Business Decisions and The Solomon Paradox

The Hebrew Bible in 1 Kings 3:12 portrays Solomon as possessing great wisdom, unsurpassed in human history.  Yet the wisest of men ultimately was a poor governor and administrator.  Solomon lost the Northern ten tribes of Israel that seceded from the two Southern tribes.  In time, the ten Northern tribes were defeated by the Assyrians and scattered among the peoples.  No historical record of the tribes remains, except of the small remnant called the Samaritans.

How does the wisest man in history give the sagest advice to others, but fail to heed his own wisdom when it comes to his actions and governance?


That is the Solomon Paradox.  It seems that we all are caught in the paradox.  Who hasn’t given great advice to a friend and then failed to follow his/her own advice?  It is hard for us to give ourselves the right advice.  The financial world alone offers many examples, including investment advisors who invested in Bernie Madoff and bankers who brought us the financial collapse of 2008.

Even the wisest people fail to take their own advice, but why?  Maybe they assume, because they are right so often, they are immune to personal failure.  Maybe they are surrounded by peers, “yes men,” who reflect their advice back to them.  Their leadership role may play a part, or human nature as basically self-centered may be to blame.

We may be the most skilled person we know on a topic or in a business.  Even if we are a business titan or a contemporary Solomon, BEWARE, for we are subject to the Solomon Paradox, just like everyone else.

Each of us is stuck looking through the “first person” lens—I, Me and My—and have a hard time viewing things objectively.  I am successful.  People look to Me for direction.  My skills will prevail.

In contrast, when we give advice to others, they receive our advice as the “third person,” as in, “she told me to watch out for this.”  Our advice gives them a new perspective, and they see the wisdom of it.

How do we overcome the Solomon Paradox?  We must remove the first person pronoun, or self, from the discussion of our problems.  Instead, if we frame our problems in the third person, we actually increase our wise response to those problems.

Research conducted by Igor Grossman arrived at the following result:  “It appears that by verbally removing their own personal interest from the scenarios, participants were 35% more likely to offer similarly wise, well-reasoned advice to themselves that they would normally give to others.”[1]

The key to listening to our own wisdom is to increase the distance between ourselves and that sage advice.

Grossman’s research suggests we use linguistic exercises to verbally remove our self-interest from each scenario.  In practice, that’s hard to do.  We need intervention and accountability by those we trust.

In C12 Group, many members are highly skilled, successful business owners who may seem well beyond the need of a peer advisory board.  Yet, they extoll the bottom-line benefits of C12 Group.  I often try to unpack what makes C12 Group so valuable for these individuals.  I believe it is because C12 Group helps them avoid the Solomon Paradox.  Here’s how:

  1. Continual Learning: The curriculum effectively places a member in a third person decision making mindset to see his/her business from enough personal distance to make wise strategic decisions.
  2. Case Study: During a Core Business presentation, a member gives third person advice on another member’s business challenges and simultaneously reflects on his/her own business challenges in a third person framework.
  3. Confidential Peer Advice: Open discussion enables a member to ask peers to offer feedback on his/her issues—another effective third person reflection.
  4. SMART Outcomes: Members expect each other to put their advice to work, and each member creates and reports on monthly Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound action plans.
  5. Executive Coaching: One-on-one coaching brings a member outside of a first person decision and helps to remove personal interest for a keener focus on key scenarios that require wise decisions.

The very structure of the C12 Group program naturally brings members out of their personal focus.

C12 Group involves members in critical discussions in the third person and adds accountability for the execution of that wisdom—with the goal of transforming members’ enterprises. Not only can we avoid Solomon-like pitfalls with third person reflection, the research says we can increase the wisdom of our own advice by 35%.  For a business, that can be the difference in performance between good and great. In collegiate cross country, I ran the 10 kilometer race 15% slower than the world record holder—vastly slower.  Gaining only half of that 35% boost and multiplying the effect across numerous decisions can transform a business.

If the wisest person to ever live couldn’t make wise decisions when evaluating scenarios in first person, we won’t be able to either.  Not without the impetus to think through scenarios in the third person that C12 Group roundtables and coaching provide.  Imagine, if Solomon had been able to gain enough distance from self to actually listen to his own advice, would the ten northern tribes have survived and would Israel have remained unified?



Biz Growth Needs Ideas and Perspectives

Companies with $10 billion in revenue account for 60% of consulting firm revenue.  The largest, best equipped, best staffed companies hire external consultants.  Executive coaches, advisory boards, and training experts too.  Why?  Because even the best firms need outside help offering new ideas,  leadership  development, and objective perspectives.  

