Growing in Holiness through Middle Management: Part III – The Prophetic Ministry of Christ

No Communication | Photo by Leonard John Matthews/flickerCC

(Missed the beginning of this series? Check out Part I and Part II.)

Of Christ’s prophetic ministry, Pope John Paul II says

Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, “who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his world,” the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil. United to Christ, the “great prophet” (Lk 7:16), and in the Spirit made “witnesses” of the Risen Christ, the lay faithful are made sharers in the appreciation of the Church’s supernatural faith, that “cannot err in matters of belief” and sharers as well in the grace of the word (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev 19:10). They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even “through the framework of their secular life” (Christifideles Laici, 14).

The prophetic ministry calls us to give witness to the Gospel in word and in deed. I don’t think we have much problem accepting the latter. In fact, if anything I think we are too comfortable with the idea of evangelizing through our lives: we tend to over-quote the famous admonition (attributed to St. Francis) to “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words.” This can lead to the (false) idea that words are never necessary, which in turns leads to complacency about naming the reason we live as we do in the world.

The role of the prophet is to speak the truth. In the Old Testament, the prophets called the Chosen People, who had turned from the proper worship of God to follow idols and false teachers, to return to a proper relationship with the God of Israel. They did this with a firm love, without watering down God’s call.

So, too, in administration. Our role, as partakers in the prophetic ministry, is to speak truthfully to those who work for us. We do this, first and foremost, by the feedback we give.

Unfortunately, for many people, this probably just means an annual review, but I don’t find them particularly helpful. Annual reviews aren’t frequent enough to allow employees to learn from mistakes, enjoy praise for a job well done, or grow in their roles. Taking a cue from the Manager Tools podcast, I’ve instituted 30-minute one-on-one meetings every other week with the directors who report to me. This allows for better communication, more immediate feedback, and better oversight of what is going on in the department I oversee.

Honest, forthright feedback is how we encourage good employees and help mediocre employees improve. Unfortunately their are times when all the feedback in a world won’t improve someone’s performance or attitude. At those times, as a VP for mission I worked with once said, we need to “invite people to live out their passions elsewhere.” Or, as Jim Collins puts it, we need to get the wrong people off the bus.

The truth is that bad employees are toxic to the work environment. If allowed to remain for too long they will demoralize teams and actually drive good employees to find work elsewhere. By participating in the prophetic ministry of Christ — by speaking truthfully and with authority — we can avoid sabotaging our work by ensuring that people know what the expectations are and that they are consistent across the organization.

Growing in Holiness through Middle Management: Part I “ Introduction

Priest, Prophet, King / photo by Br. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr

This past weekend I offered a breakout session at my diocese’s biennial adult enrichment conference entitled “Administration as Service: Practicing Leadership in the Light of Christ.” I had planned to record the talk; unfortunately my laptop zonked out on me the day before and, while dealing with an unfamiliar machine, I forgot to start my audio recorder.

Instead of recording the talk in my office, I’ve decided to offer the major talking points as a series of posts.

I began the presentation by offering a story told to me by Barb Rossman, the first CEO I worked with in Catholic healthcare. Like many other hospital administrators, Barb started as a nurse. She enjoyed having her “hands on patients,” helping them to get better. She eventually became a manager and finally entered administration.

When she became an administrator, however, she had a difficult time understanding how her role fit into the mission of the hospital. As a nurse it was clear: her job was to help treat patients in a very direct way. How did her new role contribute to the health of patients? She no longer had her “hands on patients”; what was her new role about?

What she eventually came to realize is that, while she was no longer a direct caretaker, her role was now to be a “caretaker to the caretakers.” Her role was to ensure that those working for her had the tools, resources, and knowledge to do their jobs well.   This was the spirit that Barb took to her role: to help those who help the patients.

Barb’s story is a perfect example of Christ’s admonition in the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “[T]hose who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mk 10:42-45)

In fact, this sort of leadership can lead us to holiness! As the Council Fathers stated at the Second Vatican Council:

[I]n the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’ However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others. (Lumen Gentium 39)

In other words, no matter what your station in life, you are called to live it out in holiness!

As those baptized into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we do this by participating in the three-fold ministry of Christ: priest, prophet, and king. In the next three parts I will outline how administrators participate in these ministries through their work as leaders of their organizations.

Photo: Br. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr