Late at night, in the year 1523—almost 500 years ago—a preacher and a business leader strike up a conversation in the lobby of St. Dunstan church in London, England. After taking an interest in each other’s worlds, they set out into the streets of London, passing the flicker of street lamps.
I live up the road from Whistling Straits, the venue for the 2015 PGA Championship, won by Jason Day among some incredible golfing performances on one of golf’s most beautiful courses. My extended family was involved as staff and volunteers. Many of our friends walked alongside their favorite golfers, celebrating the locale and taking joy in the beauty of their home region getting national attention. Many of us kept the radio or television on from beginning to end. Herb Kohler of the Kohler Co., and the visionary behind the championship courses and the high-end tourism in my area, made a few television appearances. He epitomizes a privately-owned family business deep into its fourth generation of leadership. A legacy like this is rare, but not quite so rare among the businesses and industries that line the western shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Kohler legacy is a standout among many families in my part of the world that endeavor for:
- A family legacy.
- The long-term.
- The well-being of employees and their families.
- Civic engagement.
- Land and facility stewardship
These values do not match well with much of the American business landscape. But consider the many companies that bolted into existence and disappeared with an eye on the short-term while these family-owned industries keep plugging along, changing more slowly and with a longer-term view in mind. Enron anyone? How about some investments in big box stores?
Family-owned businesses get it wrong all the time. They fail spectacularly too. However, if you care about these five values – values that can easily be anchored in Christian faith and living – then we might note that the best at demonstrating them come from multi-generation, family-owned, deeply-rooted businesses. Might this be because leaders are surrounded in a culture that they cannot escape, not even at the dinner table, not even when they go out to eat, and not even when the family reunion is passing out corn on the cob? Family members and friends might chafe at being swallowed up and not feeling like an individual, and yet, given time and the opportunity to learn how to lead, so often they return to bring that new generation of leadership with a freshened vision.
Companies like these are modern expressions of the Asaph’s prayer in Psalm 78:
I will utter hidden things,
things from of old—
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from our children;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power and the wonders he has done…..
so the next generation will know them, even the children yet to be born
and they in turn will tell their children.
If these five values call to you, deep in your bones, then get thyself to a Convene Team.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? ... So use every part of your body to give glory back to God..." Where does physical health meet spiritual strength? Here’s the skinny!
In biblical times, I’m not sure if there was much room for physical atrophy or poor diet. You had to walk everywhere, work the land, and the only fast food around was when you accidentally inhaled a fly. The Bible doesn’t offer a great deal on the topic other than at the fall of man, our bodies began to deteriorate, that we should take care of our temples, and gluttony kills possibility and life… all wise to note.
Today in our fast-paced, fast food world of minimal physical activity, it’s not just prudent, but a responsibility to evaluate how our physical condition affects our spiritual capacity to serve God and others. There’s an old saying that “the world goes to the energetic,” and although not entirely true, I began to wonder what all the spiritual gifts, talents and callings fueled by limited physical energy were doing, how little they were doing, and frankly if they were doing anything at all. I thought about how all these abilities God could use for His glory were immobilized by mental lethargy, limited stamina and a tired commitment. Standing to lose a few pounds myself forced me to consider how much those in my life were missing while I droned around in a food coma much of the time. My wife, family, employees, clients, friends and ministry partners were all experiencing a groggy, inconsistent, moody, semi-alert, half-committed “me.” I was a mess. So I changed my diet, dropped 25 lbs and am grateful I took the steps… as are others, especially my wife. If we really took to heart the call that God has on our life and truly considered the needs of those around us, we would be serious about what we put into our body and how we treat it. For when God calls, “go ye therefore,” He wants us in great spiritual condition, and He wants us to have the physical strength for the journey ahead and go far if He calls for that.
Another part of health/spirituality stewardship shows up in duration of life. It is estimated that those who ignore their health shave between 5-25 years off their life. It’s a little known fact that on average, Christians hit the peak of their spiritual maturity and effectiveness between 58 and 62. For those with health issues it means when Kingdom impacting maturity is nearing maximum potential, death or debilitating disease may be just around the corner. It’s no stretch to say that for Christians who gamble with an unhealthy lifestyle, 10 years of high-impact Kingdom opportunities are taken away because of addictions to unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles. Add to that the incapacitating effects of premature illness and the burden multiplies, not just with us and those we serve; we pull others out of their game as well, as they must sideline their vision to care for our dwindling health. This is not a health epidemic; it is a clandestine pandemic of self-centeredness, gluttony, complacency and resignation. Tough words yes, but to couch them (pardon the pun) would be a disservice. Honestly, I would be regretful if I didn’t address it with the forthrightness the subject deserves. Lives depend on it, relationships depend on it… as does our service to God!
The Big Question: Am I stewarding over my health for maximum Kingdom impact, blessing and fullness of life or am I living in physical deficiency and coping with it by calling it normal?
