Presenters: Jim Barthel & Doug Newcomb
Jim: We decided to talk about this topic today because all of us in business, and whether you’re a for profit business or whether you’re in ministry or a church, Doug and I have had a great time talking about this topic is we’re all dealing with people and we’re dealing with ourselves first, but we’re also dealing with others. There is this spectrum of how we manage ourselves, how we manage our business, how we interface with the people who work in our business.
Even if you don’t own a business, you’re still working around people and you may have people who work for you or you’re interfacing with folks that as a Christian, Doug and I talked about how there’s this wide spectrum of Jesus granting us a lot of grace but at the same time there is a responsibility to produce and to be excellent in what we did. You had to perform. In fact, once we read scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament, a lot of that has to do with the proof of our obedience and the proof of our walking with God is fruitfulness.
What’s the balance? How do we balance that out?
Doug: You’re always going to have some people problems. I don’t care who you are or where you are, you are going to run into people every single place that you go and every single thing that you do. You’re going to have problems with the employees. How many have problems with employees? You have problems with clients.
I know Dale Carnegie says, “The customer is always right,” but what if the customer is not right? You’re running to that as well. You have colleagues, co-workers. It’s a people-business. No matter what you do or what you manufacture, it is a people business. How do you balance the greatest message versus performance? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a church or whether you’re a business. You’ve got to, number one, get things done. Let’s face it, cash is king. Everybody’s got to somehow generate cash and generate profits for your stockholders, your shareholders in a church and for our constituents. Churches have to have money to pay the bills and do things.
It goes all away around Jim. It for sure does.
Jim: What we’ve done is we’ve tried to divide it up and we arm wrestled. I don’t remember if I won or lost but I’m going to tackle the performance side and Doug has some notes on the grace side. I think we also want to allow. There’s some questions at the table. We’ll go through this just a little while and then we’ll let you guys come up with some examples for yourselves.
Doug: Jim, maybe you want to even start with the first question. Can demanding excellence or performance co-exist with grace in the workplace? Why don’t you guys kick that around? We’ll give you a couple of minutes and then we’ll go. Can they co-exist? What’s the difference between performance and giving grace? What do you think? We’ll let you talk about it.
Jim: Just a few points that we came up with and then we’ll go back and have a little bit further discussion here. On the performance side, we talked about coming up with some scriptures and there’s many scriptures on both sides but I picked a couple out on the performance side.
The first one is Luke 14 that jumped out at me, 14:28 and if you don’t know it by number, you know it by story because Jesus is speaking and He said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” We could think maybe that’s about money but then he goes on. He said, “For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you.” To me, I think that also speaks to when you begin a program when you operate a business, you have to finish it.
Unfortunately so many times in Christian business, that you hear horror stories about the Christian providing the worst service and not the best service. Then I’ll give two out of John. John 17:4, which is one of my favorite verses, Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross and He’s given His final instruction, which I love John 17. I go there almost every week because I’m sure, like the rest of us, this is it. This is what you’ve got to get. In John 17:4, Jesus is saying, “I finished the work which you gave me to do.” He’s wrapping up His life on Earth and He said, “I finished the work you gave me to do.” You think, “Oh that’s good for Jesus,” but then in 17:18 He says, “As you sent me Father, I’m sending them.” I think we have a responsibility now to finish the work He gave us to do just as He finished the work He came to do.
Doug: Well you think about it on the other side, Colossians 3:16-17 says this. It says, “Let the word of Christ dwell on you richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the LORD. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all to the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Doing all in the name of the LORD Jesus. Back to our discussion question, what do you think? Can grace and excellence co-exist in the marketplace? How many say yes? How many say no? How many say don’t know? How do you find the balance? Take some scenarios. You have an employee issue. Maybe he’s not quite performing what you want him to do? He’s not getting the job done. How do you deal with that? What does grace say? What does performance say? Jim?
Jim: Again as we looked at this early as we were beginning the Kingdom Business Alert, put a concept into my heart that came back up at this time dealing with people. It was the three C’s of people. Actually I’ve seen that some other people have something similar but when we look at hiring people or we look at mentoring people or training people, we look for these three C’s.
The first one is competence, the second is character and the third is commitment. It’s like a triad and that if any one of these areas is weak, then it creates problems. What I’ve done is I looked at these and then I tried to find a model, Doug. The best model I could find is that if we look at Israel’s exodus out of Egypt into the promised-land, in some ways, that’s like a family business. I started to look at that as, “Well what would God Himself say was acceptable behavior and not acceptable behavior for the family run business?”
There’s some other examples here but the one that I picked up on after Jason’s talk this Sunday was this Red Sea experience when the Israelites leave Egypt finally and are at the Red Sea and the model that’s there is at first, there’s the aspect of God said, “Stand still.” Moses said, “Stand still and watch God be God.” Now that’s an important piece that we’re going to come back to. If you think about it, how they got to that place is they had to be obedient and they had to take action. They had to go. They had to leave. They had to be obedient to an organization, to a leader.
Doug: Interesting about that story is God told them, he said, “Okay Moses, here’s what you’re going to do. Take the children of Israel. Go over and camp here and while you’re there, the Egyptians are going to come get you.” Now He told him what exactly what was going to happen. What happens when the Egyptians come and get him, this is what’s funny to me. They’re coming and rolling and all the chariots. Everything is coming rolling down the hills, down to the valley. What does Israel do? They panic. What does Moses do? He panics.
He throws his rod in the air or whatever, and God help us, we’re going to die. God says, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Why don’t you go across the Red Sea, because that’s what I’m going to do.” Oh, okay. He stretches his rod and goes across, the rod of authority to go across. On the one hand, when it comes to performance, there is a step of authority that needs to be taken.
You’ve got that employee situation. Sometimes you have to step in with authority. Sometimes you have to step in with understanding and say, “Know what, okay I get it. Let me help your unbelief.” Even the man coming to Jesus said, “Lord help my unbelief. Help me where I’m failing.” Sometimes with an employee situation, difficult employee situation, you have to come at it and say, “Let me help you here. Let me teach you. Let me show you. I believe you have the competence because I wouldn’t have hired you.”
Now we’ve got this character issue and you think about character, I think about the NFL. I don’t know if you’re football fans at all. One of the things they really look for in these young kids coming out of college is character. It’s not just about you can catch the ball anymore. It’s about, “We don’t want you doing drugs. We don’t want you to get DUI.” Case in point last week is Johnny Manziel. He goes to rehab, look what happens. He’s benched. He shows up with liquor.
Jim: I think when we go back to even looking at further evidence in the Exodus, I’ve brought out some examples. There are unacceptable to God and I think there has to be a line unacceptable in our organizations. Some of those that I picked out were that I call disloyalty or rebellion. That really touches upon that commitment part and there’s plenty of examples, but the rebellion against Moses.
God dealt with that in a very severe way. Part of that is when we look at, there are minor impacts and major impacts based on problems of performance. What I look for is in whatever we’re dealing with, the first question is does it harm the mission, because if there’s somebody who comes in late and is kind of annoyance, it has some other aspects to it but it’s like, “Does that really harm the mission?” Probably not. On the other hand if somebody is out doing their job with a client and they do it poorly, time after time, or if they do something illegal or something in that manner, then one would say that is harmful to the mission itself.
It’d be like in the military. You could do some things but if you get in the way of the mission, then you’ve got to go off to the side.
Doug: How do you articulate those lines? Here’s the line, don’t cross this but so often it’s the grace stuff. It’s that average employee, it’s that average thing, the thing that’s not catastrophic. In some respects, the catastrophic issues, the easy one to handle, because we all know what to do with it. What do you do? You know, he just didn’t get it done.
Jim: Yeah, that’s right. That’s more of the middle ground ones that are the more difficult ones. Those lines then are regarding character, which you brought up, throughout Exodus and in our own workplace and Christ see the same thing I do is that, what about constant complaining? I love the story of the quail. I try to use that in my business sometimes, constant complaining. Here is a bunch of quail and they eat so much that they’re done.
There’s an area of middle of the road and obedience to God’s ways and there are plenty of examples there regarding water from the rock which we’ve talked about before is that as it relates to this topic, is that there is a need that needed to be provided, a need for the people. Moses listening to God the Father was able to provide by his obedience, that water to the people and it occurred twice. I think what that shows is that just because there’s murmuring and complaining, first thing we as leaders have to look at, is there something we’re to do in obedience to God and then we know the consequence of being disobedient. Moses didn’t get to possess the promised-land, to enter the promised-land.
Primarily it appears when you read the scriptures because he took away a chance for the people to glorify God. What we need to look for in these situations is this an opportunity for God to be glorified through my obedience to Him?
Doug: Well an interesting, we’ll just tell you a story. We had an employee end up being a long-term employee but at one point it looked like she was not going to be so long term. She was one of those complainers. It didn’t matter what we did or what the church did or how we accommodated it. It didn’t matter. This person was unhappy. Finally, I took this person’s side and I sat down just one-on-one.
I said, “Look.” I said, “Obviously you’re not happy here. You’re just coming out in every way. You’re jumping on people. You’re snapping at them. Our congregation calls in, you’re snapping at them on the phone, you’re snapping at co-workers. Even your boss you’re supposed to be working with, your pastor, and it’s not working.” I said, “Talk to me. Tell me a little bit about what’s going on?” This person did. He shared some things and Jim, I sat down and prayed with her. For a long time, she was okay after that for a long time. Now unfortunately she lapsed back into some of those habits.
Some little habits we had to go back a couple of times. She eventually retired but we were able to exhibit grace as opposed to, “Well this is a complainer. Let’s just get her out of the way,” which is typically in many businesses the first reaction. They don’t like what we’re doing, get them out of here. Get somebody else.
Jim: That’s a good example. I think we’ve had plenty examples similar to that in our business. I think it would be a mistake to be so rigid in dealing with our people that only a performance relationship I think is maybe also what we’re talking about. The message then is not just to that person, it’s everybody else.
Then we have soldiers who are really just following orders and really what we want is we want people that are committed and bought into our mission and our values and our business so that they’re out looking themselves as to how they can better serve our clients which is the highest priority, and at the end of the day for every business and ministry as well is serving those customers and clients.
At the end of the day, as leaders or managers, we’re not always at the front line and we don’t want soldiers. We want people who are part of our family that share the same vision and mission and how it gets done. As we’re also when that gets violated where somebody goes out and reminded when Jethro meets with Moses and Moses is trying to settle all the disputes of 3 million people or something like that.
Doug: I imagine it’s a line. Moses is sitting there saying, “Okay Jim. Bring me your problem. Do this. Bring me yours, do this. John, bring me yours, do this. Sarah you’ve got to do this.” Can you imagine? Can you imagine that?
Jim: If I get one a month, I feel overwhelmed. I just think of Jethro’s advice and what Moses does is he looks for to select capable men and women, meaning that they have competence but fear God, that know God and that are trustworthy and hate dishonest gain. In our business, that’s what I see as one of the go, no-goes with people in how we try to instruct them is if somebody has a dishonest heart, and is out for dishonest gain, then that’s only going to lead to problems for them and for us.
We try to address that right away. Actually it goes both ways. It means looking out for the interest of the company but it goes so far as to look out for the interest of the customer. We have an incident right now where we did part of the work and then because of some side conditions or is a decision made to not do the other part of the work. Yet, we billed for it.The client, which is a state agency, is like, “Well I don’t agree with this. This is wrong,” and the person who made that decision is like, “Let me go dispute that. Let me go try to get our money.” I said, “No, you didn’t do the work. Why should we get paid for work we didn’t do? No, we’re going to take the loss on that work because it would be dishonest gain.” I think if we communicate that and we demonstrate that in our organizations, then hopefully we can minimize any of that problem occurring.
Doug: I think Jim brings up a good point. From the grace standpoint, there are times where you’ve got to step back and say, “You know what, in this case it doesn’t hurt my profitability but it’s the right thing to do.“ That value is going to run all the way through your organization whatever it is, be it honesty, be it integrity. Whatever that is, it’s got to run through and sometimes it hurts.
If you’re dealing with employees or you’re dealing with clients or something, sometimes it’s tough to say, “Oh man.” Maybe you’re right. Maybe you did do the work and they won’t pay. You sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to sue them. I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” Okay, I know. You really have to weight those things out. We had a situation. We were using a television station over here and we were negotiating. We bought it, we’d run it for about three or four years and we’re negotiating the sale of it. We’re negotiating the contract. Contract was done, ink signed, all done, all good stuff. We all agreed to the terms.
We got about a month in to getting that deal closed and the guy we’re selling to said, “You guys are cheating me.” We were not. It was clearly written in the contract. We were right but he was now lodging that accusation against us saying, “You guys aren’t treating me right.” I remember I talked to our board, I said, “Here’s what he’s saying.” I said, “Clearly we’re in the right.” We were 100% in the right. What are we going to do? He said, “Well why don’t you do this?” He said, “Stand your ground for a bit and let’s just see how far he pushes it.”
We did. We stood our ground and pushed it, pushed it, pushed it. It finally got to a point where he finally came forward after about a month of this and he’s calling at home. It sounds like yelling and screaming. After a month of this, he finally said, “You know what I re-looked at this,” and we were praying and he says, “You guys are right.” You know what we did then? We said, “Okay, now we can extend grace to you. We understand your point. We understand what you’re trying to do. We will go ahead and modify the contract to fit that because it doesn’t hurt the terms. It doesn’t hurt us all. It doesn’t hurt what we’re doing but we’ll modify it for you but there’s no way we’re going to do it when you’re screaming at us. We’re not just going to do it.”
What we want was a softening and acknowledgment which we did get, extending grace and modifying on that half.
Jim: Part of running your organization and your business is that as committed to the Kingdom is that we need the presence of God. One of the other main areas that we assess is that not only it doesn’t harm the mission, but does it produce order or disorder? At the end of the day is much like in the church where you’re just talking about that is that if there is a personality that brings disorder and it brings conflict, then the presence of God doesn’t exist in the midst of conflict and disorder.
God’s Spirit is a Spirit of order and peace. We have to then look into that situation. We’ve had people through the 15 years we’ve had our business that we’ve mentored and we brought these things up to them. Then it’s up to them whether they want to respond or not. We know that in other industries or maybe even in other companies, that behavior wasn’t necessarily as big of a deal as it is on our business. I look out for “Does it harm the mission? Does it produce order or disorder,” and we try to deal with that.
If it constantly produces disorder, that’s not an acceptable situation. Another one is: does it compromise the values? Because as we all know that even in our own walk, it’s not what we say, it’s what we do. If I think of the way it’s worded, but we worship what we serve. If you think about it, there are a lot of people who speak about what they worship. At the end of the day, it’s what we’re actually doing in serving. That’s who in reality it is who we’re worshipping. We look for a very clear set of values and we communicate those values. I encourage you that make sure that you have a clear set of values.
If somebody is constantly going beyond those values, compromising those values, we have to address it. We have to implement it but the problem with extending too much grace is that now all of a sudden, it’s a situational values come from and it can’t be because the values have got to remain consistent for everybody and we’re all accountable to the values.
Doug: The lawyers out there, your lawyers are going to tell you, if you have a policy, you need to follow it. Am I right? If you have a policy, you need to follow it, isn’t that right? If you’ve got a policy, now you want to extend grace beyond it. You’ve got to be very, very careful what you do and how you do it because you will get yourself into trouble.
Maybe the policy needs to be looked at and changed. Maybe it’s not the right policy. I don’t know if you’re like us but typically, when I came on staff Faith Bible Chapel, we had four computers and there were five full time people and three or four part time people. That was a long, long time ago. We now have over 250 employees and over 400 machines, computers around here and I have no idea people are coming and going constantly around here. It’s very important. As you grow, some of those policies have to be in there but the ones we started with, don’t really work now.
We’ve had to modify and change and update. That’s not going to work. It worked when we had four, it doesn’t work when you got 200. It doesn’t work anymore. That is part of that as well. The other thing is: think about that average employee. So often, we spend so much time working on an employee who is just average. He does just enough. Five o’clock comes, he’s out the door. You need him to stay until 5:30 and get that job done but he isn’t going to touch it until tomorrow morning. You need it at 6:00 tonight.
Especially if you’re a business owner or a person with a key interest in the business, it’s got to done. How much time do you spend with that average employee? John Maxwell will tell you, we spend so much time talking about your weaknesses and trying to improve what we’re not good at. He says you can improve some of those. He says you can spend a lot of time working on them. If you picture a number line in your head, you’re going to move your weaknesses a little bit. A little bit you’re going to move it. He said but if you take more time and work on your strengths, you’re going to move that a lot because you’re good at it, you like it, you enjoy it. That you can move a lot which will also help you offset your weaknesses and of course surround yourself with people that can supplement and take care of weaknesses, people that are better than you because they’ll make you look great.
Jim: Right. As I would close the points that I was going to make and along those lines is that if we focus on the strengths of the individual, we should also focus on the strengths of organization. As I rethought through this is that as we started this, there’s requirement to produce and be fruitful.
When you think about this, is that when we make a decision to enter into or start an organization or manage an organization, God is holding us accountable for performance. If we look at the parable of the talents, or if we look at the parable of the sower and the following assessment of that, Jesus taught that whoever has will be given more and whoever who doesn’t have, even what he has will be taken back. I think that in business, we have to look at our own hearts. Sometimes we operate more on a grace basis than we do a performance based.
Thinking about this getting ready for this talk has really encouraged me, is that in an organization, we need to set up those measurements as to what we’re going to be fruitful in. I’m not saying that this week or this month or even this year, you’re going to produce an abundance of fruit but in my experience and in my walk with the Lord for 15 years in business, if you make a commitment to follow the Lord and if you are dutiful and a good steward and you implement God’s values, God’s systems and God’s way, you have to produce. It’s the law of the kingdom.
That’s where Jesus when He taught these parables says, “I’m giving you the secret to the Kingdom.” I’m going to teach on this a little later. I’m only going to give you a little bit. “I’m giving you the secret to the Kingdom.” If you don’t get this, you won’t get anything else. Part of it is this message. You have to produce the fruit. Again it’s not us in producing, it’s aligning ourselves, aligning our values, aligning our company and our missions with God’s way, which includes grace.
When grace gets to the point that it takes away from the mission as a steward, as a manager, we’re responsible to put the organization back on track. We do it with love but we do it with a sense of urgency and responsibility because if we don’t, then Jesus is clear is that it’s going to be taken away and it’s going to be given to somebody else. It’s not that I’m competing with Jim or Terry. We’re competing within the Kingdom to glorify God and get His Kingdom established. Don’t confuse it with the fact that we have to be so good. It’s a spirit of lack or understanding of lack. The kingdom is about an abundance and He’s just looking for people who will live His way and then there’s plenty for us there.
If we’re not fruitful, if we’re not fruitful in what we’re doing now, I think part of this has to look back is maybe we’re too difficult. Jesus said, “Don’t lord it over your people.” It could be that we’re too difficult on our own people but it could be that we’re too light on our people and the organization is just there. It’s not committed to its mission and values.
Doug: Clear expectations Jim are crucial. You’re exactly right. Let’s face it, if the organization doesn’t succeed, all these folks are out of jobs. They’re out of jobs. They’re not working. That’s not good either. They’re here to work. I remember one time, I think when we started the day care years ago, pastor said I just love creating jobs. I love getting people to work. I just love seeing that industry and things going.
That’s what you’re saying exactly. We have an obligation to our staff. We have an obligation to our constituents, to our clients, whoever they are to take care of them and to do those things but you’ve got to be fruitful because like I said at the beginning, if you don’t have the cash, you can’t be fruitful. You’re going to be in trouble. You’re not going to be able to do some of those things. Interestingly enough, if you’ve been watching television. How many see that first bank commercial with the kid with the selfie stick taking pictures of himself in front of the computer, the millennial? Anybody dealing with millennials? I have three. My daughter and my son are at the very front edge of the millennials and my younger son’s at the back end. I’m dealing with this whole thing.
You all sit back and go, “Okay. Do they want to work?” Back to what you were saying. Do they want to work? Will they work? What do they like? What is it? Trying to figure out that whole thing out. How much grace do you extend on cyber Monday or during March Madness? How much grace do you extend to that millennial sitting there?
There’s also a point where you’ve got to say, “You know what, we’ve got to get the job done and bringing that value home,” because part of it is training that younger generation. We have an obligation to pour into them, to teach them there’s a value to hard work. There’s a value to pulling things out. You can read all the surveys and stuff, they’re not motivated by money or they’re not this or whatever but bottom line is this, is there’s a value to putting things together and there’s a value to making it work.
Come on, join the team. Get with us, we need you to pull your weight. We need you to pull your weight. It’s crucial. I guess that question comes down to and you can talk about this when we close is to you, what is grace? What is grace in your workplace and how does it work for you? What is grace versus the performance because they’re both critical components of your organization?
Jim: We should close and allow you guys to talk about this before you leave but going back to the grace side, I need to do this more. I’m going to commit to doing. For our people, how powerful would it be and maybe implicitly, we communicate these things but I don’t know explicitly I ever do. What I jumped out of me is I prayed about this is what if we just spoke to our people and said, “We believe in you? We believe in you as a person. We believe in what you’re doing. We believe God made you and He gave you great gifts and want to see you use those. We believe God is for you.” Sin no more. Forget about that thing.
Doug: Absolutely, that’s right. Move forward. Oh, good. We’ll give you a chance. Take a look at those discussion questions. In particular, what is grace in your business? Has it gone too far? Has it not gone far enough? I love what Jim just said. We believe in you and we want the best for you. Why? Because our Father in heaven wants the best for us. Jeremiah 29, “I know the plans I have for you. They are good plans, good things. I’m not thinking bad thoughts.”
Jesus does not think bad thoughts about us. He does not. He wants us to think good thoughts. Walk with me because I’m going to bless you. I’m going to pour out my hand upon you. I will change you. Just draw close to me. Well give a chance. Good, there you go. Thank you. God bless. Have a great week.