Friday, August 18, 2017

God is calling You: A life long Journey of Discovery.

God is calling you

It's not for me to tell you what God's calling is for you.  It is a life long journey of discovery; it takes time, patience, asking, seeking, knocking, and discernment.  It is important that our life and what we do every day is in line with God's calling for us.

Calling requires a Caller. God is always the caller.  Like sheep who know the voice of the Shepherd, we need to know the voice of our Caller.  It is the Creator, the Almighty who Calls. It is God who is already doing the work, and calls us to join Him to participate in His work in building for the Kingdom. 

Calling requires a Receiver. You and I are the receiver. Again, you need to listen for yourself.  It is not for someone else to tell you YOUR Calling.  We listen with humble hearts.  We need to be actively listening for the Caller and to be open and available to what the Caller will call us to.  We participate in what God is already doing in the world.  

Calling requires a Message. The message is an invitation.  The message may not be what we want to hear.  The message will move us into action.  When we hear the message, there will be a gut feeling that moves us into action.  It will still require discernment-continuous discernment- to ensure that it is indeed Jesus' voice.  And while it stirs us and may even give us a feeling of inadequacy and fear, it will also give us peace. The feeling of inadequacy is not to deter us, but it does ensure that we depend on God because our calling is often a bigger than ourselves and does invite us out of our comfort zone.  It will draw us into deeper relationship, trust, faith and dependent life in the Triune God. 

What is God doing around you?  What talents and gifts have God gifted you for service in the Kingdom? What need is in your city or your neighborhood? What are you passionate about? What verse or story in Scripture has God placed in your heart today? Sometimes our calling may be prompted by situations that upset us?  What do we care about?

It's important to remember that it is not what others want for you, but what God wants for you; the distinction is important to uncover our motives and motivations because when we encounter failure, it will be the motivations and convictions (remembering it is God who Calls) that will help us through it.  Talk about it with elders and people you trust.

How you live out your calling requires imagination! There is no formula.  Be willing, open, and available to what God is doing, trusting in Him, and take steps by talking to others about it, taking action to test it.  We may have many passions and have many ideas but we need to incarnate those passions and ideas in practical ways--take action.  Remembering that it will take time so be patient and there will be risks.  Pray and ask God to bless you if it indeed God's calling for you.  More, remember that it is God's calling for you-you are not alone; the Holy Spirit is with you from beginning to end, and God will also bring other people along with you to support you and to encourage you.  God will equip you and empower you for the task.

I get anxious when I wonder if i'm doing what God is calling me to.  Am I doing what God has called me to? What if I miss my calling? I was reminded by a wise friend that our calling is one of the paradoxes of our lives.  "Calling" is a military term in response to a King.  Fundamentally, it is less about what you do and more importantly about our response to the One who calls.  We can be called to run a company. We can also be called to clean the hallways of a school or clean the sewer pipes.   Work is to glorify God and there is therefore no hierarchy of work.  And if and when the King calls you to something else, we respond, we go, and we do it equally well, bringing our best tp our work, and with all our heart, mind, and soul.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Living life at Godspeed: It's not what you think.

We have presuppositions and expectations of what church should be.  We may even believe that if certain elements of church are present or missing, it is therefore church or isn’t.  And before you read on, I invite you to watch a short documentary (30 minutes in length) titled “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known.” It’s a story about an American pastor who journeys to Scotland with presuppositions and expectations of church and desiring to change the world, but arriving and is transformed himself by the life experiences of the Methlick parish.  

Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known
The Ranch Studios: Danny Lund

One of the opening lines of the video, “If you want to walk like Jesus, you have to slow down.”  Every city has a unique pulse and speed.  In the city, there also seems to be an urgency to get things done and to accomplish something--to be successful; and when we aren’t doing something exciting and if aren’t working towards some goal we often feel inadequate--even guilty.  Others may think there is something wrong with us.   Spiritually, if we’re not feeling great emotionally about our faith, about God, about church and about life in general, we feel that something must be wrong.  

The video Godspeed is a reminder that if we want to walk like Jesus, to experience the life and what it means to be human, we need to slow down.  3 kilometers an hour.   And in walking like Jesus, we slow down to really get to know people--really know people and their stories but to also to allow others to know who we are; knowing means to know each other as persons created in the image of God, to know each other’s fears and aspirations, our insecurities,  our struggles and our hopes.    The thing is, relationship is organic and it can’t be structured; when we try to force it, or if we have an agenda in mind--trust is broken even before the relationship begins.   The foundation of church is on relationships (relationship with the Triune God) and the embrace of the each other.   Slow down.  Slow down.  Slow down.  And in walking like Jesus, at Godspeed, we will experience God when we in fact “slow down so that we catch up to God.”  This is what I am learning to do; and personally, it starts with being--who we are: a child loved, forgiven, and reconciled with God our father.

