Sharing Your Faith at Work Without Fear - Sue Warnke (Podcast Episode 13)
How can you share your faith at work? Conversations about faith in the workplace can feel like a minefield. You might wonder, "Will people get mad at me if I talk about Jesus? Could I hurt my career if I share my faith at work? Is it embarrassing to be known as the "office Christian?" Our guest today, Sue Warnke, is the Senior Director of Content and Communications Experience at Salesforce, and the president of Faithforce San Francisco, an internal interfaith organization. She speaks to groups around the country about leadership, diversity and how to foster healthy conversations about faith at work.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (NIV)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)
Additional Resources Referenced
Leanership.org by Sue Warnke provides practical resources equipping people to represent their faith in the real world.
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Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.
Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace. I’m Mark Roberts
LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.
How can you share your faith at work? Conversations about faith in the workplace can feel like a minefield. You might wonder, "Will people get mad at me if I talk about Jesus? Could I hurt my career if I share my faith at work? Is it embarrassing to be known as the office Christian?" Our guest today, Sue Warnke, is the Senior Director of Content and Communications Experience at Salesforce, and the president of Faithforce San Francisco, an internal interfaith organization. She speaks to groups around the country about leadership, diversity and how to foster healthy conversations about faith at work. Sue Warnke, welcome to the Making it Work podcast.
Sue Warnke: Thank you, happy to be here.
LA: Thank you so much for being here. So let me ask you this, when you first became a Christian, how did that affect your work? What was that like, bringing your newfound faith into the workplace?
SW: Yeah, I was pretty scared, actually. So it was only a few years ago, and I had grown up very not religious. And so suddenly, to have these people that have known me a long time think of me in a new way was really scary to me. And I wasn't even sure if, I could wear my cross. I remember I asked a couple of my really close friends: "Do you think it's okay to wear a cross at work?" And I actually got two different responses. One wasn't sure, and the other one said, "Yes, absolutely, it's no different than a hijab or a Yamaka or any other faith garb." And so that gave me the confidence to take more baby steps and ask a few more people and sort of just come out of hiding.
LA: What did it feel like the first time you put on a cross and wore it to the office?
SW: Well, it's funny, I started with a cross that looked a little bit like a flower so that it could cross for either one, people might not think it was a cross. And I would wear it to one meeting, and I would realize that nothing bad happened. And so I would wear it to two meetings, and then I slowly got up my nerve to wear it the whole day, and again, nothing bad happened. And then the next day, something really great happened, which is a woman came up to me and very quietly asked, "Are you a Christian?" And I said yes, and she said, "I am, too. And I saw your cross, and maybe I'll wear mine tomorrow." And so it really not only gave me strength to keep doing that, but really showed me that it has a multiplying effect. It doesn't just help you to stand in your faith, but it helps other people see you and gain the courage themselves. People are watching, I think, what others do.
I like those little steps that I think it doesn't take a lot. And the other examples I've seen at work is, yeah, like people putting a Bible verse maybe in their signature, that can be really impactful. I started putting it in my detail section of my user profile internally and saying, "If anybody wants to chat about faith, just reach out."
MR: Yeah. Well, and also, so I've totally cheated on this, Sue, and I went to your website and read a lot of your stuff and listened to some of your stuff, which is awesome, by the way. Leanership, not leadership, leanership, which we should ask you about in a minute. But what I'll say is you talk about offering to pray for people in different settings. And you actually have some really good wisdom about when to be careful about that and when to do that, but that's certainly a way that can open up there. Do you wanna talk a little bit about when and how you do that? And also, your caution about when to be careful about that 'cause I thought that was so wise.
SW: Yeah, absolutely. So thanks for mentioning the site. I have a blog on there, it's leanership.org, and I have a blog about specific steps for having faith conversations. And I think it's a series of steps, and that prayer step is actually optional, in my experience, really dependent on the situation, and it comes much later. So there's several steps that really happen before that, and we're probably gonna get into that later.
But to answer your question, the specific thing I think we should be very cautious of as, especially as leaders, is: "Is this person in my reporting team?" Because if they are, I think it's very risky to ask them if you can pray for them. Follow the Spirit and trust what God is telling you to do, but be very careful because they will feel pressured to say yes, regardless of what they really want to happen next. And once you pressure someone that reports to you, you have broken that psychological safety... You risk breaking that psychological safety where you don't wanna be pressuring them in any way, or have even the impression that you're pressuring them. So I am really careful, really, never to ask that of a direct report unless there's some other kind of situation there where they've indicated that that's the right thing to do.
