Does measuring performance have to import the world’s target culture obsessed with achievement? If we do measure performance, how do we avoid making people feel judged, driven and devalued? Is it really possible for leaders in any workplace to measure in ways that encourage human flourishing?
This event launches a new booklet by Paul Valler in the Grove leadership series: Using Measurement Well (focusing on purpose without damaging relationships). Paul reviews the theological arguments for and against measurement and explore how a biblical framework can help us to understand what ‘good’ looks like when measuring performance. Showing how the way we measure can improve our organisational culture, this is for leaders in all types of organisation.
Paul Valler is a former Finance and Operations Director for Hewlett-Packard Ltd. With over 25 years of church leadership experience, he is now a mentor for ministers and Christian business people.
On the surface it looks easy. The website of the organisation you work for – be it a business, charity, or school – says that it values honesty, integrity, and hard work. It has a high concern for employee well-being and a healthy work-life balance. There seems to be a lot of overlap between these values and some of the characteristics of being a follower of Christ. Should a Christian make a model employee?
In the day-to-day experience, it can be anything but easy. Maybe your organisation’s ‘values’ are being quietly undermined by your manager? Should you say something? Maybe your embodiment of these values has found reward in raises and promotion? Or the early joy has been tarnished by increasing (and unspoken) demands on your time – what work-life balance? Should a Christian be a difficult employee?
Doctoral student and business ethics whizz Mark Sampson thoughtfully helps us take an honest look at the motivations behind our work. He helps explore where Christian values both compliment and clash with those required by employers and ask how we can do good work without letting the world’s rewards of salary, status, and power take hold of our hearts.
Below you will find audio links for a series of four talks by Graham Hooper. In each talk, Graham reflects on how our faith is tested at work: through failure, success, accountability and relationships.
Graham Hooper is a senior Executive with a global infrastructure company. He became a Christian in his early twenties while living in Tanzania and has spent his life working in the secular world. His career has taken him to some twenty countries. Graham is based in Australia and is currently working in the Middle East. He is married with three children and has 8 grandchildren.
His book ‘The Gap’ (working title), which addresses the challenge of living authentically as a Christian, is to be published by IVP in 2012.
Introduction to the series
When I first became a Christian in my 20’s, I was told that to grow in the faith I needed to pray, to read God’s word and to join a church. It all sounded pretty simple. What I was not told, but what I have since learned, is that we also grow through facing difficult issues, and taking on difficult challenges, and through learning to rely on God rather just on our own resources. I’ve learned that our faith is strengthened as it is continually tested, particularly in the workplace.
1. Learning from Failure – Listen here (Wednesday 13 June: 36 min)
“Failure is not an option”. This sort of slogan is of course meant to motivate us to press on to achieve our fitness goals. But in the pursuit of fitness, as in life, failure is very much an option. More accurately, failure is an experience we will all go through at some point in life, in some way, in some measure. The question is what do we learn from failure; and how do we come through that experience?
2. Handling Success – Listen here (Wednesday 20 June: 30 min)
Here we look at the other side of the coin – success. A much more fun topic! Success is an experience to be enjoyed, so how can it be a test of faith? In this talk we answer that question as we consider:
3. Accountable Living – Listen here (Wednesday 27 June: 27 min)
It’s ironic that the ones with the most power in this world often live as though they were the least accountable. Jesus said that it’s actually the other way round. Much is required of those to whom much is given, so here we ask:
4. Building Quality Relationships – Listen here (Wednesday 4 July: 31 min)
Perhaps the biggest test of all is how we deal with people: our bosses, our colleagues our employees. So, this final session focuses on the whole area of relationships in the workplace and addresses three questions:
God is indeed our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Many Christians have experienced the truth of Psalm 46 in the midst of all sorts of trials. I have suffered redundancy and/or unemployment following my last four jobs over the past twelve years. Each time God has been good. Friends and family have been generous. My wife and children have been very understanding and supportive. God has been faithful. He has given us each day our daily bread.
There have also been times over the past twelve years when things have gone well at work. By things going well, I mean something more than simply material success – that is, reasonable salary, interesting job and good employer. I mean a situation where I seem to have earned the respect of colleagues and I can do my work without compromising my Christian integrity; where people know I am a Christian and I have opportunities to talk about God; where I do not work long hours and can fulfil other commitments in the family, church and elsewhere. To borrow an idea from Psalm 16, “when the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.”
Yet God has a warning for such times. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses is giving a charge to Israel before he dies and before the nation invades the Promised Land. In verses 12 and 13 of the chapter, Moses looks forward to the time when the people will have eaten and are full; when they will have built good houses to live in. Their herds and flocks will have multiplied – along with their silver and gold. In fact, all they have will be “multiplied” (v13b). The danger is summarised in verse 17: ‘Beware, lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth” ‘. That is the truth, isn’t it? When things go well, we are tempted to think it is all about us.
In March this year I landed a reasonably paid, short-term contract after yet another redundancy. I began to credit myself for the outcome. I told myself it was thanks to my tenacious job hunt. I had built up my contacts over the years, and then meticulously recorded those details in Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. I had the skills and experience from 20 years of work. It had been my power and the might of my hand. I deserved it. Of course, believers and unbelievers alike should follow these sorts of steps on a job hunt. Still, as Christians, we must not forget Deuteronomy 8:18 says: ‘You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth’.
Yes, people create wealth through innovation, hard work, need, greed, even luck. But behind it all is a God who gives the power, the ability, to get that wealth. But how can we trust God when things are going well; when we have arrived at a pleasant place through our own hard work and God’s grace? Perhaps we need to consider what it means to ‘trust God’. When things are going well, how many of us long for heaven? I mean, really, really long for heaven? We are quite comfortable down here, thank you.
Remember, I am not talking about the rich young man of Mark 10, or the prosperous farmer of Luke 12 – people who appear to have sold themselves to worldly riches. Rather, I am talking about times when God has blessed us materially and He is, at the same time, using us at work – and elsewhere. In such times, don’t ask, ‘Do I trust God?’, but rather, ‘What am I trusting God for?’ In the end, the answers remain: forgiveness of sins, a restored relationship with God, eternal life. That is what we can trust God for. Two verses come to mind:
“For God shows his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” Romans 5:8
“Neither life for death, nor principalities nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:38.
So how do we trust God when things are going well? We remember not to get too comfortable down here. And we remind ourselves what we are trusting him for – we trust God will bring us to His side in eternity.
When things are going well, how many of us long for heaven?
Alan works as a PR manager in the City and writes freelance about financial technology. He also maintains a web site: Middle-Aged With A Mission For Christ: www.mawamfc.org
Getting into conversation
Have you ever noticed that office grumbling is rarely a spectator sport? Once one person gets going, it’s hard to stay out. And the topics are unlimited – colleagues’ behaviour; the way things are done; the rewards other people are given; how boring a task is. Dissatisfaction runs rife. I chatted recently with Peter, one of my non-Christian friends, who has just about everything you could ever dream of having. In a reflective moment, he surprised me by saying ‘how unsatisfying’ his life was. When I asked him what he meant, he started to talk about wanting a chance to help others and to put his money to good use. He no longer just valued the business of making money and the status attached to his success. I’m discovering that expressions of dissatisfaction – whether they’re serious, like Peter’s, or more superficial, like the usual office whinge – arise because most people don’t want to live lives of insignificance. People know they’ll feel satisfied if they do something that counts. It’s hard to turn the usual whinge among a group of colleagues into a conversation of substance, but knowing your own perspective, and asking good questions of others, can really help. In fact, dissatisfaction about a particular work issue might be one of the few things you share with a colleague with whom you have yet to form a closer relationship – and it can lead into a conversation about what your colleagues consider significant and worthwhile in life.
Taking the ‘dis’ out of dissatisfaction
So what is a Christian perspective on work satisfaction? Let’s look at some of the fundamentals.
– We work because God works, and we are made in his image (Gen 1.26-2.2). Since it’s part of his creation, our work is good and is for God, as well as to support ourselves and others.
– Sin marred Adam’s work and likewise mars ours, making it futile, toilsome and ‘thorny’ at times (Gen 3.17-19). This creates tedium and dissatisfaction.
– God is satisfied by his work (Gen 1.31), and our capacity and desire for satisfaction are a reflection of his own. However, after the Fall, satisfaction in work became a unique gift from God (Ecc 3.13).
– We now trust in Christ, who is making all things new (Rev 21.1-7). Therefore, even though work can seem dissatisfying and futile, contentment and thankfulness are hallmarks of new life in Christ (1 Tim 6.6).
That deeper engagement
You don’t have to be perfectly content and thankful to be able to have a God-honouring, worthwhile conversation about satisfaction with a colleague – after all, no one’s journey of faith is problem-free. Here are some questions you might like to try to take the conversation into more significant territory:
– What do you really like about your work?
– What meaning do you find in your work?
– What work have you found most satisfying?
– Do you have ‘greener pastures’ – things you’d love to be doing instead of what you’re doing now?
– How does work fit into what you want to get out of life?
Depending on where your conversation goes (and there’s endless potential here), it may be appropriate for you to empathise with your colleague’s feelings of dissatisfaction, because no-one is perfect – so there is no perfect job, no perfect employer, and no perfect workplace. If your colleague agrees, this may create the opportunity to talk about the universality of sin, its consequences in our lives, and Jesus as the only source of forgiveness and renewal. In this context, the centrality of work diminishes, whereas the centrality of faith increases. You could also talk about what gives your own work meaning – like the opportunity to use your creative talents and meet human needs. You could examine the inherent value of various jobs, and you could talk about your belief that work is part of God’s perfect design for his world and his provision for his people. Given enough time (and trust), questions like these may help you take the conversation deeper:
What gives your life meaning?
If you are able to ask your friend about the source of meaning in their life, they may talk about the value of friendships, family, community, achievement, or success. This may create opportunities to:
– ask about their priorities and values – including where work fits in;
– explain what you value and why – which could include talking about your own Christian world view, and your source of hope and meaning in Jesus.
What keeps you going?
Depending on how close your relationship is, you may have the chance to talk about how your Christian faith strengthens you in tough times:
– an example of asking God to help you be content and thankful, even when work is dissatisfying, and how God answered that prayer;
– the role that God’s promises play in your attitude to work and life;
– an example of praying for God’s help when work is difficult, and how you sensed God giving you that help;
– an example of a time when you realised afresh that the work you do is for God and has inherent dignity because of that.
Conversations are spontaneous – we can never control their flow completely. But if we think beforehand about how we can make our conversations more significant, they’re more likely to turn out that way.
“People know they’ll feel satisfied if they do something that counts.”
Success in the world’s eyes is more than achieving what you want – it’s achieving things other people will admire: the look, the logo, the body, the house, the perfect partner. For a high-flyer, it’s the dream job, the corporate car, the business jaunts to California, the pension at 50. At a simpler level, success is the word we use to describe achieving the result we wanted – when we’re pleased with our performance, it’s a success. And this applies to life in general. Still, we can sometimes be surprised by what we really consider important. For example, stop a moment and think of three people whose lives you rate as successful. Who comes to mind? Probably the people were not very different from the ones at the beginning of this article – successful by contemporary standards certainly, but successful according to Biblical criteria? What indeed would be a Biblical definition of success? And would Christ’s life rate as a success?
Obviously, from an eternal perspective, Christ did not fail. He conquered sin, defeated death and, as a result, made it possible for us to have new life. In sum, He accomplished the task God gave Him to do. Moreover, His success is confirmed by the fact that He now sits at the right hand of the Father and that one day every knee will bow before Him. Christ did what His father wanted him to do and, although He did enjoy obvious instant acclamation for His teaching and healing ministry in His earthly lifetime, His supreme success lay in the eternal significance of what His faithfulness achieved. Biblical success is doing what God calls us to do in His way.
Paul’s focus on faithfulness is similar. In 2 Timothy 4:7, as he sees the end of his life approaching, he writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…” This is certainly not the language of failure. Paul does not see his reward as a result of the number of churches he has planted but simply as the fruit of his faithfulness to Christ. Similarly, in the parable of the talents in Luke 12 and Matthew 25, we see servants commended or berated depending on how well they’d invested the wealth that had been entrusted to them by their master. Obviously, this is a parable and not strictly applicable to contemporary investment bankers. Nevertheless, the issue is clear. Two servants do what their master wants. They are good stewards of what their master has given them. Similarly, success for each one of us is a function of obedience and good stewardship of what the master has entrusted to us. As the parable makes clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with the creation of wealth but there would have been if the servants were not focused on their master’s agenda. Contrast that with the parable of the barns in Luke 12:13-21 where one man’s agri-business is so successful that he decides to build new barns to store his ever-burgeoning harvest, with a view to stopping in due course to enjoy a long and prosperous retirement. God, however, ends his life that very night. The issue was not the man’s material wealth, but the poverty of his regard for God. He had built up his fortune on earth, but ignored his heavenly bank account. Jesus is fully aware that the material concerns of this life are very real for all His followers: “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes… Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.” (Luke 12:23). However, He calls us to put these concerns in their proper perspective: they are the Father’s responsibility, and He is faithful in meeting His promises. This frees us to live for the Father and His kingdom, according to His kingdom values – because we already have its riches. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”(Luke 12:32)
Overall, Biblical success includes:
– Loving God with every aspect of our being (Luke 10:25-29).
– Loving our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:30-37).
– Maintaining Christ like priorities (Luke 10:38-42).
– Regarding all we have as a blessing from God (Luke 12:22-34).
– Living as if Jesus will return tomorrow (Luke 12:35-48).
– Using all God has given us to serve Him in this world (Luke 19:11-27).