While work is important to God and our work indeed matters, we also need to be reminded that the work is not the end in itself.   God is to receive all the glory.  We are building FOR the kingdom--we don’t build it.  We also have be careful not to be doing for the sake of doing; or doing because of someone else’s expectation for us. Don’t get trapped in the frantic whirlwind of doing or keeping yourself busy.   In my experience, that only leads to burnout--work becomes meaningless.   In other words, work with purpose and intentionality.  As an aside, occasional reflection on where you’re heading, what problem are you trying to solve, our strengths and values, how do I make a difference to the situation, and so forth can help us re-calibrate.   Another tool is to think about what are some things in your schedule you need to stop doing, start, or slowdown?  There is nothing wrong with slow--slow is good and imagine what life would be like if you began living and working at Godspeed.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

World Economic Forum: A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

Article from World Economic Forum:  A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

And I would say, Work Matters because the Creator God Works!  And we get to join in God's cosmos redeeming work!

I met a young man yesterday who was struggling with this question about what does faith have to do with our work.  Our society and church cultures continue to promote the dualism between the sacred and secular; the good and bad; and inside and of the world. Rather, everything that we do has the potential to be good work--it is all because of God's common grace.  And even when we think its bad work, God has a way to transform it into good in the end.  But it does require us to innovate new ideas, seek out new opportunities, and be empowered to make a difference wherever God calls us.  You can choose to live as a victim; or embrace our God given identity as children of God, those created in God's image, and ambassadors of His kingdom.  We are ekklesia! (I use the Greek, because the modern understanding of 'church' fails to describe its full meaning.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

MVP (Mission, Vision, Plan): Leading Change and Building for the Kingdom

mission vision plan damonmak.blogspot.comAn organization's longevity is dependent on having a strong Vision, Mission, and a Plan for execution. I will refer to these three elements as MVP. The MVP will face the greatest test when an organization, company, or church community is in the midst of transition.  Businesses desiring to grow or attract increased funding will also need a compelling MVP.  Before starting a new venture, it is also important to clearly write down the MVP and invite others to critique it.  I argue that all corporate decisions need to be made with the MVP in mind. Without these key elements and constant reinforcement and review of them, especially if there isn't clarity around the MVP, the company will inevitably face turmoil; for those who are part of these communities will likely leave it frustrated or lost.  Or if they decide to stay, they will likely either be disengaged or worse, attempt to sabotage it from the inside.  Therefore, the leadership responsible for carrying out the MVP have a crucial role–they need to believe it, live and breathe it, and are willing to carry out the organizations MVP even when the risk of failure is high.  More, they are responsible for communicating the MVP to all levels of the organization; we'll talk about how to create greater engagement in another post but communitas begins with a clear MVP. 

While I titled the acronym MVP for easy memorization, Vision comes first.  
"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29.
VISION: When crafting the vision, our eschatology (e.g. end-purpose and belief of future new (renewal) heaven and new (renewal) earth, coming down of the new Jerusalem to earth, re-purposing) in relation to "Genesis-intent" (Genesis 1 and 2, creation mandate pre-fall) may help shape the organization's vision; considering the grand narrative of God's past, present and future plan may help inform our vision.   If we are to be faithful stewards of creation and shalom-makers, the vision needs to connect with the missio Dei (God's mission). Ask yourselves, Who is God, what does God care about, what will God do in the end, and what does God desire for creation. Hence, I contend that the vision must include aspects of shalomshalom of persons and creation in light of God's shalom and telos (end-purpose and ultimate glory).  Seek to clearly articulate how the organization's vision of the future better the lives of people in way that they flourish, thrive, and become more whole persons, how the organization will improve the relationships between people and with God, or help humanity become better stewards of creation.  The vision doesn't have a time limit; and it is best that it doesn't. All to say, when crafting the vision statement, dream big and be open to the possibilities; more often than others, the vision will not be achievable pre-parousia.  While the vision is a big, it includes clarity of what the organization is specially called to do. Be attentive to what particular area of that vision God is calling the group to. It may include a statement of the problem in which the organization is desiring to solve.   In addition, it may reflect what a changed society, people, persons and so forth could become when the vision is achieved. Essentially, the vision should include why the organization does each day matters–its purpose for existing, raison d'être, and/or purpose for serving others. 

