The corporate world is a dog eat dog world. There is severe competition, there is lack of values all around. There is corruption in many places. I do not want to start off in a negative tone. Some of us have the blessing of working in corporates which go by values, and some of us are not in that position.
Is it possible for Christians to excel at work place under these conditions? Can we live our faith at the workplace and still excel? These questions are all the more relevant today when persecution seems to be raising it’s head again, if we go by the stories coming out of Orissa and other places. Should we separate our work life and faith life?
Let me try and bring out just three key points in the limited time that we have tonight
- God expects us to excel in the market place.
We serve an excellent God !! I am sure no one on this call has any doubt on that fact. And God created us in His image. No one doubts that too. We have been asked to be Imitators of God.. So the hard question that all of us need to ask is how often do we reflect that excellence in what we do? How often can we look at our handiworks, our results and say “it is good”? If some one tells me this, I am sure I will start rationalizing. Hey..God did not have time constraints, God did not have Quarter end targets, God did not have budget controls, God did not have a boss breathing down his neck.. God did not have unbelieving colleagues to compete using unethical means… Well some of them are true, some of them are not. However the question is not that. The fact is that God did not want us to excel in ideal situations and in “Christian surroundings”. The New Testament has ample instructions for us to be convinced about this. 1 Peter 2:12 is the most explicit one. Live such good lives amongst the pagans so that they may see your good deeds and glorify God…” Note that even when Jesus prayed for the disciples, He did not pray that they be taken away from the world, but to keep them in the world but keep them safe from the evil one.
God also did not promise us that he will help us change the laws of this world. Actually the reality is quite different, the laws of the secular world will continue to be secular. All of us know the story of Daniel and the three friends, When Daniel was offered the food from the King’s table, Daniel did not try to change the rule, he asked the guard, what the objective was, and assured the guard that the objective will be met with vegetables and water, and the objective sure was met, and they were healthier than the others who ate the Royal food. Daniel did not try to “convert” the guard , but collaborated with the guard to meet the objective set by the king.
- God has SHAPEd us for excellence
Rick Warren, the well known author of books like “Purpose driven Life” and “Purpose driven Church” came up with this acronym for SHAPE, Spiritual Gifts, Heart or passion, Abilities, Personality and Experiences. Rick warren used this in the context of Leadership and I would like to borrow that for excellence at workplace. I am convinced that God has given us all the ingredients of SHAPE for excelling at workplace. How do I say this?
Let us take a look at .. on what I call as the Menorah Framework of Leadership Development or Menorah FOLD. Let us start from the outside. God expects us to bear fruits, if you have doubts on this statement, turn to your bibles and read John 15:8 and John 15:16. For me John 15:16 makes it very simple. I do not have a choice here, the moment I accepted Jesus Christ, I was signed up to bear fruit, because He chose me and sent me out to bear lasting fruits. Now the same principle applies at our workplace. The moment we decide to join a firm or an organisation we sign up to bring results for the organisation. That is why we are made part of the organisation. No one really produces results alone, by self, especially not in the current trend of knowledge industry. Those of us who are in leadership positions know this even more, we always produce results through people around us. If that is so, the way people feel to be around us will impact the results that come through them. Is it not? If you do not believe this common sense, there are enough research data in Harvard Business cases ( example: Litwin and Stringer; Motivation and Organisational Climate, 1968) to prove this simple truth. Next question is, what impacts the way employees feel to be around us? Again, a simple answer is, the way we behave. This simple truth is proven through Litwin and Stringer’s research too. So what makes us behave the way we do? There are two components to this. One is who we are, and the other is the situations that God places us in. Who we are, is again a complex combination of what competencies we have, and our personality. But at the core of all this is our identity. So the FOLD simply put, is this. Who we are, makes us behave in a particular way in a particular situation. The way we behave, impacts the way people feel to be around us, and the way people feel to be around us, impacts the results that we can produce through the people. Does it all connect up now?