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What about your company? CEOs in C12 Group gain insight and wisdom from executive peers and professional coaching. Without the cost of a big consultant.

Discover what 1900 members nationally already know--outside counsel from like-minded business leaders improves business performance. 

If you are a Christian business executive and reside in the Metro Phoenix area, please be our guest at an upcoming lunch or breakfast briefing with other CEOs and business owners who are curious about C12 Group. 



Why Pumped-Up Teams Return From Retreats and Deflate

At the retreat, you mount the podium and set a compelling vision.  Your teams are pumped up and motivated to achieve new heights and greater profits.  They board the plane headed home, excited for the work week to start.  You’re confident they know the company’s Mission, Vision and Values and are ready to charge ahead with new strategic initiatives.

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Back in the office, the air starts to seep out of their zeal.  All the same tasks await their return.  They see no evidence of any of the stuff talked about at the retreat.  Staff members that didn’t attend the retreat are clueless or resistant to the new direction.  It doesn’t take long for your teams’ enthusiasm to dwindle—they are deflated.

The reason to hold a retreat is often to have your teams’ undivided attention and ensure they hear your carefully crafted communication.  At work, however, your teams appear hearing impaired.  It’s not their fault.  To hear during daily work is like a conversation in a football stadium.  The din of activity drowns out the message.

You may have eloquently presented the vision of the company at the retreat, but that’s only the kickoff of the communication game.  The C12 Group advises:  “Most of us wrongly assume we need only to proclaim our values and vision once, and others will ‘get it.’  Values and vision must be taught, reviewed, reinforced and taught again; that is what makes them part of our organization’s DNA!”  (August 2016 curriculum)

How much must a CEO communicate vision and values?

The answer is 10X more than the average CEO communicates them!  In a Harvard Business Review article, John Kotter talks about communication requirements needed to make significant changes in a business.  Kotter identifies eight errors that derail effective transformation.  One of those errors is inadequate communication.  Kotter says companies under-communicate the vision by a factor of ten (Kotter 2007).

Mission, Vision and Values implementation success requires a similar need for communication.  For new C12 Group members, implementation of Mission, Vision and Values often does mean change.  Change needs a commitment to a process of continual education and reinforcement.

To operate a company with clear vision and values, very likely, the CEO will need to communicate a lot more.  Most CEOs have a long way to go.  Here are 7 tips to help CEOs keep communicating their message:

  1. Communication is an urgent matter, so treat it as urgent.
  2. It’s so urgent that you must realize it requires your hour by hour attention.
  3. Use values as keywords in every communication and conversation
  4. A review is an opportunity to affirm values
  5. Any meeting is a chance to cast the vision
  6. A Q & A meeting can become a forum to share vision and values
  7. Boring newsletters and updates can become exciting vision casting documents

In short, the CEO uses every communication channel available to communicate Mission, Vision and Values.  Every communication—no matter how insignificant—casts the vision. 

In addition, the CEO and executive team must “walk the talk.”  “They consciously attempt to become a living symbol of the new corporate culture (Kotter 2007).”

You may be better than an average CEO and do communicate effectively with your staff.  Yes, but how much better--two, three, maybe five times better?

If you are five times better than the average—you’re halfway there!

  • Kotter, J. P. (2007). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 59-67.
    • Note: This article was originally published in March-April 1995 and was republished in January 2007 as an HBR Classic.
  • C12 Group (August 2016). Business Segment, Retreating to Advance Together.


Add 59% to Each Employee’s Value!

You’re the CEO, but are you a great manager?  Clearly you wouldn’t be in the position if you didn’t have the knowledge and ability to run your business.  But, are you operating with the management acumen you need to get the most out of your employees?

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Great management is a scarce competency with significant results.  Only one in ten people have a natural talent for management, Beck & Harter assert in the Gallup report, “Companies Are Missing Opportunities for Growth.”  When people develop their leadership skills and transform themselves into great managers, their employees perform better and contribute to business growth.


According to the Gallup report, companies that combine great management with talented employees, an engaged workforce and a focus on employee strengths can generate on average a 59% increase in return for each employee.  Great management makes the biggest impact, and the other three factors depend on a great manager to be additive.

Management proficiency must be a top priority with this level of productivity and growth at stake.  The question becomes how do you expand your personal leadership capacity and attain the managerial competence to produce these results?