MISSION: Vision and mission can often sound the same. For me, they are different but are intricately connected and interdependent; I make the distinction by stating that vision is future oriented and our hope for the future.  Mission brings greater focus by helping us to understand who we are today and what we are to do specifically in light of that grand vision. In other words, what does God desire for us to do today. Both vision and mission are therefore important.  It is, if you will, our mission-role in the inaugurated Kingdom as we set a course towards the vision. The mission clarifies what the organization is called to do today as we participation with God's work in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit collectively and in each of us.   Our mission arises from God and stirs our hearts and calling us to join Him in the work--it is our response and how we are to engage and participate.  More, the mission is how that vision is incarnated in our context, in our organization or business. Moreover, the mission is for understanding the purpose for the day-to-day.  But while the vision is big and bold the mission has to be realistic and practical; individuals within an organization should not find it too hard to connect with the organization's mission.  Thus, it is important that when crafting the mission statement, involve as many people from within the organization in the discernment process, to gather other perspectives, and to listen (and to listen well) to what others and essentially what God is saying; further, allowing others to weigh in will receive greater buy in later on. 
"Mission, then, is ultimately not about getting individuals right with God but about incorporating them into a new community that partners with God in redeeming social structures and healing the world." - Tim Keller, Center Church.
PLAN: Before we Plan for execution, come up with the map of how we plan to reach the vision and create structures for implementing the mission, we need to have clarity and focus on our mission.  I occasionally run into questions of why actions are being undertaken; when this occurs, it is because people are confused and asking how actions are in line with the mission (and vision).  The mission needs to be front and center in the day to day operations. Decisions and organization goals should be considered in light of the mission.  There may be many opportunities that arise, but if it doesn't align with the mission, we can say "NO" and not pursue. Having the ability to say "NO" to things should liberate rather than limit us.  When establishing the Plan,  create a timeline as best as you can to accomplish milestones and goals established by the leadership.  Identify strengths and limitations and resources necessary to accomplish the tasks. This is the time to craft the strategy for execution and implementation.  Include specific actions and S.M.A.R.T goals for tracking progress.  Establish checkpoints for when to evaluate progress and for when to discuss recourse and actions when there are hurdles.   In the beginning, it is important to review more frequently but as a "groove" is established, let things simmer. More, in the Planning stages identify key players and ensure clear accountability structures and escalation points.  Importantly, listen to feedback from the constituents and reassess if we are detracting from our mission--being attentive to God's voice always.   Ask questions or ask around if you are not sure.  

There is a tension during the execution.  We have to remember that we are participating with God in God's mission and work in the world. We need to hold lightly to our agendas.  Ultimately, it is for God's glory.  Failure is an option--it's reality because we are still in the moment of the "now but not yet".  But on this side of eternity, we focus on doing our best and remember that all we do is for God. We are to be good stewards of God's resources in our businesses and communities that we lead.  This is another way of saying that we must allow God to be God; allow the process to take its time--enjoy the process and journey.  It is about working with God through it all, so remember to not take yourself too seriously. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Circle of Friends (Proverbs 27)

circle of friends proverbs 27
Proverbs 27 is packed with wisdom.  In reflection, several passages reminded me of the importance of who forms your circle of friends and your inner circle.  I have to admit this is not the best exegesis of the text.  The one verse that stood out was verse 17 "Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another" which got me thinking about the other parts of the passage that speaks on the importance of friends (neighbours), friendship, and those people who form our circle of friends.  When we speak of "friends", everyone will define it differently.  Jesus had his 3-12-72-1000 and he interacted and related with them differently at each level.  One question today is who forms your circle of 3, 12, 72, 1000?   
  • 3: Peter, John (Jesus' beloved disciple), James (Mark 14:33-34, Mark 5:37)
  • 12: Jesus' Disciples (Mark 3:14)
  • 72: Jesus sends out them out (Luke 10) two-by-two
  • 1000: The crowds who followed Jesus and witnessed his ministry
We probably don't think about it too much other than to look at the number of friends you have on Facebook, but who is your 3-12-72-1000?  And if verse 17 is true that "iron sharpens iron"--who we "hangout" with day-to-day will shape who we are and become, what we believe, how we behave, our worldview, and how we live out the rest of our life.  Our friends matter.  And when we clearly understand our circle of friends we can be more intentional and focused on who we spend time with, and who we allow to influence us as individuals. I'm not saying to ditch all your friends tomorrow and pick three people hang out with every day; and maybe you do need to reassess. I am saying to be more aware of those few individuals in your life today who you will allow to be the iron that sharpens you; and vice versa. 

Friends allow us to be individuals--loving us and and gracefully accepting us for who we are but also desiring us to be transformed from the inside to be more like Christ each day.  As friends, we can be free to be who we are as well as being able to freely speak our hearts to each other.   And when you read on, you will find that genuine friends are not necessarily the people who flatter you and simply associate with you because they like the things that you do--in fact will refuse to flatter you and be overly impressed by you or what you do.

  • Let me highlight a few verses from Proverbs 27.
  • 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
  • 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
  • 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; 
  • 9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
  • 10b  Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother who is far away.
  • 17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
  • 19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
  • 21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

Proverbs 27 begins with essentially the warning of not being a fool.  A food being someone who toots her own horn (2), boasts about what he will do tomorrow (1), provokes others (3), and is wrathful, angry and jealous (4).  

A friend rebukes (5) and it is good that a friend openly and honestly rebukes you and has the permission to be that voice in your life; at moments, our friend's voice can be as Christ Jesus himself to us.  To clarify, our friend is not Christ's voice and whenever we think we hear Christ's voice we will need discernment, but regardless our friend's advice should point us to Christ.  While rebuking is often sharp and criticism, it must be done respectfully, and with grace, honour and dignity--the relationship must be respected; but sometimes (as my wife does sometimes) needs to do it directly to keep me from making a fool of myself.  When your friend rebukes you, it will hurt (6) (not harm us) and you will be upset sometimes; however, we all know that we will be better people and sharpened by those words.  For a friend to rebuke us, is to in fact show care, concern, and love for us--they genuinely care that we are being shaped to be as God desires to be. At the foundation, there is trust and agape-love; rebuking "in love." Our friends will keep us honest and be ready to check our motives when needed.  

