Through a chain of unusual events I have recently found myself in the midst of a “movement” within our area as it relates to business and schools. I have been contacted by local colleges and universities to explain the success of the business whom I serve as President. In the midst of a down economy we have seen double digit growth and our employees are happy and engaged in what they do. Business leaders and leaders of business schools are recognizing there has been a shift in the workforce in our country. I wish I could say this was a positive shift but it is more negative in nature. Under performance, little motivation and unengaged seems to be the norm. Employees are working only to make it to the weekend so they can enjoy life for 48 hours. With the sluggish economy there is even more dissatisfaction as workers are reluctant to “rock the boat” as there are few jobs available to replace the one they have. This environment breeds mediocrity and a culture of lifelessness.
With more work being offloaded abroad business leaders are looking for ways to increase productivity to stay competitive. All types of quality systems, lean processes and other programs are being implemented in order for the business to be more profitable. As I reflected on the challenges of business I can see the same thing with our American Church culture. People are lethargic, uninvolved and not sure if the commitment is worth while. Pastors are leaving the ministry faster than coming in. They are discouraged and the congregations are waiting for some “new” innovative wave or program to take them to the next level.
This brings me back to the movement I referred to earlier. Our business implemented a character training initiative nearly 8 years ago. As the culture of our business began to develop and change we were recognized by area leaders and educational organizations. Leaders began to observe our training and show great interest in what we were doing. As I reflected in our culture change, as we taught and modeled simple character traits, I wondered why was there so much interest and why does this training seem to make such a positive difference?
Then it occurred to me, in the midst of looking for better technology, faster methods of production and leaner processes we had missed one important factor of leadership. CARING. Yes it’s that simple. An authentic concern and heart felt compassion for those you have been entrusted to lead. The real question is “Do you love the people more than you love your organization?” If the answer is yes, people will follow you and will be engaged to help meet the organizations objectives and goals. The beautiful thing about caring is you can’t fake it. God has given us this inherent truth that can discern when someone truly cares opposed to someone giving us lip service.
I’ve learned that our character imitative led us down the path of learning to care for our employees at a deeper level. This has produced a “family” environment and an organization that produces at a high level. Caring can’t be mandated and really can’t be taught. It’s a decision we must make based on our value system. We care about what we value. Looking into my own life and learning from my own mistakes I have come to learn that people are not a tool to meet my objectives. They are not equipment, but living breathing God like creatures with emotions and needs. When we humble ourselves before God and recognize that without a creator who is madly in love with us we could never learn to love or care for another.
This challenge is not unique only in business. You would think our church environments would be the safest place to be cared for and loved. However, some of the deepest wounds I suffered have happened inside the “sanctuary of love”. I have grown to learn these are just leadership issues and forgiveness is the key to moving forward. As a leader myself in business and in the church I can say I have made the same mistakes. It’s our natural Adam inclination to blame someone else for our own shortfalls. We think it’s the people around us that have caused the tension, strife and apathy. When in fact it might be our employees and congregations are simply crying out “does anyone REALLY care?”
By Toby Lavine