Michael Dauphinee, a business consultant friend of mine, shared an insightful and convicting thought related to business leadership. He said that all too often, business owners and managers see people as either obstacles or vehicles to their goals, and treat them accordingly. It is a common thread in poor business leadership.
At face value it sounds calloused and calculating, but upon reflection I have seen that thinking creep into my work style. Business can be demanding and relentless. And, in our efforts to keep up, we sometimes choose the urgency of the task at the expense of the people in front of us.
A wise king outlines a better way in Proverbs 3:3-4.
“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
Perhaps this feels a bit soft for modern business practices. It’s especially disruptive to business cultures that nurture bottom-line performance through ultra-competitive, driven leadership. But a workplace characterized by a “vehicle or obstacle” management approach is not sustainable. The work, no matter how successful, is never enough.
It doesn’t take many years in the workplace to experience what I’m talking about. A manager publicly belittles and calls it accountability. Work-life balance is so skewed that family relationships suffer. Fear of failure quashes better ideas before they are uttered. Lack of trust promotes self preservation over personal growth.
Left unchecked, these culture killers can start anywhere and work their way throughout any organization.
So how do we “find favor and good success” at work? Here are a few ideas:
Assess your work culture both internally and externally. Are your work relationships founded on genuine care that truly values each individual? Or is survival of the fittest the mantra of your success?
Assess your personal work style. How would your colleagues describe your working relationships? Are you supportive and empowering or calculated and fear-based? Does that same work style extend to outside partners and vendors?
Invite honest discussion. Take an anonymous survey. Conduct a 360-degree assessment of your leadership team. Make it safe for team members to share openly. The process will not be easy or perfect, but most worthy pursuits aren’t.
Take action. Once you’ve identified the problems, the real work begins. Outline and implement necessary changes to personnel, policies, and management practices. Set goals and measure your efforts each quarter. Get feedback and adjust accordingly.
“Steadfast love and faithfulness” at work is a lofty goal but it is the best way. Exceptional business cultures foster excellence. Teams who are supported and fulfilled in their work do greater work. And people – employees, partners, vendors – who are valued return the love in spades.
This post is the 4th in a DKY series on ancient wisdom for modern marketing called Wisdom at Work. Here are some additional Wisdom at Work posts: