One thing I’ve noticed about most Christian teaching on work is that it is pretty thin. It essentially boils down to “work hard” and “be honest.” Those are very important things. But, to be frank, they aren’t very interesting. And, they don’t give guidance to the wide range of issues that the modern worker truly has to deal with.
Even more, they don’t address the fundamental issue that most people struggle with in their work: finding meaning and loving what they do. Many workers, including Christians, lead work lives of quiet desperation because they don’t know how their faith truly connects to their work. And one big reason for this is that much Christian teaching on work is just too thin and undeveloped.
So as I’ve been reading on management and work over the last few years, and developing philosophies and systems of management for where I work, I sought to develop a more robust theology of vocation in the workplace. There is much to learn from common grace and the really incredible research that has been articulated so well by people like Marcus Buckingham and Daniel Pink. But there are also incredible things in the biblical text itself that teach us about what it means to be an employee and manager — things which many people are not drawing out, but which are right there.
Some of the secular thinking (the good stuff — there’s also lots of bad management thinking out there) gives helpful words to what Paul is articulating in places like Ephesians 6:5-9; other aspects of the (good) secular thinking are consistent with biblical teaching, even though they may not be the only biblical way to do things (the Bible gives freedom within a framework, though some practices are more helpful than others, and ought to be pursued for that reason).
Tonight in our small group I sought to bring together a more robust set of thinking on work from a biblical perspective. Below are my notes for what I taught. I don’t say everything that could be said, I don’t draw out exactly how we should think about the interaction of correct secular thinking and the Bible (though it is important here and I have much to say on that), and I didn’t flesh everything out as fully in these notes as I did in our group discussion. (And, alternatively, we didn’t cover everything that is included here!) So if anything seems unclear or in need of expansion, remember that these are just my notes, and as such were primarily intended for myself. But I think they might also be more broadly helpful as well, and it makes more sense to post these notes now rather than wait until I have the time to turn them in to a set of more polished blog posts.
So, here they are, for any who are interested in a more robust Christian theology of work. I’d like to expand on some of these things at some point, and maybe delve even more deeply into this subject in my second book. But for now, here are some of my main thoughts on a more robust Christian doctrine of work. (You can also see my article “Management in Light of the Supremacy of God” for greater detail on many things touched on here.)
Two Core Truths from the Text
1. Eph 6:9: “Masters, … give up threatening.”
Here’s what this means: don’t motivate primarily by fear. In fact, don’t even motivate primarily by carrots and sticks—extrinsic factors. Cue in to the fact that in the verses right before, Paul exhorts slaves (= workers) to be intrinsically motivated (“doing the will of God from the heart,” etc.). Consequently, manage in a way that syncs with that. This means create the conditions that foster intrinsic motivation, rather than relying on detailed rules and telling people what to do. What does this look like? We will talk about that in the application section.
A corollary text here: 1 Peter 5:3: “Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Peter is addressing this to elders, but the principle applies to all leadership positions. It would be strange if elders were to lead this way, but everyone else is justified in being domineering to their people.
2. Eph 6:9: “Masters, do the same to them.”
This means: View your workers with respect and treat them as real people in the image of God who are more than just a pair of hands, but are also creative and resourceful and a source of ideas.
In other words, workers aren’t just to be ordered around. Manage to the whole person. Treat employees with respect, as valuable individuals in the image of God. No one likes to be ordered around or micromanaged. And that’s not just because it’s annoying. It’s because it’s out of sync with the way we have been created. We have been created in the image of God and thus people are creative and responsible, seeking to do good work and make a contribution. If you believe that about people, most will live up to it. And don’t let the few bad apples that don’t spoil it for everyone.
Underlying this is also the truth that employers ought to seek the good of their employees. For workers had just been commanded to “obey your earthly masters” — that is, workers should seek the good of their employer, should seek to make a contribution and put their employer before themselves, and should accomplish the objectives and tasks given them (but not only those tasks — workers are to be self-motivated, as the command to work from the heart and “render service with a good will” shows, and this means taking proactive initiative). So “obey your earthly masters” doesn’t just mean “be compliant and do the minimum necessary,” because that’s not how we would want to be treated — in the home, for example, we don’t want our kids to begrudgingly obey, but eagerly obey. It’s the same with the workplace (and, of course, Paul says this explicitly, as we saw, when he says to obey from the heart). “Obeying” your employer implies taking initiative, showing creativity, and at root being for the good of your organization.
