From INHERITANCE Issue #4 - Winter 2009
I have told many young professionals the age old grass metaphor with a twist, “Be careful — the grass always seems greener on the other side ... until you get over to the other side and find that it is artificial turf!”
However, in our quest to grow the business and become a market leader in our segment, we nonetheless, found ourselves in the exact same predicament. Over a five year span from 2002 to 2007, we went from less than 100 employees to over 600 employees, from a small family business managed by my wife and I to a company with over 20 shareholder groups and a seven-member board.
Instead of developing new customers, new products, and growing our team, which has all been my passion, I found myself tangled in a web of board factions, dueling shareholders, and the cold hard fact of a depressing economy that was severely impacting our company.
As the days went on, we were spending an overwhelming amount of time managing the “noise” around us and unable to focus on the business and its objectives. The shareholder groups and the board were polarized into three distinct camps, rendering the company and management in neutral. Plus, the economy was spiraling downward.
We began spending over 80 percent of our time “shuttling” between the different camps and appeasing the different shareholder groups. As burdens became heavy and rhetoric became personal, we grew bitter and began to lose focus. Yet, we knew we couldn’t keep up with this charade or the business would suffer irreparable harm.
Though my wife and I would come before God and pray for wisdom and new doors to be opened for us everyday before we would go in to work, we still felt so helpless and clueless about how to get out of this predicament. One evening, after another marathon day of stress and uncertainty, I got on my knees and just completely broke down before God.
I cried out to God with flooding tears of total desperation, but out of my mouth I was merely muttering, “Father, help us. Lord, save us. These are your children.” After what seemed to be hours and making a mess of myself, I finally got up, washed my face and God led me to Psalm 20:
1May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. 2May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. 3May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah 4May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. 5We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. 6Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. 7Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. 9O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call! (NIV)
As I was reading this, once again, tears came streaming down my face. But this time, it was tears of thanksgiving. My heart was filled with thankfulness knowing that God was still here with me. I promised to trust in my Lord and not let go of Him.
Leaning on Brothers
During this time, I had regular Friday morning coffee meetings with two very successful brothers from our church. Typically, we each shared our weekly challenges; they had very sympathetic ears to my grievances. But this time they became more firm in their counsel to my issues. They both told me to get back to the basics and asked me if I had the faith and the means to turn the business around. If I could work within the means and rely on God’s provision for the turnaround, then the “noise” would subside and solution would come about.
I must admit, at first I resisted their counsel. I told them, “No, we still really need to try to resolve the funding, shareholder, and board problems first. Otherwise, any work we do will be futile.” But these brothers did not let my clouded vision and stubbornness deter them. They kept speaking truth to me in love. The Holy Spirit continued to prod me and remind me that this was the right path.
Weekly, though they were from different industries, they kept me accountable by making sure that I stayed on course and remained focused on the business objectives.
My complaints and grievances were replaced by action plans and key performance indicators. Miraculously, through God’s provision, and the sacrifice and hard work of all the dear company co-workers, our sales turned profitable despite trying times; it remained profitable for five straight months.
As a result, the “noises” diminished and all the factions came to the negotiating table. God also provided a miraculous resolution that was satisfactory to all parties in just three short weeks. Although I try to illustrate an outward result here, Romans 5: 3-5 would best sum up our spiritual walk:
3 … but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)
As leaders we must remain focused on our goal in the best of times and even in the worst of times, and it must be clearly communicated to everyone throughout the organization. This is necessary not only for the best interest of the leader, but also for all those following the leader. At the same time, we can’t let our ego or “face” get in the way of seeking counsel from wise Christians that God has surrounded us with.
Be honest with oneself, know what you are lacking, and then ask for help and counsel. As long as we keep an open ear and open heart, God will speak to us either directly or through His servants.
Structural Integrity ... and Humility
In addition to seeking advice during times of crises, a leader must be vigilant in the continuous development of one’s organizational structure, based on the people.
In 1 Corinthians 12, God used Paul to remind us that we have to submit all of our works and gifts to our Lord because a leader is only one part of the body. Therefore, a Christ-centered leader must first submit his or her position to the Lord and then honestly examine how all the parts of the body can come together for its entire body’s benefit.
A structure recognizing the weaknesses of the individual parts and allowing the strengths of other parts of the body to complement these weaknesses is crucial to not only the day-to-day operation of the entire organization, but also its long-term health. The structure should be reviewed continuously, modified and overhauled when needed, with all the members in unison under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
So if a leader is no more than just one part of the body, then the leader must realize he or she cannot be the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and all the extremities of the body at the same time! Why is it that so many leaders in the secular and non-secular world are trying to do everything, be everywhere, and rescue every situation all at the same time?
In many groups, it seems routine to have leaders just swoop in, take charge, and get things done themselves. But, this is not God’s principle for us. Going against God’s principle, may have temporary advancements, but will not have long-term success.
In Acts 6, when Stephen and six others were recognized, chosen and entrusted to tend to the daily needs of the congregation, the apostles recognized that they themselves best served the body with their continued vigil on prayer and ministry of the Word. The apostles then laid their hands on the seven disciples in public and empowered them to serve the needs of the congregation.
Following in the apostles’ example, leaders must allow and trust each “part of the body” to do its part. Therefore, the main part of a leader’s job is to communicate, facilitate, and motivate the different parts of the body and continue to move the body forward in a cohesive manner.
Trusting in God’s Plan
In retrospect, I believe we can apply Philippians 3 in both our spiritual walk and our professional careers:
13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Leaders must stay focus on pressing toward the goal and influence others to do so as well, whether the goal is Jesus himself or what our Lord has entrusted to his stewards.
As Christians, Christ is our leader and we must trust the plan He has for us. As leaders we must carefully listen to His plans and allow God to use us to develop more people for His Kingdom. He is the author of the stories of tomorrow. As long as we continue to let Christ be the central character of our story and have faith, the storms will subside.
The article was published from INHERITANCE Issue #4 - Winter 2009.