The Perpetual Pursuit of Perfection
Comprehensively defining God’s character is a simplified description of a task which may not be achievable on this side of grace. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). But He wants His followers to try to know Him more, to understand His ways, His character, who He is. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). With this exercise, Christians gain new knowledge about the Lord on an ongoing basis (continuous learning) and they also gain the potential to apply God’s character attributes in their personal and professional lives.
This discussion is simplified through the application of several components of God’s character to a case study regarding employee and customer relationship management in a professional setting (a bank). Specifically, the case study focuses on multiple interactions (supervisor (Ellen) and her subordinate (Ralph), subordinate (Ralph) and his team members, and the subordinate (Ralph) and his customers), the consequences thereof, and attempts to improve the results of said interactions.
With the Perspective of God’s Character
Considering this case study from the perspective of God’s character, this situation was almost handled properly. Ellen, the Branch Manager, expressed concern for Ralph and for the business as a whole. She did not believe Ralph was ready to assume a new, elevated management role as the Assistant Branch Manager. She clearly indicated that Ralph needed to improve, specifically “attention to detail, coaching and mentoring employees under his leadership, and treating employees as favorably as he treated customers” (Biblical Integration Exercise Case Study, n.d.).
Ralph was awarded the position due, in part, to a lack of qualified applicants. After six months, almost prophetically, the complaints started rolling in, complaints that affected Ralph’s team and the bank’s customers. Ellen counseled Ralph by demanding “…that Ralph focus effort on overcoming the implied weaknesses” (Biblical Integration Exercise Case Study, n.d.). Six months later, the complaints started again, and Ellen issued Ralph a verbal warning. This occurred again the following year, and Ellen issued Ralph a written warning. One year later, Ralph was fired.
Ellen knew and showed concern for Ralph, and she initiated counseling and disciplinary measures, a recognized best practice in the business world. “…it is unfair to other employees if a manager does not discipline a member of the staff or allows a toxic situation to continue. If a manager fails to act in time, the fallout can have far-reaching effects: lower productivity and higher risk of burnout among the nontoxic employees. Employee loss can increase by as much as 54 percent, a real financial burden considering the cost of replacing good employees” (Leonard, 2019). It is also a best practice in the Bible. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001).
Ellen’s primary failure, in her role as manager and in alignment to God’s character, is demonstrated in her failure to coach and counsel Ralph through a deliberate and specific performance improvement plan. “…the International Coaching Federation (ICF) definition of coaching: “partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coaching Federation, n.d.)” (Villachica et al., 2019). This coaching, this professional development, must be personal and perpetual, a constant and consistent practice focused on improving the performance of the target individual, the manager, and the organization as a whole. “…employee engagement (EE) has been endorsed for its superior predictive power of performance and organizational behaviour (Barnes & Collier, 2013; Hakanen et al., 2018), thereby gaining increased attention of academicians and practitioners alike (Barnes et al., 2014; Verčič & Vokić, 2017). Its benefits trickle down to the marketing-oriented behaviours, too. For instance, it has been observed to have potential to affect employees’ customer-oriented behaviour (Qin et al., 2014), customer behaviour intentions (Chang, 2016), customer directed extra-role performance (Karatepe et al., 2018), and customer service performance (Menguc et al., 2017)” (Chandni & Rahman, 2020).
In many organizations, Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs) or Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) serve as the mechanism to frame these recurring discussions, set the plan, and pursue the right target metrics. “…quality indicators included in the QIPs serve both the decision-facilitating and decision-influencing roles in performance management” (Chan & Hsu, 2019).
God plans, and His plans are perfect. “My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001). His plans are also extremely specific. Read the specifications and instructions provided to Noah for the construction of the Ark, to King Solomon for the Temple, to Israel before their battles, etc. Ellen may have been more successful by mirroring God’s character, planning carefully for Ralph’s success with diligence and more consistent involvement (rather than in weekly or monthly iterations).