Now, that’s cool and amazing (it’s a lot more enjoyable and interesting to be engaged in your work than merely compliant!). But here’s the really incredible thing: since Paul says to masters “do the same to them,” it follows that managers (and entire companies) are to be about the good of their employees as well. They should not see their employees simply as cogs in a machine, or workers to be maximized for company profits, but as valuable individuals worthy of respect and appreciation. And that respect and appreciation ought to be tangibly demonstrated through positive, empowering policies and a mindset of supplying employees with what they need to do their jobs well, and so forth. This isn’t a country club mentality, as we should have high expectations for our employees (which also serves them, because it challenges them to stretch and give their best selves). But when employees are treated well in this way, it is not only better for them; it is also better for the organization, because it produces greater performance. It is also less costly, because it reduces turnover (Chick Fil A example: their business model is underpinned by the Sermon on the Mount, and their retention rate is a stunning 97%).
Last point (though many more could be made): note the stunning implication here: “Do the same to them” ultimately implies treating your workers as you would Christ himself, for workers had just been exhorted to render their service “as to the Lord and not to men” (v. 7). Since masters (managers) are to do the same, it follows that they should treat their employees as they would Christ himself.
So, what does it look like to create a culture that fosters intrinsic motivation in people — a culture of engagement rather than compliance?
1. Trust people and have high expectations for them. Trust is at the heart of a healthy culture. Most people want to do a good job and want greater responsibility. If you trust them and have high expectations, people will generally live up to that. (Likewise, if you have low expectations and don’t trust people, people will typically live down to those.)
2. Make the vision, values, and top priorities clear, then allow people to find their own way to accomplish the objectives. This is most consistent with trust and creates space for initiative and autonomy, which are at the heart of motivation.
3. Lead from values, not rules. This, again, is most consistent with trusting people. Detailed rules say “you are not competent, and therefore we need to control you.” People will live down to that and not apply their extra initiative. But leading from values says “we trust you” and allows people to use their judgment and creativity. It also gives purpose, which is another of the core components of motivation.
4. Seek to extend people’s autonomy to the greatest possible extent. Managers should keep expectations clear, but within that framework people are to manage themselves. The manager becomes not a boss, but a source of help.
5. You see the implication of self management right in the text: Paul exhorts workers to be self managing when he says don’t obey by way of eye service or as people pleasers. In other words, do what you do because it is right, not just because you are told or to score points. And, doing this “from the heart” implies: take initiative. For that is what we do when we are doing something from the heart.
6. Individualize. If workers are in the image of God and thus to be respected, we should not seek to mold them to fit a highly standardized version of the role. The role is to be flexible, not primarily the person. Highly standardized versions of a role not only run over the individuality that each person brings and is a potential source of incredible contribution; they are also impersonal. People are personal beings by nature; there is no virtue in regarding “impersonal” as essential to the meaning of being a professional.
7. By the way, what is management? It is unleashing the talents of the individual for the performance of the organization. Individualizing and unleashing the potential of the person are not just good practices, but are intrinsic to the nature of management itself.
The results of this will be:
1. Motivation, because this syncs with the three components of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
2. People will grow because they are required to be responsible and exercise judgment. And this is critical because management is not only about getting things done through others, but developing people through tasks. Management is a matter of serving.
3. Greater efficiency, believe it or not. Trying to control people doesn’t scale. It also results in higher turnover, and kills the initiative that leads to great results.
4. Initiative and innovation. Again, this unleashes greater initiative and the best ideas of your people.
5. Employee engagement.
6. A strong workplace. (That’s not just a throw-away phrase; there’s great and specific meaning in what a “strong workplace” is that would be great to go in to sometime.)
7. An exciting workplace — a place where people want to work and enjoy their work.
8. Your people will be served and built up, and the organization will be served more effectively as well.
9. Failure to manage this way is why so many people want to retire, by the way. So many workplaces treat people merely as cogs in a machine. It’s no wonder people want to escape at 65. What a waste! I’m not saying retirement is bad — it can be a great thing to transition to a different type of contribution after a lifetime in the workplace. But far better to also manage our workplaces in such a way that people don’t want to retire to get away from the job, but rather retire because of the potential for a different type of contribution later in life.
- Management in Light of the Supremacy of God
- Avoiding the Bureaucratic Death Spiral
- The Tyranny of Corporate Computer Control
- Use Your Practical Wisdom
- The Harm in Multiplying Rules
- On Multiplying Rules
- Why Minimize Rules?