While a friend can rebuke you, your friends are also the ones who will praise you (2) and champion you; your friends are the ones who will support you, pray for you, and give you wise counsel (9).  When a friend counsels us and walks with us in our discernment and decision making, it will be sweet and make our heart glad.  Our friend is not to tell us what to do, but walks beside us and ensures that we make the decision, trusts that God has spoken to us, and supports us regardless of the outcome.  As mentioned earlier, a friend, therefore, is not there to flatter us but is invested in us and desires our hearts to reflect who we are made to be--as God's image bearers and as God intended them to be; in other words, friends care about our character and integrity, and ensure that we live authentic lives and thrive as persons.  When we are praised (21) or receive praise, who we are on the inside often is revealed--it is a test of our character and specifically concerning our humility.  Our friends are those who will support us, and stand with us in the spotlight or in the "rain" when things get rough; they will also be there to keep our feet on the ground so that the praise doesn't "get to our head".  

We also don't think about who we influence day to day. We definitely influence our close friends and they influence us--the 3 and 12.  Often we forget that when we interact with our 72-1000, it can have a profound effect on those people as well as the people who they influence; Our influence ripples out if you will.  What we say and do matters; what we don't say or don't do also matters.    Each day, we are to be Christ to the world.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Theology of Hiring and Firing

the theology of hiring and firing hire and fire well

If you are running or managing a business, you will need to hire and (hopefully only on the rare occasion) fire an employee.  As a follower of Jesus, how do you approach these scenarios? How do you make the right decision? Is there such thing as hiring and firing well? These are massive topics and there are countless books written on each subject. Both have its unique challenges.   In reality, every hiring or firing situation is different from the next.  Today's post on the subject is not intended to be a set of rules to follow or does it include everything that is needed when faced with the decision; rather its intention is to help us make better decisions and be faithful to who we are as Christians and leaders in the workplace.   I will also do my best to succinctly highlight the theological implications.

In beginning, we need to remember who we are as our identity matters. We are loved by God and His grace is enough. God has given us the ability to think, reason and discern--we are empowered to decide and decide well.  We are vice regents in God's Kingdom; again empowered to make decisions with God and to be stewards of God's resources. More, we work in participation with God in the world, and in our businesses, to maximize God's shalom. 

It is important that we ourselves are committed to making the decision as managers or business owners; while you may consult others, we need to make the final decision ourselves as responsible, accountable, mature adults and mature followers of Christ. To not make a decision is an avoidance and abdication of responsibility as a manager. Good management requires us to decide well since we represent the company. Further, when we demonstrate good management, we demonstrate good stewardship not only of the company's resources but also God's resources because we also represent God in the world. 

It's key to remember that it's not about being or making the perfect decision.  The reality is that it is impossible to make the perfect decision--we can only do our best for the moment we're in.  And once the decision has been made-made in and at peace and joy with our decision- we commit to it, and accept it as the best decision; we cannot at a later time regret our decision as it is almost always an imperfect situation. Remembering also that hindsight is always 20-20.  Importantly, the Holy Spirit (along with our business community) is with us throughout the decision making process--we are not alone in making the decision.  The goal, in most decisions is to aim for a win-win-win situation where you, the other party, and God win and win together.

As an aside, I think our culture has adopted a false understanding of love where we accommodate and tolerate inappropriate behavior because accepting their behavior is the "loving" thing to do.   However, the loving thing to do may in fact be to correct and reprimand the behavior--including firing.  It may be the right thing to do because you love the person.  As a father, I will put my boys in time-out or restrict television time if they disobey mom or dad; To ignore or tolerate their disobedient behavior would in fact not be the loving thing to do.  In fact, when I am impartial, they definitely know and will behavior differently knowing that I am.  Maybe a post on minding children some day.   

We also need to be reminded that the person we are hiring or firing is also made in God's image--someone God deeply cares for.  He or she is also on a journey to discover who God is, and who and what God has called them to.  We get to journey with aiding that individual in that journey--it is a indeed a privileged and why it is such an important task for us as managers and employers to do our best to discern well. As such, we must always treat him or her with respect, dignity, and agape-love.  We are to always act justly, fairly, honorably and with grace. 


Hiring is about building a flourishing community where individuals can flourish.  Hiring is also bringing along side others who are committed to serve a mission and purpose. 

It is often helpful to begin by understanding what are the budget constraints for the position. Most positions have a limit; if there isn't a limit I'd like to know what company doesn't.

I prefer an interview process that involve multiple interviewers--it helps alleviate biases and potential conflicts of interest.  As the hiring team, it is important to talk before the interviews to understand what is required and what are nice-to-haves in a candidate. Also, certain positive or negative characteristics may be observed by other interviewers that we miss which may be important to determining who you hire in the end. More, as hiring is about building community, the interview process should involve those from the community-managers and future team-members. 

