Should We Take the Holy Spirit to Work?
For much of my life, I left the Holy Spirit at the front door as I headed to work to compete in the marketplace. Two people have helped me realize I was wrong: the doorman at a cancer center and the former chief of the US Navy.
A Healing Spirit at a Cancer Center
In 2004, my wife, Katie, was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. On our first visit to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, we were barely within eyesight of the 53rd Street entrance in midtown Manhattan when a big friendly doorman named Nick Medley locked his eyes on Katie and smiled at her. (This is in New York City where few people make eye contact with a passerby, let alone smile!) Nick was a seasoned wig-spotter, and recognizing that Katie was a cancer patient, he intentionally reached out to connect with her.
One day while Katie was undergoing treatment, I stumbled upon a meeting where Sloan Kettering employees were discussing the results of an employee survey. Nick was there. He shared how much he loved his colleagues, the patients and their families, and their cause. The Sloan Kettering Cancer Center posts its mission statement on all their printed materials: to provide the best cancer care, anywhere. Nick and his co-workers clearly felt a connection with one another, their patients, and their patients’ families. During the time we spent at Sloan Kettering, I witnessed more joy and esprit de corps than I had ever experienced working on Wall Street. Who would have guessed that a cancer treatment center could have such a vibrant and positive atmosphere?
Years later, Katie and I saw a segment about Nick on ABC’s “World News Tonight” and learned that he is himself a cancer survivor. Nick gives thirteen hundred hugs a day to patients and their families. We also learned from conversations with Nick that he is a follower of Jesus. His local church family is Brooklyn Tabernacle. Nick brings love, joy, and other spiritual fruit to patients, their families, physicians, researchers, and staff at Sloan Kettering.
A Prayer Warrior for Young Sailors
Admiral Vernon Clark became the US Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in 2000. The CNO is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the principal naval adviser to the president on the conduct of war.
In 2000, the Navy was not meeting its first-term re-enlistment goal. Admiral Clark made a number of changes to improve the Navy’s culture, including creating a new process for job assignments that gives sailors a voice. He also increased the training budget for personal and professional growth.
When Admiral Clark traveled to commands and bases around the world, he met with commanding officers as well as master chiefs (who are the leaders of the enlisted class). Clark asked the master chiefs to value the sailors under their leadership and see to it that they prosper.
“These young sailors under our command swear to support and defend the US Constitution from all enemies,” Admiral Clark said. “And we as leaders need to make promises in return. We need to give them the training and resources to enable them to fulfill their promise. We need to give them an opportunity to prove what they can do.”
Clark is a humble man, quick to admit that he’s not perfect. Nonetheless, the Navy achieved some impressive gains during his tenure as CNO. The naval leaders I interviewed praised his leadership and positive impact. Some eighteen months after he became CNO, first-term re-enlistment soared from less than the Navy’s goal of 38 percent to 56.7 percent.
Admiral Vernon Clark didn't leave the Holy Spirit at home. Each morning throughout his career in the Navy, he and his wife Connie stood in their doorway and wrapped their arms around one another. The Clarks prayed they would be sensitive to where the Lord was moving that day and that they would be aligned with His will.
Transformation of workplace cultures is much needed today. Two-thirds of Americans in the workplace are not engaged in their jobs. Globally, 87 percent of employees are not engaged. It doesn't have to be that way.
God helped me see that through two Spirit-filled men who had a positive effect on the cultures where they worked. When God works in and through his people, cultures change for the better.