Developing a Healthy Corporate Culture
In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and David Ridley discuss faith and work, focusing on developing a healthy corporate culture with Christian values.
- Ridley’s experience at Invesco Real Estate
- Developing a corporate culture that reflects Christian values
- Ridley’s faith and work ministry
- Stewardship in the workplace
- Balancing responsibilities in the workplace, church, and family
- How a theology of faith and work makes a difference in business
- How the millennial generation challenges corporate culture
Darrell Bock: Welcome to the table, we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, executive director for cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and my guest today is David Ridley, founder of Invesco Real Estate, and transitioning, which is a euphemism, I guess, for what we sometimes call retirement. But he’s busy, so he just wants you to know he’s not kicking back on a couch somewhere not doing much of anything. And we’re here to discuss faith and work, and particularly looking at it from the standpoint of a businessperson who hoped for help from the church at one time. Didn’t receive it, but now is seeing a transition in the way the church walks into the faith and workspace, and is encouraging that. And is also engaged himself in trying to communicate with corporations about the nature of corporate culture, in ways that reflect both what’s healthy for the company but also has a good element of Christian values attached to it. How’s that for a summary of –?
David Ridley: Man, that’s good.
I couldn’t have done that good myself.
Darrell Bock: So, we’re learning as we go here. So let’s talk a little bit about your experience. The first question I ask almost every guest on the podcast is, so how did you get into this gig? What – how did you get to where you are now? Tell us a little bit of your story of your interest in the area of faith and work.
David Ridley: Well it’s interesting, it was for a sure a God deal. And I know that sounds cliché-ish, but in my case, it was a God deal. And it was because, as founder of this other company in 1983, Invesco Real Estate, we were blessed and did extremely well. And so when retirement came, they’d ask me not to leave but to hang around for a couple years and do some coaching around what made us successful, and our group. Which was a smaller part of the larger Invesco organization. And so it forced me to write a curriculum.
So I tried to write this curriculum, and about a month into it I threw it all into the trash and God had said to me, “You just write what we did.” So that’s what came out, and it became a program that Invesco called DICE, they still use it heavily. And so as I pulled away from the business altogether, it donned on me, all these college talks I’d been asked to make around this topic could – it just addressed this faith and work topic so perfectly. The problem was, I’d never heard of the faith and work movement.
Darrell Bock: Topic.
David Ridley: Yeah, or movement, and so you’re teaching me about that now, and it’s just been such a rich experience to see where some of this is applicable to that.
Darrell Bock: So you’re a Christian who’s really rolled the dice at one time in your life, huh?
David Ridley: Oh yeah, I was a bit of an entrepreneur, and that’s why I look like this today.
You know, you never had a job past your last day, and it came to succeeding or failing, and I always thought, “Well, if I fail, I’ll fall forward. I’m young enough, I’ll go get a bank teller job and start over,” you know? That’s how it happened.
Darrell Bock: And talk about the early days of what kind of created the transition from just trying to get something off the ground and get it launched to really launching you in this kind of a direction. ‘Cause you really, as we talked about, we’ve met with the students earlier. As you’ve talked about, you initially looked for help from the church and there wasn’t anything. You were on your own. So talk about how you kind of stepped into this area more formally, and what you did with your company that changed its direction.
David Ridley: What happened was I’d mentioned in today, earlier, in chapel, that I had asked an older gentleman in our church, and I obviously won’t name churches, but I’d asked him if he’d consider mentoring me. That was way before mentoring was in style, and he looked at me and he just laughed. He says, “Why in the world would I do that?” And I was humiliated, and I walked away, and truthfully, I never thought too much about asking the church for any further help in my career, because I didn’t know that was possible. In fact, I saw this divide, and almost felt – was made to feel a little bit guilty if I spent too much time at work. So I didn’t know you were supposed to maybe get help from work in thinking about your career, and those things.
Darrell Bock: And then talk about the time when your approach to actually handling your company changed direction as well.
David Ridley: Well I was a – it’s funny, God has such an amazing way, as you look back on it, but I had a vision around – I heard a man talk about the future of our business, which is basically funds management. Okay, so we manage money for large pension funds, endowments, foundations, et cetera. Sovereign wealth funds around the world. And I heard this gentleman talk about that vision, and God kind of gave that vision to me to do it. And as he would only do, next thing you know, I met a gentleman and I went to work doing just that, from nothing.