Business leaders become great managers through transformational learning.

Over the last eleven weeks, I have completed Northwestern University’s Accelerated Learning and Performance course as part of my executive coaching certification.  The course introduced us to practical ways that individuals learn and change.  The course emphasized learning and change that improves a leader’s effectiveness in the workplace.  I learned a number of tools to help business owners become better leaders and great managers.

Large organizations invest in transformational learning for executive track managers.  Many start at the beginning of a manager’s career.  My son works for a well-managed organization with plenty of learning opportunities.  He has sole areas of responsibility and works with a team, he observes a variety of business units, he has an experienced supervisor and plenty of successful role models, he receives regular and frequent feedback, he has access to training; e.g., six sigma, and more.  As he progresses, the organization provides the services of executive coaches, support for an MBA program and many other intangible learning devices.

Along the way, my son will gain a substantial amount of technical knowledge.  However, what he really will learn is personally transformational.  He will learn how to think as a manager.  He will develop his cognitive abilities and increase his competency to handle complex managerial tasks within a complicated organizational environment.  He will not gain IQ points, but effectively, he will become smarter.

Most business owners do not have the learning opportunities that executives at large corporations do. 

The key to finding the learning opportunities as a business owner or executive of a mid-size business is to look for programs that challenge your thought process and change your behavior.  My Northwestern course refers to it as transformational learning.

For example, you may be an avid reader or conference participant.  Books and presentations are good at providing information and solving technical shortcomings. They do not teach you to transform how you think.  They do not train you to become a great manager.

As Chair of C12 Group East Valley, I am passionate about the personal transformation of professional CEOs leading to great management and business excellence.  C12 Group provides a proven transformational learning program that has changed business owners into exceptional business leaders and grown C12 Group companies by 3X faster revenue growth than their competitors.

The C12 Group program has two professionally guided, participatory learning elements:

  1. Peer groups designed to challenge your business assumptions, hold you accountable for your progress, present business problems to discuss and solve, offer you unparalleled support and encouragement, and give you access to peers with which to share issues and ideas.
  2. An executive coach who helps you to implement your business, professional and personal goals and empowers you to transform into an exceptional leader.

A final thought on transformative learning.  C12 Group is a Christian organization.  We believe that personal transformation starts with Jesus Christ and continues with a relationship with him as the Holy Spirit works in and through us according to the will of God.  We believe that Christ has a plan for your life and that plan includes your business.  With Christ, the possibilities for your leadership are abundant.  C12 Group builds great managers of great businesses for a greater purpose.

Beck, R & Harter, J. (April 2015) Companies are Missing Opportunities for Growth and Revenue. Washington, D.C.:  Gallup.


Curiosity Saved the CEO, Worry Killed the Cat

You’ve heard the phrase curiosity killed the cat.  Did you know the original proverb was care killed the cat?  The original meaning of care was sorrow or worry.  “It is said that ‘a cat has nine lives,’ yet care would wear them all out.” (Brewer, E, C.  1898)  In other words, anxiety killed the cat! 

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Curiosity counter-balances feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Curiosity is an important emotion for human survival.    Faced with existential threats like starvation and violence, curiosity drove our ancestors to explore and journey into the unknown.  Curiosity enabled them to find new sources of food and water, avoid hostile groups, and better their lives through discovery.

Curious executives lead successful businesses. 

With the speed of change, disruptive technology and competitive pressure, executives achieve business success through curious examination of new opportunities and impending threats.  “Adam Bryant, for example, has interviewed hundreds of CEOs for a weekly column in the New York Times called “The Corner Office.”  In summarizing their common personality characteristics, he listed “Passionate Curiosity” at the top of the list." (Smerek, R., 2015. pg. 59)  Curious executives possess an insatiable hunger for knowledge and understanding.

Successful CEOs pursue learning to feed their curiosity.

Executive learning comes in many forms.  These forms range in engagement level from publications and seminars to executive coaching and peer advisory roundtables such as C12 Group.

Learning is a complex undertaking.  Multiple factors contribute to learning effectiveness and optimization.  I suggest these factors are particularly important for constructive learning for business executives:

New Scenarios Learning works well if two characteristics are present, novelty-complexity and comprehensibility (Silvia, P., J. 2008 pg. 58).  We are intrigued if we appraise a new situation as novel, but to hold our interest, we also need to appraise it as comprehensible.  As curious CEOs, we need to place ourselves in a learning context that increases both the novelty and the complexity of the material we consider and more importantly, makes new information comprehensible.