So if we have to produce excellent results, we need to start at the core, which is our identity. All of us are born with a defective identity, we need to first accept that fact and take God’s help to shed the imperfect identity, and acquire the Christian identity that God has intended for us. Our identity is not that of slave but that of a son, and a son also becomes a heir. This realization is important for us while we live our faith in our workplace. In other words, we cannot have one identity for work life and another identity for faith life. This is our core and the core has to be the same. The moment we realise that we are co heirs to the Kingdom along with Jesus, our whole out look towards the workplace issues and challenges would change, and acquire a different perspective.
We do not attain the Christian identity in symbols or dress or the type of books we read, or the TV channels we watch, or whether we quote the bible in our discussions with everyone. There are a few things that help us to attain the Christian identity.
• A sense of Belonging (From Jehovah I came.. ); Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:7, Colossians 3:3, Romans 8:17
• A healthy attitude to ones death ; 1 Corinthians 15:55 ( I am not being negative here by bringing in the subject of death to a corporate type discussion. Our ability to live a Christian life at workplace will heavily hinge on this belief that there are things beyond this life that we need to be concerned about.)
• A willingness to confront Difficult issues..
• Estrangement in relationships
• Unwillingness to accept the fact that we are not just victims but agents
• The need to repent of any sins or lapses
• A Loving spirit that reaches out to others; 1 Peter 4:10
The difference that these four principles make to our workplace relationships is huge.
Once we accept and understand our identity, the next step is to understand and accept our personality. Now , some times personality could be a much misunderstood term. What I would like us to understand today is the fact that God has created each one of us in a very unique way. He has done that intentionally. Our uniqueness is not an accident, it is by design, His design!! Our job is not to question why God created us the way we are, our job is to accept that God had a plan when he created us the way we are. There are a number of tools that will give us a structured view of our personality. I am not saying that we essentially need the tools, but if you prefer to use some tools to find out our personality, it is very much available. Understanding our personality well will help us in completely surrendering ourselves to God, and not keep anything hidden from Him.
Understanding our own personality is the first step, we need to extend that understanding by accepting that others will be different from us. This could be our Bosses, our colleagues, our team members, our family members etc. This knowledge that God has created every one uniquely will help us to see things from the other person’s perspective and this enhances the quality of our relationships immensely, both at work place as well as in family and among friends.
This then, is the beginning of our journey to excellence, we need to go beyond this and get into our competencies ( Servant Leadership Competencies as demonstrated by Jesus is a great resource available to us), and then look into our leadership styles that impact our performance and excellence at work. We do not have time to discuss these in detail today.
I want to conclude this point here, before I pick up my last point for tonight. The key message that I want to leave here is that God has really SHAPEd us for excelling at workplace. He has given us the Spiritual Gifts required, He has given us a heart for excellence through His work, he has given us the abilities, he has given us the personality and he has taken us through different experiences in life. So we are SHAPEd for excellence by God
- God expects us to use the resources given to us
Having said all this, I am sure all of us have deficiencies, and most of us are aware of them. Some times we are aware of the deficiencies more than necessary. How do we convert al the Gifts and talents that God has given us into excellence? There is a very simple formula that I would like to propose. This is patented by me. “ Just do some thing with those”. Sounds simple enough? I do not want to oversimplify this. The bible is full of reluctant leaders, Leaders like Moses, Like Gideon, Like Peter. There are many of them who doubted their capabilities, or focused on their shortcomings, and God’s message has been consistent. Moses cried out to the Lord when he was standing between the red sea and the Pharaoh’s army. Lord why me? What can I do now? What do I have , to save the people whom you entrusted to me? And God asked, Moses, What is in your hands? Moses said, just a useless wooden staff Lord, and the Lord said, just use the staff.. hold it over the waters…and you know the rest of the story. Jesus’ disciples were worried that they had nothing to feed the multitude of people who were listening to Him intently. They said he had to send them away, because they did not have enough. Jesus asked, the little boy “what do you have ?” he gave his two fish and five loaves of bread to the Lord, and we know the result?
So , today, the Lord is asking us not what we do not have? He is not interested in what we do not have, ( He already knows it), He is interested in what we do with what we have.
May I encourage all us to know that
- The Lord wants us to excel
- He has SHAPEd us for excellence
- He expects us to use the resources that we have already got.