THE ANNUAL PEOPLE PLAN: A LEADERSHIP TOOL Talent Management: Why? Because it focuses on the most important asset – people – and can be the single most impactful factor for organizations in achieving their goals. Leadership must be able to develop its people to successfully achieve its goals.
Growing and successful organizations spend some leadership and management time on strategic planning: where they want to go, and how they plan to get there. They also spend a significant amount of time on their annual operating plan (AOP) or budget: how much will we need; where will we get it; how will we expend it. But few spend an equivalent amount of time on planning the best ways to manage and utilize their talent – even given that it is their talent that will be the key management factor to achieving the strategic objectives. My premise is that organizational leadership should emphasize an Annual People Plan (APP) as a necessary and equal adjunct to the AOP and to the business objectives.
Successful organization leadership practices stewardship: it is a biblical standard (I Cor. 4:2 ). That stewardship should also be evident in the managing of the organization’s talent: it is often the largest single expenditure in the annual financial plan and merits that level of attention. It is also true that talent can be the catalyst to maximize the leverage of other resources and plans most effectively and efficiently. Today’s workforce is asking of prospective employers, ‘what will you do to help me grow and develop professionally?’ It is an awesome responsibility to be encouraging and coaching employees to develop to their God – given potential. It requires leadership and support at the senior executive level. Leadership’s single most important responsibility may be ‘who do we let in the front door?’ The hiring process is key because the talent we hire will be the tipping factor in how well the organization achieves it goals. In addition, when we employ someone we as an organization have the responsibility for the professional – and related personal – growth and development of that person. It is ineffective to hire and then not to develop and nurture talent.
Performance management is already practiced by many organizations; it is, however, not talent management, though there is overlap. In the former we focus on job performance compared to job expectations over the past year; in the latter we look forward to identify the talent needed to achieve the organization’s goals and then build a plan to be certain we have that talent available and that we develop its potential.
The initial construction and implementation of an APP requires significant thought, work and energy. For most organizations it will be a major cultural change because its focus is new. Dealing with employee talent in a significant and new manner may be uncomfortable for many managers.
First, senior executive and human resource personnel must be the champions of the APP. They must believe in and be committed to the stewardship activity, participate in it and hold participants accountable for implementation and follow through. Depending on the size of the organization the APP may be led by only the CEO or by the CEO and one or two other executive managers. (Note that the CEO, too, must be a participant in the APP as it relates to his/her responsibilities and direct reports. In fact, because of the direct link between talent management and succession planning the board of directors – who are responsible for the CEO portion of any succession plan – should be strong encouragers of any talent management initiative).
The APP will have its best contribution to an organization’s growth and success if it becomes an integral part of the organization’s culture and DNA. That means continued support from senior executive management - the first 2 or 3 years are critical. It means integrity and involvement towards everyone touched by the process. It means using the APP results and plans whenever a new talent placement is considered. It should mean involvement by the board of the organization to assure proper talent at the senior level.
Many organizations recite the phrase, ‘our employees are our most important asset’; many do not know how to maximize the talent resident in those employees. The introduction of an Annual People Plan will be a significant beginning to grow the talent for the organization’s goals and to contribute to the personal and professional career growth of those employees.
All organizations want – need – leadership talent in place to face well the shifts in the world’s mission fields so that the mission effort can move forth successfully.
One thing I find interesting about a peer advisory group is how CEOs “play" together. Their behavior during an eight-hour Forum Day is indicative of how they interact in other relationships of their lives—both professional and personal. This is particularly evident when a member is seeking wise counsel by presenting to the Convene Team a business opportunity/challenge. Is a CEO member distracted by email and telephone, multitasking while thinking/saying he’s paying attention to the discussion at hand? Does she jump to solutions and give advice prematurely? Does he strive for deeper understanding of the issue behind the issue? Is she bored with the conversation, visibly disengaged? Does he enjoy telling/hearing his own “war stories” without regard for the others in the room? Does their sharing serve to sharpen the focus on the subject or does it derail the conversation? Do their statements reflect a true understanding of the person and subject?
I’m amazed at how often members are unaware or defensive of these behaviors. The Forum Day provides a place where we can speak truth with grace into other members' lives. That may include calling out behavior that is condescending, arrogant, defensive, prideful, unproductive, or offensive. When this is done in an environment of safety and love, the experience can have profound impact on the CEO's life. I encourage members to utilize and embed the processes they learn at Forum Day into their own meetings and conversations.
St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think;” and in verse 12:16, “Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.”
The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi asks, “…Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled to as console; to be understood, as to understand.”
As Christian business owners we are called to stewardship of our companies and employees. Our duties as servant leaders include listening to our people, seeking to understand their issues, working with them to find solutions, and in that process helping them to grow and excel in their work.