Hiring often is about looking for potential and possibilities--not only what and who they are today, but what they can become in a few years time in both skills and character. Hiring someone strictly based on skills for the job may give the team temporary relief and lighten the workload; however, from experience hiring based on character, integrity, virtues, teach-ability is of more importance--skills you can teach, character (being) is much harder to shape.  That said, we also believe that the Holy Spirit can transform anyone; so i'm not saying its impossible, just takes longer and patience. What i'm also not saying is to ignore skills and competency and hire only based on character; we want to hire those that have relevant skills and demonstrate competency, however, we want to ensure the candidate we're hiring is a fit for the team and community--specifically, culture fit.

Building community requires finding the best candidate who will best serve the customers, the team and company, and the community.  Will the clients trust him? Will she be capable of building relationship and collaborating with the team?  Is she interested in their personal success only or are she interested also in success of others and the client? What are the motivations for getting the job? A suggestion would be to look for individuals who are interested in investing in others and the success and flourishing of others in addition to achieving personal success.  Furthermore, look for candidates who exemplify the company's culture and can add to the existing culture--a person who can flourish in the existing culture, and reinforce the existing culture and promote a culture that is consistent with the vision of the culture and where you desire to see culture become. 

If possible we also want to understand the person's purpose and passions, their strengths, and talents so that we can do our best to facilitate them in fulfilling their vocation. We want to hire someone who will thrive in what they do, and also elevate the flourishing of those that he or she works with whether its with people inside or outside the company. It's a great feeling to see a person who we hire succeed, grow, and become who God created them to be. 

There is no perfect candidate and we need to be reminded that we are to do our best.  As a cautionary note, do not hire simply to fill a position; there may be challenges later which will impact the team dynamics or morale.  There is always (at least there should be) the option to not hire at this moment and wait with the intent to continue searching for additional candidates.  Again, being aware of the reality that we must decide and cannot delay our decision indefinitely; Also being aware that when we delay the process we could be negatively impacting the team productivity and team morale.  Unfortunately, we can also loose the position due to budget or business changes.  

Hiring is two ways; the person being interviewed is also looking for a match.  As you are getting to know the other person, they are doing the same.  Don't be disappointed if he or she turn your offer down--it happens. And if you find a candidate, congratulations! Celebrate and welcome them--seriously welcome them! 

While we hope to hire someone for the long term, there may come a time where they may leave the business for another opportunity, or lay the person off. Sometimes, it means we need to fire them.


There comes a point when a manager needs to decide whether to terminate the employee from the company. Firing is never easy--if it's easy, something is wrong.  As a Christian, we often are unsure of what to do in these situations because the Bible says that we should love our neighbors and we should have grace.  Right? At the same time, we are also stewards of the resources of the company and it is our responsibility as managers to represent the interest of the company. But we also want to be faithful and loving follower of Christ.  We can be stuck between these tensions.   As managers of the business, we can experience decision-paralysis around firing. 

Firing often has a negative connotation and being fired is often associated with failure. Firing someone is neither a reflection of your character nor connected with your identity.  Neither is a person who is fired a bad and evil people--people are intrinsically valuable. There may be all sorts of reasons why the person is not performing at the level expected for the job. Sometimes the reason is a poor choice in making a decision. We won't go into all the possible reasons for firing in this post.   

Again, good management is good stewardship of the company's resources as well as God's resources. 

Whether its negotiating a deal or firing, we need to prioritize the relationship; at the beginning, during, and after the process, the relationship between the the manager and employee (or those involved in the process) must be maintained or better.  Grace and dignity matter profoundly in these situations. 

Alright, here are some considerations:

1) What is the reason for firing? Are laws being broken? Breach of contract? Breach of work relationship?

Is the individual not meeting the requirements of the job? Is the employee aware of the requirements of the job and have those requirements been communicated clearly and understood?  As managers, we need to confront the issue as soon as possible.  If possible, collect data to substantiate the reason and to eliminate any subjectivity.  Some reasons are immediate grounds for termination, some are not; consulting or getting a second opinion is always a good idea in these situations. 

2) How has this employee performed in the past? Is the behavior out of the ordinary for this person? Is he going through a transition outside of work that is affecting his performance? 
Is their performance improving just slower than expected--they may be struggling to learn something.  Be sensitive to cultural differences as some people from other cultures are more vocal about expressing their challenges--some not as much. Some employees will be satisfied with meeting the requirements of the job and it is possible that she peaks at some point; remembering also having such individuals on the team bring stability to the team.  Coaching the employee may help them break-through the hurdle. 

3) Check your emotions.
Consult with another manager colleague who you trust to understand if they are observing the same behavior.  The intent is not to gossip, but to have a trusted colleague give feedback and shed any wisdom on the situation.  Is there data to substantiate the problem you are observing.  Make sure you are at peace before addressing the concern with the employee and/or when making the final decision; if you are not at peace, wait or take a break.  Take a walk, make sure it is not "emotional leakage" from some else that's happening in your life or from a previous incident.  Understand the situation at the moment.

4) How is the individual's behavior impacting the rest of the team. 

