Reflections on New Employment

Posted on January 7, 2011


Exactly 3 months ago, I posted Reflections on Being Laid Off. Today, after one full week of my new job, I thought I’d follow up with some reflections on making a transition.

To update those who have inquired, I have accepted a position at The King’s Academy (TKA) as the Spiritual Life Director. It is an unusual position for a college preparatory school, though not so unusual for a Christian school. What makes TKA unique (from both) is the high value that is placed upon the spiritual aspect of a teenager’s life development. The school has a history with Young Life roots, and so is quite ministry focused, and I’ve heard from board members and staff that the Spiritual Life Department is “the most important thing we do” for the kids. I’m extremely thankful for this focus, and am excited to take on the challenges of realizing this value within the context of the whole of the organization. The people I’ve thus far met are phenomenal, and I’m humbled to be a part of a fantastic team.

As for what I “do,” that is yet to be determined in its fullness, but it covers things like chapels, service trips, counseling students/parents, discipleship, leadership, etc.

Below are two pictures from two students who have welcomed me. After seeing these items, one of the Spiritual Life Staff members said, “oh yay, this is going to be a good semester.” (I’m being hired on mid-year, which is not typical for a school as they would tend to hire for the start of the school year.)

The Stories

I can already tell that just like my last office, there will many more stories to be had in this new office. Not only from the pens stuck so purposefully to my drop ceiling above, but also from conversations I’ve already had with students; those who are deeply interested in leadership and ministry, wanting to deepen the faith of others on campus, some struggles and challenges parents are having with their children, the new breed of worship leadership emerging, the broken, etc.

Coping With Being Hired

While this seems counter-intuitive, just like coping with being laid off, there is coping that is to be had in getting a new job. There are surely thrills of new, fresh, welcome, and exciting change (like a paycheck), but there is also a loss of absolute autonomy, the taking on of new responsibilities, a changing of schedule, and learning how your body and mind work within new parameters. With this said,…

  • As with all change, acceptance is the first step towards dealing with your new environment. It’s okay to feel sad about things you’re leaving, and it’s okay to feel exuberance at the things that you’re taking on. (By the way, if those two are reversed–or if both are sad–that may be a clue to an issue of disappointment/depression that may need attending to.)
  • A caution if you’re too excited, as “a new broom always sweeps good.” Recognize that you’ve not only taken on a new joyous journey, but you’re also meeting new challenges, new hurdles, new frustrating people (yes, people!), circumstances, politics, etc., that you’ll have to deal with. Seeing your new job through rose colored glasses is not dealing with the reality that every job and every person in your life is a blend of blessings and curses. Recognizing this fact can help one maintain a sense of groundedness–a more objective and healthy view of reality. An unprepared attitude could lead to disillusionment, despair, and/or depression.
  • Your transition is wholistic. Life patterns affect your body and spirit. Get ready to make adjustments everywhere. Physically in new patterns and rhythms of sleeping, eating, and pace. (For me, it’s now working intensely during the weekday with weekends off whereas previously in “church world,” it was more weekend focused.) Intellectually, there is adjusting to new ways of thinking. This is especially important as you enter a new culture, as every organization has nuances in how they think about…,well, everything.
  • New environments change how you think about yourself. Be very cautious and attentive to your own self-reflection and introspection as you enter a new position. Like a new organization, a new person may appear great at first meeting and you may be inundated with encouragements like, “We’re so glad you’re here!” While you’ll have a certain period of time on which to prove (or disprove) that reputation, you have zero time in guarding your spirit against the positive (or negative) comments that people say to you as a “newbie.” Believing that “they’re so excited you’ve joined the team,” is based on ignorance and expectation, not on them actually “knowing” you. How’s that for a reality check! 🙂

All of that brings us, again, to leadership…

Leadership Matters

In his book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis posits “knowing yourself” as one of the first tasks of a leader. This is, in my opinion, one of the most critical aspects of personal leadership that one must attain, and it is necessary regardless of employment. For the Christian, understanding that your worth, value, and even competency comes not from you, but from God is the most brilliant strategy in ensuring the complete absence of pride and/or destructive self-deprivation. So, lead yourself well in accordance to a proper image of yourself.

Then, lead to mission and values, rather than your personal reputation. The organization hired you, not because they “like you,” but because you are the person they feel best qualified to accomplish the mission. This is where organizational politics can get so delicate and ugly, but also where you can redeem the entropic status quo that happens in any organization. Live up to the values of the organization, and accomplish the mission with integrity, creativity, passion, and compassion. Deal (or discard) any feelings of insecurity or pride, and serve the people and objectives of the organization.

Never stop learning. Leaders are learners, just like teachers are learners. Stop learning, and you stop leading. This, by the way, is applied, not to reading more books, or emerging out of your office of pontification with new pithy sayings or new geometric images of chains of command. This is done by asking questions, a lot of them, of a lot of people, and this takes a lot of time. And, this is not for the sake of information gathering. This is for the sake of connecting, relating, and understanding. I had two of the Spiritual Life Staff mention to me how glad they were that I was taking the time to meet with them one-on-one, shadowing them through their day, and going around meeting teachers, administrators, etc. I consider this a critical task, and an important strategy in empathy, attachment, community, …and ultimately leadership.

Happy for me…? Remember, I’m the introvert!

If you haven’t read my post on Revenge of the Introvert, I encourage you to do so, especially if you don’t understand us! :-).

With that said, I do appreciate the sentiments that come regarding “congratulations” and I understand that in our culture, it is the proper sentiment to share. I am truly blessed by the many people in my life who love and care about me and our family. So, thank you so much for your love, support, and encouragement.

But I must admit–quite embarrassingly and hesitantly–that I, as an introvert and someone extremely focused on leadership, struggle with the statement. I accepted this next assignment because there is work to be done, meaningful, effective, and expectant work. I wake up every morning, not thinking about me, but thinking about the kids, their development, their spiritual experience, and what they’re going to get out of our department. I dream, not of my accomplishments, but of the millions of lives that will be touched because of the hundred (thousands) of kids (“vectors of influence”) that come through our school.

One of my personal loves and passions is when I am surrounded by people who “love me but are not impressed by me” (Howard Hendricks). These are people in whom I have deep security, but a complete lack of celebrity. These are the people who will invite me over for dinner, and want to talk about what we are achieving, not how I feel. These are the people I pray God brings closer to me in numbers and in spirit.

So, thanks for being happy for me, and thanks for the congratulations. But now, let’s get to work…