And so that take off and I was learning along the way, and really had no idea what I was doing. If I’d been smarter, I would’ve never tried it, but I launched. That was 1983, and by 1985 we had one client, which by the way we had for ten years. Just one client. That’s a learning experience and a book in its own right, but so I’m in Houston and I ask this gentleman, he was a major real estate broker in Houston that we looked to to supply our investors with product, and he looked at me at the table that night with his staff around him, and he says, “Dave, do you have any idea that you’re not gonna make it in this business? You’re two years in, you’re not gonna make it. Who are you to compete with JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs?”
And the bad news was, I realized he was right, and who was I. It was a ridiculous thought. So I walked back to my hotel room that night and I remember sitting at this little desk, this little hotel room in the galleria, and taking a sheet of paper and writing all the way down to the bottom my fears and trepidations and weaknesses. Why I couldn’t do this. With the intent of just giving that to Jesus. I just gave it to God, and basically asked him to take me out of this, lead me somewhere else. Or if he would just become chairman. And that’s what I said, and got on my knees in that hotel room, and he became chairman, and I was willing to not work there or go somewhere else, whatever.
And what I distinctly remember is walking through the halls the next day in Dallas, Brown Tower, and thinking, “Wow, I feel great.” The pressure was gone. The heartburn was gone, I had a very powerful boss. I wasn’t worrying about disappointing him anymore, that’s how I knew it was gone. He was a very, very powerful man in Dallas and politics in general. And so creativity returned, and I became creative again, and happy. And actually the way he started demonstrating in a positive way, in a more material way, was he started bringing me my partners that, I retired from my business here two years, they’re still there. I couldn’t affect great hires, but he did. And I never lost one of those partners or a client during that period of time. That’s a miracle.
Darrell Bock: So this is 25 to 30 years that you worked together, side by side?
David Ridley: Yeah, oh absolutely, yeah. And they’re still there. In fact, I just spoke at one of the other guys’ retirement the other day, back at the office.
Darrell Bock: He’s transitioned?
David Ridley: He’s transitioned, yes. “Sorry Dave.” Or maybe he did retire, I’m not sure. Yeah.
Darrell Bock: So and what you really have come to major in is what we want to spend our time talking about, is the development of kind of corporate culture, and the way in which the formation of the workplace really can model and reflect values that we also see in the church. And the kind of the cross-learning that’s taking place. But with one other awareness before we go there, and that is that now you’re sensing that there is more help available in the church for business people, and the possibilities of how business people and pastoral staffs can connect, is growing in what you’re seeing – and in fact, you’re experiencing that yourself.
David Ridley: As God taught me what it meant to love people in the workplace, which is another story, he honestly taught me that there was a way to move forward and love people and show ministers in the church how they can get involved in that. And what I’ve seen is, I’m being asked to speak at a lot of colleges now, but other organizations that the church needs as much or more than the business community. There’s this great gap there in most churches. There is something going on here, that’s been amazing for me to see. But there is still a gap that we need to close and look at this as the workplace, if you will, the extended church. It’s a huge mission field there. So there are things that I didn’t realize at the time I was learning, but I was learning how to really love people, which is obviously what the church is about. But in the marketplace.
Darrell Bock: So when we talk about kind of what made your company work – and just to complete the loop on the story, this guy told you that you’d never be a success in doing what you’re doing, but you did manage to stay there for a long time, and over several years, and with many partners. So it’s clear that this change that you brought to the company with this handing it over to God actually did bring change to your company as well. Talk about that.
David Ridley: Absolutely. I would not have made it if that night had not happened in that Houston hotel room. There’s no way. That changed everything. That was a game changer. So what happened there was it gave me the confidence to realize that I was competing against forces outside, that’s called capitalism, not inside, and I had to start creating a very healthy environment within my firm to compete with that, if I hoped to succeed. So the first hire I made after that was a great gentleman, I won’t use his name, but I paid him literally exactly to the penny twice as much as I was making. This other guy, just spoke at his retirement, he came in making $20,000.00 more than me. And my boss thought I was crazy, but I knew the competition was there, and I also knew that Jesus was CEO, and so I felt zero threat by that.