- When Rules Go Bad: An Example
A common job interview question is “what is your greatest weakness?” (Or some variation of it.)
A common response is to answer in terms of what you are bad at or tend to overdo (but often trying to give it a positive spin by making it seem the flip-side of a strength!).
That’s an unnecessary and unhelpful route to go with that question. The reason is that it misunderstands the nature of a weakness.
A weakness is not what you are bad at. A weakness is any activity that drains you. Or, in other words, a weakness is any activity that depletes you.
Understood in this light, it is not simply the most honest thing to give a straight answer, it’s also the most strategic because you don’t want to have a job that calls upon your weaknesses primarily (for you will be unable to excel and will end every day drained). What you want to do with your weaknesses is make them irrelevant by managing around them. Adjust the position so it doesn’t generally require you to do what weakens you, for example. Or find a partner who is strong where you are weak.
Given these things, here’s an example of a good answer to the question: “What is my greatest weakness? A weakness is an activity that drains you. Understood in this light, one of my greatest weaknesses is falling behind on email. If I let my email go for a few days, I feel like I’m under a pile of nagging, unfinished tasks, and it drains my energy. [Then, you go to how you have addressed the weakness and make it irrelevant:] As a result, I have a daily process for getting my inbox to zero, and I make sure not to skip more than a few days unless circumstances really call for it. I find that as long as I make it a priority to keep my in box processed regularly (which I have a system for), I don’t have to deal with the sense of being drained from a collection of unprocessed and unknown emails.”
Few people aspire to mediocrity. But they often drift into it because the temptation to cut corners and take the easy route is often not recognized. It’s not recognized because it’s often veiled in the advice to “be reasonable.”
But if you are going to be effective — that is, if you are going to truly serve people well (which is what effectiveness is about), then you can’t settle for being reasonable. You have to go the extra mile.
Here’s how Patrick Lencioni puts it in his latest newsletter:
If you’re not willing to do things that others would say are over the top, and if you’re not comfortable being criticized for being annoying and for having standards that seem perhaps just a little too high, then you’ll drift toward mediocrity.
And though no one would ever aspire to being mediocre, it is more tempting than we might realize.
After all, the majority of people out there will encourage us to take the easy route, because that isn’t threatening to them. They’ll support us as we justify cutting a corner here and lowering our standards there, because it isn’t reasonable to do anything more.
And I suppose that’s the whole point. Success isn’t about being reasonable. It’s demanding. It’s over the top. It can even be annoying. But it’s worth it.
To be blunt, taking measures at cost reduction is often a naive way of trying to increase profits. It’s not that there’s no place for it, but it’s typically first-level thinking that fails to see the big picture.
It’s like rent control in government: on the surface, it looks like controlling what rental properties can charge will keep prices down. But ultimately what it does is decrease the incentive for people to rent property, thus creating a housing shortage. This has been the well documented outcome in cities like New York and others, all over the world (see Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy for a great treatment of this).
The reason is that cost reduction measures often cut into the very things that produce the revenue for a company — including intangibles such as employee morale. (Yes, employee morale translates into revenue because it results in employees going the extra mile, treating customers better and more proactively, generating ideas that can enhance productivity and performance, and is even a more effective way to reduce costs because it reduces turnover.)
Here’s what Jeff Pfeffer has to say on this in What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management:
In case you haven’t noticed, in spite of the many rounds of wage cuts, the major airlines have continued to lose market share to the discount carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest and have continued to bleed money. . . . That’s because the solution management seized on — cutting workers’ pay — actually doesn’t do very much to make organizations more profitable and competitive or even, in some cases, to reduce costs.
Instead, cutting employee wages often worsens company problems. Hourly rates of pay simply don’t do nearly as much as most people seem to believe to determine a company’s — or even a country’s — competitive advantage. That’s because wage rates are not the same thing as labor costs, labor costs don’t equal total costs, and — in many instances — while it is n ice to be low cost, low costs and profits aren’t perfectly correlated either. . . .
The competitive success of airlines such as Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue depends on lots of things besides wage rates. For a start, it’s nice to be able to offer customers a product or service offering they actually want to buy. . . .
Virgin Atlantic Airways has consistently pursued a strategy of offering more amenities and better service for both its business-class and economy fares, and has generated a profit when other airlines have struggled. After further upgrading its business-class seats and service in 2004, the carrier reported a 26 percent increase in business-class traffic for the fiscal year ending in February 2005. . . .
In the automobile industry as well, profits depend on more than just costs. Profits are also affected by brand image and product design and quality, all of which affect how much people are willing to pay for a car.
There is much more to being profitable (or, for a non-profit, having the funding they need) than cutting costs and being efficient. Often, the things that are most efficient — such as making sure employees feel that they are valued and respected and treated well — appear inefficient at first. But that’s just a short-term perspective. In the long-term, these “inefficient” things are actually more efficient, because they are the best prevention of the truly large and inefficient costs of high turnover and low quality.
Isn’t it better to have fewer managers and a flatter structure?
The answer, according to both Edmondson’s research and the experience of Southwest Airlines as described by Jody Hoffer Gittell, is it depends on what the managers do.
If they just give orders and assign blame if things go wrong, you’re probably better off with fewer of them.
But if leaders actually help people coordinate and learn, more are better.
Good point. He continues:
The problem with having fewer managers is actually quite simple: since people have been taken out of the organization, those that remain have more to do unless something has been done to decrease the total workload.
And there are fewer people in the organization to ensure coordination, reflection, and learning. In order for leaders to act as coaches, there must be enough leaders to do the coaching.
Just as coaches help their teams perform better by standing on the sidelines and providing perspective and information that players in the thick of things might otherwise miss, so in companies it is useful to have people whose job responsibility includes learning, coaching, teaching, and reflecting, or else those activities won’t occur.
Here’s a very brief summary of the six core things Christ accomplished in his death.
Expiation means the removal of our sin and guilt. Christ’s death removes — expiates — our sin and guilt. The guilt of our sin was taken away from us and placed on Christ, who discharged it by his death.
Thus, in John 1:29, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus takes away, that is, expiates, our sins. Likewise, Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him,” and Hebrews 9:26 says “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath.
By dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we justly deserved. In fact, it goes even further: a propitiation is not simply a sacrifice that removes wrath, but a sacrifice that removes wrath and turns it into favor. (Note: a propitiation does not turn wrath into love — God already loved us fully, which is the reason he sent Christ to die; it turns his wrath into favor so that his love may realize its purpose of doing good to us every day, in all things, forever, without sacrificing his justice and holiness.)
Several passages speak of Christ’s death as a propitiation for our sins. Romans 3:25-26 says that God “displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of his righteousness at the present time, that he might be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.”
Likewise, Hebrews 2:17 says that Christ made “propitiation for the sins of the people” and 1 John 4:10 says “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, and propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath, reconciliation refers to the removal of our alienation from God.
Because of our sins, we were alienated – separated — from God. Christ’s death removed this alienation and thus reconciled us to God. We see this, for example, in Romans 5:10-11: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Our sins had put us in captivity from which we need to be delivered. The price that is paid to deliver someone from captivity is called a “ransom.” To say that Christ’s death accomplished redemption for us means that it accomplished deliverance from our captivity through the payment of a price.
There are three things we had to be released from: the curse of the law, the guilt of sin, and the power of sin. Christ redeemed us from each of these.
- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13-14).
- Christ redeemed us from the guilt of our sin. We are “justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
- Christ redeemed us from the power of sin: “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Note that we are not simply redeemed from the guilt of sin; to be redeemed from the power of sin means that our slavery to sin is broken. We are now free to live to righteousness. Our redemption from the power of sin is thus the basis of our ability to live holy lives: “You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
5. Defeat of the Powers of Darkness
Christ’s death was a defeat of the power of Satan. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 3:15). Satan’s only weapon that can ultimately hurt people is unforgiven sin. Christ took this weapon away from him for all who would believe, defeating him and all the powers of darkness in his death by, as the verse right before this says, “having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
6. And he Did All of This By Dying As Our Substitute
The reality of substitution is at the heart of the atonement. Christ accomplished all of the above benefits for us by dying in our place – that is, by dying instead of us. We deserved to die, and he took our sin upon him and paid the penalty himself.
This is what it means that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). As Isaiah says, “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities . . . the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6).
You see the reality of substitution underlying all of the benefits discussed above, as the means by which Christ accomplished them. For example, substitution is the means by which we were ransomed: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ’s death was a ransom for us — that is, instead of us. Likewise, Paul writes that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
Substitution is the means by which we were reconciled: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It is the means of expiation: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). And by dying in our place, taking the penalty for our sins upon himself, Christ’s death is also the means of propitiation.
