Who Will Answer?

Even though this post isn’t about business, per se, I believe that the core question posed by Ed Ames is answered in the person of Jesus Christ. Written in the 60’s, it remains relevant over 50 years later. Our political and business problems will *not* be solved by our politicians in either political party. They will only be solved when Christians – those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ – faithfully practice 2 Chronicles 7.14. I’m not speaking/writing to those who have different religious beliefs than mine. I’m not suggesting that people who don’t believe the way I do need to change their beliefs in order for our country and our world to be radically changed for the better. I’m speaking *only* to those who *already* claim to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah – whether Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish or otherwise.

Here are the lyrics from Ed Ames:

From the canyons of the mind
We wander on and stumble blindly
Through the often tangled maze
Of starless nights and sunless days
While asking for some kind of clue
Or road to lead us to the truth
But who will answer

Side by side two people stand
Together vowing, hand in hand
That love`s imbedded in their hearts
But soon an empty feeling starts
To overwhelm their hollow lives
And when we seek the hows and whys
Who will answer

On a strange and distant hill
A young man`s lying very still
His arms will never hold his child
Because a bullet running wild
Has cut him down

And now we cry, Dear God
Oh,why, oh, why
But who will answer

High upon a lonely ledge
A figure teeters near the edge
And jeering crowds collect below
To egg him on with, go, man, go
But who will ask what led him
To his private day of doom
And who will answer

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name
If the mind is baffled when
The rules don`t fit the game
Who will answer, who will answer
Who will answer

Hallelujah, hallelujah

In the rooms of dark and shades
The scent of sandalwood pervades
The colored thoughts in muddled heads
Reclining in rumpled beds of
Unmade dreams that can`t come true
And when we ask what we should do
Who, who will answer

Neath the spreading mushroom tree
The world revolves in apathy
As overhead, a row of specks
Roars on, drowned out by discotheques
And if a secret button`s pressed
Because one man has been outguessed
Who will answer

Is our hope in walnut shells
Worn round the neck with temple bells
Or deep within some cloistered walls
Where hooded figures pray in halls
Or crumbled books on dusty shelves
Or in our stars, or in ourselves
Who will answer

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name
If the mind is baffled when
The rules don`t fit the game
Who will answer, who will answer
Who will answer

Five Things You Will Learn About Yourself and/or Others When Downsizing or Reorganizing a Business

Downsizing or reorganizing a business is usually a stressful time for everyone involved. During these stressful times, you get to see sides of people that you normally don’t see. It’s understandable, really. Highly stressful situations bring out a person’s base instincts and beliefs. If you can hold part of yourself in reserve, you can also learn about yourself and how the process of making difficult decisions expresses itself through yourself. You can grow to be a better leader by simply observing yourself and others, tucking away your experiences for the future. Over the last several years, I’ve see the following patterns enough times to suggest that if you’re ever in a situation where you are charged with leading a downsizing or reorganizing effort, you’ll likely encounter these five things within which you can learn about yourself and others.

First, for those who are directly impacted by your decision(s), you’ll learn what is in their heart and yours. Money and justice are likely to be core themes. You’ll find that those who have a genuine walk with God will not worry so much about money. They know that God will meet their needs. Others don’t have this knowledge or assurance. It’s sad, really, to watch this play out. For myself, there are so many things that are more important than money, but I’m not like most people. Don’t get me wrong – money is important. But in the end, it’s just money. It represents ability to purchase goods and services, true. But it’s just money. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He knows when the sparrow falls. And he knows what we need and He has promised to meet our needs. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. It’s just money.

From the justice angle, you’ll find that under-performing people who are affected by your decision(s) may claim an injustice in one or more several ways: A) they will remind you of their loyalty to you, B) they will remind you of how much they have sacrificed for you and the organization, C) they will essentially blame you for the poor results of their work and/or D) they will accuse you of being malicious in some way – either you’re out of touch or you’re mean or you’re unethical or something else like this. But ultimately, you’ll be accused of being unjust or unfair in some way. You need to manage yourself before, during and after the stressful event in ways that ensure you can stand before God and honestly say that you have handled yourself as best you could, with as much honesty and integrity as possible. This knowledge will give you what you need to keep going.

Secondly, you’ll see their personal dysfunction, if any, in the ways they communicate and act during the downsizing. Some of your own dysfunction may come through as well. It is never pretty. Some are able to see downsizing decisions within the larger context of what’s happening to the organization. Most cannot. For those in the former group, they will see the downsizing effort as separate and distinct from their performance. Those in the latter group will personalize it and a few might retaliate through legal action, which brings me to my third point.

Thirdly, because of the threat of legal action, you’ll find that you might be cut off from engaging in full communication with your staff. What you say today can have *legal* implications months or years later. What you’ll learn about yourself is whether or not you can work in a position that requires constant self-editing. Not everyone can. As a business owner or leader, you’ll need to be careful what you say, when you say it and to whom. And if there is under-performance, you need to document it and demonstrate that remedial efforts were unsuccessful.

Fourthly, you’ll learn where your priorities are and what your emotional needs are. Here, I’m referring to the tension between a legitimate need to be liked and the need to place the organizations’ needs ahead of any one individuals’ needs. Can you handle being misunderstood by people whom you genuinely like and admire? Can you handle it when people with whom you’ve had a good relationship turn against you or even grow to seriously disrespect and/or hate you? Can you handle people speaking falsely and negatively about you to others – souring their view of your person and work? As a leader, it will happen during these stressful events.

