We love a little bit of friendly competition around the OneHope office, and occasionally during lunch we will break out the backgammon boards. Vice Presidents will go head to head, moving each piece hoping to be declared the victor. The leadership team may play against the youngest members of our staff. Novice players will learn from more experienced players and vice versa. The game is a perfect blend of skill and luck, so even a beginner can beat someone more experienced once in a while. Anyone who wants to play can join, and it always ends in good fun…but not every company or organization would agree to host a similar game time.
Friendships in the workplace
An article recently sparked dynamic discussion at OneHope. The topic? Friendships in the workplace, particularly for management.
As part of our culture at the ministry, we regularly engage with readings from management expert Peter Drucker, as much of how we operate is modeled after his best practices.
In one particular excerpt, Drucker shares the story of Alfred P. Sloan Jr, a longstanding CEO of General Motors, and his particular leadership style. Drucker highlights this quote from the automobile executive:
“It is the duty of the Chief Executive Officer to be objective and impartial,” Sloan said, explaining his management style. “He must be absolutely tolerant and pay no attention to how a man does his work, let alone whether he likes a man or not. The only criteria must be performance and character. And that is incompatible with friendship and social relations.” (Source: Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-13). The Daily Drucker (p. 116). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)
Drucker went on to affirm this statement, and the necessity to remain distant. As someone on my team aptly pointed out, this isn’t how the leadership team operates at OneHope, as you’ll see if you ever swing by the office during a round of backgammon. As much as I respect Drucker’s management style, as Kingdom-citizens there’s another option than to distance ourselves from the people near us. Our lives will be enriched as we engage in community with those around us.
Relationships above, beside and below
I believe that the living Word, as a guide and compass, can allow us to work together, be friends, and love another in community – with relationships that are above, beside and below.
A leader can and should be friends with others who are skilled in different areas, with the ability to learn from someone who is at a higher level than you and has already paved the way. My peers are beside me, iron sharpening iron. In addition to discussing work-related items, we share about our families and hobbies, as it adds a richness to our relationship. I also enjoy connecting with younger professionals, as they help me see what’s up-and-coming and can provide a different perspective. As a global ministry, I often get to interact with staff who live in other countries, and I love learning about their hometowns.
My best friends are ministry partners, board members, and OneHope staff that are my leadership peers and those that report to me. Some individuals have moved on from being a member of the OneHope team, yet our friendship remains.
The key to me is that OneHope is not a corporation, it is a member of the Body, a solidarity of the Church in service to the Kingdom whose construct is Family. As believers, we are all part of a Kingdom family. I’m not negating the fact that performance and character are integral. These traits guide where people are suited to serve, but they don’t override our relational bonds as spiritual ‘relatives’ – moms and dads, sons and daughters, uncles and aunts.
The next chance you get, set out a few board games at the office during lunch. Engage in community. Interact with people you don’t get to work on projects with every day. You may be surprised by what you learn (and how discreetly competitive some people are!) in your next gathering.
This tension of being a well-run, functioning organization that follows the wise principles of Drucker management philosophy and being a missional family of love are not antithetical, they are in fact, and in aspiration, the community that God is calling us to be.
Rob Hoskins is the President of OneHope. Since taking leadership of OneHope in 2004 he has continued to advance the vision of God’s Word. Every Child. by partnering with local churches to help reach more than 1.7 BILLION children and youth worldwide with a contextualized presentation of God’s Word. Read more by Rob Hoskins at goodnewsfl.org/author/rob-hoskins/