Community Dialogue To learn effectively, we cannot do it alone.  We learn best in dialogue with others.  We need a learning community.  Our learning community needs to challenge us on many levels and ideally, foster a deeper self-engagement with the issues.  When we engage others in a class, a board room or other cohort community, we learn because the “class” provides many levels of understanding and perspectives.  With others, we tackle the comprehensibility of a new idea.

Learning Culture In a learning community, five cultural facets must be present for learning optimization (Lipshitz, R., Popper, M., 2002, pg. 85).

  • Transparency: We discuss openly to expose our thoughts and actions to others for feedback.
  • Integrity: We present and share information regardless of the possible implications.
  • Issue orientation: We focus on issues and information with no regard for who presents the information.
  • Inquiry: We persist to investigate the issue until we achieve full understanding.
  • Accountability: We are responsible for our learning and implement what we learn.

Diversity A closely matched group—perhaps with similar sized businesses or similar levels of success—has inherent learning impediments.  Such groups tend to “confirm” the member’s current status.  The group congratulates each other’s success and fails to push each other to tackle tough challenges.  “Confirmation” groups violate many of the cultural facets of an ideal learning group. Diversity, on the other hand, increases complexity and novelty and provides the opportunity for deep comprehension.

Optimal learning communities help CEOs access both internal and external knowledge.

Learning communities not only provide access to external knowledge through new scenarios and shared perspectives; learning communities stimulate self-reflection and access interior resources.  As we mature in our business role, we often leave aspects of our personality behind.  We lose access to the different roles we played throughout our journey.  Without access to our experience, we deplete our ability to solve problems and function creatively.

Psychologists call our sense of ourselves in different roles as “multiple-mindedness” (Lindner, C., G., 2016).  As we travel through life, we are an amalgamation of many “selves.”  We are spouse, parent, business owner, aficionado of different hobbies, athlete, reader, student, etc.  In business, we likely have been entrepreneur, risk taker, marketer, salesperson, accountant, legal expert, team leader, etc.  As we journey through business, we specialize and leave other business personas behind.  Without the resources of our multiple experiences shared among our interior community of “selves,” we deplete our ability to learn and adapt.

To awaken our dormant “selves,” we need a diverse community of other people that engage our past experiences and knowledge bases.  Maybe you’ve become a manager and have forgotten how to take risk or innovate, but right next to you is a young owner, who must take risk and innovate to survive.  Maybe listening to another member of the group reminds you of a younger you who was humble, hungry and scared.  Through a renewed awareness, you begin a dialogue with “selves” long forgotten, but who may benefit you immensely now.

C12 Group’s peer advisory roundtables are ideal learning communities for CEOs.

The constructive learning community found in C12 Group roundtables provides challenging conversations and presents new scenarios that offer novelty-complexity and comprehensibility.  C12 Group roundtables cultivate a culture of transparency, integrity, issue orientation, inquiry, and accountability.   C12 Group’s diversity stimulates the internal dialogue between the multiple-selves that comprise our personal identity and business experience.  As a faith-based organization, C12 Group adds a spiritual dimension to learning using Christian Scripture.  At C12 Group, curiosity runs deep.

Brewer, E. B. (1898).  Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

Lindner, C. G. (2016).  Varieties of Gifts:  Multiplicity and the Well-lived Pastoral Life.  Lanham, Maryland:  Rowman & Littlefield

(Lipshitz, R., Popper, M., (2002).  A Multifacet Model of Organizational Learning.  The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science.  Vol 38 No 1, March 2002 78-98

Silvia, P., J. (2008).  Interest—The Curious Emotion.  Association of Psychological Science, Volume (1), 57-60.

Smerek, R. (2016). Organizing to Learn.  Unpublished.  Evanston, IL:  Northwestern University


“Lies, Damned Lies, and Key Performance Indicators”

Mark Twain famously complained, “Figures often beguile me” and concluded, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”  Perhaps employees feel the same way about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  They see the KPI metrics they need to achieve, but they don’t truly see how their actions contribute to the big picture.  As an employer, you can demystify your KPIs to engage your employees more fully in the success of your business.

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Why employers use KPIs:  KPIs measure the factors that directly impact a company’s success.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure the most critical aspects of performance for the current and future success of an organization or project (Parmenter, D. 2015).  For example, in a service company, a KPI may measure the time it takes to respond to a customer request or complaint.  KPIs are the critical performance indicators, like responsiveness to customers, that really matter.  They are so critical and timely, they are measured daily or even 24/7.

