Heavenly Principles at Work – Make your manager look good
One of the most interesting parables which has direct application to success in the workplace is the parable of the Investments which is found in Luke 19:12-26. For a quick review, lets look at the Message version.
“There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’
“But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’
“When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done.
“The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’
“He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’
“The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’
“He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’
“The next servant said, ‘Master, here’s your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.’
“He said, ‘You’re right that I don’t suffer fools gladly—and you’ve acted the fool! Why didn’t you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?’
“Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’
“They said, ‘But Master, he already has double . . .’
“He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.
There are three key heavenly principles I want to pull out of this parable. The first one is we each have different levels of talent. Most realize that we are not all the same and some have more skills, education, intelligence, agility, athletic ability than we do. However, many of us also over exaggerate our own capability. We don’t do it on purpose, we just see ourselves differently than others do. I know there have been a number of times in my career when I watch a peer and see them getting the accolades and promotions while I felt like I was doing even better work and was not being selected. I realize there are a lot of things that go into selection and promotion, however, it never feels good when you really believe you deserve the position and it is given to someone else. In these situations we can complain (like the second employee did in the parable) and I have even had employees threaten to quit or quit. Or we can acknowledge and be happy for the other person. The best thing we can do at this point is ask what we need to develop to be in the best position for the promotion the next opportunity which comes around. As in the parable, we should be happy when someone gets more, like the first employee did after the manager gave them the extra money. Focusing on ourselves and not comparing to others will always help us in the long run.
The second principle is that we need to work hard, even if our manager is not breathing down our neck. I remember earlier in my career enjoying the days my manager would be out of the office. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great manager and did a good job creating a very positive work atmosphere. There was just something about not having the boss in the office. Of course, it was all in our head, however we just seemed to be more relaxed and have more fun. You could identify those individuals who worked substantially less because the boss was not around. While you might think slacking off one day is not a big deal, it goes back to a mindset. Those individuals who did it once, will do it again and again. In my experience, those individuals usually received performance warnings over time. While the individuals who kept working even when they were not being watched, did better on their performance reviews and were in a better position to get promoted.
The third principle is to make your manager successful, even if it means taking some risks. Both the first and second employee decided they were going to make their manager successful. They took some personal risk to invest and make more money. The third one chose to play it safe. In the business context, they would have done the bare minimum or even less for fear of getting something wrong. Over time, the person who does the bare minimum will be let go, while those who take the risk and push the work forward will get rewarded. If you focus on making your manager look good, helping them be successful, you will see the fruits. There was one person I worked with who never looked to get accolades themselves, rather they made sure to make their manager successful. The person was not more skilled or more capable than others, they just had a different way of looking at the work. When new opportunities came around, they would usually be the person asked to deliver the result. Eventually, it paid off and they moved up in the organization because they did good work and made sure their manager was successful. Their success followed. Just like the first two employee in the parable. When they made money for their manager, they were rewarded with much bigger opportunities.
By following the heavenly principles of the first two managers, we too can be successful in our work. I would love your thoughts. Do you see any other principles in the parable?