Monday, February 28, 2011

Uncommon Words for the Workplace

"I was wrong..." It doesn't matter what comes after the start of that sentence, admitting you're wrong is still one of the hardest things to do in life. Not surprisingly, it also figures to be some of the most uncommon words in the workplace.

Recently, friends of mine faced significant criticism from co-workers for mistakes made on a critical project - mistakes that set the project back. Furthermore, not only had they made these errors, to their own disappointment, they also treated others disrespectfully along the way. They were, to some degree, reaping bitter fruit from seeds they had sown.

Never mind that they were working hard and doing their very best. Never mind that they did far more good than harm. Never mind that others had made mistakes as well. All that was in view at that moment in time were their mistakes and the resulting criticism.

How did my friends respond? They stood up in front of their co-workers and admitted their critical errors. They also apologized for the way they conducted themselves and I respect them all the more for it.

If it's unquestionably difficult to acknowledge a mistake in judgment, it would seem altogether unbearable to confess to character flaws like arrogance in a public setting. I've come to learn that "sorry" truly is the hardest word in business - "sorry for my decisions", "sorry for my impatience", "sorry that I let you down". Few say it even though many mistakes are made every day - by executives, middle managers and individual contributors. Particularly because most criticism is a blend of truth and error, it's so much easier to justify ourselves rather than working hard to extract the essence of truth in the complaint.

So what would compel you to stand up and let your mistakes be counted? Would pragmatism or fear motivate you? "If I don't concede my mistakes... my coworkers will make life miserable...or I might lose my job..." Both may appear to be plausible reasons but from my experience, neither fear nor pragmatism serve as compelling forces for true humility.

Neither will cause us to do the unthinkable - to embrace the God-given opportunity to admit faults and confess weaknesses. Yet, there may be a better way noted in Philippians 2:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

Welcoming opportunities to confess our weaknesses comes through a renewed, humble mindset. A mindset similar to that of Christ. Instead of claiming his rights as equal to God, Jesus Christ "made himself nothing". He humbly sacrificed his life for the eternal good of others. This mindset is the right and responsibility of everyone who calls upon his name, who receives forgiveness of sins through Christ. Knowing his forgiveness means that we have faced our greatest criticism - our moral failure before God - and lived to tell the tale. It gives us hope and makes us courageous enough to say "I'm sorry" to those we fail presently.

When was the last time you apologized for your words or actions?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Learning to pray doesn't offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saying No to Self Promotion

Self promotion. In this social media saturated world, it's become second nature to market yourself. We're a nation obsessed with our personal brand. It shows up all over our lives but especially in our workplace.

After all, if you don't "toot your horn", who will? What's wrong with a little self promotion, anyway?

Here's a different perspective from Luke 14.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place to that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

What are the "places of honor" that you assume in your workplace? Are you spending time on self promotion instead of serving and letting your performance speak for itself? By scheming, strategizing and positioning to be recognized, are you missing out on an opportunity to see God work?

Consider this thought - it's always more satisfying to trust the host and have him promote you to a place of honor than to strive to do it yourself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quote of the Week

"... business is a legitimate part of undertaking the stewardship of creation to make a human imprint on the earth."

R. Paul Stevens, Doing God's Business, p.24

Friday, February 04, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Love of neighbor - grounded in our love for God - requires us to work for good in the City of Man, even as we set as our first priority the preaching of the gospel - the only means of bringing the citizens of the City of Man into citizenship in the City of God."

Al Mohler, Culture Shift

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Working Until You Drop

Here's an interesting article from USA Today noting that after years of decline, the labor force participation of workers over the age of 65 is now at 17%. It's not particularly surprising if you consider that the life expectancy in the US has risen to over 78.4 years.

People are living longer than ever and rather than spend retirement years in frivolous pursuits, many are returning to the workforce. These former retirees are eschewing days on the golf-course for something more meaningful. Often they are pursuing these "encore careers" in education or other non-profit sectors.

Since the Bible does little to support the idea of retirement at 65, most Christians aren't typically the retiring type. Instead, we reminded that God calls and appoints us to bear fruit, presumably as long as we are able.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." John 15:16

Jesus may have been speaking to the disciples but his words are nonetheless applicable to us as well. Paul asserts as much in Ephesians 2:10 where he speaks us as having been "created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
Consider this remarkable thought - God has prepared good works for us. A few of these works take on grand significance but most will seem mundane. Yet each act, big or small carries eternal significance in the economy of God's plan.

Leisure and entertainment may have their place, but it is God ordained work that occupies the centerpiece of our daily existence. By God's grace, may we be both faithful and fruitful in the work He has appointed for us.