Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Opposition to Border Walls is Nothing New: Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

The issue of border walls is certainly an ongoing political topic in our country these days. Some are in favor of a border wall along our southern border, while others see such a wall as immoral. Some politicians are wanting to build many more miles of a wall, while others to tear down the walls that have already been constructed. No matter which side of this debate you are on, you might be interested to know that opposition to building or rebuilding a wall is nothing new. In the first six chapters of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, we read about the reconstruction of a wall that has been damaged.
We are introduced to Nehemiah in 444 B.C. when he was serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. I’ve always enjoyed the story of Nehemiah. One of the first books I read as a new believer in the early 1980’s was Charles Swindoll’s Hand Me Another Brick, which was about Nehemiah’s leadership.
After 70 years in exile, some of the Jews had returned home and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, as we read about in the book of Ezra. They were able to worship God in their own land, but the city still lay in ruins. In Nehemiah 1:3, Nehemiah is told that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates destroyed by fire more than a half-century after the completion of the rebuilding of the temple. Upon hearing this news, Nehemiah mourns and prays to God.  He then asks permission of King Artaxerxes to go to Judah to rebuild the walls, which the king grants.  When Nehemiah arrives, he inspects the walls around Jerusalem, devises a plan to rebuild, and rallies the people of Judah to do the work. He tells the jeering Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arab that the God of heaven will make them prosper in the work (Nehemiah 2:20). Continue reading

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Should Christians Always Be the Best Workers?

Is it true that Christians should be the best workers? It depends.

I remember one of our pastors telling me years ago about a comment that one of their seminary professors had made in class. They said that if the married students were consistently getting straight “A’s” in class, they were obviously not spending enough time with their families. I think I know what the professor was getting at. If we apply it to our work, we could ask that if we consistently excel at work, could we be giving a lesser effort (time, energy, engagement) to our families, ministry and our relationship with God. Excelling at work includes more than just the effort and results you achieve during the regular workday.  It also includes taking job-related classes and studying for exams, be they industry designations or certification or a Master’s Degree.
Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert address the balance that is needed in their book The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs. They write that we should never be idle in our work, nor should we make work an idol. In other words, we should not be idle at work, but instead do excellent work. On the other hand, we should not make work an idol by being a workaholic, placing work above our family and church responsibilities. Continue reading


Is it Right to Share Your Faith at Work?

Work is commended in the Bible as a good thing. It is both a privilege and a blessing. But many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view it as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling or even a career. No, it’s just a job. Many feel that there is “sacred” or “religious” work and everything else is “secular work”, and that secular work is a necessary evil, just to pay the bills, support your family, and have the resources to support God’s mission. Others may see the workplace as a mission field, and they use their position to evangelize non-believing co-workers.
Is it right to share your faith at work? That depends. If you work at Chick Fil-A or Hobby Lobby, organizations that are open about honoring and glorifying God, it may not be a problem. However, at the organization I worked at, and perhaps at yours as well, sharing your faith at work could have serious negative consequences for you.
The most challenging time of my nearly 38-year career was a result of my speaking openly about my faith. Without going into details, a comment I made landed me in Human Resources, and among other disciplinary action I was required to complete diversity training. Continue reading


Making a Name for Ourselves

My pastor preached on Genesis 11: 1-9 about the Tower of Babel. If you are not familiar with that passage, it is about people who in their self-sufficiency apart from God, wanted to build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and to make a name for themselves. They believed that they had no need for God.
Although this story took place many years ago, how much is this like many in our culture today who get their significance from their achievements – their position, title, success, status or salary? Or perhaps as having the perfect marriage, being the perfect parent, having the perfect children or the perfect home, as displayed in their Instagram posts. In his sermon however, my pastor taught that contrary to this, our true significance is in God alone.
Early in my career at a Fortune 50 organization, one of my leaders told me that I needed to make a name for myself. He intended this advice for my good. He wanted me to get my career off to a good start and to build a good reputation for myself. But the advice was not from a Christian perspective, but very man-centered, much like the people who wanted to build a city, tower and a name for themselves. Continue reading

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What is Moral Authority, And Why Is It Important for Leaders to Have It?

I recently read John Maxwell’s excellent book Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace. One of my favorite chapters in the book was titled “Positional Authority to Moral Authority: The Influence Shift”.  What exactly is moral authority and why is it important for leaders, and others, to have it?
Maxwell writes that moral authority is:
“The recognition of a person’s leadership influence based on who they are more than the position they hold. It is attained by authentic living that has built trust and is sustained by successful leadership endeavors. It is earned by a lifetime of consistency. Leaders can strive to earn moral authority by the way they live, but only others can grant them moral authority.” Continue reading

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12 Essential Traits of a Good Team Member

A few months back I wrote about how to become a leader that others would want to follow. You can read that article here. I was telling a friend about that article and he challenged me to write about what makes a good follower. I’m adapting his question to reflect what I believe are 12 essential traits of a good team member.

