Business Needs our Faith More than it Thinks it Does!
A Personal Testimony
Reading at Work hosted John Kay, a TWUK Ambassador for Wales, to talk on this topic on Monday, 24 April 2017. An enthusiastic audience heard John begin by sharing his own personal testimony of a Christian upbringing, thirty years away from the Lord and a reconnection with whole life Christianity through a family friend. This prompted him to reassess whether his apparent worldly success as a manager was the whole story. Following John’s testimony, the discussion identified five ways in which living out your faith at work helps you and your organisation be more successful.
Loving the people
We noted how little managers often know about their team members beyond the world of the workplace. We shared examples of how the inner confidence and security that faith in Christ brings, allows us to be bold, responding to people’s innate desire to be loved, and changing behaviour and management style to reflect this. We discussed how adapting general rules to meet the specific requirements of team members and their wider, beyond work, needs (for instance in times of personal or family distress), can lead to better outcomes for all.
Caring about relationships
We agreed that relationships between staff are critical to a successful organisation and discussed the Relational Proximity Framework™
, which says that, for a good relationship, there are five essential characteristics:
directness (e.g. in person);
continuity (a record of time together, over time);
parity (equality in the relationship);
commonality (shared goal that cannot achieve independently); and
multiplexity (everybody has a lot of strands in their life).
Expressing yourself fully
We are required to act first by God, and one participant told of being asked by their CEO what would make him feel more valued. His response was that the organisation should recognise his faith and support a CWG (formed and now growing). In another example, two Christian colleagues, given free reign, devised an innovative course concerning what the organisation can give to its employees, such as time for charitable work, a better “contract” for work-life balance, tailored personal development. Our experiences showed that if more Christian values were expressed in the workplace, then business performance would be improved.
Exemplifying openness and honesty
There was some discussion around whether many organisations suffer from a ‘sticky toffee layer’ between Board level management and frontline staff that fails to allow effective communication of truth and honesty about what was happening operationally. Those of faith, including Christians, have the strength of character to rise above short term fears and considerations – sometimes as whistleblowers - and were often recognised and rewarded as leaders of the future. Trade Unionism, where many of the founders were expressing their faith at work, also has a role to play in bringing attention to concerns here.
Facing the big challenges
Looking more widely, the business environment now means traditional thinking about what will happen will not be as effective as it was. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) exist and it is important to be comfortable with these challenges and let things emerge. To do so requires an inner strength, which for us is the living Holy Spirit, allowing us to know we are in good hands. However, proving to business and the media that faith based models are better for business goes against the grain, even if, as the seminar noted, Christians often have a disposition towards mentoring and being peacemakers.
In concluding, we noted that the business world was coming back, again, to the importance of servant leadership over other models – effectively following the teaching of Christ – in which relationships, trust and inner strength were key attributes.
‘If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” (Mark 10:43b-45)
Implementing a ‘doing the right thing’ approach institutionally is hard: a former CEO had commented that it is important to design the management system to make it easier to do the right thing than anything else, as once designed, the system has a life of its own. Christians can bring in new ways of working to their organisation, but only if the door is opened by leaders; until this happens the role of the Christian Workplace Group will focus on support, mentoring and learning from others.
John Kay (Transform Work UK) & Magnus Smyly (Reading at Work)