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There are some people that keep going no matter what obstacles they encounter. Discouragements, setbacks, criticisms, and losses are viewed as temporary. You and I, put in the same situation, might be tempted to stop or change direction. But they continue on. What drives them forward when most reasonable people would stop?
I think it is a clear sense of calling.
“Calling” is the sure sense of direction usually motivated by a transcendent purpose that is worthy of whatever cost is required. It is a fight worth fighting. Once a calling is confirmed, there is little that will deter a called person (or organization). This is powerful.
In everyday life, it is relatively common to talk about a minister being “called” to be a pastor. It denotes a special setting apart of that person for a higher purpose. Indeed, due to the stresses and strains of the role, we hope that these folks have something extra to get them through. Those that don’t will quickly be sifted. A calling is critical for the endurance of the job.
Can a business owner be called?
I don’t mean can they fill the job or punch a clock. No, I mean can they be about a transcendent purpose in the marketplace that endures beyond a short term role? In my work with Christian business owners, I especially want to know what motivates them. Money usually ends being an empty motivation for most. Perhaps they chase competition or adulation. Maybe it is personal power of some sort. None of these things last. None are transcendent.
The greatest challenge most face is effecting change in people.
Change in people is really hard. Habits and comfort are powerful. It is easy to spot the impact of Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc., in the past decade or so. They have collectively made the world seem smaller and more connected. But most businesses operate on a more intimate scale. Their opportunities are with their employees, customers, suppliers, and others that come into direct contact with the company. Even in a technologically connected world, it is the “small group” settings that dominate our lives. Thus, a business owner has a great opportunity if they only take it. How? There are two critical elements.
Clear values point to the most important things.
Christian CEOs (should) have a defined set of Biblical values. The Bible describes how to live life and has much to say about the right attitudes toward people. The challenge for some Christians is applying those Biblical principles to the workplace. Sometimes they are concerned that this might repel non-Christians or might be inappropriate in practice. (In our C12 experience with thousands of businesses, we have found neither of these things to be true.) Even non-Christians find that clear values promote higher virtues that go beyond any specific transaction. This leads people to consider what is most important rather than what is expedient.
A passionate sense of a greater purpose defines the “why” a business exists.
The “why” is a fundamental understanding of the reason that a group of people organizes to accomplish a task. It is easy (but rarely powerful) to say that a business exists to make a product or deliver a service. The easy explanation says nothing about the change that might be accomplished. It usually says nothing about changed lives and, therefore, excites little passion. On the other hand, when a business has a greater purpose in sight (e.g., to transform a community, to elevate the disadvantage, to restore broken people, etc.), suddenly people are engaged on a fundamental level that goes beyond a job. They are empowered to devote their lives to something bigger and this results in the greatest possible commitment. In C12, we talk about “building a great business for a greater purpose” because we know that only greater purposes produce lasting impact.
I suppose that there is one more thing that is important for those that are called – courage. People that adopt a greater purpose will encounter trials, criticisms, and other costs that seek to derail them. Many folks close to them will not understand. It is a wasted or unnecessary distraction, some will say, to think about a calling when day-to-day issues are so pressing. However, sticking to your calling, never giving up, and pressing on is the path to something special.
We talk about this all the time in our C12 Group Business Forums. There is nothing quite like having peers around the table that are defining and living out their calling.
What do you think?
Tom Hawes is the Principal Chair for C12 North Texas. Since 2011, Tom has had the pleasure of facilitating forums in North Texas. Contact him at [email protected] or 214-620-9366.