My goal then became to surround myself with the most talented, good-hearted people that I could, so we could compete. And so that –
Darrell Bock: So when you talk about healthy environment, you’re talking about a relationally healthy environment that people work in?
David Ridley: Yeah, it’s relationally healthy, but corporate health is something that’s starting to get a lot of attention. When we were doing it, I had no idea what it was called. I didn’t learn this ‘til later, but it was around a very healthy platform that made people want to be a part of it. It’s like that family feel. My first stab at it was studying Southwest Airlines, what was it that made those guys different that people wanted to be there? Herb Kelleher, you know, it was about love. And so I started learning slowly from them, seeing something I’d never seen before. So it started off, we looked for people who basically loved to work together and loved to work in teams. And they could be humble and be vulnerable, and literally we found we could IQ compound in those teams. And I realized that I had to be the inspirational leader to carry that torch, and it had to be authentic.
And so those are some of the things. Other health factors are like being able to share knowledge with no hesitation, don’t hide anything. I’ve seen some really negative environments before, that’s not the case, and there are several other factors there.
Darrell Bock: So when you talk about IQ compound, you’re really talking about team building in a healthy kind of way, where everyone participates. They each bring strengths, they round out the team if you want to think about that kind of language. That’s what’s going on?
David Ridley: Yeah, everybody has different gifts. We’re all broken, and we’re all different. The diversity makes the team great. It’s what made America great, if you think about it. So we come in there, and we have, A, no egos allowed posted on the door. An obligation to dissent. The only bad meeting’s a quiet meeting, where one person’s doing all the talking. And it’s always up to the leader to be vulnerable and to be open and not worry about looking stupid, and to get it all out there. And that sets the rules for the room, and for the entire organization.
Then we get smart. That’s IQ compounding. That’s how you compete with major stalwarts in the industry, is binding together like that. By the way, and God made us to be together. Did learn that.
Darrell Bock: Yeah, oh yeah, absolutely. I mean we’ve talked about this before, of course, the roots of this in Genesis One and Two, and the way in which God has made people in his image, he’s a creator, he’s a sustainer, so there’s creativity, there’s sustaining ability, there’s management ability, the importance of stewardship is a theological concept. Coming out of the early chapters of Genesis, we’ve been called to steward the world and to steward it well. You look around, and you go, “Well, maybe we’re not doing all that great sometimes.” But that’s the calling of what people are. And when people steward well, when they reflect the way God has made them, there’s satisfaction in that, there’s flourishing in that. It produces a good product, and it take it that part of what you’re talking about is the ability to take that into the workplace and make that the environment in which people work.
David Ridley: Yes, it is. And the way you can do that is by being real, and as I said, authentic. We’re all broken – during staff meetings, I’d always have folks raise their hands and say, “Who’s broken?” I’d be the first guy with my hand up. “We need each other to win this. We need to love each other,” and I’d say, “We need to forgive each other. Because we’re all broken.” And I’ll tell you one thing, I’m one of the guys that needed the most forgiving, because you gotta have a fire in your stomach. This is the most competitive world that’s ever existed, with the information flow and talent and the educations that are out there. Lots of smart people. You have to stick together to make this happen.
Darrell Bock: So what are you doing now? I mean we’ve kind of talked about what you came out of. We said you’ve transitioned, you’ve transitioned into what?
David Ridley: That’s a good question. I’m trying to figure that out a little bit. But it’s funny, but God put me in touch with another ministry that asked me to speak on college campuses. So I’ve done that from Stanford over to the east coast at Georgetown, and Nebraska to UT, where I graduated from. And SMU a lot. And so I’m learning how to take that material, which is really meant for tutoring and coaching a for-profit organization – I love mentoring young guys, and it all came together, this is what I want to do. So it’s been speaking to a lot of universities, I’ve had a few businesses ask me to come in. I’ve got several organizations that are asking me to come and do this talk. So it seems like that’s where God’s taken me. Then you come along and teach me about faith and work and really what that means, and I do have a strong vision around getting that into the marketplace. So I don’t know how that looks or what it looks like, but –
Darrell Bock: So when these schools ask you, are you teaching into business classes, are they undergraduate classes, are they MBA classes? Or the whole range? What’s that look like?