If you use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you get regular reports of employee actions tied directly to business performance.  KPIs provide rational incentives for employees to achieve the results you want.  That’s great, until you realize that employees take actions that give you the numbers you want and nothing more.  They forgo the critical thinking that your business needs.  KPIs can be the business equivalent of teaching to the test.

In my role as risk manager of a commodity options trading firm, I monitored daily reports of trading activity that measured number of trades and position size.  In trading, more trades led to more profit.  I also asked traders to reduce the size of their position, or portfolio, as the opportunity presented itself.  Smaller portfolios meant less overall risk.  Traders complied, but at a cost.  They were neither as selective in making their trades nor as judicious in reducing their position as I would have liked.

How employees react to KPIs:  KPIs tend to promote a “fixed mindset” among employees.

In spite of the change and growth you intend to foster, your KPIs can provoke a “dark side” response; i.e., what you measure actually produces negative outcomes.  Employees working under KPIs feel continuous pressure to make the numbers. When they don’t, their response is to become defensive. For some employees, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.  Because of the superficiality of the measures and the frequency of reporting, KPIs can trigger anxiety in employees who then take actions to look smart or avoid looking dumb.  These actions aren’t always in the best interest of the company.

Researchers warn employers that a “fixed mindset” can take hold among employees.  (Dweck, C. S., 2006 & Smerek, R. 2016)  Employees come to believe their competencies are fixed, and they begin to develop these attitudes:

  • My intelligence is what it is.
  • Negative evaluations attack my core self-assessment.
  • It is more important for me to get a favorable evaluation than increase organizational performance.
  • Obstacles are bad experiences; persistence is futile.

Because a “fixed mindset” views negative feedback as a challenge to core competencies, employees may avoid, obfuscate, ignore, challenge and manipulate KPI data to preserve their self-assessment--potentially at the demise of the company’s success and strategic initiatives.

Employees’ desire to protect their reputation or perceived competency ranks extremely high.  Protective behavior limits employees’ ability to continually adapt and expand their self-assessment.  KPIs can and do create challenges.  Therefore, when constructing KPIs, you are wise to avoid constructing measures that engage your employees’ self-protective instincts.

Structure your KPIs to foster a “growth mindset” among employees.

In contrast to a “dark side” response, a positive outcome of a KPI measurement is a “growth mindset.”  Employees with a “growth mindset” (Dweck, C. S., 2006 & Smerek, R. 2016) view their competencies as malleable or improvable.  A “growth mindset” possesses these attitudes:

  • I can increase my intelligence through learning.
  • I seek challenges that deepen my learning.
  • I set goals and tasks to increase my abilities, competencies and mastery.
  • I see obstacles as a method of personal growth and persistence as worthwhile.

An alternative KPI approach would foster a “growth mindset” rather than measure “performance.”  KPIs based on learning goals measure competency waypoints, pathways to mastery, willingness to undertake challenging tasks, curiosity and innovative contributions.  Learning measures encourage employees to welcome challenges, persist in the face of obstacles and ultimately, become more productive (Smerek, R. pg. 54).

Consider Key Learning Indicators instead of Key Performance Indicators.

Successful learning models center on learning not performance. Yet, businesses continue to measure performance in day-to-day assessments and the dreaded year-end performance review.  Thus, businesses get what they create—personnel who worry about being judged competent or incompetent, smart or dumb.  In addition, performance reviews often offer little recognition for an employee’s improvements because a negative narrative has already been establish because the supervisor operates out of a “fixed mindset.”

In my experience, I have observed that KPIs produce a mental avoidance mechanism.  People avoid negative data, and they avoid it right when they need to pay the most attention to the negative data.  It is an inverse relationship.  The more negative the data, the more people ignore it.  The hard cold facts can stifle a person and freeze them right when they need to be fully present to the problem.  If learning or “problem solving data” were the focus of the KPIs instead of personal negative assessment measures, maybe people would face challenges and overcome obstacles?  It would be better than avoidance.

KPIs, constructed properly, can foster learning and growth.  Employers place a high value on employees’ willingness to learn.  In a recent survey by Alliance Bank of Arizona, the state’s CEOs rated willingness to learn as the top strength of the local labor pool. (WestGroup Research, Arizona 2016 CEO Outlook) Maybe business leaders should consider Key Learning Indicators instead of KPIs.  In the words of Jim Collins, KPIs may serve businesses better if they foster learning and formulate objectives in the form of:  “Learn________so that we can_________” (Collins, J. 1997)

Collins, J. (1997) The Learning Executive.  Inc., August 1997,

Dweck, C. S. (2006).  Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success:  United States:  Random House.