LA: Well, I wanna go through all the steps of what does it take to have a good conversation about faith at work, but I wonder if you could just back up, Sue. Do you have an example of some time in this career, in your career where this has worked really well, where you've had a really successful conversation about faith in your workplace?
SW: Yeah, I have them all the time. I had two today, already. But it's because I have opened up the door very consistently, very strategically, to allow those kind of conversations to happen, but I can give a couple examples.
A lot of them happen after an event, so a volunteer event maybe helping homeless in the inner city or a celebration event where you're talking about a holiday. But I'll just share one where... I know a lot of atheists at work who are very out in their atheism, and there's tension there, sometimes. There's the assumption on both sides of what each other believes, and I noticed some of that tension in some comments on some posts. And so what I did is I strategically set up a meeting with two or three different atheist employees who felt really strongly about faith and had experienced some pain related to organized religion, and I had one-on-ones with them. And in that, I would just ask, not pushing my faith, but really ask about their position and why they felt that way and what their experiences were. And those led to real great breakthroughs where they then asked me about my story and they realized that I didn't represent this sort of negative version of Christianity or what they had experienced. And that there were at least two or more types of Christianity out there, that it's not all pushy, and that some really, truly is just about loving each other.
LA: So take us through the steps. How do you get there to that point where you're really having a breakthrough conversation and hearing each other? What is the first step?
SW: Yeah, I break it down to three steps, there's lots of mini steps in between, but I think first, you have to open the conversation. You have to do a couple steps to open it. And then once it's open, you have to water it or really shine a light on it. And then you have to leave it open. So the steps on opening the door, first of all, you can almost think of imagine that you're selling something at a strip mall. You have to do two things, you have to put an open sign on the door and you have to say what it is. So nobody will know that you are open to faith conversations unless you first out yourself as a Christian. You have to, in some way, let people know that you're a Christian. If you don't do that, the rest of the steps can't happen easily, and so that's the most important thing, and I recommend doing it quickly and briefly and as minimally as you can. Just get it out there, come out of hiding.
And then you start with a question, and the most effective couple of questions I have encountered in my years as a Christian are these two questions. And you can ask them as soon as the opportunity presents itself. You can ask them very easily, even in line getting a coffee, if the conversation presents itself. I've had people ask this to as they're being interviewed to be a babysitter, even. But the two questions are: What is your faith background? How did you grow up? And the reason those are so powerful is because you're not asking, "What is your faith? Or what do you believe?" You're not putting them on the spot for what they believe currently; you're simply asking, "What's your background?" Everybody has some faith background, even if it's a very negative experience with religion, or no experience with religion, it's still some kind of background. And then by saying, "How did you grow up?" it just re-emphasizes that you are talking about the past.
And what that does is it gives people a chance to, one, either gush about a positive experience, or even vent about a negative experience, when you think of... If I were to ask you what's your best restaurant experience or your least favorite restaurant experience? You have a story and you wanna share that, and it opens people up really effectively. Once they open up, the tendency for, at least in what I've seen in a lot of Christian conversations, is to turn the focus back on yourself and say, "Well, this is what I believe, and this is the gospel." And I think that's just really not the way to go. I think what I've seen is you take that that they've given you by telling you their story and you water it. You ask them more questions. You say, "Tell me more." You say, "What was that like?" You do some mirroring. "That must have been hard. It sounds frustrating." And you see where that goes. That can go in all sorts of different directions.
And the main goal here is not to lead them to conversion, but really, lead them to just consideration of Christianity in a different way. That's a huge success, and so watering it, and then when... It may lead to a prayer, it may lead to sharing a little, a story about Jesus in your life, it may not. But ending with, "I love talking about faith. If you ever wanna talk about faith, my door is always open, just grab time on my calendar." So open it up by outing yourself and asking those questions, water the conversation by asking more questions and acknowledging what they're telling you, and leave the door open at the end.
LA: Is there... I love these steps. Is there a particular Scripture from the Bible, something that keeps you grounded in your own mind as you're having these conversations?