David Ridley: Kind of the whole range, but my favorite audiences are MBAs. Love that. I’ve done the whole kit and caboodle where you’ve had undergraduates and MBAs together. Had 500 people up in Nebraska, and I could see some of the, maybe education majors, swinging their chair like they’re gonna go to sleep on me, so –
It’s happened more than once in my life. So you know, some folks may not relate to it as well, but almost all the time it’s a very rich environment when I’m in MBA classes and businesses where they know this and need it.
Darrell Bock: So they ask you, does your talk have a – I haven’t asked you this, does your talk have a title?
David Ridley: Yeah. It depends on which group. Sometimes I modify it. If it’s a Christian group, it’s simple, which I’ve done. The secular classes, which I’m looking at some more right now, it’s a little more complicated. But it’s called Building Enduring Organizations, Winning Without Regrets. It’s what it is. And there’s always a God topic in it, but it’ll be a little more subdued in the secular classes.
Darrell Bock: So this different fascinates me a little bit. So let’s talk about first the Christian version. When you’re talking to Christians, what are you telling them?
David Ridley: I’m certainly no theologian like you, Doctor Bock, but I’ll get into, why are we doing this? First I start off with my story, and I love to open it up by saying, “Hey, who likes to lose in here? Come on, be really honest with me. Raise your hand if you like to lose. Because we’re gonna form the losers club.”
Darrell Bock: Losers not so anonymous, huh?
David Ridley: It’s very rewarding. But no, we laugh, and I say, “We’ve been built to win. We want to win, we want to glorify God through our winning.” So I’ll talk about that, and then get into how hard that is. Eight out of ten businesses are not here in 18 months, new startups. Ninety-six percent are gone in ten years. This is tough. It’s very messy. So I talk about, within that talk, why the intrinsic value of work – there’s three things I’ll talk about. And then I’ll get into some of the tactics that have helped us win. What worked for us? It may not work for you, but it sure worked for us.
Then I get into the building a healthy platform, and I show them what that looks like. You know, how you put execution, operations, and client engagement on that platform, and why it works. You know, it works because it builds stability. And when you’re with each other for a long time, even idiots like me can get it right. And so it’s a real competitive advantage. And then we’ll talk about attributes, about it being built around people, and the two qualities we always look for was humility and team ethos. Then it gets into how to make decisions, how to win. You know, how to win. And people really like that. And that glorifies God. So that’s the Christian.
The non-Christian is very similar. I’ll tell them about the hotel room experience. I told that story all over Invesco. I’d use the God word, all over. They couldn’t fire me at that moment.
‘Cause I was retired anyway, or sorta.
Darrell Bock: And plus, it is a part of the story.
David Ridley: Yeah, I couldn’t tell the story without it. I’d be afraid I’d dishonor God tremendously. So that story got told all over Invesco. Obviously very secular audience, but it was my platform, my personal platform. And I’ll talk about the business platform, ‘cause you can’t talk about engaging clients without that platform. Because clients know who you are. They know everything about you within a year, in our business. So the platform has to be authentic.
Darrell Bock: And by platform, I’ve gotta decode you here a little bit, by platform you mean the kind of business you are? The way you run, the kind of services you provide, the way you provide them? Is that what you mean? What do you mean by platform?
David Ridley: Personal platform, I mean worldview, what is it that gives me purpose and meaning. And for the business platform, kind of the same thing. It’s that healthy environment that make people want to be there. It’s not the paychecks. In fact, paychecks are two or three –
_____ _____ _____.
Darrell Bock: I’m hearing it’s not even the product in some ways, it’s –
David Ridley: Not the product. And I didn’t care if we were investing real estate or building basketballs. The bottom line was, it’s not the product, it’s wanting to be with an organization that loves you and you love them, and it’s like a family. That, in my opinion, is the ultimate goal.
Darrell Bock: So it’s a search for connection rather than just the provision of a commodity.
David Ridley: That’s a great way to put it.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. That’s interesting, that opens up all kinds of questions we’ll probably come back to on the other side of the break. So the challenge of the secular side of this, I take, is the, you’re talking in one sense about Christian values, but you’re trying to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone will identify with the Christian faith of what’s going on. So you’ve got to be able to talk about it just in – I can say this, in raw productivity terms, or in raw human terms.
David Ridley: Yes. All the components of company’s health are really embedded in a Christian ethos. So it’s very easy to talk about those things without being overt Christ-centered. You can talk about what good looks like. So that’s really pretty simple, to make that transition. With Christian audiences, you’re allowed to really go there.
Darrell Bock: Okay, so that’s a – there’s a line that I use a lot when I speak in public about cultural engagement, it goes something like this: “Christians are used to being able to say it’s true because it’s in the Bible. But we have to learn how to tell people that it’s in the Bible because it’s true.” And so what you’re doing on the secular side is you’re telling people, “This works because it’s true. It’s a way of making functional communities work, and be effective.” Whereas in the biblical context, we can say, “Well the Bible has these values.” So you’ve negotiated that space very effectively in the context of business.
This is a question I haven’t asked you, let me start here. You know, a lot of people wrestle with the use of resources in life, and since you manage money, you obviously see the product of what that is. Talk a little bit as a businessman about how – let’s say the average Christian who know – “Yeah, I get a check, and I know I’m part of an economy, but I don’t get what – I have this kind of mixed feeling about how money works.” Tell me what I should think about that as a person and as a Christian. What should be my – how attached should I be to the material aspects of life? It’s a deep, profound question, I know, but I figure if you’ve managed money most of your life, you’ve probably thought about that to some degree in terms of what you try and help people do with what it is that you’re managing.
David Ridley: Well Howard Hughes gave us that answer. He said, “How much is enough? Just a little more.”
And I’ve learned that the hard way. I think a lot of business folks and others learn that the hard way. It’s never enough. So as the founder of the business and CEO, it’s hard for me to get up and talk about money, and it shouldn’t be your number one driver in life when you have plenty and maybe an admin doesn’t have as much. So it is a very tricky topic sometime. But basically we talk so much about the values in what – it’s our value proposition, really. What our purpose is, why we’re there, the meaning that gives us. And that God has us in our path, where we should be running. And I don’t care if it’s being a mechanic or if it’s doing something in finance, that’s the lane he has us on. And so to just be very happy about that, and feel your worth in that area. And the money situation, of course, we don’t get into many topics on money, but we de-emphasize – it’s not about the money here. It’s about winning, and being together as a family. And that’s how we would approach it.
Darrell Bock: And I take it that winning is being defined in a particular way. It isn’t a crushing of the competition or something like that, but it’s being useful and serving well with the resources that God has given you, so that you don’t hold them kind of like this, and this is mine, but you think about, what can I do creatively with the resources that God has given me that, at least when we’re thinking about this in the most Christian terms, that allows me to impact people in a positive way? Would that be what you’re talking about, or is winning more complex than that?
David Ridley: Well again, in the business world, it is about winning. In our field, and I’m sure it’s this way in most, there may be 100 firms vying for the State of California’s pension fund. It’ll get down to 20, and then it’ll get to the finals presentation, which is four of us. That’s very difficult not to get focused, because if you don’t win at all, you’re out looking for another job. So a lot of it truly is about winning.
Darrell Bock: So that’s the pressure of the job.
David Ridley: Very, very pressured. We didn’t land a new client for over 10 years. We had one. Yeah, so, but God, I think God uses your job as a chisel to form us into who we are. He created money, he created work, he values that. So the best way I know is, you said don’t hold on too tight. If your self-worth is driven by the money you make and the successes you have, you can really get smashed. You can get crazy.
Darrell Bock: ‘Cause it’s up and down.
David Ridley: It’s up and down. We won more than our share, and we were so blessed, but we lost a lot. And most of us in business, you can survey this, most of the executives will tell you that I learned far more from the defeats and losses than I ever did the wins. In my case, that was absolutely true. We did a post-mortem after every loss we had, and never forgot the losses. So basically, we try to steer people toward loving the pursuit of it, and loving the fellowship and the healthy environment we’re building as sort of the family-like environment. And the wins will come.
Darrell Bock: So the pursuit of a common goal that’s worth achieving is part of what we’re talking about?
David Ridley: Absolutely. Creating a vision for folks and repeating it over and over. It’s about robust communication in the workplace. A, it’s gotta be authentic, and it’s gotta be communicated a lot. Then that gives people ownership in it. And those are health factors.
Darrell Bock: Uh-huh. Now robust communication, this is a phrase that I love. ‘Cause I think it’s really, really important. And that’s the ability to have a meeting where everybody steps forward with what they really think, and can express themselves in ways that build towards a corporate ascent to what is happening, and does so in a way in which the disagreements that take place don’t end up having – or don’t become viewed as having a personal edge to them. They’re all in line with the attempt by the group to take a step together in a direction. Fair?
David Ridley: Yes. And that takes building trust. And that’s gotta be modeled from the top. And if it’s not modeled effectively from the top it becomes political, and then it shuts it down. And then you don’t have IQ compounding going on, you have just the opposite.
Darrell Bock: You have everybody fending for themselves, and you don’t have a team.
David Ridley: I’ve seen it up close and personal. I was asked to go consult with a billionaire whose business was starting to really wane. He was getting up in age, and I won’t name names, obviously but I went to New York, spent a week up there and a lot more time, but I called it the wagon wheel approach. You had him sitting in the middle, and the spokes were all his employees trying to get in his office and see him when he wasn’t on TV. Then they’d get the information and they’d run back to their office and close the door. And I remember him pointing his finger at me when we were talking about changes he had to make, and him saying, “By golly, don’t you take me off TV.” Said, “That’s the last thing we want to do. What we want to do is get some management in here to let you be the chairman, move you up in rank and let you do what you do best. But we have to have someone building the right platform here, the right values.”
So that’s – I was so glad I had that opportunity, because it showed me the opposite of what good looks like, sort of the textbook what bad can look like. So that was a dying organization until that happened, and the jury’s still out.
Darrell Bock: So this was someone who was so controlling and everything that was going through the funnel of him, he actually – his workforce wasn’t producing much force for their work, because they were being funneled by the way he was handling things?
David Ridley: It’s a horrible situation. Yeah, and you’d know him. It’s, it’s the star system versus the team approach. And there’s no right or wrong answer, there are great companies that have stars. Especially like in the brokerage business or something. But in complex businesses, the team approach works, and that’s what we ascribe to.
Darrell Bock: Interesting. So let’s talk about the church side of this a little bit. You know, I listen to this, and we’ve talked about this, that for a lot of churches, the nine to five slice of the day is the least directly addressed part of discipleship and teaching that happens. You know, you’ll talk about your family, you’ll talk about your community, you’ll certainly talk about church ministry. You might talk about the political and social situation, or the situation in your schools, or things that are going on with different organizations and different ethical areas. But the one space that doesn’t tend to get talked about is the nine to five space. This space that you’ve just taken us through, in which people are feeling terrific pressure, their life and livelihood and their care of their family sometimes is at stake by what they’re going through. And the church has to say, there’s nothing there to address it.
David Ridley: It’s a big vacuum. I wasn’t really looking for it too much, other than trying to find my mentor. Because it didn’t even strike me as a possibility. That’s how far away it is. I’m seeing it change now, and you all have really opened my eyes to what’s happening, and I pray that God is making a difference, and that this is starting to happen. Because it’s the biggest mission field there is. It’s a mission field where literally everybody is involved in it.
Darrell Bock: So the push is to begin to help people see that – I mean the irony of this is that the very healthy environment that you’re talking about corporations need to function, particularly relationally within their teams and between groups that work within organizations to connect and understand how they function vis-à-vis one another, is not very different than the demands a church has to create the community that it functions with and in.
David Ridley: Yes, and in fact, not to be negative, but I have seen many churches that need this more than a lot of businesses. And I’ve seen the star system in churches, I’ve seen poor – some really disastrous situations I’ve been exposed to. And even to the point where there’s workaholics really hurting themselves and their family.
Darrell Bock: You’re talking about within the church?
David Ridley: Within the church.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. Now the other model, of course, the one that we’re trying to talk about and get people to kind of grasp, both on the business side and the pastoral side, is a community where pastors become sensitive to the business person and the life that they lead, and business people engage with pastors to help them understand the life that they lead as well, so that there can be some spiritual and formative input into how the person goes into the workplace. Didn’t mean to make this long, but there’s no way to do this but go there. And recognize, have the church side recognize, “This is actually the front lines of mission for the church.” That the church doesn’t need to create its own evangelistic organization and program, that God’s already put that program in place by where he has people scattered in and throughout the marketplace and the business world.