Parmenter, D. (2015).  Key Performance Indicators:  Developing, Implementing, and Using Winning KPIs:  Hoboken New Jersey:  John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Smerek, R. (2015). Chapter 3:  Thinking Dispositions that Foster Learning.  Manuscript in preparation.

Smerek, R. (2016). Week 2:  Immunity Map and Personality PDF:  Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy, Couse 420: Accelerating Learning and Performance, Spring 2016.


Three Habits of Highly Effective Christians

The Bēma Seat of Christ & Habits of Highly Effective People

An enduring favorite in the library of business leadership books is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.  For our C12 East Valley meeting on April 12, the first three habits provide the basis for our segment, Working on my Ministry in God’s Business.  The habits are (my order):

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  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Be proactive

Great habits, but why are these principles included in a ministry discussion?  When we look at the biblical text reference, 2 Corinthians 5:1-15, we see all of these principles in action!  Observe Saint Paul’s application of the Covey habits:

Begin with the End in Mind

For Paul, the end happens when Christ returns and all of Christ’s followers are resurrected and appear before the Bēma Seat of Christ.  For many of you, like my wife, who do not know what a “bēma seat” is, let me explain.  It is a raised platform upon which a throne or chair is placed to address an assembly.  In 2 Corinthians 5:10, bēma refers to the seat of judgment on which Christ will sit to judge the resurrected people of God after his second coming.  That judgment will take place before the whole assembly of Christians.  During Christ’s judgment, a believer’s salvation is not in question, but his works while he was on earth will be judged.  All must appear before Christ.  The passage opens up the possibility that a believer’s actions may displease God.  In the passage, Paul asserts that what Christ judges is the believer’s response to the Gospel message.  Christ judges the believer’s life, habitual action and heart towards the Gospel.  The judgment is not an evaluation of all of the believer’s individual acts, but rather the believer’s reception and execution of Paul’s Gospel.[1]

The end for Paul is the Bema Seat of Christ.  Paul focuses on coming before Christ and being rewarded for his faithful delivery of Christ’s Gospel.  He aligns his actions with this end in mind.

As a Christian, we are challenged by the idea of being judged by Christ.  Yet, Paul welcomes Christ’s judgment.  He yearns for Christ’s second coming, the Parousia, and for the judgment of those who were resurrected.  Paul welcomes judgment because he devotes his life to the Gospel and he desires to be rewarded for his service.  Not only does Paul welcome judgment, he is motivated by the ultimate end.  He wants to reach as many people as possible before Christ returns.  He desires all of the Corinthians to be present, witnessing his work being judged.

Put First Things First

Unlike the anticipated appearance before Christ, Paul is judged harshly by the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:1-15 describes “super Apostles” or “super missionaries” challenging Paul’s authority to share the Gospel as an Apostle.  The “super religious” consider his ministry to be second class.  Then, the Corinthians challenge his authority to teach the Gospel because he cannot demonstrate an ecstatic experience of the Spirit, he is not an impressive orator, he lacks a forceful personality, he is weak personally, and he depends on others.  The Corinthians do not buy Paul’s belief that in his weakness he illustrates Christ’s Gospel.  The Corinthians prefer super Apostles.

How often as business owners are we challenged on our faithful execution of our commitment to Christ?  Purists consider our efforts in the capitalistic marketplace to be flawed.  One cannot really do ministry and business at the same time.  A business leader’s call to ministry is somehow a second class calling.  Then, people make the charge that your business decisions are not very “Christ like.”  Paul faces similar charges from the Corinthians.  Paul is not “religious” enough.

Paul’s response to criticism is to maintain clarity concerning God’s call—to put first things first. 