It is important to remember that Ellen believed Ralph was not qualified for the Assistant Manager position from the beginning of the conversation. She noted several of his weaknesses but did not take an active part in helping Ralph overcome these apparent obstacles. “…in the Christian tradition, God favours the weak, the poor, the widows, the orphans, and so on” (Peels, 2018). Acting with God’s character as a guiding framework, Ellen may have considered Ralph’s weaknesses as an opportunity for her to step up as a coach and an opportunity to improve the bank’s entire business system.
Without the Perspective of God’s Character
It is critical to note that there are arguments against the application of the Christian faith, stating that this could be counterproductive in the workplace. “…Mabey and colleagues (2016) argue that spiritual leadership used as a tool to control employee behavior as well as suppress any dissension is contrary to Jesus’s willingness to frequently challenge the status quo. Also they further suggest that workplace spirituality that is viewed and used as a means to an end that is primarily in the pursuit of profit is often inconsistent with Christ-like virtues of humility, honesty, love, and service” (Peters, et al., 2017). With this in mind, the analysis of Ellen’s performance may be viewed from a strictly secular perspective. Without considering the character of God, the assessment of Ellen’s performance remains the same.
Without considering the perspective of God’s character, Ellen still failed as a leader. She may have improved her performance by creating a specific performance improvement plan (see above), designing specific (versus general) goals. “A significant number of experimental studies have demonstrated that specific and difficult goals consistently result in higher performance when compared with the approach of simply asking subjects to do their best (Kleingeld et al., 2011; Locke & Latham, 1990; Mento, Steel, & Karren, 1987; O’Leary-Kelly, Martocchio, & Frink, 1994)” (Chan & Hsu, 2019).
Ellen may have also been more successful as a leader if she was more involved in Ralph’s professional development, beyond issuing disciplinary measures. “Social interaction is inordinately tied to leadership and it appears that a leader’s success hinges on mastery of this indispensable daily phenomenon” (Addo & Dube, 2020). This is interesting in that she needed to initiate more and improved interactions with her subordinate, just as she directed Ralph to do with his subordinates.
The Path Forward
Recommended actions for improving Ellen’s managerial performance are simple and sustainable. Ellen may have worked closely with Ralph to develop a Performance Improvement Plan, complete with measurable targets, and schedule regular counseling and coaching sessions to review his results together. She also may have built performance dashboards for all managers with key performance metrics, including employee satisfaction. This provides managers with their own scores, and an opportunity to compare their scores with (and learn from) other managers. To further involve all employees in the discussion, Ellen could also schedule a regularly recurring townhall meeting for all employees, giving them the opportunity to provide direct, in-person feedback in front of the entire management team.
Addo, J. K. J., & Dube, Z. (2020). Interactional leadership: Jesus’ model of leadership – A case of Mark 7:25–29. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 76(4), n/a. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.5554
Biblical Integration Exercise Case Study. (n.d.).
Chan, Y. L., & Hsu, S. H. (2019). Target‐Setting, Pay for Performance, and Quality Improvement: A Case Study of Ontario Hospitals' Quality‐Improvement Plans. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), 36(1), 128-144. https://doi.org/10.1002/cjas.1474
Chandni, S., & Rahman, Z. (2020). Customer engagement and employee engagement: systematic review and future directions. The Service Industries Journal, 40(13-14), 932-959. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02642069.2020.1733534
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. https://esv.literalword.com/
Leonard, E. (2019). Career Conversations: Progressive Discipline the Right Way. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 59(2), 92-95. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.59.2.7272">10.5860/rusq.59.2.7272
Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered Exposition Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=4412639#
Peels, R. (2018). Does Evolution Conflict with God's Character? Modern Theology, 34(4), 544-564. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/moth.12435
Peters, R., Ricks, J. M., & Doval, C. (2017). Jesus Centered Leadership and Business Applications: An Alternative Approach. Business & Society Review (00453609), 122(4), 589-612. https://doi.org/10.1111/basr.12132
Villachica, S. W., Stieha, V., Giacumo, L., Becker, L., & Fenner, J. A. (2020). A Formative Evaluation of a Master's‐Level Career‐Coaching Course for Performance Improvement Students. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 32(4), 427-459. https://doi.org/10.1002/piq.21302