If you notice a problem, the rest of the team is definitely aware of the problem.  They are observing your leadership and how you address the situation.  How you address the situation (or if you choose to ignore) will positively or negatively impact the morale of the team.  Once trust is broken with the team, it will be very challenging to regain trust with the team which will be a challenge on its own. 

5) Is there a position in the company where the individual may thrive?
There are people that I've worked with who thrive once they move to another team.   This should always be considered especially if the person demonstrates commendable character, integrity and work ethic and is a positive impact to the culture of the company.

6) Do they need additional training and coaching?  
Listen and try to understand why the individual is under-performing; it may be an opportunity to pastor.  Do they feel they are contributing to the success of the business? Do they understand the business and the purpose of the business.  Are the goals of the company clear?  Do they have S.M.A.R.T. goals? Setup a performance improvement plan for the next few months and plan to coach them to achieve the level expected. If she continues to not meet expectations, your decision to terminate their employment should not come as a surprise. Opportunities to coach and mentor,and discussions around their performance should have been exhausted before going forward with firing. 

7) Is the job they are doing the individual's calling? A job isn't necessarily their calling; they may be experiencing a transition point in their life.   Future post coming on calling.

The decision to hire or fire is never easy. There is great honor in participating with God in His work in the world.  It's also important to remind ourselves that we still work and live in the messy middle between the now and not yet.   Colossians 3:22 states that "Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord."  We may very well need to obey our bosses, even with great reservations, their orders to hire or fire--we need to follow through. Lord have mercy for we redeemed-sinners.  In addition, we can have having faith, hope, and love because the Holy Spirit is with us at each moment as we maximize God's shalom in the world.  Do your best.  It will require boldness and courage as we integrate faith and work and life. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Reality of Sexual Exploitation (City in Focus Event)

Work matters to God and is an important part of God’s created order. We are created to work and be stewards of God’s creation.  However, we need to be reminded that while the Kingdom of God is inaugurated here on earth, we still live in a world that is corrupted.  That is the tension we experience in the now but not yet.  Work can also corrupt and be corrupted. Today’s post is a stark reminder of why Christ Followers need to be salt and light in the world.  God calls us all to join Him in the redemptive work and to transform our cultures and society for His glory.

May 26, 2017 - Vancouver Club - City in Focus Event: Human Trafficking

Picture a full bus load of men coming to Vancouver.  And instead of going on a cruise together or sight-seeing, they come to Vancouver to buy sex from exploited women and children.
That was the essence of a comment made by one of the attendees in a conversation I had after the breakfast talk on Human Trafficking hosted by City in Focus last Friday.  
On the panel that morning was Cathy Peters (International Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate), Phil Reilly (Director of Development and Mobilization for IJM, BC), Sister Nancy Brown (Covenant House), and Gwendoline Allison (Foy Allison Law).  The discussion was mediated by Tom Cooper.
Surely human trafficking cannot be that big of a problem here in our beautiful city? We would be naïve to believe that the ads in the local newspapers for nail parlors, escorts and massage services are what they advertise.  Those are the services that publicly advertised; with the emergence of the Internet, many of those services have gone underground.  
Some other comments from the morning:
  • 20% of the prostitutes (women and men) are from the streets, and 80% from the Internet. 
  • 50% of those women are aboriginals.  
  • Globally, the sex industry accounts for $120-150 Billion USD which affects approximately 2 million children who are exploited for profit.   
  • Vancouver is the largest Sugar Daddy city.  
  • There is a child pornography problem right in the city.
  • Canada has the top 3 sites for hosting material for cyber sex trafficking.
With sex trafficking affecting so many people and of such big magnitude, why is there so little being said by our media?  It’s not difficult to deduce why.
The solution is not easy nor simple. It is multi-faceted and complex.  As our panelists pointed out, “Without addressing the demand for buying sex, we cannot hope to reduce the supply of victimized people.”  The way forward does begin locally, here in our city.  Change begins with raising awareness, increased enforcement and improved laws, education, and the pulpit.  
Need for greater awareness.  Without reports to the police, the crime hasn’t been committed; that is one of the reasons why media doesn’t talk about it.  To simply advocate that the victims go to police and report the problem is also to dismiss the emotions especially fears of a each person who are traumatized by their perpetrators.  Our society has turned prostitution into a choice–a choice of work or choice of the individual.  However, if you are poor–it is neither a choice nor is it work.  We need to name it for what it is–exploitation.
There is also a need for increased police involvement and enforcement of the law.  This will obviously require the review of our existing laws around the selling of sex and buyers of sex. It was troubling to hear a comment made during the session that the police often are not (and cannot be?) involved unless a girl goes missing, or has died from an incident.  In Vancouver, there is yet to be a someone charged for the crime.   The directive to take action needs to come from the top levels of our government and lead by the leaders of our city and police.  More, we need funding and programs to help trafficked individuals transition out of prostitution.  
There needs to be improved education.  Some of the girls that are lured into the sex industry are girls; Under aged girls who are too young and naïve to realize what is actually happening.  Trafficking of boys and girls are typically for labour or sex.  This is Vancouver I’m talking about.  Some girls from other countries are lured into the industry with the false promise of better education in Canada.  The poor are being exploited.  Education of our children needs to happen at an early age.  And it needs to begin in our homes; At the core, it’s about helping them understand their value as persons as well as educating them on the dignity of all humans and that all human life needs to be respected.
Lastly, something must change in our local churches.  The Church needs to be at the forefront of the battle in what Cathy Peters summarized as a “fight against evil.”   In other words, the weekly message from the pulpits needs to change. When we are Pro-Life, we need to be concerned about the entire life and all stages of the individual’s life–”from Womb to Tomb” as Tom Cooper exhorted. We need a renewed understanding of who we are as persons made in the image of God.  People, in particular women and children, cannot be equal if they are treated as objects–objects that can be consumed or bought and sold as commodity.  All people are precious in the heart of God.  If the Christian message is simply about being saved and going to Heaven after we die, we are perpetuating the problem.  If the Christian message is about shalom, justice, compassion, love, kindness, rescue and restoration–we, as the Body of Christ, need to take action today to live out what we in fact believe in.  This is a calling to the whole people of God, and we need to work together NOW.

