“Why are you at your desk?”
It was a simple question.
I turned to find one of our department directors had stopped outside my cubicle. She was a kind leader and friend, one whom I still respect to this day. So I knew there was purpose in what she’d asked, and in the fact she was still waiting for an answer. Problem was, I wasn’t sure what the right answer might be.
Was she asking a trick question? Weren’t we supposed to sit and get to work when we came in the office every morning? After all, that’s what the company was paying me for — to work. Did I forget an important meeting or deadline?
I glanced at my desk calendar. Nothing circled in red. I looked far down the aisle of cubicles to see where everyone else was. Some of our peers were gathered around the water cooler (so to speak), and were chatting as they sipped morning coffee.
“I’m at my desk because… I have work to do?”
It seemed like the wrong answer. Though, I wasn’t exactly sure why.
“Yes. This is your desk. And it’s good that you’re working. But part of your role is to talk to people, Kristy. You need to build relationships with your team when you’re not working together, if you ever want to keep a relationship with them when you are.”
Build relationships with your team in the moments you’re not working together, if you ever want to keep a relationship with them when you are.
I may no longer be in that office, but I’m still a member of a team — and I still value that advice.
As a Christ follower, the team I’m a part of now is just a bit larger than a few rows of desks. We’re all a part of this global fellowship of believers. And the impact of this leader’s words — so wise and kind — is still a part of how I want to work in any role I have in His Kingdom.
If I see a friend walk into my favorite coffee shop, that leader’s words remind me to close the laptop and put the phone away for that God-commissioned appointment. If I’m at a book signing, I’ll drop the pen and spend extra time with someone who needs to talk. Or pray. Or just have me listen. If I’m writing late at night and our youngest son asks Mommy to read a picture book, the work gets put away and we dive into story world together, always with that leader’s wisdom in the back of my mind.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. —Acts 2:42 (NIV)
Part of our role as Christ followers is to talk to people. It sounds far too simple a concept to be earth-shattering, right? But it is. No fancy formulas needed. Just talk, and that can lead others to experience Him.
We see time and time again how Jesus built His ministry in the unscripted moments — the relationships that developed in small group gatherings, in temples, in fields and mountainsides, just talking. Sharing. Teaching and fellowship over a meal. It’s fellowship we see in Acts 2:42. Even more, it’s a model for the work we’re called to as a part of His discipleship team.
A great leader knows relationships are built first — the collective work comes second.
We talk. Share. Engage in fellowship now, because that building-up time will be the firm foundation when the tough work has potential to tear the team down.
I believe in working hard to honor deadlines. They’re front and center in my mind and when I miss one… Oh, do I hate that feeling.
I never want to let someone down, especially when they’re depending upon the work I do. But what we can tend to forget in those moments, is that we’re leaders too. One day, a friend may walk into our coffee shop unexpected. We might be in a position where someone needs us to listen. Or talk. Or pray. An important person in our lives may need time with us for something that matters to them — like a story book. A championship game. A project or chasing a dream.
Even a cup of coffee sipped over the water cooler can have lasting impact.
That day at the office, I rolled my chair back. I stood, walked over, and joined my team. A leader’s wisdom commissioned 20 minutes of flat-out gab time, ZERO work at computers, and after many years, I still remember the impact of that moment.
Thanks to the best leadership advice I’ve ever received, I have thousands of extra smiles tucked away in my heart.
It’s tough to wake early on a Saturday morning and want to dive in to work ALL DAY LONG. That’s a sweet spot in my heart. If I get to fly off into story world and fall in love with words all over again, I’m happy as a clam. But just down the aisle, a team could be waiting. They want to have fellowship. And this global impact of what we could do together is more powerful than any one worker.
Only if the foundation is built can we do the hard work, and do it together.
Get out there and talk today — wherever He’s placed you. Your impact matters more than you might know.