Two company executives were discussing the considerable cost of training and developing people within their organization. The chief financial officer asked, “What happens if we invest in people, and they leave?”
The CEO looked the CFO in the eyes, paused and then replied, “What happens if we don’t invest in people – and they stay?”
This principle holds true not only for the business world, but also for every facet of life and society. On a football or basketball team, for example, the head coach invests considerable time, energy and experience in developing his assistant coaches. One by one they leave, accepting head coaching jobs of their own. Some might even become coaches for competing teams. Was it worth the coach’s investment in them?
A pastor invests hours every week meeting with several individuals, helping them to learn what a relationship with Jesus Christ really means and then to grow in their faith. Some move into lay leadership positions at the church, but others move to other churches. Did the pastor squander time investing in those taking their learning and spiritual gifts to other congregations?
Parents spend much of their adult lives investing in their children – caring for them from diapers through driver’s licenses and college. Not to mention the financial investment. What if the children move to other parts of the country, become consumed by careers and family pressures, and rarely communicate? Was the parenting investment worthwhile?
Similar scenarios could be described for mentors, teachers, executive coaches and many other people involved in the growth and development of others.
On TV, we often see commercials about financial investments – how to increase your savings for the future, especially if retirement is approaching. I’ve concluded there is no greater investment than to share one’s time, energy and experience with other people, regardless of whether results feel like “success.” It’s far better to invest in people and lose some of them, than not to invest and be stuck with people operating far below their potential and capabilities.
The Bible can be described in many ways, including the narrative about people investing in others over a span of thousands of years, all in the name of the God they worshipped and served. Abraham invested in Isaac; Jacob invested in his sons; and Moses invested in Joshua. There were Naomi and Ruth, Elijah and Elisha, Samuel and David.
Jesus invested in a handful of ragtag disciples, none of whom would have been voted “most likely to succeed” in their high school yearbook. Yet when He departed from the earth, they were entrusted with carrying on His mission. One of them, Judas Iscariot, failed the course terribly. Barnabas invested in Paul and John Mark, and Paul invested in Timothy, Silas and others. The apostle had failures along the way, too, including a guy named Demas.
Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus charged His followers, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19). And Paul instructed young Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
In Leaders Legacy, the non-profit I work for, we believe the true mark of a leader is not what occurs while he’s in charge, but what happens after he’s gone. Does the work continue and grow, or does it stagnate or die?
A dedicated leader that invests in and develops people in his or her company or organization will leave an enduring legacy, whether those individuals stay with the enterprise and assume greater responsibilities or leave for key leadership roles at other places.
By contrast, poor leaders are those whose enterprises crumble to pieces when they are removed from the picture, much like a house of cards. Their legacy, because of selfishness, pride, and an unwillingness to invest in others, perhaps for fear they might surpass them, is one of failure and futility.
We might not be CEOs or presidents of huge corporations, owners of our own businesses, or even pastors of prominent churches. But we each have a significant sphere of influence – our children, close friends, peers at work, people in organizations where we volunteer. Maybe you’ve benefited from someone investing in you.
The question is: Who are you investing in? And if you’re not investing in them, who is?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.