“Having heard of all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” - William Wilberforce 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Profits Only? Business Purpose-for-others (telos) and need for a third indicator of Success.

profits purpose-for-all people
Many companies today focus on profits as if that is the key indicator of the corporation's success. Profits are important--it shows that the company is a viable company, the leadership is competent, the business is stable and sustainable, and so forth. This is necessary to attract capital to gain more investors and for further and future growth of the company. But profits alone do not demonstrate the complete picture when we're talking about the "health" of the company today and for the future.  

A secondary indicator these days is around social impact and environmental responsibility of the business. Investors want to know, for example, the footprint and impact of the company on the environment and society as a whole.  Chris Houston in his Ebook "For Goodness' Sake: Business for telos" discusses the importance of the purpose of the business.   Houston clarifies that "society is not asking for the business case for purpose.  What society is in fact demanding to see is the purpose case for business." (39)  Houston argues that "we need businesses that relentlessly deliver on a telos to serve others." (43) Telos being: 

A Greek word meaning "intended end." Applied by Aristotle to humans, telos implies a life of virtue, lived for the good of others. Telos has an inherent benevolence and a predisposition towards the common good. It is most precisely defined as a purpose-for-others. Every telos is a purpose, but only the rare purpose is a telos. (44)

For the business to formulate and live out its telos "involves the reformulation or clarification of the very identity of the organization and its primary reason to exist." (45) Customers want to know that you care about society and them as a customer. Yes, positive social impact is indeed important and serving others (its purpose-for-others) is of utmost importance.  It's important that everyone in the company understands and owns the purpose (telos) of the business and brand.  

I want to propose a third indicator of importance that can better the long-term success of a company that demonstrates the true "health" of the business and it relates to its people.  Houston does touch on it, but I want to call it out more explicitly.

Over the past years, employee engagement sits around 30% engaged, with the remaining 70% disengaged or actively sabotaging the company (20%?). That's 3 out of 10 employees that are actually engaged in their work.  (Cf. Gallup)

A company can be making money and even have a compelling purpose; however, if a company's employees are not engaged in their work--is it truly a viable company?  My challenge to today's business leaders is to publicly publish your quarterly/annual earnings with your employee engagement survey results. Yes, show your profits and let the world see how engaged your employees are.  I have a feeling that doing so probably scares leadership more than how much money they not making.  I believe transparency and openness will build greater trust with your employees, customers, as well as investors--real investors.   It demonstrates publicly what you value as a leader, how you are making a difference in the lives of the people that work in your company, how you are investing and caring for your employees, and what you're doing to make your company the best place to work. More, it shows that you can be trusted, you are accountable as a leader inside and outside the company, you are willing to listen, and you're not afraid to admit failure. Measuring and disclosing the company's employee engagement helps leaders understand whether employees are in fact aligned and living out the business purpose-telos, be transparent with the challenges, and work towards creating a plan for how to resolve those challenges.  Furthermore, doing so will demonstrate character, vulnerability and humility--again, trust and whether you can be trusted as a brand and business will be a key competitive differentiator in today and future markets.  

When businesses focus solely on profits (and sadly, many companies still do), a company will unfortunately rot from the inside.  A company that focuses solely on profits will become irrelevant and also loose the customer's interest. To regain momentum towards a more healthy business will be a insurmountable task at that point.  I hope leaders have the courage to be different-different where both profits, purpose and people are top priorities and focus.   Essentially, investors and customers want to know about your product as well as its profits, its telos, and the people behind the brand.  When you focus on these three factors, profits will come and continue come--I believe it. More importantly, employees will be more engaged (and with more joy) and passionate with what they do because you genuinely care about them as persons--they will champion the company and work to delight customers. Moreover, when profits, purpose and people are valued and aligned, people in and outside the company will want to invest in your company. 

If you know someone who would enjoy reading this post, share it with them.  Sharing is caring.

