences, and personal habits all come into play when you have people working together for extended periods.
Being able to openly and honestly communicate when things get derailed is hugely important to getting things back on track.
When we are just starting to build out the teams at the Cadaniño centers, we would sometimes talk with our staff about doing something new; often times they would nod in agreement and then do something different.
Afterward, the response they gave was that they didn’t understand what we were saying or didn’t think it would work, so they just did something different.
Creating a culture where our team will share their honest opinions took a long time. We had to work alongside them, gain their trust, and repeatedly tell them that if they thought differently, to let us know.
When there is a conflict between team members, we take time to talk to them individually before bringing them together as a team to work through their differences encouraging them to approach each other in a spirit of humility and remembering that we all make mistakes.
At long last, we have team members who have learned to speak their minds freely while being considerate of letting others do the same.
We strive for excellence
Working towards excellence is another thing that has come to define our team. But understanding what excellence is, has taken time.
When asked what excellence is, most people reply something along the lines of “doing your best” or “constantly improving”. But that begs the question, in relation to what?
To know if we are doing well or working with excellence, we need a baseline. That means understanding what we are trying to accomplish, collecting data to verify what happens, and comparing the two.
We developed a system of defining the objective, planning our programs, communicating the right message to our constituents, tracking students’ progress, implementing periodic reviews, and improving.
While it took time to implement this process with our staff, the monthly reports they produce give us an accurate picture of how things are going which lets us know if we are moving towards excellence or away from it.
This process of striving for excellence in both our personal and work lives has been vital to helping the Cadaniño ministry accomplish its purpose.
Give now in a way that lasts for eternity
More Articles by Tim and Sharie Martiny
Take a look at all that God has accomplished so far this year in Guatemala through our ministry.
Read about the impact Cadaniño is having in the lives of students like Luis Miguel. It is nothing short of amazing.
How we help our students understand the love of God and what the Bible tells us about how to live it out in our lives.
We are missionaries in Guatemala with our six children, Julia-now is college- (19), Audrey (16), Vanessa (14) Jessica (12), Alex (10) and Alison (8). We both come from missionary families and were raised overseas, Timothy in Europe, and Sharie in South East Asia and Mexico.
We work primarily in orphan care and prevention. The Biblical call in James 1:27 to care for the orphaned and vulnerable is our calling. Our ministry works with vulnerable children and their families in their communities through programs we run at two community centers in Colina Santa Fe and San Jose Pinula.