Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10, verse 24

I’m a project manager.  I manage a team of people working on a project to remove Social Security numbers from older peoples’ Medicare ID cards.  Because I work remotely, I’ve never physically met most of the people on my team (though I do know some from previous jobs).  It’s tough to get to know people you don’t see face to face, and that makes. even more sense because I’m the new kid on the block.  On a work team, you’re drawn together by the commonality of your tasks and the fact that you’re employed for the same reason by the same people.  Yet in a virtual work environment, you never see your co-workers or team members in person.  Unless you know your co-workers from previous interaction, you don’t have common ground.   That makes motivating a team difficult.

So Hebrews 10, verse 24 is perhaps some of the best project management advice ever written, especially for virtual teams.

“Let us consider” is a call to friendly action.   Notice that it doesn’t say “do this” or “you will.”   It isn’t directive in nature and yet it places the reader in a position as if they had been directed.   “Let us consider” are three words that are swung as a velvet hammer.   They don’t force you to do anything yet place the burden of inaction squarely on you and you alone.   They ask you to do something without commanding you to do something.   They appeal to your reason and your sense of belonging.  That shouldn’t be surprising because that’s usually how Jesus operates.

“Spur” (according to dictionary.com) means “anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.”  The King James version of Hebrews uses the word “provoke” but no matter what version is used to translate the word, the intention is clearly to convince others to move.   A manager spends most of his time doing just this.   A good manager will do it in such a way as to inspire you to act on your own to do your part in a larger mission.   As managers, we spend most of our time spurring people forward to support the tasks we oversee.   As followers of Jesus, we should be spending most of our time doing the same thing, and the task with which we’re charged is sharing the Gospel.

And we are to spur one another TOWARD love and good deeds.   Sure, we are to comport ourselves in love and righteousness.   Jesus gave us both of those things and we’re to use them in living our lives.   Yet when we manage and lead others, we are to inspire them in the direction of love and good deeds.   We aren’t supposed to do other peoples’ love and good deeds for them.  Helicopter parents beware:   you aren’t responsible for living your kids’ lives.   Your job is to inspire them by parenting them, teaching them, preparing them.

Helicopter managers beware as well:   you’re responsible for the efforts of your team, but it isn’t your job to do their work for them.   It’s your job to spur them toward doing it.   It’s our job to serve a greater good by helping those around us serve it as well.  May I suggest that, whether you have Jesus followers on your team or not, some practical advice on why, even how, to do that is found first and foremost in the Bible (and not in the PM Body of Knowledge?)?

Best of all, we get to do these things while relying on the foundation of faith in Jesus’ true good news.   Love and good deeds are both the reason and the by-product of living in Jesus’ presence where love and good deeds become standard operating procedure.  In working with them we find it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most.

I don’t know whether my team-members are believers or not.   In today’s super-sensitive work climate, it’s almost taboo to discuss matters of faith.   Yet whether they’re believers or not, more often than not I find myself asking “what should I do” of my Savior when I have even the slightest question about work.   I’m learning to entreat Him into my routines, involving my faith more and more as a practical tool for managing my work team.   There is no downside to that.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14.

Lord, be involved in my work.   Lead me and teach me so I may lead and inspire others.

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Practical Proverbial, 8 July 2016, Conflict Management

Conflict Management.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18: 15-17.

Hello my friend.   It’s good to be back to share a few thoughts with you. For the next few months, I’d like to give you a look-see ahead into a project God put on my heart. Awhile back He inspired me to learn how to be a speaker in ways that will work for His kingdom.   Specifically, He put the thought in my brain to teach people to manage God’s way.

Project and team management is what I do for a living, and I’m passionate about doing it well.   The longer you live as a Christian the more you see how the Bible is both God’s word and handbook for our lives.   It’s the instruction manual for the human race.   Since this is so, and since work is so much of a part of our living, the Lord impressed on me that I should do my part to help folks understand how the Bible is also the best practical instruction manual for how we should interact on the job. To this end, I’m looking into ways to do help build this message, this blog being one of them.   Going forward, look for weekly updates on various Bible verses and subjects related to how we can manage God’s way.   As in all things, the first, best way to undertake any effort is to pray.   I’ve been praying on this concept and ask you to do the same for me.

And after we have begun in prayer, let’s continue in action.

Last year, I managed a large project in Minnesota.   One day, our team was discussing Christian faith and the workplace. Someone remarked that it was against client (and EEOC) policy to proseletyze in the workplace.   We all agreed, and then I said that, despite this, you could (and should) still work applying Christian principles especially at work.   We argued some, and then I brought up Matthew 18, specifically the verses above.   I remarked how it had been our team’s policy, from myself on down, to resolve conflict by going to the source and trying to work out problems before they escalate.

