By Scott Anthony Ward
There was a guy in one of the companies I worked for. He had been shuffled from one department to another. He was an “okay” worker, not flashy nor extraordinary but not rotten either. He was a complainer periodically–enough that it drove his supervisors crazy. He complained about the right things though. He always offered suggestions even if they weren’t practical. With a mix of ambition and conscientiousness, he would often corral anyone who would listen to his complaints and ideas, especially anyone in upper management.
I needed someone to do some research on one of our processes. From his complaints, I knew this guy at least had a passion to see the place get better. I decided to tap into his desire to prove himself. “Joe, you’ve worked in a lot of departments. I need to you to find out what’s happening with this product. We’re getting killed with the rejects and the costs. Now, you’ve been involved with it directly at different stages, but I also want you to spend time with the other areas. Listen to what people tell you. Ask good questions. Test a few hypotheses. Then get back to me in a few weeks with your analysis. If you have any questions, let me know along the way, or get a hold of me if you feel stumped. You’ve had some pretty good ideas in the past that I’m sure you’ll be able to help us figure out what we should do here.”
Joe went off bounding into the assignment, energized and excited as if he had just been called up from the minor league team’s bullpen as a rookie relief pitcher to the big leagues in the seventh game of the World Series.
From that assignment, we found a niche for Joe. We soon transferred him into the right job that fit his skills and attitude. He stopped being a thorn in people’s sides. We had tapped his passion and drive.
At another company, I hired an Iraqi refugee whose education was in software engineering. While he had been in a refugee camp, he learned to drive forklift and bend/cut steel plate. I hired him for helping us in our small stainless steel shop where we made custom fixtures for restaurants and commercial kitchens. After he showed he could handle the basics, he seemed interested in learning to weld. We showed him the basics. When we needed a simple metal frame to hold some rolled packaging film, I asked my Iraqi friend to design the frame and fabricate it. He enthusiastically sat down to sketch out some ideas, cut the frame and pipe and then welded it himself. I’m sure he bounded home each day to brag to his wife and friends what new skills he was learning and how he was making the company a better place.
Your assignment today is to find a person you need to encourage. Not one of your favorites, but someone who has gifts, talents and skills, and needs an avenue to use those capabilities. You could specifically acknowledge their talent, and express confidence in them to meet expectations–old or new. If they need some development in an area, talk to them about how to get those aptitudes. Everyone is too valuable to waste. You need them all in your business, division, or department. This kind of recognition and encouragement is like a reward from heaven. All it costs is a little time.
Scriptural basis: Reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.30-36). Maybe there’s an employee whose reputation has been trashed, beaten down by an expressed lack of confidence. Maybe there’s someone who’s being ignored, figuratively left along the side of the road while the others cross on the other side, barely glancing at or involving this person. The person being neighborly, being a servant, being the Good Samaritan didn’t care if the person needing help came from his “tribe” or not. In the workplace, it might be a person from a “hated” department, or a department whose motivations are almost always suspicious. Today, reach out to that person as a way of celebrating Christ’s passion and resurrection. He died for this person recognizing their worth. Be a cup of cold water and a balm to this person’s spirit.
Likewise, we can acknowledge that Christ built His church on the non-professionals, the non-ecclesiastically educated. He took fishermen, tax collectors, outcasts, people learning other vocations and turned them into evangelists, healers, preachers, etc. Maybe we can’t transform people’s occupations, but we can tap into some God-given talent and inclinations and let them loose to contribute to the company.