Tag Archives: Principles

Lunch with the CEO

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
2 Corinthians 10:3 (NIV)

A number of years ago my company served a midwest client. We were providing them with on-going customer satisfaction research, conducting Quality Assessments in their contact center, as well as coaching their sales and customer service teams. Then we learned that the company had been sold to a much larger conglomerate with global reach.

As always happens in a corporate buy-out, there was a subsequent shift in the executive ranks as the new owners brought in their own executives to run their new asset. I know that when this happens there is a very good possibility that we will lose our contract. New executives tend to come in having already formed their own strategic partnerships and alliances along their career journey. They use their new authority and this initial season of massive change to bring in the friends and colleagues they already know and trust.

In this case, the new CEO decided to let us finish our contract year as he observed the work we were doing and allowed us to present our data and explain the continuous improvement model we’d implemented which was successfully making positive changes to the customer experience. We were fortunate. As the year progressed he not only allowed us to continue our project, but he actually gave me additional projects to work on with him. At the end of the year he agreed to keep our projects moving.

During one of my visits I had lunch with the CEO. “Do you know why I keep you around?” he asked. He was a type 8 challenger so I had to be ready for him to ask almost any kind of arcane, direct question at any moment.

I hope we’re providing you with value,” or some such generic guess was my answer.

It’s your expense reports,” he answered just as directly as he’d asked the question.

Excuse me? My expense reports?

I deal with all sorts of outside vendors and consultants,” he went on to explain. “You wouldn’t believe what people try to charge me and get away with. First Class airfare, magazines they buy to read on the plane, luxury hotel suites, and the most expensive meals. One guy tried to expense a $200 bottle of wine with his lunch. Then they even try to charge margin on top of their expenses.”

You and your team,” he said, “are different. You only expense what is necessary and reasonable. In fact, I can tell you actually try to help me contain costs. It tells me a lot about who you are and how you operate. It tells me I can trust you.

It was a nice thing to hear, because our company has always tried to operate with integrity in all of our dealings and relationships. If you happen to have been in our gathering of Jesus’ followers a couple of days ago and heard the message, then you’ll understand when I say that I try to bring “Level 4” principles into our “Level 3” business dealings.

In today’s chapter, Paul expresses the same vein of thinking. He’s operating in the world but trying to bring a different level of operational principles in his relationships and dealings. He’s trying to bring the Kingdom into everything that he’s doing from his ministry to all of the fledgling gatherings in the Jesus Movement to the tent-making and repair business he ran wherever he went to provide for his daily needs so as not to be a financial burden on the believers he was serving.

This morning I’m preparing for a business trip. Once again I’m thinking about how I can serve well, love well, bring measurable value to my client, and be an example in all of my dealings. My memories of lunch with that CEO are a good reminder for me as I embark on my journey. I want my stated principles to be evident in my daily words and actions.

People are watching, and they notice.

 

Ancient Law; Modern Application

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
Deuteronomy 25:4 (NRSV)

The mission statement of my company contains the phrase, “…by applying the principles of God’s word to our lives and work….” When Mr. Wenger began the company there were certain decisions he consciously made in structuring the way we did business to adhere to specific biblical principles. For example, while incorporated like any other company he chose to call us a  “group” not a “company” because he wanted each member to know that, like the body of Christ, we are all in this together and what each one of us does affects the others.

One of the other principles by which our group does business is tied to a verse from today’s chapter. “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” In the days of Moses grain was usually milled by placing it between two huge, round millstones. In the featured photo of this post you can see me pushing an ancient olive press in Nazareth which operated in a similar fashion. In milling grain, an ox was yoked to the stones and walked around and around and around in circles, turning the millstone which milled the grain. The floor of the mill would be covered with grain and farmers found that the ox would naturally bend down and eat grain off the floor as it worked. Farmers began to muzzle the ox so it could not eat the grain as it worked. The law of Moses said that the ox should be allowed to eat grain freely and benefit directly from the work it was doing for the farmer.

So it is with our group that no member, from the owners down to the newest contract employee is paid a salary in which we get paid a lump sum no matter how much or how little work we do each month. Rather, each member is paid directly from the specific tasks we do on each job for each client. We’re not going to muzzle anyone. The more a member wants to work and the more work we have to do, the more opportunity we have to increase our income. If we choose not to work as much, or we don’t have as much work to do, then our income is going to drop accordingly.

Today, I’m thinking about the fact that many of these laws of Moses which were written thousands of years ago for an ancient culture far different than ours still have relevance today. In fact, many of our own modern laws still trace back, in principle, to the laws Moses chiseled out in ancient times.

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Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 23

The father of godly children has cause for joy. 
      What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
Proverbs 23:24 (NLT) 

I once worked with a pastor whose children were going through a rowdy, rebellious phase. One of the more self-righteous, overly negative members of his congregation made a snide remark about his children behaving badly. Exasperated by her back-biting and malice, he finally snapped.

“Lady,” my friend said to the snooty woman, “my children are not immaculately conceived. If you don’t believe me, I’ll drop trow right now and show you the plumbing that got the job done. Being as my children are bred of two flawed human beings, you might extend a little grace rather than expecting them to be perfect.”

That story always makes me laugh. Despite my friend’s sharp tongue, I appreciate the truth of the point he was trying to make.

I never expected my children to be perfect. I have had people ask me how I raised great kids. I always struggle to answer those questions because I feel like the outcome is far more about God grace and about their own wise choices than it is about parenting. There is no secret formula nor are there guarantees or sure outcomes. I only had a few guiding principles I attempted to follow…

  • Rather than trying to get them to go to church, I tried to model for them an active faith.
  • Rather than telling them “no” all the time, I tried to find healthy ways to tell them “yes.”
  • Rather than fearing the worst in them, I tried to trust the best in them.
  • Rather than holding them back out of fear of what they might do, I tried to release them with faith that they would do the things that they should do.
  • Rather than trying to love them with lots of things, I tried to love them with time, affection & attention.

I am not a perfect parent and my kids can provide you a list of my failings. My children are not perfect children (and I could provide you with a little list of my own). You will never find marble statues of my family erected in honor of our perfection, virtue, character, wisdom, morality, intelligence, or spirituality. Nevertheless, I resonate so deeply with King Solomon’s words. I have cause for joy today and every day because I have three good kids who love God and who love others well. I can’t ask for more than that.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 1

Deep roots. But the midwives had far too much respect for God and didn't do what the king of Egypt ordered; they let the boy babies live. Exodus 1:17 (MSG)

Interesting. I just wrote a post on my professional blog about principles, and the start of our journey through the book of Exodus seems to pick up on the same theme. There are moments in each of our lives when we must make a choice. We can do the expedient thing or we can do the right thing. It's easy for me to say I'll do the right thing, but these choices sometimes have to be made in the heat of a stormy moment when we're all alone.

The midwives could have made a great case for doing what they were told, being obedient to authority, and saving their own lives.  But they had too much respect for God

I think everyone has certain principles, if you ask them. The real question that interests me is: "In whom are your principles rooted?" If my principles are rooted in a higher authority, l find it a whole lot easier to stand amidst the storm and make right choices. If my principles are rooted in myself - my own sense of right and wrong, I find that what is "right" seems to expediently shift with the prevailing wind.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and amandochka

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