I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday. We sat together after church and just talked for awhile about the workplace and the dynamics of it. We talked about some of the challenges we face in the culture of a workforce and how the structure of management impacts the environment. It was a good talk. It was a very good talk.
The culture of the workplace is made up from several factors: the work itself, the people doing the work, the history of the people doing the work, and the people tasked with managing the work and the workforce. It requires a formula that takes the right amount of each of these and blends them together in hopes of creating a successful organization. When the mix is right, things go well, when it is off, well, we can all tell a story about a place we worked that didn’t get it right.
I started my first “job” at the age of 11, so, I guess you can say I have 31+ years in the workforce now, and while I don’t think it makes me an expert, it does give me a right to speak with some knowledge on the subject. In that time I have been self-employed, worked for a family business, a small business, a small corporation, a regional corporation, a national corporation, and a global corporation. I have been the new guy, the veteran employee, the shift manager, the area manager, and a director. I have worked by myself, with a group, managed a couple people, managed 20-30 people, and ran an entire store. I have been paid by the hour, by the job, by commission, and by salary. I have worked for great people and for people that I honestly would like to never see again. I don’t really remember what it feels like to not work.
As my friend and I shared stories of top-down management and the ever-present dance of avoiding and assigning blame, I began to really think hard about what it was that made some of those managers great and some of them so “not-so-great”. We have each experienced how “things roll downhill” and how sometimes the best thing you could say about your day is that you somehow managed to avoid the splatter when it all hit the air circulation apparatus. As the day wore on and into today, I have not been able to get it out of my head.
My friend asked me at one point why there does not seem to be a real focus in the Church (in general) on teaching men in leadership positions the importance of this kind of stuff. We are taught to lead at home, how to lead our families, how to lead at church, and in other areas, but how do we lead in the workplace as godly Christian managers? We are taught to be honest, to be focused, to be kind, to have goals, to pursue excellence, but how often do we really hear how to be a good, godly manager of people?
Looking back, I can see a lot of mistakes I made over the years, and I can tell you what the root problem was in each of them. It is a common mistake among managers. The mistake most of us make is when we start making the job or the goal the most important thing. In that moment, we lose sight of the most important part of any business or organization – people.
I’ve been very fortunate to have access to some great leadership training through my work over the last few years, and I have also been blessed to have a great mentor and his wife that have poured their years of experience in to me as well. In the combining of these two areas of education, I am starting to see how putting the focus on the people – in the right way – can bring about a better culture for working, and through that, a better result in the work.
People are the most important thing in the workplace. It is not the time schedule, the sales goal, the quota, or the records. It is the people. You can’t achieve any of those things without people, and usually the reason you are doing things in the first place is because at some point you are doing them for people. Stop and think about that for a minute. Every day at work you are doing something with people that results in doing something for people. If you think about it like that, then you can’t help but notice that people are the common denominator!
People walk into our offices, not problems. People need time from their managers, not orders. People need to be heard, not surveyed. People need to be cared for, not delegated to. I’m preaching at myself a little here…
This isn’t a new concept. Christ came to take care of the most important thing He had created – people. He came to serve them and to be a sacrifice for them, and as His follower, I am called to do the same. Christ gave of Himself to teach His people, to care for His people, and to protect His people. Sometimes even from themselves.
I have a fine crew of people that “work for me.” In truth, I have a group of people that serve the people in our community by working to keep their environment clean and safe. They aren’t working for me. They work for people. My responsibility is to work for this crew and to care for them so they can do what they are there to do! My job is to care about their home life, their dreams, their emotions. To care about them!
Relentless Living is not something you just do at home and at church. It is something you do every day, wherever you are, and when God places you in a position of leadership, you have a responsibility to lead as Christ led. He was perfect in it, and we are not, but we have His example to learn from and follow.
Christ had a mission. He came to settle our debt and to conquer death. He could have done it without making disciples. He could have done it without coming as a baby. He could have done it without healing people. He showed us that while the mission and the goal is important, it is done best by helping people along the way.
I’m going to be giving this more thought. What can the Church do to better equip us as leaders and managers? I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but I know that it needs to revolve around people. I guess we will see where God leads… I’m kind of excited about the trip!