Monday, May 29, 2017

For Goodness' Sake - "You don't need to be the CEO...(Telosity)

Chris Houston on making a difference wherever you are in the company doing what you do already-You don't need to be the CEO to make a difference.  You can influence and be an agent for change today.

Head to the link above and get his free Ebook on

Join the movement in transforming our workplaces!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

7 Questions to Ask yourself when Engaging "Millennials"

7 questions engaging millenials
While a catchy title for today's blog post, I find categories such as "Millennials" unhelpful especially when the term has more of a negative connotation today.  Our society is increasingly marginalizes people (and groups) by creating these categories.  There is a deep need for communities that exemplify encouragement, support, collaboration, and empowerment at its core--fundamentally, communities built on trust and authentic relationships.  We are all made in the image of God.  Categories and labels seek to divide and separate. 

In Scripture, we read of the relationship between The Apostle Paul and his young disciples Timothy and Titus who traveled, ate, and spent life together.  Because of Paul and his investment and pouring his life into in these two young men, Timothy and Titus became heavyweights (in their own ways) in proclaiming the gospel to the people of their time and building up the early Church. 

Today we are faced with a challenge of how to work together--cross-generations.  There is also a significant need for mentors and coaches.  In order to create more engaging work environments and church communities, we need to make a dramatic shift in our cultures.  I've compiled a list of seven questions to help spur dialogue for moving forward together.   Actually, I don't think these questions are specific to "Millennials".  Importantly, the questions are to help us listen better to each other and listening together.   Here we go:

1.  How well are we communicating the purpose and why?

Rather than telling others what to do or dictating how another should live their life, how are we helping others discover for themselves who they are and who God has called them to be and do?  Rather than tell them what needs to change, begin with explaining the Why and implications, but let the other person come up with the action plan and application. Simon Sinek Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Ken Costa Know Your Why: Finding and Fulfilling Your Calling in Life have books on the subject.  More, we also need to be communicate the vision and bigger picture of God's mission, and how we participate in God's mission. 

2.   How are we creating a work environments and faith communities that value people as inherently valuable? 

People (not their wallets, not their gifts, not talents and abilities) are not a resource and a means to an end.  
Are we valuing each person as an individual created by God and in God's image? Are we valuing their individual gifts and strengths--there is no hierarchy of skills that God appreciates more or less.  We are the body of Christ.  Do others feel that they are valued? It's not good enough that they know--they really need to experience it.  Importantly, while we are a body/community/team/company, we are also made up of individuals made uniquely by God.  Everyone is a child of God.  

3. Do we trust others and empower them to do it? 

Trust and empowerment is essential for developing people to become mature followers of Jesus and grow into confident mature adults.  This means believing in the person, and allowing the person to carry out what they believe to be the best actions forward.  I say "best" because in reality, there is no "right" action forward.  In other words, to empower them to make a difference and release them to do it.  I believe that those same individuals, when empowered, will commit to the initiative and find ways to make it happen when they believe in the purpose themselves and when others believe in them.  This also means providing the support, resources, and encouragement when the other encounters failure.   As part of this, how are we coaching and mentoring others--investing in them as they discover God's calling for themselves?

4.  What are their values and what do others actually value? What is their passion and God's calling for them as best as they can discern at that moment?

Everyone's values are different.  What we think is important to another person, is likely not what is important to them.  This requires listening--really listening.  This means understanding the ways a person is appreciated, motivated, and rewarded; this requires knowing them as individuals.   For example, While I enjoy a cup of espresso, don't buy a coffee card for someone who doesn't drink coffee.  More, God's calling for everyone will also be unique and it is important to understand (and help others to discern) God's calling for them as best as they can discern at that moment and to support them in their calling; The big mistake is to impose or rush a person into what we think God is calling the other person to.  Be patient with others.  It's a life long journey. 

5.  Are we creating environments where each person has a voice and creating spaces where new ideas can be expressed and questions can be asked? 

Environments that exude trust, collaboration, and openness allow for a free-flow of ideas and individual expression of who we are uniquely created by God.  This includes, creating spaces where people can practice their craft. More, to create spaces where people can ask questions without being judged or criticized. Learning includes learning about failure and how to fail well. Learning is also more effective when a person discovers the answer themselves rather than having answers fed to them all the time. 

6.  Do we invite those on our communities to help define what the path forward looks like?  

Rather than having an agenda and setting a path for others to follow; sometimes leadership does require that, however, how are we facilitating in those discussions for how to move forward together before presenting the path forward? How are we discerning God's call for the community together and coming along side each other for the journey forward.  This includes listening to the cries and concerns of the people.  

7.  Lastly, how are we living out these values and being a positive influence to those around us?  

This is about having integrity and being authentic persons.  Our theology and what we believe informs our actions, and our actions demonstrate what we believe.  More, we need to have the courage to demonstrate vulnerability, humility, and openness with our lives. 

I hope the list of 7 questions is helpful; definitely not an exhaustive list.  

Who are the Paul's in your life? Who are the Timothies and Tituses who are in need of a mentor and coach?  Who are your co-partners in the journey?

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi