The following is my letter to high achieving Christian business leaders. It is intended to help provide perspective and insight as you travel this road. For those of you who do not share a Christian belief, I encourage you to read through it and filter out my faith based insights :-)
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Dear High Achieving Christian Business Leader,
You have done well.
When I look around the organization you are stewarding I see one which is thriving together in many ways. The people, the culture and the excellence is exciting to see. Behind each desk is a great person. One who is making a difference in the lives of those around them.
As you learn to become the leader you envision, prioritize God at the beginning of every day. When we start our day with God in prayer and reading His word, we fill ourselves so we can pour out into others. Consistently pray for yourself, your leadership team, vendors and your customers. There is no lack of those involved in your life to pray for.
Prioritize people when it means you can’t achieve your goals. We are accepted as we are and when we cannot perform, it does not change our standing. Set aside your achievement and adopt a mindset of stewardship. While stewarding, let people be your primary concern. Be willing to invite them in and let them go when their time is done.
As we look to improve from a place of abundance, let's slow down. The sense of unending urgency to arrive at our destination causes undue stress to our team. Let your team know what is driving you and be willing to slow down for others to catch up. Your team wants to please you and make you proud. Give them the time to do so. Acknowledge them and what they have done. Let the time you talk about the problems you see be proportionate to the larger picture and not just what you are focused on.
Let’s establish rhythms of rest. Take breaks along the way. We want to have steady involvement, not a jump from all in, to all out. This consistent jumping behavior can be destructive to those around us.
Sprinting a marathon burns us out and is not sustainable. You are a pioneer, and you tend to run ahead of everyone. In some ways this can be great, but we need you to come back and guide us forward to where you go next. Ask us if we need a break as many of us want to keep up but struggle to do so.
There is an intense exercise group I have participated in.Their normal workout is advanced by my standards. During both times I have participated, it was impossible for me to keep up. Everyone was supportive and gave me permission to go at a pace I was able. They let me know we were not competing. The precedent was well set for me to do my best regardless of how everyone around me appeared.
Once we got started, there were two dynamics I experienced while participating in this group activity. The first dynamic was from one of the fellow workout participants. He constantly encouraged me when and where I needed it. He provided reassurance I was doing well even when by comparison, I was doing horrible. It was very encouraging.
The second dynamic was from the trainer. While he gave me permission to achieve on my standards, some of his behaviour and words contradicted this permission. Struggling to finish an exercise even by a beginners standards, he pushed me to keep going. Unfortunately, he pushed me in a way that I felt bad about not being able to go further, and his words discouraged me.
These are the moments I started comparing myself to others. For someone less confident and anchored in their identity, they could very easily start this program and leave because of this second dynamic.
Pace yourself and help others to do the same. Let them know it is alright for them to be where they are. We all grow in different ways at different times and places. Learn to meet people where they are and help them along.
When the team is not performing, take responsibility for it first. Acknowledge you may have not done everything you could for them to succeed. Eliminate any and every reason anyone may have to fail. At this point it will be clear when they choose not to succeed.
Deal directly with those around you. Don’t agitate them until they burst in anger or frustration. Instead be accountable and hold others accountable. Show mercy and compassion when others are clearly at fault. Help pick them up and carry their burden together.
Spend “non work” time with your team. Talk about their lives and what matters to them. There will be some people you give more time than others, but be intentional about it. Fill the time you will have when you jog a steady pace of work to spend time with your team, your family, and others God brings into your life.
Think of your team and yourself as students and teachers. We all have things to learn and things to teach. Learn to be good at both.
Take the time to communicate what is in your head. Write it for yourself and share it over time with others. The more important stuff can be formally communicated.
When you communicate with others, set the expectations to those who are listening on what and how you are communicating. Let them know what you expect from them in response.
Learn to rely on sound reasoning and your relationships and less on your words and charm. In basketball, a young player can rely on his athleticism to perform at a high level. Unfortunately, as we age our bodies decay and for the athlete, so does their athleticism. Over time, bad players are exposed and great players are elevated.
Instead of relying on this confident visionary speak, we need you to communicate clearly, direct precisely and bring the team along. In addition, be willing to let go of your way of doing things and embrace a collaborative effort.
You don’t need to have all the answers. It is ok to not know everything. Set aside your pride and know you won’t be ousted. In fact your team wants this. If you are not the expert of everything, it means they can be an expert and authority for you. Honestly, if you live in this place, the burden is shared when you are not expected to know it all.
Get out of your bubble more. Explore other organizations you aspire to be like. Meet other business leaders and team members. Attend events and get connected with others. Expand your perspective. Meet new people, and maintain relationships with people you do know. Get involved in the industry. Embrace the entire journey of this experience and bask in the joy which comes from honoring God and loving people. Be a face and light of your organization.
Ultimately, reflect God’s love to all those around you.
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Thank you Samuel Rasmussen for helping to make this blog post better.