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Working With Character or Characters? Why You Shouldn’t Work With Some People.

I’m not going to lie.

I can’t tell you why, but I liked Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show. Honestly, I’ve always liked Madonna. And no, I can’t tell you why about that either. Though I wasn’t over-the-moon about her performing at the Super Bowl halftime, I at least thought she was moderately relevant – which is something I can’t say about some previous Super Bowl performers (I’m looking at you, “The Who”). For some reason,  Madonna forgot that she was Madonna and invited some people far too small and far-less talented than she to join her on-stage. One of those being M.I.A., someone who for me, until her Super-Bowl appearance could have actually been MIA. I had no clue who she was.

At any rate, a day after the Super Bowl, a great deal of the conversation around Madonna’s performance was M.I.A. flipping the bird to the largest audience in television. In that moment, we were all reminded of the importance of working with the right kind of people.

In Bill Hybels‘ book Axiom, Hybels writes about the three C’s of hiring – Competence, Character, and Chemistry. We talked about Chemistry last week. What M.I.A. demonstrated during the Super Bowl is something that we’ve all encountered in the workplace — a co-worker who lacks the character for the job. Working with someone who lacks  character taints your employer, taints you, and misdirects your customers from your product, mission, and brand.

If you want to advance your mission and team, you must pay relentless attention to the character of visible and vocal members of your team.

Here’s Why:

  1. Trust. When a co-worker lacks character, the team discerns that they cannot be trusted. People hesitate to speak-up, offer and volunteer their best. Teammates cease to be open about struggles in their area of responsibility and slowly the team begins to decay. Strategy sessions, brainstorming meetings, and – on ministry staffs – the mutual sharing of joys and frustrations, becomes restrictive because the rest of the team doesn’t trust someone with information. Congregants and customers also notice the lack of character and slowly they begin to not trust you with their patronage. Plus, if you let bad character go, people will assume you approve it.
  2. Credibility. Madonna, while no stranger to controversy, has become a mother and a quite respectable business woman. She leant M.I.A. her credibility, and M.I.A. spat on it! It may have temporarily helped M.I.A. (who I doubt will be performing at 53), but it hurt Madonna’s brand. The mother, filmaker, businesswoman and humanitarian was thrust back 20+ years to an earlier, less mature, and less developed version of herself. I don’t think many of us want people relating to us or our brand as a caricature of who we used to be. For a while now, when people think Madonna, they’ll think about M.I.A.
  3. Development. I was once a part of a team wherein one staff member had a profound lack of character. This meant few other staff members were willing to (1) work alongside them closely, and (2) leaders were hesitant to bring new people onto the team. They knew whoever was hired would suffer because of this individuals lack of character. They didn’t want to put new people – especially younger workers – in the path of destruction. One person’s lack of character held back the entire organization. Yes, lack of character is that powerful!
The character of your team reflects on you. Your congregation and customers are making decisions about your competence and ability based on character. It matters. A lack of character may be costing you more than you realize.
What do you do in your church or organization to find team members with character? To build and encourage character in your system? What are you doing to help your team develop even deeper character?


  • Max Chance

    Great post, Sean! Seems like the reason someone does what M.I.A. did is to make a name for oneself. And, in this fallen world, it worked. It’s older than Elvis, for sure, right on through the Beatles, the heavy metal bands, the Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson’s of our day, the Eminem’s, the Gangsta Rappers of every stripe, and yes, even once upon a time, Madonna, herself. I seem to remember something about an indecent gesture of hers, at one point… and exaggerated wardrobes, the wedding dress on MTV while singing “Like A Virgin”… Even Janet’s “wardrobe malfunction” was about publicity. Most of America never heard of M.I.A. before, but we’ve nearly all heard of her now. I didn’t watch the game, so I missed the big event, but now it just has me wondering what next year’s act will do to ‘top’ it. The truly scary thing is the way, as you said, this appears in the church. What draws someone ‘making a name for himself’ to ministry?! It would have to be a total misconception of what ministry really is. And then, that person has a measure of success (usually by human standards)… and people begin to celebrate that, and shy away from confronting the issues in question. Why do we do that? Maybe it’s fear, or judgmental skepticism that the issues can change at all, so we look the other way. I’ve been there. Maybe we don’t hear their side of what’s going on in a more complex situation than it appears to be- Satan loves convincing us to heap all kinds of projections onto silence. Or maybe it’s not seeing our own character issues that have fed the problem, and having the courage to look at those honestly. I’ve been there, too. I remember an ACU prof (Reese, maybe?) used to say that no minister’s motives are 100% pure, despite his best intentions, and I guess we can see that, even with Paul in Romans 7. In the end, I’m always going to see the flaws in others, and I really can’t handle anyone’s character before my own… I know I’ve certainly spent a fair amount of time praying, “remember not the sins of my youth.” On the hope side, if even Madonna can grow out of that stuff to where she is now- which appears to be a much more mature place, I agree- then how much more so is that possible for those of us in the Kingdom, who have the very real God powering very real change in our character… burning off what isn’t useful, and shaping what is? Praise God that, though we may be jars of clay, there’s Real Treasure inside. If there’s NOT- that will be borne out in horrific and disastrous time. We’ve all seen the divided and shattered outcomes.

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