You Can’t Sit Here!

“Never let go of loyalty and faithfulness. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do this, both God and people will be pleased with you.”

Proverbs 3:3-4 GNT

Would your friends, family and loved ones describe you as Devoted? How would you define Devotion in others? Is it only about love, friendship and relationships?

Can we be Devoted to someone we have never met?

According to the dictionary, Devotion is all about being loyal, faithful, true, staunch, steadfast, constant, committed, and dedicated. We can add to this the emotionally driven Devotion of someone who is loving, affectionate, caring, attentive, warm and passionate. So, technically, a Devoted person is loving with commitment. Makes me think of the “Boy Scouts” pledge. All that’s missing is being joyful. Can we be Devoted without Joy?

In my research, it surprised me to find that a root word for Devotion is vow. Makes perfect sense. After all, aren’t our marriage vows all about love and commitment -Devotion? Hopefully with a little bit of Joy sprinkled on top! Sadly, it seems, commitment has been eliminated from the practice of our marriage vows, leaving only a contract that can be broken at the first sign of trouble. Recently celebrating our forty-fourth wedding anniversary, my bride would probably tell you there were plenty of troubled times that tested our marriage and our commitment. It was only our Devotion to each other, and to God, that carried us through the storms.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

When we decided to get married, it was important to both of us to not follow the burgeoning divorce trends that have dominated our world today. With that in mind, we decided to make our marriage vows a covenant with God. The covenant made us both accountable to God, positioning Him as the ultimate arbitrator for all our impasses. When our Devotion to each other would wain in the sight of trouble, our Devotion to God would give us strength to persevere. He always showed us a clear path forward.

So, it seems to me that Devotion has another characteristic: Accountability. Not so much being held accountable, as just knowing that someone is watching.

Throughout my career, it has been my joy and my honor to work with some very Devoted people. These experiences have bolstered my belief that Devotion to a cause, idea, or group of people is a cornerstone of all success in business, organizations or relationships. Without Devotion, it is simply too easy to bail out and move on to something new.

“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

In one of my first roles working for a Fortune 500 Company, it was my pleasure to work with two of these leaders in a small division that had recently been acquired by a Global company with annual revenues of $40-$50 Billion. These two leaders were the entrepreneurial team that built the company that had been acquired. Formerly the CEO and COO of their own company, they were now Executive Vice Presidents of the division that was created out of their former company. Like most successful acquisitions, the parent company had worked hard to keep the management team together, along with most of the employees.

While now a small division in a huge company, the day to day operations were still very independent of the home office. The separation from the corporate offices of over two thousand miles seemed to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of dissolving it as many believed might happen; the strength and resolve of these two leaders kept the division intact and growing as a mostly independent entity. Well, at least in the beginning.

When faced with an insurmountable force growing up, my father would always say “Where does an Elephant sit? Anywhere he wants to”, he would chuckle. After years of contemplation, my Dad’s comment always served to remind me of the sheer power of size, making me cautious of Elephants and Gorillas in my path. Well, it wasn’t long before the corporate elephant came to sit on our little division.

Complaining about difficulties in communication, and the maverick operations of the division and its leaders, Corporate had decided to shut down the operation and move the business to the corporate headquarters where it would be simpler to manage (control). Truth be known, it was more about the power of adding forty plus jobs to the Senior VP’s direct reports at corporate, giving her more power and clout amongst her peers. Sadly, elephants can be people; with a lot of reports as well.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21

All of us were shocked and confused, especially our two leaders. After all, we were not only meeting milestones, we were blowing them away at every step. As entrepreneurs oft times do, our leaders looked at the irrational decision of corporate as a huge mistake. It was. However, the bigger the elephant, the more times it seems to sit down in its own dung heap.

Our two leaders had already “cashed in” when selling the business. Both could have sat by and watched headquarters shut down the division. Both had been paid well for their parts of the company and the move would free them to pursue other interests. Not these two. Instead, their devotion to the people that helped them build the company, fueled their passion to fight back and stop the demise of the business they had all built together.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35

A call was made to corporate that resulted in a one-shot attempt to make our case to the powers that be. The next few weeks taught me so much about leadership, business and Devotion, that it probably warrants an article, or possibly even a book, of its own. The only word that describes the two leaders is Devotion. Clearly driven by their love and commitment for a group of employees that had worked together as a team, elbow to elbow to build the company. Quietly, everyone watched in clear anxiousness  as the management team worked sequestered in a conference room day after day until the corporate heads showed up to render their decision. A decision that, quite frankly, had probably already been made.

Prior to the day of decision, the time in the conference room (9-5 every day for weeks) was spent analyzing, arguing, dreaming and planning. One PowerPoint after another, spreadsheets stacked to the ceiling exposing every miniscule aspect of past, present and projected business. Each night the team would go home, say hi to their family, eat dinner, and then jump right back into planning for the discussion the next day. Looking back, it always reminds me of what it must have been like to be in the “War Room” with Patton or Churchill. Our leader’s passion and Devotion drove all of us to deliver our absolute best.

Well, we won. Not a timid victory, but a victory that is still talked about today. This little group of entrepreneurs took on the $40 Billion Elephant. Standing under the looming shadow of that huge pachyderm’s posterior we shouted…

“You Can’t Sit Here!”

An unexpected result from the weeks in the conference room was the unshakable unity and resolve of the management team. Armed with all the knowledge and understanding forged in the planning sessions, our team had the facts and were overflowing with passion full of Devotion to push back any doubts or argument. This victory was realized not through strength or power.

It was won only by sheer Devotion. Devotion of the leaders and the Devotion of the people working with them.

Loyalty to a fault? Well, maybe in the eyes of an Elephant.

“God blesses us, not for ourselves, …

 …He blesses us so that we may bless others”.

Always Love!

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