by Ruth-Ann Soodeen
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Years ago, a friend gave me a compact mirror from a youth conference where she was volunteering. Two words were printed on it: “You Matter.” What a powerful truth for young people to believe and one we never outgrow the need to hear. Everyone—whether long term staff or a short term volunteer—needs to know that they are appreciated and valued by others in both their personal and professional lives.
As leaders, we have the privilege and the responsibility to be purveyors of this message to those who have been entrusted to us. Here are six ways I have learned I can regularly do this.
Most of us have heard some variation of “You were given two ears and one mouth for a reason,” to emphasize the importance of listening. James 1:19 says it this way: “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about the “ministry of listening” and describes it as an act of love: “Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.”
We honour our staff by first inviting their input, ideas, questions, and concerns, and then by attentively listening as they share. I learned this as a young grad student when my program director received a phone call during our meeting. He immediately turned off the ringer and apologized for forgetting to do it sooner, saying that when he meets with someone, they deserve his full attention. That made me feel like a VIP. We can do the same with our staff.
I had an aha moment years ago when I heard John Maxwell say, “You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.” I already knew that I was not the smartest person around, but I thought that as a leader, I should be. Not so. Instead, I should be humble enough to become the student as my staff “teach me” by using their unique skills and knowledge. Pharaoh did this by accepting Joseph’s divinely inspired dream interpretation and plan of action that ended up saving Egypt from famine (Genesis 41:25-54). Pharaoh wisely promoted Joseph to second-in-command.
Jesus spent hours personally teaching and training his twelve disciples. Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus filled with instructions and lessons from his own experience so that “you may fight the battle well” (1 Timothy 1:18). In other words, he wanted them to succeed. Sending our staff for training and taking time to personally mentor and coach them shows our desire for them to flourish within and beyond their current roles.
In the Bible, God always called people to something new, not to continue doing the same thing. They were busy working in their fields, their homes, or even hiding out in the winepress. God (or an angel) showed up with two messages: 1) You’ve been faithful, and 2) You’re invited to a new experience.
As employees excel and build proficiencies, we can further empower them by inviting them to join a committee, attend a meeting typically reserved for more senior staff, or lead a new project or training workshop. Like the 72 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10, hopefully, they too will return “with joy” at their success.
We don’t actually want our employees to mess up, but everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones. Like Peter. Within a few hours, he went from declaring his undying love and loyalty to Jesus to completely abandoning Him. That’s failure! Yet, Jesus forgave him, reinstated him as an apostle, and entrusted him to care for the Believers. Does this type of grace have a place at work? I believe so. It shows our people that they are not failures and that we will support them as they learn from their mistakes and leverage them towards success.
Everyone needs a Barnabas. He was Paul’s PR when the disciples were distrustful and later, he stood by Mark when Paul rejected him (Acts 15:36-39). My lesson – believe in your team, ensure they know you believe in them, and brag on them even when they are not around to hear. When an employee of mine was congratulated by one of our directors for some work she had done well and then discovered that I had told him about it, the impact was visible - her eyes brightened, she smiled wider, sat up straighter and her shoulders went back. Praising our people to the Executives, the Board, our colleagues, and even our friends and family is a powerful endorsement.
Every day let us seek to answer this call to action from God: To consistently show our people that we value them, not simply to boost their self-esteem or motivate them but to reflect His heart towards them.
Ruth-Ann Soodeen is a certified leadership coach in Winnipeg, Canada. She has over 20 years of training, facilitating, and leadership experience in volunteer capacities and as a Lead Research Coordinator at the University of Manitoba. As much as she “loves” dark chocolate Ruth-Ann is more passionate about helping Christ-followers flourish spiritually, and leaders, particularly women, fulfill their God-ordained calling. Connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn where she shares practical inspiration you can use in your life and leadership to make a Kingdom impact.