Leading The Culture of Faith Integration At a Christian B-school

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As I catch up on my blog for August [My goal: to present two teaching ideas per month] and as the new semester gets going, I have been reflecting on the bigger picture of faith integration efforts in Christian business schools.  Accordingly, this posting will take you beyond what to do in class tomorrow morning.

 

An important job of the leader, according to Edgar Schein from MIT (Schein, 2004), is the responsibility to manage the internal environment of shared values in their organization. In the management world we call this “organizational culture.”

 

Schein is known for his model that includes primary embedding mechanisms and secondary reinforcing mechanisms. When you think about these in terms of the leadership toward a shared value of integrating faith and learning, here are some of the possibilities (you will think of others pertinent to your institution):

 

Primary Embedding Mechanisms: (Tools leaders use to encourage acceptance of particular shared values. Realize that in a business school, even a Christian one, not every faculty member necessarily accepts the idea that the biblical basis of the discipline should be integrated with learning.)

  • Things leaders talk about. When have you raised for discussion in faculty meeting or in class session issues of faith as these relate to curriculum decisions, policy decisions, syllabus content or other matters? How often do you talk about it during class periods? What books related to faith integration do you hear people talking about? What books do you talk about with your students and peers? What conferences do you hear people talking about?
  • Things leaders pay attention to among subordinates and peers. When a student voluntarily contributes an insight regarding Christian faith, or when a student mentions a Scripture passage that seems relevant to them, do you pay attention to that and in so doing show how important that value is to you? How much energy is spent across the faculty or across the student body to experiment with new ways , new ideas for faith integration?
  • How a leader responds to problems that come up. When a challenging issue arises in faculty meeting such as discussing curriculum changes, preparing for accreditation, planning a special event, how do you respond in terms of a faith integration perspective?
  • Resource allocations communicate value priorities! Look over the minutes from last year’s faculty meetings. How much time was allocated to discussing matters of faith versus other things such as accreditation requirements, changes in the degree programs, special events (that may have nothing do to with faith and character development)? How do you allocate your own study time? How much do you search the Scriptures for guidance on the big questions and issues in your discipline? Follow the money! How much money exists in the budget for improving the faith integration efforts of the B-school? Do you request funds to support travel to and participation in a faith integration conference (E.g., the annual conference of the Christian Business Faculty Association)? [This year’s CBFA annual conference is in Nashville, TN, October 9-11, 2014.] http://www.cbfa.org/html/conferences.html Does the faculty invite guests to come to faculty meetings to challenge faculty members toward faith integration efforts?
  • Rewarding workers. In your courses, do you give points to students for reading and responding to or reflecting on Scripture? When a fellow faculty member raises an issue of faith for discussion in faculty meeting, do you show appreciation for this by writing them a note or visiting them in their office to say thank you?

 

Secondary Reinforcing Mechanisms: (Tools that leaders can use to maintain and strengthen shared values that have already been accepted.)

  • Division of labor. When work is divided among faculty members (E.g., subcommittee assignments), is anyone assigned the task to investigate and report on new approaches to integrating faith and learning in the various business disciplines? When a new program or project is planned, does anyone step forward and say, “How are we going to integrate faith in this program?”
  • Coordinating / integration efforts. Who is responsible to see that issues of faith, biblical teachings on management (and other topics) is being integrated into the curricular and co-curricular activities? How often does your faculty conduct formal or informal conversations about the best methods available to interest students in the Scriptural foundations for business topics? When a study tour is planned, does anyone think to ask, “How will we bring issues of faith during these travel experiences?”
  • Physical layout of buildings. Unless you are planning the construction or remodelling of your school of business, there is not much to think about here. But wait! There are physical spaces where Scripture and Christian values can be prominently displayed to keep before students concepts which lay claim to their lives in the marketplace: Bulletin boards, office doors, classroom wall spaces, wall space by the drinking fountain, office desk top space, department website, department branding materials, banners, signage, and other spaces. (More on this later!)
  • Operational procedures. What classroom procedures (routines), used on a consistent basis will continually communicate to students and visitors how important issues of faith are in your classroom? For example, do you always share scripture passages relevant to new subject matter when you introduce it or review it (more on this later!)? Do you encourage students to verbally reflect on their personal experiences of faith in the marketplace? Do you share your personal testimony with students sometime during the semester? Do you invite Christian business managers into your classroom (or via Skype) to talk about their experiences of faith in the marketplace? Does your school of business conduct a special dedication for graduating seniors? How about a dedication program for in-coming freshmen? Do you assign students the task of memorizing Scriptures relevant to the learning in your courses?
  • Stories that leaders tell. What stories are told in faculty meetings to inspire deeper commitment to the shared values? What stories do you tell (case studies, personal experiences of students and faculty, personal experiences of Christians in business, etc.) that communicate the importance of looking for opportunities to bring Christ to the marketplace? What stories can students tell which encourage fellow students to make a commitment to faith integration?