For Paul, his ministry receives God’s approval and the valuation of men is not of first importance.  His ministry is not self-authenticated or community-approved, but God-ordained.  A business owner must sense a call to engage in ministry, because ministry complicates and increases the complexity of day to day operations.  It is much easier to operate without a call to ministry.  Self-authentication of ministry in business does not make economic or operational sense!  Seeking authentication from others—fellow Christians, secular associates, employees, or society at large—seems futile and destined for criticism.  Only God calls business owners into business ministry.  Like Paul, we should have a clear conscience before those we serve.  Author R.P. Martin speaks of this in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:

If Paul could stand before God in clear conscience, then what does he have to hide or cover up (or overcome) in the eyes of the Corinthians? Furthermore, if the fear of the Lord is well entrenched in Paul’s mind and heart, why would he do anything to jeopardize his standing before God by preaching a false Gospel before men? (Martin, 1986)

Be Proactive

Paul’s experience with the Corinthian church is not pleasant.  His interaction with them is a constant feud.  He tries to correct their behavior.  All he gets is push-back.  Corinth is no Philippi.  We would all understand Paul leaving Corinth to the “super Apostles” and retiring to Philippi.  However, Paul presses ahead.  With the end in sight and Christ’s Gospel put first, Paul engages the Corinth church proactively to make sure that they receive the true Gospel of Christ in spite of their obstinacy.  For Paul, proactive action entails living out of God’s love, through Jesus Christ, with a total dedication to the service of others.  Regardless of how difficult the Corinthians are, Paul argues, writes letters, visits, challenges, disparages false apostles, suffers trials, experiences profound weakness and inadequacy and ultimately, suffers death to deliver God’s Gospel of salvation in Christ.  Paul never lets things come to him or allows obstacles to shut him down.

In sharing the Gospel with the world, Paul takes charge in an exceptionally proactive manner.


To model the life of Saint Paul in our life and business, as demonstrated in 2 Corinthians 5:1-15, we should begin with the end in mind, keep Christ and his call on our life first, and engage in our call proactively.  Perhaps we should call these, The Three Habits of Highly Effective Christians!  At C12 Group East Valley, we affirm God’s call on our lives and businesses and proactively develop exceptional businesses with Christ’s Bēma Seat guiding our actions.  See you next Tuesday.

[1] Martin, R.P. (1986).  Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 40, 2 Corinthians.  Waco, Texas:  Word Books


Business Networks: Principles from the Early Church

What can contemporary corporate CEOs learn from ancient Christian church leaders? The answer may not be obvious, but the principles of early church leadership may help today’s business leaders succeed.

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Business leaders face new challenges in an economy that is increasingly interconnected and diverse.  Addressing these challenges requires a new kind of leadership. In years past, an autocratic CEO was able to succeed.  With today’s heightened level of competition, velocity of change, and dizzying speed and volume of digitally available data, autocratic leadership is ineffective.  Gathering a group of competent managerial reports is not enough.

Today's business owner or CEO lives an interconnected life in a diverse culture.  Success, now and in the future, absolutely depends on one’s ability to expand, engage, empower, and learn from a complicated web of people, both within and outside of one’s business.

Boston Consulting Group’s Roselinde Torres, in her Ted Talk: What it Takes to Be a Great Leader, asserts that great contemporary leaders have networks of people that are truly diverse.  She poses the question, “What is the diversity measure of your network?”  According to Torres, the higher the measure of diversity of a leader’s associations, the greater that leader’s success will be.  The early Christian church embraced Roselinde Torres’ concept of diversity.

Christian Scripture depicts the early church as highly diverse and diversity as highly desirable.

No matter how diverse our business networks become, they are unlikely to achieve the measure of diversity of the early church![i]

Roselinde Torres makes the case that a high measure of true diversity is beneficial.   However, having a highly diverse network is only the beginning.  She says a leader must have the ability to connect, cooperate and achieve goals with the people in the network to be successful.

In the description of the early church, Scripture offers business leaders three principles that can guide leaders to become more effective in a diverse business community.

  • Cultivate a deep sense of individual finitude

Understanding the finite nature of the individual is predicated on faith, in that only God has access to all truth.  One simply cannot have a monopoly on truth in any sphere of life.  In Casuistry and Modern Ethics:  A Poetics of Practical Reasoning, Richard Miller evaluates diversity as an acknowledgement of the limits of human capacity and argues that through diversity, people gain more understanding of truth.  He concludes, “God in his sovereignty has sanctioned diverse cultural practices and communities.[ii]” An implication is that one who claims to know all truth holds oneself as an idol.  Simply put, recognizing you don’t have all the answers will prompt you to seek out and listen to others.  Your finitude not only applies to you individually, but to others like you.  Therefore, you need true diversity.

  • Be open to others and embrace interdependence

The Apostle Paul describes the early church as a “body of believers[iii]” and discusses the body parts as interdependent.  The body accepts the function and purpose of each part within the organism.  The members of the body with greater recognition honor the less recognized members.  This is done that there may be no dissension within the body.  In secular language, the leader has the ability to foster deep relationships and trust across a diverse network of people to achieve a common objective or to share needed insight and knowledge.

