“Our people are our greatest resource!” “We believe in our team!” “Our people make the difference!” “Teamwork is the key!”
How many times have you heard these, and others of this sort, platitudes? And how often have you heard them from organizations that talk a good game, but that don’t really “walk the talk”?
I have had the privilege of serving in / working in various types of organizations: the military, the defense industry, manufacturing, state government, para-church ministry, on church staff, business investing, and in higher education as an adjunct professor of management. I have also served as a consultant to non-profits, Christian colleges, and ministries. So I have seen how people are treated in a wide variety of contexts.
Unfortunately, one of the most common threads, or themes, I have observed is that we really don’t know how to take care of our people well. One particularly galling thing to me is when “loyalty” is touted as a high value within an organization and the reality is that “loyalty” is only one way – to the organization. Organizations often “preach” loyalty to their employees or staff, but with the least little hiccup in the economy or other “speed bumps” the first remedy to be discussed is layoffs or some other way the people of the organization can absorb the cost and not the institution itself.
However, the biggest issue of mistreatment (yes, it is mistreatment!) of our people that I have observed over thirty-plus years is that of burning out people by our spoken and unspoken demands for more and more work. With the advent of the Internet, laptops, and smartphones, we expect our people to always be available for whatever thought or question we might have for them at anytime of the day or week.
In the business world, it is an unspoken standard of commitment to the company or the willingness to “pay the price” to advance. In the church, ministry, or non-profit world, it is the unspoken measure of your dedication to the mission, a measure of your spiritual dedication, or your willingness to “die to self”. It’s amazing how when those types of things are talked about, they always seem to be related to the needs of the organization. Of course, it is only for “a season” or this crisis, or this special deadline, but the problem is – there is always another “special season”, another crisis, or another important deadline. So, ‘redlining” our people becomes the norm instead of the exception (read an earlier post on this subject of redlining your organization).
The trend of overworking and burning out employees and staff has been exacerbated by the state of the economy. Business, churches, and non-profits alike are demanding more and more from their people in order to cut costs. What they are really doing is actually damaging their people. Let me say that again – you are actually, literally damaging people and their families by burning them out. For some, it can be a lifetime of damage. For those of us in the ministry or non-profit world, you are alienating people from your cause.
The irony is that this only harms your organization. Any benefit derived by the organization is short-lived at best and the long-term impacts are costly indeed.
“To put in it simple terms, working your team flat-out until they fail is going to hit your bottom line. Hard.
It’s far preferable over long-haul to help your employees create balanced, sustainable lifestyles for themselves.”
So my thought is this – quit talking about how your employees / staff / missionaries / volunteers are your most important resource. In fact, QUIT calling them a resource – people are NOT a resource. Money, buildings, equipment, and etc. are resources. People are unique creations of our Lord, made in His image, that are your organization. Organizations are groups of people working together for a common mission. The buildings, money, tools, equipment, and so on are just the tools for these groups of people to accomplish their missions.
So, quit burning out your people and asking for loyalty that is one-sided and only for the benefit of the institution. Start looking at your “human resources” as people that need to be cared for and developed. Quit looking at yourself as an “organizational leader” and begin viewing yourself as a shepherd of precious people, created in God’s image, for whom Jesus came and suffered and died for so that they, we, would have eternal hope.
“He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
So, become a shepherd of those precious people created in God’s image that have been entrusted to your care (leadership). As a shepherd leader begin to live out the command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Instead of burning out and using up your people, nourish, protect, and grow them for a lifetime of impact and effectiveness.
Peace and grace to you this week,