SW: Yeah, there's a couple. One is be shrewd as a snake, gentle as a dove from Matthew 10:16. In all of these things, we have to be very careful. We have to be very respectful. My blog talks about respectful faith conversations. But be bold, also. Be careful and gentle and bold and trust that God will be with you. If you're being respectful, God will take that step and multiply it, that's one. Another one is Isaiah 30:21, "Whether you look to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'" I think we don't have to figure all of this out, actually. I think that God gives us a baby step when the time presents itself, when the time is right, He will instruct us what single step to take. And it's okay if we just take one step. We don't have to be great at this. We don't have to have a huge list of names and numbers of people that have come to Jesus because of us. We just simply have to move forward in faith and boldness and shrewdness that He will be there for us and walk us through. And He'll tell us which way to go, we don't have to figure all of that out.
MR: And Sue, what you were saying, attend to who the person is, care about them. I love that because, again, Sue, what you're really coaching us to do is to be genuinely curious about people and in that, care about them rather than think of this mainly as an opportunity for me to say something to them. There's a time for that. Be respectful of sort of the organization which you find yourselves, the hierarchies. If you're talking to someone who's a subordinate, be smart about that. But it really is about being open yourself, and that open, caring for people, which I think is great. I think it's right on.
LA: And it's doubly... it's doubly important in the workplace because if we're not wise, and if we're not caring about other people's feelings around us, we could really get ourselves into trouble at work. Would you say that, Sue?
SW: Yeah, definitely. Almost every company has a no proselytizing policy, and I actually completely agree with that. It's not about changing your belief. If I live my life in such a way that invites you to be interested and want to dialogue with me about it, then that's great, but my job is not to go out there and change your position. I need to live my life and love you, and hopefully, you see something really unique in that love. And if there's one thing that I hope people remember from this, it's two words, and it was advice given to me. I did a bit of sales, I was a consultant not too long ago, and I had this incredible mentor. And the thing is, I wasn't very good at sales. And so we were driving to a sales meeting and I was very nervous about it, I felt like I didn't know the industry well enough. I didn't know this executive well enough. I was going to botch it. And I was wringing my hands, and she was driving, and she saw me, and she pulled over.
And she's this just spitfire of an older lady, just an incredible salesperson. Her clients would send her Christmas cards, just loved her. And she looked at me and she said, "Sue, it's not about you." She said, "Be fascinated, not fascinating. Be fascinated in that executive. Be fascinated in their business. Be fascinated in their problems and their needs. And what they need will come out, and they will feel loved, and they will feel heard, and then you will come up with the solution that they need. But if you don't do that step of being truly genuinely fascinated in them, you will never get to the point where they hear or see something unique in you."
LA: I remember a few years ago, I was trying to close this sale. And I had my little notebook, and I was brainstorming all the ways that I could prove that I understood what the client wanted and how we were gonna implement the solution. And it was finally go time when I'm gonna have lunch with this client. I'm really gonna... You know, "This is the moment that I'm gonna pitch." And I felt in that moment completely out of my depth and unprepared. And I changed tacts completely and I threw away the list of justifications that I had written down, and I just asked questions. "What would be your goal for this project? Tell me the history of your vision as you've built this project. And where do you wanna see it go?" And that... My level of interest was what eventually sold the client going with us because he really felt that I had been listening. And of course, this is an example, this has nothing to do with spreading my faith. But I really did learn something in that moment, which is that people are way less interested in me than they are interested in being understood.
SW: Yeah, yeah. Another story I love is... This is didn't even involve asking questions. And I didn't even realize that I was following God in this moment. I was simply obeying whatever was happening. I was in this really intense executive meeting, we were talking about a problem that was happening, and a few of the people that were responsible for that problem were in the room. We've got 20 people in the room, 20 people online, very high-level tense meeting, and people were hanging their heads. And the top executive walked in and sat down, and it was just dead silent. Nobody was saying anything, thinking that he was going to yell at them. And instead of yelling at them, he started to say very magnanimous things like, "We are in this together. This is how we're gonna get out of this together. You can call me at this number any time, day or night." And slowly, people started to raise their heads up and we felt like a team and we were gonna get through this together.
And I was in the meeting and suddenly felt very compelled to acknowledge the leadership of this person, but he was so high-level, I thought, "Well, I can't do that." And the voice sort of came to me and said, "Do it. Thank him." And I thought, "Well, I'll do it later, I'll just send him feedback later tonight." And it said, "Do it now," was the feeling I got. And so in the middle of the meeting, I sent this very high-level executive an email saying, "I'm really impressed with this leadership. This is what I heard you say." And in the meeting, he looks down at his phone and reads the email, gets up, and walks out of the meeting. And everybody's looking around like, "Where did this person go? What's going on?" And I'm thinking like, "Oh, no! I'm in trouble I said the wrong thing." And while he's gone, I get a response, and it says, "Sue, you have brought me to tears." He said, "This is the most substantive feedback I have ever gotten in my entire career. Thank you."
SW: And it led to all these incredible relationships and opportunities that I never would have planned or expected, but somehow, this man needed love. And I didn't know that, and I didn't even wanna do it. And so, it wasn't about sharing faith but it was hopefully about showing faith, showing what this love, this selfless love looks like that we receive and can give freely.
MR: Yeah, there's a piece of that, and I'm gonna steal your punchline. But yeah, I think it's really important 'cause part of your telling your story was your relying on God's guidance at that moment and your leanership, that's what your thing is about, leaning on God at work. And your story's a great example. Here you are in this meeting, it's a business meeting, it's not a... It's nothing churchy about it and yet, you were in that moment in that place, leaning on God's wisdom and God's guidance and trusting God. I just think that's an amazing example. You got a lot more stuff on your website about that, but I love that leanership. It sets a great image, but your story really makes it clear. Here's an example of what that's about.
SW: Yeah, the reason I called it leanership and of course, that was sort of a God moment, but I had been reading the passage, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me." And it's the image of we try to live life with a single yoke, holding the plow, trying to set the direction, and working really hard and really fast, and going, trying to win. And that's leadership, I think, with a D, and what we get so much training about. And then when I learned about, "Take My yoke upon you," I realized, "Oh, my gosh! This is a double yoke, and I had no idea. And Jesus is here and He's actually bigger than me, so He carries the weight of it, and all I have to do is I... " I still have to come along, I still have to walk, but I don't have to set the direction, and I don't have to carry the mass of the weight, He's carrying it. All I have to do, I do have to do something, I have to lean on Him and trust Him. And life is just phenomenally better when you do that and you go in the right direction, and you go much farther in the right direction, and so many other people come along, and you don't have to work so hard.
LA: I love that we're reflecting on this Scripture about Jesus' yoke, and He says it's light, and so many people feel like it's their duty to share their faith in the workplace, but it feels perhaps onerous. I don't know if that comes from a certain cultural upbringing, or we feel like we have this task that we don't know how to do. Jesus has told us to go make disciples but we're not exactly sure how to do it. So I think for a lot of people in the workplace, this idea that I should share about my faith but I'm nervous about it, feels very onerous, or heavy, and, Sue, what I hear you saying is that it actually can be a light joy when you actually do it leaning on God.
SW: Yeah, the reason I'm so big on this practical strategy, most of my ministry is really just about giving people practical strategies, is I think there's three problems that people face, and I face them and I feel them, and I wanna help people with them. One is this notion of, "I'm supposed to proselytize, but my company says I can't. How do I reconcile with that?" Another one is that, "I don't wanna be disrespectful, I don't wanna be pushy, I don't... That's not my nature. How do I talk to a Muslim and not be disrespectful to their faith?" And then that third point is, "I just simply don't know how... My church talks a lot about the concepts, and I understand the importance of sharing my faith, but I just simply don't know how." So I think if you can just break it down into those steps of how, and to also remove the pressure.
We're gonna mess up. I have a ton of faith conversations that don't go that well, or land flat, or don't go anywhere, and maybe it's 20% that goes somewhere, or that land well. And that's great, and God forgives us, and God gives us more opportunities. He's allowing us to practice, He doesn't expect us to get it perfectly right, but it's really just about... It's mostly about loving people. And that speaks way louder than arguments or throwing a booklet at them or something. So I think it's much easier than we make it. Even when I'm meeting with an executive, just to get approval on a plan, on a proposal, I go in there, I try to go in there thinking, "How can I love them?" And I'm not gonna go in there thinking, "I'm gonna share my faith with them," but how can I make that person feel loved in the next 30 minutes? And not only do I get that plan approved usually, but I get a relationship and they maybe see Christianity in a different light.