In nearly 38 years as a leader in a Fortune 50 organization I had the opportunity to work with many talented people. As a general rule, they demonstrated the following traits:

Initiative – I always appreciated team members that demonstrated strong initiative. They didn’t wait to be asked to do something, instead they saw what was needed and just took care of it, helping the team in the process. Some may call this person a “self-starter” as well. Continue reading

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How I Spent the Majority of My Time as a Leader

As a leader, I never bought into the philosophy of treating everyone the same. I tried to treat each person on my teams as an individual, according to their specific needs and personality. I didn’t treat everyone the same, but I did treat all with equity.
On my teams I found that there are some team members who are consistently solid. They aren’t looking for any advancement and just love what they are doing. In fact, if they could, they would stay in their positions for a long time. In my experience, there were two categories of employees that I spent the most time with.

  1. High potential employees who wanted to continue to grow and advance within their role or the organization. The individuals in this category were highly motivated and demonstrated excellent attitudes. Many were interested in advancing to a leadership position, while some were working toward a promotion in their current role. I would help them to find stretch assignments to continue to grow, as well as suggest some mentors for them. Also, in this category were those I was mentoring. I always enjoyed working with mentees, and never turned anyone down who asked to be in a mentoring relationship with me. I always saw it as giving back to others, just as my career mentor did for me.
  2. Those with performance problems. The individuals in this category were struggling with their performance for one reason or another. It could be that they were in a position that was not a good fit for their skills, they may have been struggling with attendance issues and thus not able to consistently produce for their teams, or they were not be fully engaged or had a poor attitude. The goal of working with these team members was always to help restore them to being solid performers. Many times, that was the result, but unfortunately there were some times when that was the not result, and those were some of my most difficult times as a leader.

I love a good redemption story. Someone who fell into this second category turned out to be one of the most pleasant stories in my career. For whatever reason, she had a year in which she did not perform up to expectations. Her leaders knew it and she knew it. Prior to that year she had been a solid performer. When she came to my team, she told me that level of performance wasn’t her, and she would show me just that, which she did. She immediately re-established herself not only as a solid performer, but as a top performer. Within a few years she was in a leadership development assignment, capping off the most significant turnaround I saw in my career.
I would encourage you to treat each person on your team according to their own talents and needs.  As a leader, who did you tend to spend the most time with on your teams?

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The Most Painful Time of My Career and What I Learned from It

The most difficult period in my nearly 38-year career at a Fortune 50 organization came about 25 years into it. I touched on this period briefly a few years ago in my article “Looking Back at Life Through the Lens of Romans 8:28”. It started with a regular monthly meeting with a team member, a team member who was not a good performer (and later terminated by another manager). The team member was a homosexual, a detail that is important to this story. But I always love to see people turn their performance around. That is one of the most satisfying aspects of being a leader.
During the course of the meeting, I remember him pointing out a small George W. Bush bumper sticker that I had placed near the bottom of a bookcase in the corner of the office, out of the sight of most. I’m sure he had put me in a mental box as being a conservative in all things, which was probably not an inaccurate assessment. But then he said “I bet I wouldn’t even be welcome in your church”. I was taken aback by his jumping to this, but I knew fully what he meant. I replied, “Yes, you would be welcome…..but, we would want you to change”. As I recall, we shortly got back to discussing business and the meeting ended fine. But within a day or two, I was called to my leader’s office and told that the employee had filed a complaint against me. Continue reading

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The Biggest Risk I Took in My Career

Are you a risk taker? Some people are, but I’ve never been one to take big risks without looking at an issue from all sides, getting input on it, and praying about it. I remember one IT department leader telling us (about implementing changes into our infrastructure) that if we do our homework (testing, etc.) and something went wrong, he would be right there to support us. However, if we had not been diligent, and something went wrong (the change took the system down, for example), we would be dangling in the wind without his support (as he slowly waved a piece of paper back and forth).
One time, about a third of the way into my career, a mentor suggested a consultant position to me that if I was chosen, would have resulted in a promotion. However, the position would have resulted in a significant amount of travel. After my wife and I discussed this, we decided that the downside offset the advantage of the position, and thus I did not pursue it.
One of the risks I did take was when I applied for a leadership position that was a step up from the one that I was in. The position would be a challenge for me, and I would have to take a lot of difficult classes. On top of that, I loved the position I currently had (leading a group of Planners). I remember praying about this decision, and not getting any clear answer one way or the other. I decided to make the move and it was one of the best decisions I made in my nearly 38-year career.
But the biggest risk I took was changing departments exactly halfway into my career. Continue reading