Team Work, Understanding the Job, Workplace Skills

The Team Player: Understanding Your Role Part I

Several years ago, I was asked to serve as the music director for a Christian camp.  Seeing an opportunity to involve several others in the team, I invited an extremely gifted young lady from my church to assist me in the task. Eagerly, she accepted the offer and the two of us met up at the camp two weeks later, ready to provide a worshipful time for a group of rowdy sixth graders.

Unfortunately, my hiring skills proved to be lacking. The agreement had been that the young lady would assist me in any capacity necessary in order to aide me in attaining the goal of a smooth worship event. She would be a team player who operated under my guided supervision.

She, however, approached the assignment with the attitude of a “team player”. She was there to “pick up the pieces” not just for me, but for everyone else involved in the functioning of each event. As heroic and self-sacrificing as this may sound at first, her failure to fully understand the part she was supposed to play within our team led to a near disaster.

It had been a particularly full afternoon and time to prepare for worship was limited. Knowing that this was our moment to shine, I grabbed my young assistant and explained, “I need you to photocopy this music for me while I go find the rest of our equipment.” With a nod of her head, she agreed and I set off to find the missing gear.

The adventure took me a good half an hour and, when I returned, I found that she was busy taking down cafeteria tables and setting up chairs. “Excellent!” I declared, fairly beaming with pride. “Where’s the music?”

“Oh, I didn’t copy that,” she replied. “They need to get this done and if I don’t help, there will be nowhere for anyone to sit!”

I quickly explained to her that, while I applauded her willingness to help, there was more to being a real team player than simply doing anything and everything that looked as if it needed to be done. There was plenty of staff on hand to deal with the seating arrangements… but there had been only one member of staff to see to the sheet music. We would now have to postpone the worship session because she had not done what I had asked. By failing to understand her individual role as a member of the team, she had actually done more harm than good.

This same situation occurs frequently enough within the realm of the workforce. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when, in the course of completing your assignment, you’ve been sidetracked by someone who isn’t completing theirs. We generally respond to this sort of situation in one of two ways. We’ll explore the first of these next week. But in the meantime, feel free to share your own experience with successful (or not so successful) teamwork in the comment box below!

Understanding the Job, Workplace Skills

Obedience and the Art of Hearing

During my early days in retail, I discovered that I had been given a valuable gift: I could look at any workplace situation and, without further instruction, know exactly what needed to be done. Without managerial instruction (or sometimes in spite of it), I could tackle and resolve nearly any problem. My managerial skills were evident and were outweighed only by my ability to take the initiative.

The difficulty, of course, was that what appeared from my perspective to be the obvious course of action was not always the course which my boss had previously plotted. More than once, I found myself redoing a project simply because I had failed to carry out her instructions… or even hear them correctly in the first place. I may have shown great talent, but she was not seeking any special innovation on my part: just the careful attention which leads to obedience.

Sadly, many of us face a similar dilemma when it comes to following God’s instructions; especially when those instructions are designed to govern our conduct in the workplace. Looking at the immediate context of a situation, we make our best guess as to the “right” answer. Unfortunately, that “right” answer isn’t always the Biblical answer and, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in conflicts and frustrations which might have been avoided if only we hadn’t been so keen to show off our spiritual “managerial” skills.

As with my manager, God is not impressed with our attempts to follow Him if those attempts are not based upon the clear instruction of His Word.  A perfect example of this may be found in Leviticus 10:1-3, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” While God’s decision to incinerate the priests may seem a bit extreme, we need to keep in mind that Nadab and Abihu were in direct violation of God’s direct orders. In approaching Him without regard to His commands, they dishonored Him. They thought they were smarter than God. God reminded them that they weren’t.

While God isn’t likely to use any of us as human barbeque (He did it just once to make a point), Scripture still places a great deal of emphasis upon the need to both hear and obey God’s Word. For example, in Luke 6:46-49 we read Jesus’ familiar words, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” And again, in Luke 11:28 we read that, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Our ability to obey both God and our earthy boss is directly linked to our willingness to hear.