LA: So help us... Now you've talked a little bit about the second two questions, "How do I practically share my faith at work, and it starts with being curious, how can I do it delicately?" Starts with loving the other person, but go back to the first question that you asked, "How can I talk about my faith at work when that's not allowed within my company, when my company has rules against proselytizing? How can I make sure that I'm safe? How can I... Do I have to approach HR? What do I have to do here?"
SW: Yeah, I think two things are really important. Yes, I think that you should approach... It depends, it depends what God's asking you to do. He's not asking all of us to go create faith employee resource groups. A lot of us want to, it sounds bold and exciting, but is that what God's asking you to do? So that's number one. And He's probably asking us to do something. If we go to HR, there's a couple of keys that we have to remember. One is do a little bit of research. There's a lot of research out there about what other companies are doing. Most companies don't wanna be behind. If this really is a movement, and I believe it is, they don't wanna be the last one to the game, they wanna be trailblazers, right?
So by bringing actual data, showing Facebook, Google, Apple, Salesforce, LinkedIn, PayPal. All these groups have official faith groups. Why don't we... Maybe don't say why don't we, but just acknowledging that there are other companies that are way ahead can be important, and I would go to the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation to find that data. They do incredible research there and just grab it off of their website, and then you have it to go. The other thing is to bring your story. So this is probably the most important part. Not going in saying, "I deserve my rights, it's not fair." Really not pushing our way to the table as we read in the Bible but being invited. And the way we do that is sharing some of the pain that we feel.
So I eventually got in a meeting with an executive of equality and I shared two things. I shared, one, that, "I feel scared, I'm not sure if I can wear my cross here." And the second thing I shared is, "Did you know that Christians are meeting secretly for prayer right now at this company because they're scared?" He didn't know either of those things, and that really touched him, and he even talks about it now when he talks about the importance of faith inclusion and diversity. And it was even written about in - Mar Benioff wrote a book called The Trailblazer, and he asked this Equality officer, "What story do you wanna highlight?" And he highlighted that one, that “born again Christian Sue Warnke felt scared to wear her cross, and secret prayer meetings were happening," and we had to make this clear that we do stand for faith inclusion. So none of that I could predict, but the most effective strategy was sharing some of the pain that I was feeling.
MR: It's so wise. And I just wanna note in case folks might have missed it, that you're not exactly working in the Bible belt, and we need to be clear about that, right? You were in San Francisco, California, not known to be a place where faith of any kind, but Christian faith in particular is just sort of everywhere. And so, what you're describing in your context, I think can really give hope to others to say, "You know, if you can do it where you are, and with the wisdom that you have brought, and others that you've mentioned over at Apple and Google and stuff, there is a lot to be learned." And that could be, I think, of real, both encouragement and then a source of wisdom for folks who would like to see more things happen in their context.
SW: Yeah, San Francisco, I think it's ranked third least religious, out of more than 10,000 cities in the US, like 16,000. If you had a list of all the cities in the United States, it would span from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge to the water, and San Francisco would be almost in the water in terms of least religious, if that gives you a visual. But we are very high on inclusion and very high on diversity. And so I feel like we need to use that language. We need to work within the language of our leaders, just like Paul did when he would go into a city. You speak as they speak and use that language and piggyback on the back of all of this incredible diversity work. It really is faith inclusion, and it really is faith diversity, and it helps the business. We have all sorts of data to show that by having this faith group in the workplace, we have improved recruiting, and retention, and innovation, and productivity, and morale. We have people that will leave other companies, very big companies, big competitors of ours and come to Salesforce because of this faith inclusion. They didn't feel safe or free to pray at their other company, and they see that they can do that at Salesforce, and they come here for that. So it was multi-million dollar impact.
LA: And you mentioned the wisdom, even in Paul's story in the Bible, of coming to a city and speaking in that language. Is there a particular story from the Bible or a particular Scripture that inspires you from Paul's leadership?
SW: Well, I can't think of one off the top of my head but I just love Paul so much. I know we all love Paul so much, but I love... 'Cause I've only been a Christian for a few years now, and I love how he just didn't wait. He didn't wait to get a degree. He didn't wait to get it perfect. He just went, he obeyed and he went, and I think we can all do that. So I stumble a lot, but I feel like we have some really incredible examples of just being bold and trusting that God will be there for you; be bold and careful and be smart. Paul was so brilliant. Just his ability to work within those different... Vastly different cities and make it work there. So trust your executives, trust your HR leaders, understand that they are in a really hard position. They are not the enemy. Sometimes, we position them as, "HR won't let me do this." And it's not like that. They are under tremendous pressure. It's very complicated for them because imagine if they say, "Okay, I'll allow a Christian group." Does that mean that they need to allow the 20 other faith groups that might come up. It gets really complicated, very expensive, very risky. So there is a way to implement it that is not risky, and I feel like the Faithforce model has done that and many others, but it's tricky for HR and we should be empathetic to that.
MR: That's great. So Leah, on Paul, some years back, when I actually did my dissertation on Paul. And one of the things that is so interesting, and it's there. You can't really point to a verse, except in 1 Thessalonians, he talks about working night and day and all that, and he talks about being self-supporting. And what we know about Paul, we think of him as church planter, apostle, the Gentiles, theologian. In real life, mostly, he was working full-time at his craft. And that really changes the way we think about him but also though we don't get the stories, it's absolutely assured that in the context of his working life as a sewer of leather---He's often called a tentmaker, but literally that was a sewer of leather---that Paul was speaking and living the gospel and it was also providing a financial base for the church planting that he was doing. So Paul really becomes the poster child for living one's faith in every context and being a full-time "ordinary worker" as a full-time follower of Jesus.
LA: I love the idea that he's not a separate hero of faith, that we have to leave our jobs to be expert superhero follower of Jesus. That actually, our jobs put us in the place where we can be most effective for Jesus, is what I'm hearing from both those stories.
SW: Yeah, a couple of my favorite stories, I do a lot of volunteering in the inner city with the homeless population, I feel like so much, they can see Jesus in those moments. I don't have to even say anything, and I would do that. And I had an intern once who just noticed that I was doing that a lot, and he said, "You know, I'd like to do that. Could we go talk to the homeless?" I said, "Let's go right now." And so we left the building, and of course, in San Francisco, there's a really huge homeless population, so they were right outside our door. And we walked right up to one, and we started a conversation, and he noticed this man had very little. And he said, "You look so happy, yet you have so little. Why is that?" And this man is sitting on a ledge with just grubby clothes and a huge smile on his face, and he said, "Oh, it's because of Jesus." And this intern who was really struggling with faith, just dumbfounded. And we walked on and headed to another homeless person and he started asking me all sorts of questions.
And this next homeless person was sitting on the ground and a similar situation. And he said, "You have so little here and yet you're so happy," said the intern, and the man said, "Oh, it's because of Jesus." And so I didn't have to do anything there, other than just walk with this guy, and let Jesus show him who He was. And this man started to attend church. He's converted and it's a huge part of his life. So I think we overestimate our role, sometimes, in it; we just have to walk.
LA: Sue, what would be your one big piece of advice for working Christians who are just on the frontend of trying to figure out, how can I start sharing my faith at work? You've given a lot of pieces of advice in this conversation and on your website, but if there's just one thing that you would have people remember, what would that be?
SW: I think it's not an option for us to speak up or not. I think we have to out ourselves. So little can happen until you at least can stand for this man, Jesus, without being pushy about it, but just simply out yourself. Because once that's out there, then it just unlocks the doors. You don't know which direction it's gonna go, maybe it's gonna lead to a faith group at your company, maybe it's gonna lead to incredible conversations with people, maybe it will lead to the de-stigmatizing Christianity and having people look at it differently. But that can't happen until you out yourself and stand as a representative for Jesus. And it doesn't have to be big, it can be simple, but you have to take that step. And by the way, other people are watching. Be the leader, be the first person to... Go first, and see if others will follow. And no matter what, God will bless that step and multiply it.
LA: And for you, outing yourself looked like wearing a cross to meetings. It looked like changing your signature line to put a Bible verse in your signature.
SW: I take every opportunity I can to out myself. If it's a population that doesn't know I'm a Christian... I don't keep outing myself to the same group, that would be annoying. But if it's a new population... I train new hires all the time. They come into Salesforce and when I get to the part where I talk about myself, I mention that I converted to Christianity. And what that means is that I love every single one of you, even though I don't know you, and I want you to know that you can come to me any time that you want to talk. And I know that sounds weird, but I truly mean it. And I look them in the eye and that's... I reach thousands of people that way, and they do reach out. And I get so many people asking to talk that I had to schedule office hours in the mornings. I do it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 8:30 AM. You don't have to do that, but just... It's not once. You don't just put on a cross, you really... This is your job, we work for God. And He's put us in our companies not for ourselves but for His glory, and He expects us to work for Him. He does, it's not an accident. And we have to do this, we have to take steps. And it can be very gentle and beautiful, and loving, but we can't not move forward.