That isn’t my bright idea: it’s Jesus’. It’s Matthew 18. The first step to resolving any conflict is to go to the person with whom you’re in conflict.   You go in private because you stand a better chance of resolving an issue amicably if it’s done in private.   If the issue can’t be resolved in private, then you go to the next level; a manager or supervisor.   If that still doesn’t resolve the issue, you have the option of taking deeper action, perhaps making a policy change, or escalating the issue higher up the management chain.

Isn’t that what Matthew 18 is telling us to do?

Confronting conflict takes courage…and faith. Speaking, then acting, to build peace is God’s courageous way.   You need courage to face up to someone who may be accusing you, who is doing or saying things that are adversarial to you.   You need faith to know that you’re doing the right thing, especially since you know that the other party may resist; they may have reason to.   You need God for any real peace.

In our workplaces, in our homes, in our personal lives, and in the areas where those things intersect, we need to live out Matthew 18 all the time. We all know that our world is full of chaos, full of hatred and disorder.   I wonder how much of that chaos we could calm if only we would first go to those opposing us and speak love with them. This isn’t some Pollyanna, Loretta Lynch kind of ‘big group hug.’   This is going to those with whom we have conflict and speaking with them in ways to resolve the conflict.   It’s showing that you seek real justice for the issues in contention.  It’s an act of caring about something more than just ourselves. Not to build a cease-fire or détente, but to resolve – finish, end, conclude – that conflict in ways that build God’s peace.

That first step is, as they say, a doozy. It means conceiving mercy; it means giving grace.   Taking that first step, whether in your cubicle or in your living room, means listening, considering, giving. We all fail at doing that; we are each a work in progress. Considering the other guy’s position positions us to move forward and begin to resolve what violence transpires between us. If we remember that we ‘get to’ enact Matthew 18, perhaps we can resolve conflict so that we don’t ‘have to’ do so later in ways that are much greater.

This is how we manage God’s way.

For more reading:   James 1:19, Ephesians 4: 31-32, Colossians 3:13, Hebrews 12: 14-15, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 16:7, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 17:4.

Lord, thank You for Your commanding advice on how to resolve conflict. Help me to live this out where I am today.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 8 January 2014

Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  James 5, verse 9.

I am a project manager on a large remediation project in Minnesota.  I’m the program project manager, the training lead, and the logistics lead on an effort that is updating medical codes at a medium-sized insurance company.  Come October, if you visit a doctor in the United States, you’ll be affected by the codes we are updating because every doctor, hospital, and insurance company is doing it.   It’s a UN initiative; we’re simply complying to bring us in line with codes the rest of the planet is already using.

The team I’m helping to lead has nearly 40 people on it.   When you get any large group together and try to get them moving in the same direction, you’ll encounter friction.   Personality conflicts, unforeseen circumstances, emergencies, dissatisfaction, glory and glory-seekers, success and setbacks:  you encounter all of them if you stick around long enough.

So I find it amazing that some of the most practical management advice is as old as the Bible because it’s found in the Bible.   Want to handle conflict?   Try the Golden Rule.   Want to address issues at the lowest level?   Try Matthew 18.  And if you want to lay out cause and effect, follow James’ advice here.   Don’t grumble against us because we’re all being judged.  We are constantly being judged by God, who is the original TQM (total quality management) advocate, ensuring quality (holiness) in all things by constantly applying and evaluating the highest measurable standards.   It’s His job:   he’s the boss.

Don’t believe me?   Well, what else does a boss do but judge?   Said judgment can be good or bad, constructive or destructive.   It’s a manager’s job to constantly (and consistently) evaluate.   Performance, people, systems, environment, changes, information:  we evaluate everything.   So does God.   And He can see when we’re doing petty things like holding grudges, gossiping about each other, and grumbling about the way things are.   God sees those things as dysfunctional, counterproductive to the primary mission, which is sharing Himself for eternity.   He’s always watching, always measuring us.

The measure He uses is Jesus.   When He sees Jesus in us, all is well.   Quality is at its highest, performance is optimal, and standards have meaning.   You can lead any team successfully with Jesus as your standard.

I don’t know if you’re a boss, but you’re still a manager, you know.   You manage yourself.   Nobody else is responsible for you; only you.  Accordingly, if you want to see success, don’t grumble against others.  Adopt Jesus as your only standard and watch how you won’t feel like grumbling.  Invite Jesus into your life and see how well you can manage things.

Lord, you are the highest standard and the only measure I desire.   Remake my sodden life, so that when people judge me they see only You.

 

Are you a grumbler?

How do you feel when others grumble?

What is your standard?   Or who?