Lessons learned

Fix your eyes on the goal, leave the rest to the leaders

It’s difficult not to compare against others. We look down the street and notice one of the neighbors has a new car, then look at ours and wonder. At work, where competition and excellence are often fostered, it’s even more difficult to avoid comparisons against our coworkers.

The issue of comparing work to others was something I had to work through the other week. A coworker was looking at one of his coworkers and drew comparisons against what he was doing and what he perceived his coworker doing.

He brought his concerns to me.

In my last blog, I was reading the fourth book in each the Old and New Testament of the Bible. I am beginning the book of Numbers and ending the book of John.

Leviticus ends at Mount Sinai, where God has outlined the laws the people should live by. It’s very interesting the detail to which God provides for the Jews – there is no ambiguity. Numbers starts with a continuation of these laws as well as a numbering of the people (heads of household) waiting to take possession of the promised land. It’s not that God needed to know the numbers of fighting men, He already knew. It was to help the Jews understand their own numbers, their own strength, and to help them organize the people into camps, each for it’s own purpose.

I am sometimes amazed at the correlation between what the Bible teaches (the basics) and modern business practices.

In any organization, the leaders need to help the teams and individuals understand their guidelines, the laws if you will, for conducting themselves. Dress codes, conduct in the office and on the road, computer usage, all serve to help not only the leaders but also the people. It protects the individuals at all levels to recognize the boundaries and understand the consequences for crossing them. A constant census of the individuals, divided into departments is also necessary to understand the organization’s strength and market placement. These same concepts were used in Leviticus and Numbers.

When comparisons are made based on perceptions, without knowing the whole story, that’s where a system potentially breaks down. Work isn’t being done properly because everyone is looking at everyone else. That is a bad place to be for any organization.

The end of the book of John addresses this exact issue, that of making comparisons. In the last chapter of John, Peter, John and several other disciples had just eaten a meal with Jesus on the shore (after catching enough fish to fill a large net). Peter was walking and talking with Jesus about the future, which is when Peter noticed John and wanted to compare his work (ministry) to that of John.

Jesus simply told Peter in John 21:22, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

The bottom line, and the advice I commonly provide, is to do the best you can at work, to conduct yourself in a manner that’s beyond reproach, keep your eyes fixed on your own goal, and leave the rest to the leaders. They can worry about everyone, we only have to worry about ourselves.

While that won’t necessarily stop the comparisons, it does provide a very firm answer to fall back on time and again, setting a clear expectation and an implied warning, “You must follow me”.

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