To close: Two implications. First, this is very humbling.
Second, “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The most effective people make career choices for fundamental reasons, not instrumental reasons.
That’s one of the key take-aways from Dan Pink’s excellent book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.
Dan Pink’s book is excellent on two counts. First, it presents the material in a creative and engaging way: the book is actually the first American business book in manga. I was slightly familiar with this approach because the resource team at DG worked with some people a few years ago to adapt some of John Piper’s content to a graphic novel format. Dan Pink has done the same thing here, except to teach career principles.
Second, the content is helpful — and counterintuitive. Here are the six lessons of the book:
- There is no plan.
- Think strengths, not weaknesses.
- It’s not about you.
- Persistence trumps talent.
- Make excellent mistakes.
- Leave an imprint.
If I can, maybe I’ll do a series that briefly covers each of these points.
For now, here’s some advice for those who aren’t sure what to do next: make your next choice for fundamental reasons, not instrumental reasons.
Here’s how Pink explains it (via one of the characters in the book):
You can do something for instrumental reasons — because you think it’s going to lead to something else, regardless of whether you enjoy it or it’s worthwhile.
Or you can do something for fundamental reasons — because you think it’s inherently valuable, regardless of what it may or may not lead to.
And the dirty little secret is that instrumental reasons usually don’t work. Things are too complicated, too unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen [and note that this is biblical! Proverbs 20:24; 16:9; James 4; etc.]. So you end up stuck. The most successful people — not all of the time, but most of the time — make decisions for fundamental reasons.
They take a job or join a company because it will let them do interesting work in a cool place — even if they don’t know exactly where it will lead.
There’s the key idea. If you don’t know what you want to do next, do what you think is inherently valuable. You don’t need to know where it will lead. And, almost certainly, it will lead to someplace interesting, because, first, you already are doing something interesting (that was the point of your choice!) and, second, we are more effective when we are doing what we love to do.
And even if you do have a clear goal for where you want to end up (which is a good thing), don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will best get there by making a bunch of instrumental choices to do things you don’t really want to do, but which will “keep your options open” and eventually let you get closer to your interests. This approach usually backfires. Instead, have your large goal, but stay open to seizing unplanned opportunities to help get you there, and along the way seek to follow the path of doing what you find inherently valuable.
I’m excited about Crossway Impact, the new rewards program with Crossway Books.
I like this program because it not only offers readers several annual benefits, but also enables you to send 5% of the money you spend to a ministry of your choice. This is a helpful variation on the one for one idea, pioneered by places like TOMS Shoes (which gives one pair of shoes to someone in the developing world for every pair that you buy), because, in the very act of making your purchase, you are able to make an impact beyond your purchase.
So, way to go to Crossway for doing this. (And, if you can’t guess, I would suggest designating your 5% to go to Desiring God — but any of the ministries they offer would be a good choice!)
Here’s the description from the Crossway site:
Here at Crossway, we’ve been thinking of better ways to serve our readers and partner with like-minded ministries.
That’s why we’ve created Crossway Impact—a rewards program for readers who want to invest their resources wisely—buying books AND making an impact.
Crossway Impact is designed to reward our readers with the following annual benefits:
- 3 FREE books (choose print or e-books from a monthly list which must ship with a purchase of any amount)
- 25% OFF all your purchases on Crossway.org
- Free shipping on orders over $50
- Exclusive monthly offers
Crossway Impact also gives you an opportunity to make a difference with every book you buy by sending 5% of the money you spend at Crossway.org to a ministry of your choice. Now, ministries like Desiring God, The Resurgence, and Revive Our Hearts will benefit right along with you—a real win-win.
For the first year of the program, we’re making these benefits available to as many Crossway readers as possible by letting you determine the value of your rewards (worth at least $40 in free books alone!). The only thing you have to do is name your own membership fee.
It’s as simple as that.
Crossway Impact Members get a year-long discount, free books and shipping, special offers, and the chance to make an impact with every purchase. We hope you’ll join us by signing up today.
As we look ahead to Easter on Sunday, it is worth remembering that there is good historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Here’s an article I wrote in college (since posted to the DG site) summarizing some of the best of that evidence.
The article looks at three facts that virtually all critical scholars accept, and argues that the resurrection is the best (and only, really!) plausible explanation for them. These three facts are:
- The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
- Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
- As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.
