However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24 (NIV)
Where do you plan to take your business? What’s your exit plan? What will be your legacy as a business leader? In other words, how are you going out?
Some of us start businesses with a goal of maintaining an enterprise that can be operated for years to come and passed on to future generations in the family. Others start companies with the ultimate goal of attaining an IPO, selling the business, and moving on to another exciting venture.
A comprehensive exit strategy benefits you as well as your employees, investors, and constituents. It encourages you to give careful consideration to how your business will evolve and grow, and it forces you to establish succession strategies and a timetable for key targets and milestones. The section of your business plan, in which these strategies are outlined, is called the Exit Plan.
I recently had the honor of serving as a keynote speaker for Harvard Business School and one of the principles that I reinforced with their leaders is that it is important to realize that the legacy of your business and your legacy as an individual are inextricably connected.
You may already have an exit strategy for your business, or you might not have given much thought to one - - let alone considered its importance within a spiritual context. Don’t worry. Now is your opportunity to transcend beyond conventional perspectives of simply having an “exit plan” or “exit strategy” to actually establishing a divine exit plan for your life’s work that honors God.
Before we proceed, it’s important that we make the distinction between two commonly intertwined concepts: legacy and inheritance.
Legacy versus Inheritance
I like the way John Maxwell compares and contrasts the concepts of legacy and inheritance in The Maxwell Leadership Bible. He states that anyone can leave an inheritance. An inheritance is something, such as money or material possessions, you leave for your family or loved ones that may bring temporary happiness but fades as it is spent or used. On the contrary, he defines a legacy as something that you leave in your family, such as spiritual values, that permanently transforms them and lives on long after you die.
As Christians, we are called to manifest God’s glory on the earth so that His will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). We are chosen by God for the High calling of priestly work
(1 Peter 2:9) and called to radically transform the world. For those of us who are planted in the business arena, the commercial marketplace is one of our target domains.
God is not only concerned about you getting into heaven, but He’s also concerned about you getting heaven into the business world. As Christian business leaders, we are to bring heaven to the earth in general and to the business world in particular. So, how do we, as His ambassadors in the workplace and the marketplace, accomplish this?
Following are three (3) principles to support you on your journey of leaving a positive, lasting legacy.
- Be a Business World Changer.
- Leave a Spiritual Legacy in the Commercial Arena
- Realize that your history is actually a part of His Story.
Be a Business World Changer
As business leaders, we often think about the challenging and changing business environment we face, but we seldom think about how we should be challenging and changing the business environment we face in profound ways. Commit to challenging and changing the business world. Don’t let the business world change you in a negative way. Apply your Biblically based convictions to the commercial arena and become a true business world changer.
Don’t just seek to be successful in your profession just to benefit yourself or your family. Seek to benefit and be significant to future generations for the glory and kingdom of God. God told Abraham: “I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2, NIV). In this way, God’s plan wasn’t just to bless Abraham as an individual, but it was to bless him so that he could also be a blessing to others. Likewise, our blessings are not just for us and our families; they are also for others—our colleagues, employees, customers, clients, suppliers, and other associates.
Leave a Spiritual Legacy in the Commercial Arena
Make sure your pursuit of professional success reflects your spiritual obedience to God and not just your own egocentric desires. We’re not in business just to make money, be happy, and die. Make your business and ultimately your life count. Let them serve as blessings to generations of people who come after you so that they too may know God and walk in purpose. Vow to leave a spiritual legacy in the commercial arena.
The Bible says that David served God’s purpose for his generation and died (Acts 13:36). How are you using your God-given abilities and talents to serve your generation? In what ways are you storing up blessings for future generations? As God’s sons and daughters, we must be committed to leaving positive testimonies and life-enhancing legacies.
Your History is a Part of His Story
Jesus says that just as God sends Him, He, in turn, sends us (John 20:21). This means that our stories become joined with God’s bigger story as we serve as His ambassadors. So, your history is a part of His Story.
The greatest legacy of all is the knowledge of God (Philippians 3:8; Psalm 78:1-8; 3 John 1:4). This knowledge of God blesses others while they are on earth and once they transition from this life. While they are on earth, their relationship with God gives them innate joy! Joy irrelevant of a spouse, house, career, car, tax bracket, and social status. And, their relationship with God offers ultimate salvation and eternal life.
The Bible says that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, or his grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22). But, let’s go deeper. I challenge you to think beyond your own family lineage and bloodline. One of the greatest gifts that we as Christian business leaders can give God is a generation of future business leaders who know Him and who understand the importance of connecting their business plans with God’s purpose and plan for their lives. Because, ultimately, we want to hear God declare: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21-23, NLT).
Imagine dog sledding in Canada for the very first time. You're holding onto the back of your sled for dear life as you whip around steep curves at lightning speed. Up ahead of you is a sharp turn and you notice that your sled is teetering on the edge of the mountain. You are riding the thin line between falling off the mountain and creating momentum behind your dogs. This was my wife and my experience when we went to Canmore, Canada a few years ago. We had a dog sledding adventure—a first for both of us. (I highly recommend the experience.)
Dog sledding in Canada taught us so many things about leadership, teamwork, and strengths. On our trip, we met a young man named Jereme, who I call “the dog whisperer” because of his expert knowledge of his dogs and how to communicate with them. He was our guide and he took the time to teach my wife and I all about his team.