– Returning to Jesus again and again, even when we feel we’ve let Him down terribly (Luke 22:54-62 & 24:12).
– Being prepared to take the Gospel to the world in the power of God’s Spirit (Acts 2).
If this is a general picture of success, what specifically does success at work look like?
Success at work
Success at work is to be defined in terms of our relationship with Christ. What does He want me to do? And in what way? As such, success at work stems from the knowledge that God is our ultimate boss (Colossians 3:23), and that our success or failure at work must be judged against His priorities and His standards. So it is that the Bible’s judgment on two very wealthy and powerful men differs so markedly. On the one hand there’s David: great warrior king, adulterer and murderer, but nevertheless a man after God’s own heart – a success. On the other hand, Solomon, the wisest man on earth, who started so well, accrued so much fame and so much wealth, but whose heart turned towards the pagan gods of his myriad wives. It was an apostasy that was to lead to the division of Israel, and the first step on the road to exile and the destruction of the Temple that Solomon had constructed. If, then, worldly success is not necessarily an indicator of faithfulness towards God, then it is also true that faithfulness is no guarantee of worldly success or even comfort. Certainly, it’s often the case, as Proverbs counsels, that “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (10:4). Diligence, however, is not always rewarded by wealth and power – just look at how hard so many people in the two-thirds world have to work to eke out an existence. What then of the good things God may give us which are normally associated with worldly success – riches, status, good health? The Bible is clear that such ‘blessings’ come from God and are in his power to bestow or withhold. Joseph (see Gen 39ff) achieved significant material success and political power against the odds, but he knew that his success was a direct result of God helping him. Indeed, although there have been many insightful studies of the positive aspects of Joseph’s character, the dominant refrain of that section of Genesis is “The Lord was with him.” Job similarly enjoyed God’s favour: he had vast numbers of sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys, and had a large number of servants under him. Yet God allowed Satan to destroy Job’s wealth, property and family, leaving him with nothing but his life (and diseased at that). Job humbly puts it this way: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). We need to apply these same values to work – especially in dealing with the benefits we receive from our jobs. When Christ tells us not to make big barns to store our plenty, He’s talking about the value we place on our salary package, or our pension, or that promotion. Being generous toward God with these earthly riches doesn’t necessarily mean giving it all away, but it does mean placing them all at His disposal. And trusting Him in times of plenty, as well as in times of need. Indeed, when the threat of redundancy looms in times of economic uncertainty, the balance in our spiritual deposit account becomes very clear: do we really believe that God knows our needs and will care for us and our family? Of course, biblical success at work involves far more than simply the faithful stewardship of the fruits of our labours, it involves being a good steward of our talents. Indeed, there is great joy in using our God-given talents, and great joy too in developing them, joy in a joint well welded, a ball well kicked, a letter beautifully written, a race run to the limit of our endurance, a mentally disabled eleven year old helped to read the word ‘cat’, joy as we, as creatures, succeed in doing something He has created us to do. And there’s joy too in helping others succeed, joy in being a good servant of those we work for and those who work for us. Joy in taking opportunities to ‘love’, in “selflessly seeking to promote the growth of others.” There’s joy in sharing Christ in tenderness and truth. And occasionally great pain – as they reject Him, or ridicule us. Success at work also involves living a life that shows others that success does not consist in being No. 1, in being ‘great’. Success for each of us will be different. And in a world where so many people judge their own worth, as well as the worth of their friends and colleagues by external factors, the Christian community must demonstrate the infinite value of every individual. As Philip Yancey puts it in Soul Survivor, “By elevating the rich, the beautiful, the powerful, what have we done to the dignity of those who don’t measure up?” How easy not to see other people through their Creator’s eyes of grace. How easy not to see our own work as valuable in God’s eyes. How easy to forget that: “Whatever” we “work at” we can “work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not for people…” And what a joy it would be to look back on our time on earth and be able to say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And what an extraordinary delight it would be if we were to hear our Saviour welcome us into heaven with these words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Mt 25.23). May it be so.
Tim Vickers Key resource
Most introductory Christian books on work deal with success but for something deeper Richard Foster’s, Money, Sex and Power, Hodder & Stoughton, £6.99 is excellent.
“Success is doing what God calls us to do in His way.”
“Love is selflessly seeking to promote the growth of the other.” Mayeroff
“The issue was not the man’s material wealth, but the poverty of his regard for God.”
“Success at work involves living a life that shows others that success does not consist in being No.1”
Stay up-to-date with LICC's latest news, events, videos and resources, plus enjoy our short weekly biblical reflections (Word for the Week) and blogs on faith and current events (Connecting with Culture).