Here’s what I find stunning: These are not three marginal facts. They include the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances. It is remarkable that the evidence for these realities is so good that even most critical scholars accept them. And, as I show in the article, if you accept these two realities, the only solid explanation is that Christ actually rose from the dead.
For further resources on evidence for the resurrection and Christianity, I would recommend William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Craig is one of the best apologists out there and gives a much more complete look at these facts in his book.
Of course the ultimate ground for our faith is not historical evidence, but the self-authenticating testimony of Scripture. But since the Christian faith is a historical faith, such that if Christ was not resurrected there is no Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:14), we should look at and be aware of the testimony of history. It is very encouraging as believers to see the strong historical evidence, and also helpful to share with those who are investigating the claims of Christianity.
The people that are most helpful in any organization are those who take initiative, rather than simply doing what they are told. What organizations need from their people is engagement, not mere compliance. (And, conversely, this is what makes a job most satisfying — being engaged, rather than simply seeking to comply).
This has implications for managers as well. If you manage in a certain way (namely, with a command and control focus), you incentivize compliance. But if you realize that management is not about control, but rather about helping to unleash the talents of your people for the performance of the organization, and that this comes from trusting your people and granting them autonomy, then you see yourself not as the “boss,” but as a source of help.
A manager is a source of help and a catalyst, not a limiter or controller.
Godin touches on this well in his recent post “Moving Beyond Teachers and Bosses“:
We train kids to deal with teachers in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to work on. Figure out how to say back exactly what they want to hear, with the least amount of effort, and you are a ‘good student.’
We train employees to deal with bosses in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to do. Figure out how to do exactly what they want, with the least amount of effort, and the last risk of failure and you are a ‘good worker.’
The attitude of minimize is a matter of self-preservation. Raise the bar, the thinking goes, and the boss will work you harder and harder. Take initiative and you might fail, leading to a reprimand or termination (think about that word for a second… pretty frightening).
The linchpin, of course, can’t abide the attitude of minimize. It leaves no room for real growth and certainly doesn’t permit an individual to become irreplaceable.
If your boss is seen as a librarian, she becomes a resource, not a limit. If you view the people you work with as coaches, and your job as a platform, it can transform what you do each day, starting right now. “My boss won’t let me,” doesn’t deserve to be in your vocabulary. Instead, it can become, “I don’t want to do that because it’s not worth the time/resources.” (Or better, it can become, “go!”)
The opportunity of our age is to get out of this boss as teacher as taskmaster as limiter mindset. We need more from you than that.
In John 15:5, Jesus says “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
What is the “fruit” that Jesus has in view here? Here is a helpful exposition of the text from DA Carson, from his The Gospel according to John:
There has been considerable dispute over the nature of the “fruit” that is envisaged [in this text]: the fruit, we are told, is obedience, or new converts, or love, or Christian character.
These interpretations are reductionistic. The branch’s purpose is to bear much fruit (v. 5), but the next verses show that this fruit is the consequence of prayer in Jesus’ name, and is to the Father’s glory (vv. 7, 8, 16).
This suggests that the “fruit” in the vine imagery represents everything that is the product of effective prayer in Jesus’ name, including obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 10), experience of Jesus’ joy (v. 11 – as earlier his peace, 14:27), love for one another (v. 12), and witness to the world (vv. 16, 27).
This fruit is nothing less than the outcome of persevering dependence on the vine, driven by faith, embracing all of the believer’s life and the product of his witness.
Marcus Buckingham, from First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently:
And what of the notion that “trust must be earned”? Sensible though it may sound, great managers reject it.
They know that if, fundamentally, you don’t trust people, then there is no line, no point in time, beyond which people become suddenly trustworthy. Mistrust concerns the future. If you are innately skeptical of other people’s motives, then no amount of good behavior in the past will ever truly convince you that they are not just about to disappoint you. Suspicion is a permanent condition.
Of course, occasionally, a person will indeed let you down. But great managers, like Michael, the restaurant manager from the introduction, are wired to view this as the exception rather than the rule. They believe that if you expect the best from people, then more often than not the best is what you get.
Innate mistrust is probably vital for some roles — lawyering or investigative reporting, for example. But for a manager, it is deadly.
Well worth thinking about, from What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management:
When companies get into financial trouble, they often slash wages, benefits, and staff.
That boosts cash flow in the short run.
But it also drives essential talent — and customers — out the door as service, quality, and innovation vanish.