  • Reject arrogance and embrace humility

Arrogance of a leader results in objectification of others for the leader’s purposes.  Humility in a leader honors the unique contribution of others. In the early church model, people possess different gifts that together, contribute to the well-being of the faith community.  These gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and discernment.[iv]  Can a business leader afford not to listen to these gifts in the corporate sphere?

  • a predecessor describing his mistakes
  • a subject matter expert sharing her best practices
  • an executive or team coach
  • an HR professional with a new conflict resolution method
  • an innovator with cutting edge ideas
  • a consultant recommending difficult changes
  • an economic forecaster or competitive analyst

The early church depended on the diversity within its faith communities and also, the diverse network of the communities that made up the Christian church as a whole.  Our Scripture says the whole church was given “apostles, prophets, teachers and more.[v]  Across the whole church, there was great diversity and a respect for that diversity.  The early church depended on its diverse network for success.

When business leaders move beyond the corporation, they confront an ultra-competitive economy.  Like the early church at large, leaders must rely on a diverse external network of people to inform their decisions and help them anticipate change.  Diversity, inside and outside of the company, helps leaders abandon the past and embrace new realities.

Returning to Roselinde Torres’ question, “What is the diversity measure of your network?”  One way to purposefully increase your diversity measure is to join a CEO round table like C12 Group that is open enough to freely share insights and counsel with you.  C12 Group offers Christian business leaders a diverse network of strategic allies that provide a wide view of the economic and competitive landscape, offer out of the box and out of your business environment solutions, and support you to lead courageously into the future.

[i] 1 Corinthians 12:13

[ii] Richard B. Miller, Casuistry and Modern Ethics:  A Poetics of Practical Reasoning, (Chicago, Il:  University of Chicago Press, 1996), pg. 97

[iii] 1 Corinthians 12:14-26

[iv] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

[v] 1 Corinthians 12:27-30


Does God care about our productivity?

At a C12 Group East Valley Executive Roundtable, a member expressed his desire to, “be in God’s sweet spot.”  That is, to be following God’s perfect will for his life and business.  When we follow God’s will, life seems to flow and have purpose to it.  We feel more engaged—we find meaning in what we do.  Likewise, with a stronger sense of purpose and meaning at work, we experience heightened productivity and business performance.

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As business leaders, we don’t view our business success and productivity as “God’s sweet spot.“  Increased revenue, growth, better net profits and other business flourishing measurements seem less important to God than witnessing, missions, giving or being active in the church.

However, Scripture tells us that our business flourishing matters to God.  For Christian business leaders, Scripture is our source of meaning.  I am inspired by Psalms 65:11-13 to offer the following suggestion:

Consider growth and production a form of praise.

Would that not put us in “God’s sweet spot” and provide us with deeper meaning for our efforts?

You crown the year with your bounty;
   your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

God brings about a bountiful harvest and growth.  Even the wilderness is covered with excess and with God's bounty.  In response to God's blessing of rain, the fields overflow in their fruitfulness.  The excess bounty becomes praise of God, as the fields "shout and sing together for joy."
The psalmist uses the fields as an allegory for the life of a faithful follower of God.  The fields do not understand a meager harvest or okay growth.  With God’s blessing, the fields produce an “overflowing” yield.  Our businesses are like the fields, and we are called to take God's blessing and be exceedingly bountiful.

The faithful, by being fruitful, praise God from whom all blessings flow.

The psalmist does not profess a false “prosperity message.”  The Psalms acknowledge the reality of life, with its trials, near death experiences, betrayals and losses.  We are painfully aware that these are also a reality of business.  The psalmist prays for God to turn toward him, knowing that God cares deeply and will act on his behalf.  The psalmist trusts God completely, and we can too.

Conversely, when we are blessed with business opportunity, we are commissioned to be abundantly fruitful.   In honoring our blessing with productivity, we praise God.  Increased revenue is not only a worldly endeavor, it is a spiritual endeavor.


C12 Roundtable Introduction

We, at C12 Group, assist Christian company owners and executives, in the pursuit of excellence, “build great businesses for a greater purpose.” We accomplish our objective through a faith-based approach to peer roundtables and one-on-one coaching, both proven executive development and business growth models.

Please go to the link below to access an informational sheet on the C12 Group executive roundtable offering.

C12 Group :  Building Great Businesses for a Greater Purpose