During our dog sledding adventure with Jereme, I couldn't help but think about the four domains of leadership, each containing a sampling of the thirty four talent themes as outlined in Gallup's Strengths Based Leadership book.
Lead Dogs – Executing - Work Harder
“Follow me, Brent.” He said commandingly and Rhonda and I did just that as Jereme led us to meet the first two dogs on the team.
“These are my lead dogs,” he explained to us, “Lead dogs are not necessarily the smartest, and they're not necessarily the fastest, but they're the best listeners, and they follow commands well.”
Jereme emphasized that it was important to know your lead dogs names so you could communicate with them frequently. After all, they are the leaders of their team. The other dogs respect them and follow them because of their leadership strength.
Lead dogs in dog sledding are not so different from what Gallup calls executing leaders. These domain of strengths are all about production and working harder.
A leader with Arranger – Achiever may work tirelessly to create the perfect configuration of systems.
Point Dogs – Strategic - Think Smarter
Jereme pointed to the next two dogs directly behind the lead dogs. “These are the point dogs. They have vision and help navigate the direction of the team towards the destination.” These dogs apply just enough pressure to steer the lead dogs.
Point dogs, like those of us in positions of strategic leadership, are the thinkers, the heady intellectuals who tend to strategize and point us towards the future. They help the team to think smarter.
Leaders with Context – Strategic talents are exceptional at reviewing the past and finding the best route to grow their organization.
Swing Dogs – Influencing - Motivate Faster
“It's very interesting,” Jereme said about the next two dogs. “You take an old dog and a young dog, pair them together, and you have swing dogs.” The older dogs have been around the mountains for many years, trekked endless trails, and accrued their share of bumps and bruises along the way. Of course, they have lost a bit of their zest, their energy, their pep.
But then you pair this older dog with a younger dog who has loads of enthusiasm, energy, and ability but lacks experience and wisdom and they influence and bring out the best in each other so that the team accomplishes its goal. This pair of dogs helps the team handle change and sharp turns.
The swing dogs fall into the influencing domain. These are the leaders who use their strengths to influence, sell and motivate others faster.
An influencing leader may shine with Communication – WOO drawing in new clients with likeable entertaining stories.
Wheel Dogs – Relationship - Care Better
“These are the strongest dogs and biggest hearted dogs,” Jereme pointed, “and they're called wheel dogs.” The wheels dogs just want to please the driver. Easily the strongest dogs on the team, they love to pull, they love to work, and they love to do their job usually with very little recognition.
The wheel dogs have relationship strengths. They are the people adept at social - emotional intelligence, relating with others, and showing empathy and love. They help teams care better.
Leaders are like stars. The have unique edgy points that make them standout differently than anyone else. Teams need to be well rounded. Incorporating all types of talent and strengths for greater effectiveness.
Dominant relationship oriented leaders with Relator – Developer will build long term loyalty and mentorship.
Would you and your organization like to better understand your strengths based leadership styles?
Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist, Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at http://brentobannon.com/strengthsfinder-keynote-and-workshops/
What is the purpose of your organization? What do you want to be known for—both inside and outside your company? You might not have a Department Of Culture Development, yet the development of culture should be a clear and compelling goal that saturates your entire organization. And it should reflect your God-inspired values. Culture needs to be tied to the organization’s purpose in a way that creates alignment with your game plan. There needs to be cultural evangelists within your organization that helps people stay connected to the vision. If this is not intentional you run the risk of having a culture that will either slow down or contradict what you want to be or where you want to go.
Organizational culture could be likened to a personal reputation. As we exist together we develop a reputation—something unspoken but strongly present. A poor reputation can be at best, unpleasant, and at worst, poison to those who are exposed. Culture, can either repel or propel employees, customers, partners, and prospective hires.
Culture goes far deeper than just keeping employees happy. It’s connected to your strategy. It’s there whether you are aware of it or not. So make sure it’s the one you want.
How is this done? It happens by establishing communication at every level of your organization—both up and down and across all departments; i.e. throughout the entire system. It’s real time feedback describing current reality, not some far off aspiration. This is how you learn what your culture is. You can’t be intentional without this information.
You can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are.
Culture is made up of the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and actions that happen by default unless you are intentional about changing it.
The good news is that when this is clear you now have criteria for hiring the right people who fit the culture you want. They might be highly talented, but if they don’t fit the culture, more damage than good will be done.
Culture is also one of the great levers that help your organization accomplish its objectives. With the right culture your mission, vision, and core values will be enhanced. It’s powerful, like the current in a river. It moves things. It’s a driving force.
Culture also informs and guides the development of people in your organization. How are they viewed? Is there a growth path that is aligned with the company’s values? Does your workforce see your organization valuing both people and results? Is the organization interested in the individual’s well-being and personal mastery.
Culture also helps the organization and the individuals in it accomplish their dreams. There should be alignment in the aspirations of the company and the employees. It breeds effective communication up and down the chain of command. It ensures the best care for your greatest asset—your people.
And here’s the payoff. Culture connects the individual to the strategic plan. Each person feels like a strong contributor impacting the big picture.
*Alignment—everyone going in the same direction
*Attunement—an emotional connection as you tap into people’s passions.
*Action—alignment informs what people think, and attunement provides motivation and energy to act.
Is your culture a part of your business strategy?