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Green light culture

I’ve never worked in a completely green light culture, but I aspire to. In fact, I aspire to build it. Given the odds against us in this economy, you might be tempted to write us us off. But you’d also likely admit that you want to work in a green light culture yourself. Green lights are good I…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I’ve never worked in a completely green light culture, but I aspire to. In fact, I aspire to build it.

Given the odds against us in this economy, you might be tempted to write us us off. But you’d also likely admit that you want to work in a green light culture yourself.

Green lights are good
Imagine an organization that always seeks to bring out the best in its employees. An organization whose leaders delight in the gifts and passions their staff members have and want to see them fully expressed. A company that will encourage you to talk about your dreams and take a chance on you moving in the direction of reaching for them.

What would it be like to work for a company that was committed to you discovering and walking out your calling? Have you ever been a part of a company like that?

Green light culture is predicated on the notion that work can be represented by a stoplight.

Green light activities are those that fit you well. You get to do the stuff that you’re good at and that you enjoy.
Yellow light tasks are not as fun and you may not be as good at. But they have to be done and they’re part of your job.
Red light tasks are the ones you hate and may be bad at doing. Unfortunately, someone has to do them and they’re on your list.

A green light culture says that “people are more important than their jobs.” Knowing that she embraces the goal of maximizing the percentage of green light tasks, you can freely talk to your supervisor about what might be a better fit for you. You’re free to talk not just about how to get done your daily tasks, but also about your dreams.

The idea animating green light culture is that there is much more power in dreams than in reality. Most organizational cultures are organized around managing the reality they know as opposed to moving toward a hoped-for future. Most embrace the notion of a limited pie that needs to be cut precisely according to the specifications mapped out in job descriptions.

Last month I met an entrepreneur named Henry Kaestner. He started a company called Bandwidth that seems devoted to building a green light culture. Earlier in the year, I met David Kidder, who was CEO at Clickable. He seemed to understand the dynamics of these human issues in the companies he builds.

I haven’t seen it, but we’re trying to build it. I’d say that we’re about halfway there at Adventures. In some of our ministries, it’s already a strong part of who we are. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve proved it can work. The downside is that as we empower people to chase their dreams, they actually do so and have to be replaced. That’s what keeps happening in Kingdom Dreams. It’s produced a lot of fruit, but if God doesn’t keep supplying dreamers, then it won’t have the manpower to keep going.

Why is it that so few companies have a green light culture? There are a lot of obstacles in the way:

  • People have forgotten how to dream.
  • People want to be trusted before they have demonstrated trustworthiness.
  • If employees’ dreams don’t align with organizational purpose.
  • Green light culture is based on the idea of a big and growing pie. Many supervisors don’t believe in the idea of a big pie.
  • People have lost the art of empathy.
  • Employees don’t make space for dreaming in their lives.
  • Supervisors can’t think creatively about the future.
  • The transition to green light culture is messy – failure and cynicism en route are normal.
  • If the pie doesn’t expand when you believe it will, your critics can shoot your idealism down.

Add to that the problems of a declining economy and a workforce that is back on its heels protecting their jobs, and you have to wonder if the idea of getting to a green light culture is a pipe dream. With so many obstacles along the way, why risk it?

Reasons to dream
Here are a few reasons I am willing to keep dreaming that green light culture can be a reality:
1. My greatest stewardship is the lives and dreams of those I work with.
2. Yes, most dreams fail to become reality, but the ones that do succeed can change everything.
3. I’m a dreamer by nature and can’t help myself. I get lonely in a place without dreamers. I want to live in a place that’s friendly to dreamers.

Committing to the design of God inside a person is a righteous thing to do. Helping them sing the songs they have within them is one way to make sure your life is filled with music. I can’t imagine living any other way.

Comments (5)

  • beautiful. and interestingly, I was talking to God about a dream trip to Cali that I was thinking about taking and He said to me, “Green means go” and showed me a green light. Thanks for listening to Holy Spirit. This really encouraged me.

  • Who can ever forget Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I have a dream”! We are “such stuff” as “dreams are made on”. How true is this. My dreams keep me going on in my life and I will keep on dreaming till my last.

  • …because work and purpose the ‘rest of life’ don’t really fit in water tight compartments. It’s all connected and unless we are alowed our dreams we become ineffective and grumpy over time.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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