 

Without the use of primary and secondary mechanisms, how will your B-school fulfil the institutional mission with respect to faith integration? How will you and fellow faculty member strengthen this value in the coming weeks?

 

The reality is that for most organizations, both primary and secondary mechanisms may be needed simultaneously. Some faculty may not have accepted the values of faith integration. Some may quietly resists faith integration efforts. They may have fears such as the fear that faith integration efforts will result in a decline of quality in the teaching and learning or the fear that someone will infringe upon their academic freedom by mandating some activity that they shrink from doing. Those who have accepted the value may need encouragement and new ideas for how to express them. If it sometimes feels like you are the only one who wants to see faith integrated in the B-school curriculum, take heart. You contribute leadership by:

  • Take responsibility for your part of the organization: Do what you know how to do for faith integration and keep learning from others how to integrate faith and the biblical perspective in your part of the curriculum.
  • Read something this semester relating to faith integration in your discipline.
  • Revise your course syllabi to reflect a deeper commitment to faith integration.
  • Ask questions in faculty meetings that focus the discussion on faith integration and how it is related to the organization’s mission.
  • Through in-depth interviews or surveys, try to identify hidden concerns and assumptions free floating among students or faculty members that are barriers to acceptance and action when it comes to faith integration. Use the results to dialog with fellow faculty members.
  • Vote on faculty meeting agenda items in ways that support faith integration efforts.
  • Make suggestions for activities among peers or among students which will foster faith integration.

 

References

Schein, E.H.  (2004). Organizational culture and leadership. (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

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Spirituality: Why CEOs Loathe Vacation

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In a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Sneaking Away to Email?…” August 19, 2014), authors Feintzeig and Lublin reveal that top-level executives have a difficult time leaving work completely behind when they are on vacation. The authors give some of the reasons: 

  • They are highly invested in the success of their organization.
  • They don’t want to put important projects on hold.
  • They don’t want to miss important face-to-face conversations with key stakeholders.
  • They don’t want to appear to others to be out of touch.
  • They worry about losing power and influence if they are not in key meetings.
  • They don’t want to appear irresponsible if technical problems arise.
  • They need to know what is going on in the firm.

 For some executives, taking vacation can be more stressful than not taking vacation!

The article talks more about top-level leaders rather than mid-level managers; however, other literature supports the observation that CEOs are not the only ones who have a difficult time taking vacation. Mid-level managers who are eager to progress in their careers may experience similar challenges with taking vacation.

 

This story raises questions for any manager, but especially for the Christian manager who values a work-life balance that keeps family and the connection with their faith community a high priority.

 

Discussion Questions

Ask students to read the WSJ article prior to the class period when you will discuss it. The following discussion questions are offered for starting the dialogue with students:

