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Leadership/Organizational Development Concept
Wisdom of the ages (Quote/Thought from the Church Fathers)
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Devotional Theme:
Quality and Quantity of Work

The Col 3:17 verse is used to imply that anything we do has to be done well since we are doing it for the glory of God. The 1Peter 4:11 verse is used to support this concept -- but does this mean 'quality' of work? Or, does it mean the intent to serve, even if the quality is low?

The Greek that we translate in Col 3:17 as 'do' is the word poieo that is a broad-meaning word that conjures up the sense of making, building, authoring, to perform a promise or to carry out a set of instructions. The passage is about 'doing' not quality.

The passage becomes one of attitude toward a job and here is a story that helps support the meaning taken from

For many days an old farmer had been plowing with an ox and mule together and working them pretty hard. The ox said to the mule, "Let's play sick today and rest a little while." The old mule said, "No, we need to get the work done for the season is short." But the ox played sick and the farmer brought him fresh hay and corn and made him comfortable. When the mule came in from plowing, the ox asked how he had made out. The mule said, "We didn't get as much done but we made it alright, I guess."

The ox asked, "What did the old man say about me?" "Nothing" said the mule.

The next day the ox, thinking he had a good thing going, played sick again. When the mule came in again very tired, the ox asked, "How did it go?" "Alright, I guess, though we didn't get much done."

The ox also asked, "What did the old man say about me?" "Nothing to me," was the reply, "but he stopped and had a long talk with the butcher."

Oftentimes in life, when we refuse to work, bad things can happen!

The story is not about the quality of work that the ox or the mule did but the attitude about work that each had. Who are the oxen and who are the mules in your organization and what have you done that made one a mule and one an ox? Did the mule want to work or did the mule just work? Is 'just working' what the Col 3:17 passage implies, or is it the heart attitude that precedes the action? These questions do not have obvious answers on the surface but require some diligent thought as to how we poieo.

Douglas McGregor wrote The Human Side of Enterprise that motivation is the responsibility of management, which leads one to see that if the poieo is not at a level of commitment that is needed that the leader may have a role in the reason. In addition, if the follower's values are not aligned with the organization's values, then it will be more likely that the follower will be an ox rather than a mule, but remember who hired the follower -- the leader, or the leader's system. Thus, hiring the right person sets the first step in place to facilitating the mule rather than the ox.

We have known since the early 1900s from Frederick Taylor's (from Weisbord's Productive Workplaces) work that led to the concept of Scientific Management that every person is a 'first class' worker at something and that it is the responsibility of management to find out what that 'something' is, yet, nearly 100 years later leaders are still not looking for the first-class worker connection.

Example of the devotional

John and Mary work for a market research firm that requires both employees to spend several hours a day on the telephone calling consumers of various products such as soap, toothpaste, and shampoo to find out what consumers like and dislike. John has called in sick three of the past ten days and has confided to Mary that he wasn't sick but just doesn't like the work or their boss. Mary, on the other hand, likes their boss and enjoys the interaction with the people on the telephone. Jean, their boss, schedules a meeting with John to discuss his absences and during the conversation begins to sense that John is not comfortable with the work although John is unwilling to tell Jean what he really feels.

Jean, knowing the concepts of McGregor and Taylor, begins to ask John what he likes and dislikes about jobs and hobbies and finds out that John enjoys mathematics and working alone rather than conversation with strangers. Jean asks John if he is willing to try a temporary assignment to the statistical data analysis section of the research firm and give up the telephone work to see how he does in the new area. John accepts the temporary assignment.

This story could end in several scenarios -- John may have found his 'first-class' worker area and in so doing find the poieo or the story may end that John is still an ox and the reason lies deeper in the values misalignment with the organization.

Application of the devotional

As a leader, when you sense that someone is not doing all that they do as if unto the Lord, examine the possible reasons why the follower is an ox rather than a mule. Seek first if you are doing your leadership as if unto the Lord.

Practical exercise related to the devotional

Spend a few minutes with each of your direct reports and see if you can determine if you have mules or oxen working for you. Remember that in many cases, the difference between an ox and a mule is the leader's actions.