There is a difference between having ownership over something and outright owning it. A pastor shows ownership over their church but doesn’t own the members. A truck driver takes ownership of the materials they’re transporting, but they don’t own those materials. A teacher takes ownership of their classroom, but they don’t own their students.
The same goes for you as a Christian business owner. While you absolutely should show ownership over your business and its people, you must remember that you do not own your employees. Each person on your team is hand-made. Crafted by the hand of God Himself. This includes the people on your team, and it means that at every person’s core, the truest thing about them is that they belong to God, and He deeply loves them.
So the question is: as you lead your business, would you rather join with God in how He loves His creation, or would you rather work against it?
Well, let’s look at what it means to love God’s people in the workplace just as He loves them.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This small change in perspective can create seismic shifts in how you love the people entrusted to your care. Don’t think of your people as cogs in the machine, treat them as individuals with different interests, different talents, and different needs. Think of your own life and how complex your story is. Don’t forget that everyone in your business has their own story to tell, one that was written by a Holy author.
As the author of our lives, God has gifted people like you with the ability to hold responsibility for his creation. The people in your company rely on your leadership and your ability to make the hard choices. That shouldn’t be held over them in some kind of twisted servant/master relationship. It should mean that you come alongside them and offer what they need to succeed. There may be people who aren’t the right fit for your organization, and that’s alright. Let people leave because it isn’t working out, not because you treated them like they were worth less than you.
Spend time inside and outside of work really getting to know each person on your team. Things like their family, friends, dreams for the future, and whatever else is important to them. If you sense that you don’t have time for this, consider restructuring the size of your team to make sure you and other leaders in your company can make this happen.
We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. That includes your employees.
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” - Romans 15:1-2
In John Maxwell’s book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” one of the laws is called The Law of the Lid. This is how he describes it, “So here it is: leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the individual’s ability to lead, the higher the lid on his potential.” While this principle is meant to look inward, it can also be used to consider whether you are putting a lid on the people in your company.
Sometimes, when you’re leading a business, it can be easy to think about your employees as a means to an end. I need this person because they can do…this, or I need them right now because they can do…that. However, as followers of Christ, we don’t want to limit our people by treating them as nothing more than solutions to our occasional problems. If you love your people just to get something from them, you aren’t actually loving them.
When you bring faith into your workplace, you are no longer just thinking about how your employees can meet their potential in the workplace to meet your needs. You need to be focused on God’s purpose, meaning both your potential as an employee and as a person. This might mean that they eventually leave your company. However, part of raising your lid as a leader is being willing to love your people in an unselfish way that goes beyond your business. God created the people on your team. Treat them like they matter.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” - Colossians 3:9-10
There is some high-level information in your business that not everyone needs to know. However, there is a difference between discretion and deception. While part of being a faithful owner is making wise decisions about who to bring into the fold on certain projects, another part is being sure that when you do need to share information with people, you are being completely honest and transparent. Part of loving your people is speaking truth to them. Trust is a 2-way street, if you want to receive it, you must give it.
This honesty not only goes for what’s happening in your business but also when you’re evaluating the work your team is doing. The goal is not to judge peoples’ work habits, it’s simply to give truthful feedback on where you see room for improvement. By being a truth teller, you can help people develop into the person God has called them to be.
When we choose to follow Christ, we become a new creation. We have taken off our old selves and have put on our new selves. Part of that new self is recognizing the power that truth holds in both our daily lives and our business. Loving your people well doesn’t take a simple flip of a switch. It takes a recognition of who your team actually belongs to, a dedication to helping your people reach their potential, and a commitment to being a truth teller in all circumstances.
If this were easy to do, everyone would do it. But these practices are at the core of faithful ownership. Without them, you’ll look back and see all the missed opportunities you had to make much of Christ in your workplace.
“Don’t withhold good from someone who deserves it when it is in your power to do so.”
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”