  • Conduct some research regarding the benefits of taking time off from work. What did you learn?
  • Do you know a person who has as difficult time taking vacation from their work?
  • What are the reasons this person wants to keep in contact with their organization?
  • How does this person find time to unwind or take time off?
  • If an executive has a difficult time breaking away for vacation with family, how is this person going to make it up to family?
  • If during a vacation a leader spends two hours on the telephone with key people connected with the organization and then takes the rest of the day with family, is this an adequate balance?
  • Are the traditional ideas in North America regarding the structure of “vacation” incorrect?
  • God has not said, “Vacation must be a minimum of two weeks completely away from your work where you devote all of your time to family.” What basis do we think that anything other than this structure is not good?
  • One of the things in Scripture that is somewhat related to vacation is the weekly Sabbath and the ancient Hebrew feasts (festivals) which were important community religious events. Some feasts lasted for more than just a day. For examples, the feast of unleavened bread lasted for seven days. The feast of tabernacles was a 8-day festival. While Christians are not required to observe these feasts, does the structure of these feasts suggest something about his ideal for balance and the cycles of our work life? 
  • Did God design humans with an inherent need for time off from work?
  • How important is the weekly Sabbath for experiencing a flourishing life? 
  • Is “balance” static or dynamic? 
  • Why do we say that balance is good? 
  • How can a CEO address the need for time off?
  • Is work-life-faith balance truly achievable or is it, after all is said and done, no more than an elusive target or ideal to shoot for?

Education vs. Schooling: They Are Not the Same!

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The summer break was wonderful. I got a lot done and I hope you did also. My wife and I took our 40th wedding anniversary trip (a few months early). After 40 years of marriage to this beautiful woman, I am more committed to her than ever before.

 

I wrote a couple of short articles, started this blog, presented papers at three conferences, visited NYC and the 9/11 Museum, Philadelphia (the Federal Reserve Bank, the US Mint, Independence Hall), Boston, Grand Rapids (MI), Holland (MI), Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City and several other places. Oh, and I taught our MBA course Integrating Faith & Business. I finished a book manuscript for InterVarsity Press – Business Ethics in Biblical Perspective – the working title. I received the peer-review feedback for this book and as a result I am energized more than ever for this project! The more I write for publication, the more I value peer feedback. September will be a B-U-S-Y month revising the book.

 

Whew! Paradoxically, I’m tired but also energized at the same time. Now, Fall Semester is finally here (tomorrow!). Suddenly, the whole campus is transformed. What was a sleepy, park-like environment for many weeks in May, June and July is now a hustling, bustling center of energy. I love it!

 

To the meat of this blog posting… Last week I had an interesting conversation with one of my colleagues, Dr. Rob Montague who is an experienced administrator and university professor. Like me, Rob is passionate about bringing a biblical perspective to his classroom experiences. He is using my textbook Management: A faith-based perspective (Pearson, 2012) for the first time in a few days. Naturally, his mind is thinking a lot about how to interest the students in the biblical perspective on management. I had come to him requesting guidance on another matter, but in the process Rob helped me focus something much more vital to me and my students. I hope you are as inspired from his words as I was when I left his office!

 

Rob shared an insight with me that gets to the heart of what we are all about as Christian educators. To paraphrase Rob: We are in the business of education. We and the students spend time together in the school classrooms. Students take our courses in the process of their schooling where they learn knowledge and skills for use in the marketplace. But, education is not the same as schooling. They are related but they are different. Education is mainly about character development and that is not the same thing as going to school to learn accounting, economics and management. 

 

Our main job is one of education of business students, i.e., being part of their (and our) journey of character development. Sure, during the education, we teach things in school, but our challenge is to focus the schooling so that it is character education.

 

To Rob’s insights I add this: Of course, we push for ever higher levels of excellence in the schooling part of our teaching. We want students to have the best schooling possible that rivals what is available at secular institutions. This can be a challenge to achieve given the teaching loads at most smaller Christian B-schools. Even with this in mind, the really big payoff in what we do is not the schooling and its outcomes; it is the character development (ours and theirs) that occurs not only for a life of service in this life but also for the life to come.

 

As Rob shared this, I thought of these from the Bible:

 

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. [The transformation of the heart is the divine work of character development! The first B-schools in ancient Israel were families and God instructed these B-school faculty members, fathers and mothers, to continually bring his law of love up for discussion. That is a pretty powerful thought!]

 

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. [There is no better curriculum material designed for human character development, i.e., restoring the soul, than the succinct statements of God’s character, i.e., the Ten Commandments and the real life experiences of Jesus Christ when he demonstrated God’s Law of love in action.]