Lastly, you’ll learn who departs well and who doesn’t. You’ll find you respect those who depart well and you’ll be glad to be rid of those who don’t. You’ll find the summation of these experiences will influence your thinking and decision-making in future hires. For example, I recently interviewed a candidate for a position in my company. I ended the interview after 20 minutes and reported back to the referring individual that while the candidate was highly talented and obviously could do a lot of good for my company – especially in terms of revenue generation – I also discerned that this candidate didn’t know how to work in a team where this candidate might not get his/her way all the time. In the short run, this candidate would help us a great deal, but over time, I knew this would hurt my company because of my experience trying to work with people who are “islands”. Over the long haul, the good that they bring to the table is outweighed by the negatives that they infuse into the organization. I’ve seen it enough that I avoid these types of candidates. People like this never depart well. And they *always* sour others on their way out of the organization.

To lead is to decide and to decide – sometimes – is to alienate. Business ownership is not for everyone. I personally enjoy it – even during the tough times. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than what I’m doing today. But leading a business has required more out of me than what I’ve ever though I could deliver. Good leadership is more about who you are than what you do. If you ever need to lead an organization during a downturn or a redirection, you might want to consider keeping these five points in mind.

Bill English, CEO

Compensation: What is a Person’s Work Worth?

In the Wall Street Journal today, there is an article that indicates progress is being made on tying a CEO’s compensation package to the performance of the company s/he is leading. The article states, in part:

“When companies exceed expectations or outpace rivals, CEOs are reaping bigger-than-projected rewards. But when financial results or stock-market returns fall short, executives lose much of their potential pay. In most cases, CEOs have been clearing the hurdles erected by corporate directors: Nearly two-thirds of corporate chiefs met or exceeded performance goals attached to stock grants they were given between 2008 and 2010, according to a study by pay researcher Equilar Inc. and The Wall Street Journal. The goals most commonly are tied to a company’s financial results or stock-market returns over a three-year period.”

This got me to thinking about what the Bible has to say about compensation. The act of connecting one’s compensation to the quality of their performance is illustrated numerous times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we see examples of those who became rich through the buying, selling and growing of their flocks: Lot, Job and Abraham come to mind. Presumably, their work had enough quality that they were able to create significant wealth. By the same token, the early church was supported by those who were successful in business. Had those early church business owners not been successful, they would not have had the wealth to share with those in need. In the New Testament, the parable of the talents illustrates a clear connection between compensation and job performance. The two servants who earned a profit for the master were given much more in compensation than they ever thought possible, while the one who didn’t produce a profit was punished. In all of these examples, their compensation – what they received in exchange for doing work – was tied to the quality and the positive outcomes of their work.

In American today, segments of our society resist having their compensation tied to performance. This is an unbiblical trend. For example, some unions ensure their members do not have their compensation packages tied to their performance and efforts to make adjustments in this direction have been consistently resisted. When compensation is disconnected from the outcomes of one’s work, everyone suffers. Generally speaking, top performers will prefer to have more control over their compensation by working in an environment where there is a clear connection between the quality of their work and their pay. Under-performing individuals will naturally desire a non-negotiable compensation package so that there is certainty in their paychecks even when they deliver uncertain work quality to their employer.

Within the Christian community, there is a consistent belief that those in full-time vocational ministry should be paid less than others rather than connecting their compensation to their performance. I don’t know where this thinking comes from, frankly. A loaf of bread costs the pastor the same as it does you and I. You have a mortgage? So does he. Do you pay $4/gallon for gas? So does he. It seems to me that this “poverty” thinking for full-time vocational people is inconsistent with giving “double honor”. So, here are some ways to determine a fair compensation package for those in full-time vocational ministry. I offer these for your consideration:

  1. Find out what a person with similar age, years of education, years of experience and level of responsibility makes in your community and build the compensation package from that data. You can get most, if not all, of this data from the census bureau.
  2. If it’s a para-church or church organization, you call around to other, similar ministries within a given radius and find out what the candidate’s counterparts earn. Average the numbers and build the compensation package from the average.
  3. If it’s a church, average the elder’s personal salaries and compensation packages they presently earn and pay the pastor that amount.

If everyone in the church is tithing as commanded by the Lord, compensation for those in full-time vocational work should be able to be met using one or more of the ways I’ve outlined above. Where ministries get into trouble is when they don’t have their members giving as they should and the ministry personnel suffer as a result. However, because doing ministry can be, at times, a rather intangible activity that is difficult to measure, it’s understandable that some compensation packages are not directly tied to performance. For example, I wouldn’t want my pastor’s salary to have a bonus structure in which increased attendance was tied to an increased bonus. So in ministry situations, it’s usually best to use one of the methods I’ve described above and seek the mind of the Lord in the process of building the compensation package.

What is a person’s work worth? That depends on numerous factors. What is important to understand, in this post anyways, is that connecting work to compensation with clear, unambiguous measurements that fairly reflect the quality of work is Biblical in nature and when possible, should be implemented as part of any employee’s compensation package.

Bill English, CEO