I read an article recently about some archeologists who, during a dig, discovered a clay pot that was determined to be around 800 years old. Inside the pot were the seeds of an extinct species of squash. Students in Winnipeg, Canada obtained some of the seeds, planted them, and squash plants began to grow!
This is such a beautiful illustration of the importance of a life giving environment. These seeds held unfound potential for nearly a millennium and as soon as they were provided with the appropriate life giving surroundings, they sprang forth with the fruit they were originally intended to produce.
People Are Squash
People are created with greatness written on their DNA regardless of how old they are, what they currently bring to the table, how long their list of failures are, or even what they think about God.
We have the opportunity as business leaders to invest in these people and create favorable environments for the precious children of God we employ to thrive and produce life giving fruit, maybe even for the first time.
We can begin doing this by following Jesus’ greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says it like this, “For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
(I find it interesting that Paul completely leaves out the part about loving God, not out of ignorance or malice, but simply because I believe that he understood that we cannot truly love our neighbor unless we love God first. That’s a topic for another day though.)
So we have been called to freedom in order to serve others and we as Christians have the responsibility to take this truth to whatever realm we are influencing, so how does this practically apply to the business world?
I believe that the primary priority for any employer must be the individual, personal development of his or her employees. Everything else comes secondary to this.
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that employees are consistently given opportunities for growth. This must come before changing a marketing strategy, business expansion, increasing financial gain, or consideration of any other aspect of the business.
Employees must be given responsibilities that are outside of the realm of their ability to foster this growth. Growth cannot occur in an environment with no resistance, therefore in order to allow growth there must be a corporate culture that embraces failure.In order to allow growth there must be a corporate #culture that embraces #failure. Click To Tweet
In order to do this, failure must be seen solely as a marker that designates the boundary of an individual’s ability. As that boundary of ability is consistently challenged, the boundary begins to shift and growth occurs. (See the illustration for a clearer explanation.)
There seems to be a lack of awareness around this concept of growth in both the individual and corporate spheres, but it is not a new principle. Some of the most successful people in history have a long track record of failures before fulfilling the position they made history in.
Failure Is an Option
Abraham Lincoln had a long list of political defeats before becoming President of the United States. Jonah failed miserably before carrying out his mission in Nineveh. R.H. Macy started seven different businesses before his famous department store took off and Thomas Edison tried 9,000 experiments before creating the light bulb and said afterward “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
My point is this, if the driving force (employees) of a business are not given responsibility beyond their point of ability and encouraged amidst failure, focus will shift from the development and service of people, to the bottom line, and stagnation will begin to set in.
It is imperative that people are consistently challenged in a secure environment that fosters this growth.I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. -Thomas Edison Click To Tweet
If business leaders implement a model that produces massive financial success without the central goal of employee service, the corporate mindset will inevitably move from thriving to surviving because when we see people as simply producers, we view them as expendable. And when they fail to perform, we get rid of them, their ideas, and the value that they brought to the life of our company.
This is why it is vital to see people as the most important business investment we can make.
People spend such a large portion of their life at work, why not make it first and foremost a ministry? Our vocational success ultimately belongs to God so let’s truly place those we work with in the Father’s hands as we walk out the liberty we have been given to serve our neighbors and employees.