 

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘?

 

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. [I believe that David is referring to character transformation here.]

 

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

 

I think Rob is right on target.  But this line of thinking leads directly to some very personal, if not uncomfortable, questions that I cannot avoid:

  • As I begin my semester tomorrow, when I step into the classroom, where does true education figure for me in my personal mission at this university?
  • Am I all in for character education or am I simply here for schooling? If the latter, am I fulfilling God’s call to me?
  • Where will I address character development in the process of teaching management this fall, 2014?
  • What tools will I use that are designed for character education and not merely schooling?
  • What narrative will I and my students create together when explore the “schooling information” in ways that are also contributing to character development?
  • What conversations will I have with students outside of class where character development issues will arise?
  • What classroom experiences will I intentionally plan designed for character transformation in and around the schooling that takes place?
  • Or, am I simply going to “punt” this opportunity for character development to other people on campus (religion professors, campus chaplains, church pastors)?
  • Am I satisfied that business school graduates can wait to get character development education in the marketplace? Is this what they want?  Is this what prospective employers want? [Actually, no! Employers prefer to hire graduates who have already demonstrated the development of character! As Peter Drucker said, “There is only one quality that cannot be learned, one qualification that the manager cannot acquire but must bring with him. It is not genius; it is character.” I agree, but Drucker get’s us only half way there! Character is not learned like accounting, marketing, strategic planning and other things. This does not mean that we should assume that character is static, that what it will be in the future is what it is when the business school student enters college for the first time.]
  • What kind of character education will they get from me?
  • If their characters do not undergo some transformation while they are in my classrooms, what foundation will they have for character development after graduation?

To conclude, the thought that I frequently have during the semester is this: Every week that goes by during the semester is an opportunity to contribute to true education. If all I do is participate in the schooling process, couldn’t someone correctly say to me, “You have done well in the schooling processes, but in this you have done only part of your job. Where did you contribute to true education?”

HRM: Break time? Are you serious? We’ve got work to do!

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I’ve been traveling a lot during the month of August. I attended the Academy of Management annual conference and an international conference of Christian business men and women where I presented a seminar on “Motivating Employees: The Biblical Perspective and Contemporary Research.” A few days ago I went to Illinois for the recording of a Christian television show interview on the topic of Scriptural Foundations for Business, a monograph series published by Andrews University Press designed for use by business schools at Christian colleges and universities. http://www.andrews.edu/universitypress/catalog.php?series=9 That show will air for the first time on Friday, August 29 at 8:00 am (Central Time) on the 3 Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN).

 

Fall semester is about to start! More about this in my next few blogs. It’s time to get caught up here… Thanks for your patience!

 

Here is a current story that can be brought to students when you discuss in class the chapter in your textbook on human resource management… The classroom discussion is bound to be rich on this one!

 

Since Steve Jobs passed away, customers still love the creativity and innovation of Apple computer products. But, apparently employees at Apple are fed up with some alleged management practices. They are fighting back in court alleging that they have been short-changed on break time, that they are not being paid to wait in line to go through security screening and other things.

 

Discussion Questions

  • Under what circumstances, if any, would a Christian manager justify requiring that employees delay state-law mandated work breaks and lunch breaks?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, would a Christian manager justify requiring that employees entirely skip state-law mandated work breaks and lunch breaks?
  • If the time pressures of a particular project or task make it difficult to give employees a work break or lunch break, does the Christian manager have a duty to make this up to the employees in some way?
  • What is the “right thing” for the Christian manager to do?
  • If “making it up” to employees costs the firm something in terms of either cash or a short-term decline in productivity, how is the Christian manager to advocate on behalf of doing the “right thing?”
  • Would it be appropriate for Microsoft employees who are Christians to appeal to the Bible or religious beliefs when advocating for fair treatment regarding work breaks and lunch breaks?
  • What would you say to your executive level boss to advocate for the right thing?
  • Assuming that the employees’ claim of law breaking could be proven true, what business reasons could you give for doing the right thing?
  • How effective would a business-reason argument be in persuading upper-level managers to obey the law?