We all know the value of having a good manager and many of us are striving to be good managers here in the City. But how does being a Christian affect our work as managers? What does it mean to be a godly manager? In the second of two blogs on management, we interviewed David Constable who used to manage a Lloyd's syndicate.
David, in your opinion, should Christians aim for the top?
At the start of my career, whilst I was ambitious, I never expected to be the top man in a company. When I started my first job in Ipswich, the aim I set myself as a Christian, was to do the best that I could at my job and I’m a firm believer that quality shines through. If you are good at your job, chances are you will be noticed and you will get the opportunity to take a job with more responsibility.
In my own case, this opportunity occurred after moving to the City and being offered the chance to manage a Lloyd’s syndicate. I didn’t particularly want to take the job due to the added responsibility and challenges. However, I did spend time praying about it. Looking at the examples of Joseph and of Daniel in the Bible helped me see that God sometimes gives people the opportunity of taking a job of greater influence. As an aside, I did think to myself, ‘if George Bush can run America, then surely I can run a small Lloyd’s syndicate’!
Having said that, when you have the opportunity to take a management job, you have got to weigh up the costs as well as the benefits. Being a manager definitely doesn’t make it any easier to be a Christian. What lots of people don’t realise is there is a lot of extra hassle if you take on a management position. You deal with more clients, you suddenly have staffing issues to deal with, all on top of a more demanding job. You find you lose control of your time. Are you willing to take on all of that? Would it actually be better for you as a Christian to stay in your current position? The answer will be different depending on the individual.
On reflection, I think that living out your faith is just as much of a challenge at the bottom as the top. At the end of the day, we are all accountable to God and working for Him no matter what position we have in the company. If there’s any Christian who desires a senior position in the City, if there’s any Christian who wishes they had my life, they need be clear on this point: it doesn’t get any easier to be a Christian at the top.
How has your Christian faith affected your style of management?
When I was first asked to manage one of the Lloyd’s syndicates, I asked my boss why he chose me. He replied that he was looking for a leader not just a manager and he saw me as someone who could lead the company.
This has stuck with me and I have always made a distinction between being a manager and being a leader. The Bible says a lot about leadership and the best example of leadership is the Lord Jesus. He gives us the example that we should follow.
In practice, this means that being in a senior position is not just about the work that you do but about how you live your life. Some examples would be:
1. Honesty. As a manager, there is a great temptation to tell little white lies to protect your own reputation but that isn’t Christian behaviour. Instead, it’s better to be honest with your staff whatever the issue. For example, if you give someone a smaller bonus than they were expecting, tell them exactly why you did it, instead of blaming the company or someone else.
2. Socials. As a Christian manager, it can be easy to let your guard down in these situations. How do you behave at the office Christmas party? Do you take long lunches? Do you drink as much as the other guys on a Thursday night? You have a great chance to show in the way that you live that you are a Christian.
3. Business travel. As a manager, you may find there are more opportunities to travel with work. Often the guys around you think that the rules they live by change the moment they arrive at Heathrow airport. Before traveling, I would always make clear to my colleagues and my clients that I was a Christian. This meant that I avoided temptations, embarrassments and awkward situations.
4. Talk to your staff. As a manager, it is easy to forget those lower down in the company, but as a Christian you have a chance to be different. Do you treat everyone the same? Or do you make a distinction between support staff, brokers and managers?
Are there any particular challenges of being a Christian managing in the City?
I guess the challenge is remembering that Jesus Christ is Lord. He’s the one with the ultimate authority to give life and to judge.
In the City, even in a senior position, you know really clearly that you are not as important as the next guy up in the chain. When my boss came over from Australia, I would still feel nervous before meeting him. This concept of someone else being more important is understood in the City.
However, it’s tempting as a manager to start buying into your own self-importance. You’ve been given this position and you have authority in the office and you begin to feel like you are really important. There’s a temptation to become quite vain. As someone senior you are recognised in the City - people recognise you on the street for example.
It was only after leaving the City to study on the Cornhill training course that I realised that I sometimes missed the reputation that comes with being ‘someone’ in the City. However, you very quickly realise that once you leave, you are yesterday’s man. Life in the City goes on. Life is transient. It’s good to remember that as a manager.
How did being a manager affect the way you shared your faith?
Overall, I would say that being a manager trying to share the gospel isn’t different to anyone else. I wasn’t a particularly authoritative boss, so I don’t think people felt particularly pressured to talk to me about Jesus because of my position!
I think firstly, I was clear with everyone I worked with that I was a Christian and that opens up opportunities to share the gospel. Over the years, I found that most of the time, I would have chances to have quick conversations with people but I never really had the time or opportunity in the office to give a full explanation of the gospel. The really good opportunities came if colleagues were willing to come along to a lunchtime talk or to a carol service and hear a longer and fuller explanation of the gospel. Many colleagues have come to church with me but the hardest thing is trying to take the conversation further.
If colleagues don’t want to come to church with you, you could think about putting on your own lunch and inviting a speaker from church to come along! Or you could invite them to an event that isn’t happening in a church building.
In the end, it comes down to praying for your colleagues, that they would be convicted of their sin. It’s worthwhile thinking about each person you are trying to share the gospel with, what are their issues and what are their questions. Think about what particular event might be good for them.
Recently, I took a colleague to a dinner with a talk by Dr. John Lennox. This colleague had previously been quite antagonistic about Christianity but he was completely bowled over by what he heard. I now have a chance to meet up to study John’s gospel with him. You never know how people might respond!