While I was still working, I made a trip to our office in the Philippines (see picture). I intended to help the team understand how important they were, how much we appreciated their contribution to our success, and to help me learn any frustrations or inefficiencies that our U.S. team was inadvertently causing.
On my second or third day with them, I asked if I could sit with each of them while they handled work assignments that they received from our U.S. team. As soon as I sat with the first team member, I could tell I was doing something culturally wrong.
I found the operations manager and explained my plan. He said, “Oh, no, that will never work.” They saw me as a person in a different “class” from them, so they were disturbed and afraid by me going to their cube and “chatting” with them. Instead, I had to sit in my “big office” and have each person, one by one, come to me and explain the work they did. I complied, and it all worked out.
I needed to sit and watch how they worked. I had the right to do that. I had participated in the hiring process of these employees, and their salaries were paid out of my budget. Nevertheless, for the sake of harmony, I had to comply. It is appropriate to surrender our rights, from time to time, for the sake of harmony. We do this so that we may keep our witness and preach Jesus and the cross.
How did my acquiescence help further the gospel? Well, when I was back in the U.S., I could Instant Message each person. We developed some rapport. Shortly after my return, these wonderful people were hit by a massive typhoon.
Some of my Filipino team members had family members killed by that storm. I was able to tell individuals that I was praying for them, other members of my U.S. team chatted and prayed for them, and we took up a donation which we sent to them.
You see, we do not need or want distractions. Jesus showed us this, and it’s recorded in Matthew 17:24-27.
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
I have a framed poster that the employees of my first real company gave to me which says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” There’s a lot of truth in that one sentence.