Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The People We Can't Afford To Live Without

Tom Rath discovered something surprising that goes against common thinking about the workplace. He discovered that a person having a "best friend at work" is seven times more likely to be engaged in his or her job.

Rath, the best-selling author of How Full Is Your Bucket? and StrengthsFinder 2.0, writes about this in his book, Vital Friends: The People you Can't Afford to Live Without.

The value of Rath's book, in my mind, is that he puts meat on the term friend. He identifies eight different kinds of "vital friends." As I summarize his eight types below, think about people in your own life who fit the various categories: 

Builder: a person who motivates you to accomplish things you would not otherwise accomplish.

Champion: a person who sings your praises to others.

Collaborator: a person who has similar interests, and shares those interests with you.

Companion: a person who is always there for you.

Connector: a person who introduces you to others (without being asked!).

Energizer: a person who gives you a boost.

Mind Opener: a person who challenges you to think outside the box.

Navigator: a person who provides guidance for you.

As I read Vital Friends, I couldn't help but think of the people in my life who have filled the roles described by Rath. It was easy for me to see why he calls these friends the people we can't afford to live without. I became especially thankful for them.

Here's one more important thing I thought about as I read Rath's book: whom am I a vital friend for? 

Reading this book made me aware that I have a great privilege to be a vital friend for others, and that others need me as much as I need them.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor;
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Please watch John Beckett, author of Loving Monday, as he shares about a significant group of business leaders he meets with on a regular basis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvzPQMGuTpw.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

It Wasn't Imposed By The NFL

The most effective accountability is the self-imposed kind.

Last week, I heard a great example of self-imposed accountability. A friend and I attended an early morning gathering of about a thousand men in our area who had come to hear a professional football player share how his Christian faith intersects with his personal life, and with his work as a quarterback.

For the past seven years, this player has been part of a group of four men who share their lives with one another, encourage one another, ask questions of one another and know themselves so well they can tell when they are lying to one another. He calls this group his "covenant group."

Not a bad idea. They hold each other accountable in specific ways.

For example, when he is on the road, this football player takes a cell phone video of himself disabling the porn channel on the hotel television, and then e-mails that video to his friends by 7:30pm. If the other guys don't get the e-mail, they contact him.

The speaker didn't mention how his "covenant group" got started. One thing's certain, it wasn't imposed by the NFL. Although his wife must feel it's a great idea, I'm certain she didn't impose it on him either.

Would a "covenant group" even work if it was imposed by an outside force, through some form of compulsory participation? Forget it.

How about making people who don't have a "covenant group" feel guilty, to get them to have one? Would that work? Give me a break.

A person needs to have a strong internal "want to" in order for self-imposed accountability like this football player described to work. A person needs to have the kind of "want to" that comes out of a pure motive. Like the motive to be "a man after God's own heart," as King David was.

David had his own need for self-imposed accountability. "Woe to him who is alone when he falls." These words, written by David's son, in Ecclesiastes 4, say it all.

Although it is sometimes quoted at weddings, Ecclesiastes 4:10-13 speaks specifically to the workplace: "Two are better than one," writes Solomon, "because they have a good reward for their labor."

"For if they fall, one will lift up his companion....Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The System Inside

The question is not whether accountability is needed. The question is by what means.

The Reformers of Geneva understood that all humans have a "bent" to go astray. It comes naturally, whether we call ourselves Christians or not.

The propensity to sin is real. While some of us may have a propensity toward certain vices that do not affect others in the same way, we are all in the same boat. Even the apostle Paul called himself "the chief of sinners." There is no room for finger-pointing. As someone observed, the moment we point our finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at us.

The ramifications of the "sin problem" are huge in the work world. Although Colonel Sanders' recipe is an exception, not every recipe concocted in secret is good for business.

Fortune magazine named Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years. What Fortune apparently did not know, was that Enron was more "innovative" than anyone imagined! Enron's "success" was sustained by an elaborate, creative and fraudulent form of accounting. This huge company, which employed 22,000 people, went bankrupt in 2001. In response, Congress enacted the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, in an attempt to keep such frauds from occurring in the future.

While accountability measures for the corporate world may be enacted by Congress, such legislation is ineffective when it comes to "personal secrets." The kind of secrets that don't even make it to the back room.

In the work world, safeguards are frequently put in place to discourage people from making bad choices. Requiring two signers on checks, having an independent auditor examine the books once a year, and turning in receipts with requests for personal reimbursements are common safeguards.

While such company policies are necessary, the most effective form of accountability is the self-imposed kind. No matter how many policies a business may put in place, there is no way to have a system of accountability that addresses every possibility for "going astray." The only system that can address it all is the system inside.

In their zeal to transform Geneva from "the smelliest city in Europe" to "a city set on a hill," the Reformers approached accountability in ways that produced unintended consequences that were...well...less than aromatic.

Self-imposed accountability, on the other hand, smells ambrosial.

More to come.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Weird Behavior On The Part Of All Concerned

A close look at Geneva of the sixteenth century should include an assessment of the Reformers' approached to the third main principle they used in rebuilding the city: Accountability.

Accountability is a powerful means for affecting transformation of places and people. Without it, good ideas often remain nothing more than "good ideas." Accountabitily is healthy, when handled properly. Often it is necessary.

This was why the Reformers designed a civil system in Geneva that divided power among three separate branches: the executive, legislative and judicial. [No, the Americans did not invent this.] The pattern of civil government designed for Geneva influenced the later development of Swiss federalism, which divided power between the national government and its various states (or cantons).

"The Swiss system of federalism," writes Bloomer, "provided the model for the Americans who designed their government in the late eighteenth century, since they also mistrusted an all-powerful central government because of their experience with the King of England. Albert Gallatin, who actually wrote much of the American constitution while working for Thomas Jefferson, was born and educated in Geneva."

While there are many positive things about the Reformers' application of biblical truth to the city-state of Geneva, things went sideways when it came to the matter of personal accountability.

Thomas Bloomer tells of one individual in Geneva who was punished because he (or she) would not convert to Christianity. (Whoops!) In addition, Bloomer notes, "neighborhood tribunals" set up to help families, actually "demonstrated the negative effects of the church overstepping its bounds and exercising an inappropriate degree of authority in people's personal lives."

Bloomer also notes that accountability in Geneva produced "a rigidity in applying scriptural principles, which led to legalism on external issues like dress or leisure time activities..."

The motivation of Calvin and the Reformers in designing means of accountability, I believe, was right and good. As Bloomer points out, "they knew that any leader or structure that cannot be held accountable will slide inevitably into sin..."

The events of the past decade in the USA that produced the Enron and WorldCom scandals, along with the unregulated derivatives market and the selling of toxic assets leading to the Great Recession we're now in, all illustrate the need for personal and corporate accountability.

But how can safeguards be built into accountability that will keep it from becoming a means of control and manipulation, leading to weird behavior on the part of all concerned?

What are your thoughts on this?

I'll share some of mine next week.

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