LA: Tell us now, your outing yourself as a Christian at Salesforce has had a huge impact over the past several years in that company. Taking it from a place where you said you didn't feel comfortable praying with others, to a place where there are thousands of people in your employee resource group, 'cause you... Just talk a little bit about the way that the culture has changed.
SW: Yeah, absolutely. So when I... I started to feel scared, as I mentioned at the beginning, "Can I be a Christian here?" And at first, I thought, "Maybe I can't. Maybe I'm supposed to go into studying Scripture and full-time ministry and... " But instead of running away, I decided, "I'll ask a few more people." And so I asked not only Christians, but I asked Muslims and Hindus, and Buddhists, "How do you feel?" And it turns out, they were also feeling scared and uncertain, whether they could stand in their faith. So, the more people I asked, I found out that a couple of trailblazers had already started the official process with HR to create this group, and I jumped on board and we launched this group called Faithforce, which is our interfaith employee resource group, and we were really nervous about it. And when we did our first launch, maybe 60 people showed up but people were really skeptical. And then to our shock, it just took off. It went from those 60 to hundreds, to... Now we have over 2500 members. It's the fastest-growing employee resource group in Salesforce history. It has 17 hubs all around the world in different cities. So that's the interfaith group, and executives talk about it all over the place. It's kind of seen as a very positive example of how faith, to everyone's shock, is not necessarily divisive. In fact, when implemented correctly, it is an antidote to divisiveness. And it's been just such a journey.
MR: Such a great story and you know this, but that's surely gotta be part of the reason why in the last Fortune rankings of the top companies in America in which to work, Salesforce is all the way up to number six. Which is just saying, this is a company that the employees feel good about working in. Now obviously, for some that's... The religious thing isn't going to be directly related to them, but even what it says. It just says, "You can be who you are here." Now, we still have super high expectations, we are a serious company, but we also wanna be a place where you can be safe to be who you are in the right way. So I don't have any research that says what you've been doing connects to Salesforce's climbing up that list, but I'm sure it's gotta be part of why employees of Salesforce are saying this is a really good place to work.
SW: Yeah, thanks for saying that, and it really is an honor to work for this company, it truly is. They are how they are described externally as this wonderful place. Companies always say, "Bring your full authentic self to work," but what if the most important part of yourself is of a faith identity. Can you bring that self to work? And Salesforce kinda put a stake in the ground and said, "The answer has be yes, unquestionably has to be yes." Once they did that, it just kind of unloaded all of this stress and burden that so many employees had been carrying. It takes a lot of effort to hide something. You have to remember, "Who did I tell what to?" You don't bring your most innovative self. By allowing faith, it even improves our product because we serve huge ministries that are deploying disaster relief, and ending sex-trafficking, and managing this COVID crisis even. We deploy resources using our site, and so because we have that use case, we can build our application around that. So it leads to innovation, I mentioned recruiting. It is really a huge business booster. If you simply watch out for the couple of things, don't proselytize, don't be pushy. We don't get theological, we're not debating the Quran versus the Bible. We're simply listening to each other's stories, and learning from each other, and trying to be allies and loving.
LA: Sue Warnke, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast and sharing your faith about sharing your faith.
SW: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
MR: Yeah, yes, thank you. And again, I should say, I mentioned your website several times. I should say, those who are listening, Sue did not ask me to do this. This was not her deal, "I'll come on if you mention my website." It's just her website is really, really helpful, so I'm again gonna say, it's leanership, as in leaning, leanership.org. Again, it's a lot of really great things where it's really gonna help you. How do I live this out in my work, even today? So I'd encourage you to go check it out, and if you wanna learn more about Sue, she's also got a section telling her story more, so go check it out.
SW: Thank you so much.
MR: That’s our show. Don’t miss the next episode; be sure to subscribe.
LA: And if you like what you’ve heard, please leave a review! We’d love to hear from you, and it helps other people find us. Thanks for listening!
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