“Wow! This is a lot of produce! Do you have a bunch of animals at your house?”
I stared dumbfounded at the young man checking our groceries.
“We like fresh fruits and vegetables,” I quietly but pointedly remarked.
I had already overheard his loud exchange with the previous customer about the injustice of having people bring reusable bags and also having to charge them for bags from the store if they forgot. I’d heard this complaint about the new state law at other grocery stores, but never at this one. Wasn’t this the same store that had always encouraged people to recycle and be aware of the environment? The same store that for several years had even been paying me five cents for every bag I brought from home?
I’d never seen this register clerk before. Obviously he was new to the job since he was constantly looking up items to enter them. That wasn’t a problem since I usually give plenty of leeway to new employees.
“Man! You must really like pears!” I smiled and just let that one slide by.
Well, I must say he was both friendly and engaging, something any company would seek in an employee, but what was coming out of his mouth was slightly jarring.
“I’ll ring you up credit for three bags.”
“No! They have four bags,” a nearby voice interjected. “One, two, three, four!”
I hadn’t noticed this man sitting nearby. But now I recognized he must be the one evaluating our new clerk. Hmmmm… I wonder if he had also caught the rest of our interaction.
As my husband and I left the store, I turned around to read the sign on the building. Yup. Still there: “Farmers Market” This was a store that prided itself on quality, fresh produce and promoted healthy eating. We had shopped there for over twenty years and had always left with the feeling that we were doing something good for our bodies. I wondered where this young man would fit in to that company culture, or if he would even be offered a permanent position.
What I Say and What I Do
Organizations and companies should be attentive to the attitudes and conversations of their employees. Going beyond professing core values or mission statements, leaders need to recognize that what their staff says can either support a company’s culture or tear it down.
Now this isn’t a call for uniformity in all things. Certainly there is room for individual personalities and styles or even disagreement concerning tactics and goals.
But the words used and the tone of discussions and conversation speak to the true nature of the climate people work in and how the company is represented to and connects with its customers. And it doesn’t take long for those customers to figure out if the attitudes of those employees are an anomaly or an accurate representation of the leadership.
As a leader my task is two-fold: Determining if I am truly speaking and acting in a way that not only promotes but actually becomes the everyday interaction I expect from others. And then encouraging those around me with reminders and corrections if necessary to ensure those values and goals I hold dear are genuinely displayed.
So how do we as leaders make sure these goals and values are ones worthy of this constant vigilance? As a Christian, that shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out… but it can be.
What Would Jesus Do?
I know that when I am representing Jesus, the Leader I profess to follow and honor, what comes out of my mouth isn’t always supportive of what my Lord wants me to focus on… love for Him and for my neighbor. It’s hard to follow His lead when my neighbor isn’t all that loveable. It’s also hard to truthfully speak for God when I’d rather accuse Him of not intervening in events to benefit His mission or, more selfishly, to benefit me. It’s easier to just focus on my own immediate goals and objectives without looking beyond to my Lord’s divine purpose and design.
But then when I turn back to His call, I can take an honest assessment of my own leadership and also of my own role as His follower. When I listen to the truths He reveals in His Word, I realize that His plan is the best after all. And I realize I’m not always that lovable either.
When I surrender to His forgiving, understanding leadership, I can only hope to model His patience, His discernment, His wisdom to those I interact with. Only then can I truly be His representative on this earth.
What Do I Do?
When I speak, I know my words can further His message of love and mercy. And certainly He celebrates my personality and style! Yet I know a thoughtless remark can also become a barrier to someone’s relationship with a Savior who reaches out with open arms of saving grace.
The struggle to be a faithful witness and a true follower of my Lord Jesus is ongoing. Second guessing and constant analysis of every situation is exhausting and often counterproductive. But when my heart is connected to my Lord’s, I know that He is able to keep me from stumbling and will present me blameless before the throne of glory (Jude 1:24).
In the end, safe in the assurance of His loving presence in my life, I can only breathe out an obedient prayer as I begin each day: “What I say and what I do… may it be a joy to You!”
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