David Ridley: Absolutely. My pastor has approached me about doing just this. Very open-minded. I think it starts with leadership like everything else, and that’s the pastor realizing this is needed. He’s not touching the very nerves that are out there and on people’s minds, and where they’re hurt as they sit in that pew on Sunday. Just exhausted people, and they’re going back Monday to do it again.
And you made me think of something. When I was a younger man, I literally had my life figured out this way. I had my church silo, or circle, I had my family next, and then I had my business next, and then I had my physical fitness circle. Which by the way, I didn’t go in much.
And God told me one time, I’ll never forget it, the most amazing thing. “There’s only one circle, Dave. Only one circle.” And this was like ten years ago or more, and I realized it’s all the same. It’s all the same. I saw my Jewish brethren having one circle, yet I had four. And so I learned not to silo those, but to bring all those together. And it made a big difference in how I looked at the church, as well as my business. But there’s very few in the church today that see it that way, I don’t think.
Darrell Bock: Uh-huh, and of course the effect of that is that when we talk about God stuff when we’re in church, and talk about God stuff when we’re with our family, and talk about maybe thinking about spiritually how we take care of our body, you know, because it is the temple of the holy spirit, we need to care for it, those kinds of things. But then we don’t say anything in the workplace, it’s like a black hole that exists in life, and obviously you don’t have any – and you actually affirmed something that the church tries to deny, which is that there isn’t a secular sacred divide. That God belongs in every space, and in every activity. And yet we somehow manage to create this silo that actually also at the same time, I gotta say this, almost siphons off the spiritual energy that happens in the other places, because I’m spending so much time and energy in this one space.
David Ridley: Yeah, yeah, totally agree. You know, when I was starting my two year circling the globe and coaching the other areas of Invesco, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is one time I can really tell the story and the role God played in it.” Because he did, number one. Number two, I’m leaving anyway, and they needed the materials that we’d developed. The other thing I remember fearing a little bit, would this get me off this project, was talking about life balance. You know, I mean that’s threatening to a lot of companies. I can guarantee you Wall Street, JP Morgan, doesn’t want to hear their leaders talking about life balance. The church needs that too, by the way.
So you have a very hostile environment out there now. But we got away with it, and I think maybe you’ve talked to me about millennials and how they need to understand a little bit more than we did. So maybe that is – maybe there is something happening there.
Darrell Bock: Interesting. So you’re watching this space kind of open up, tell us what you feel like you’re learning. I haven’t asked you this question before either, tell us what you feel like you’re learning here in this last – I guess we’ve been talking to each other now for a little over a year. Tell me what you’re learning in this space now, and what you’re seeing that you – ‘cause it has you excited, too, so let’s talk about that a little bit.
David Ridley: Well, first of all, I’m just – you know, we did two years of traveling, so we’re just out of that. And so I’m just thrilled to learn that there really is this thing called faith and work. And it has just changed my world, because it’s really sort of verifying – what on world am I looking for here? Making okay the fact that I have been speaking a lot to this.
Darrell Bock: Into this space, yeah.
David Ridley: Yeah, into this space, and so it’s encouraged me, and it’s changed my message a little bit. And I’m seeing that – and it’s encouraging for me to hear you and Bill Hendricks talk about you really see something happening here. So I’m starting to really enjoy hearing that, and all of a sudden here come these phone calls. A pastor of another church asking me to have lunch, because they have a program going around this topic. And so it’s woken me up to this is really happening, and how he’s done this so many times in my career. How I’ve prepared you without you even knowing it, to fit into this space. So I’m just learning a lot, I’m new at it, and I’m learning how important it is. It makes sense, because it’s the mission field right here. It’s not – you don’t have to go overseas, although both are good.
Darrell Bock: Yeah, and of course we haven’t unveiled this yet, but we’re working on kind of working together to speak into this space with either Christian groups or corporations about this kind of healthy climate that you can produce, and you know, one of the things we’re working towards, in fact it’s our next meeting, is to get our terminology to where we may be talking about the same thing, but we use different terms to talk about it. But we’re actually talking about the same thing and the same dynamics. So there’s a lot of translation work that has to go on from the – you know, ‘cause I talk theology speak, and you speak business speak, and so, that we need a UN translator in there somewhere to help us work it out.
But it’s been interesting to sense in these conversations, as we talk about these values that we’re talking about, how we really are saying the same fundamental things to people, about how teams work, how do you build a sense of family in your organizations, how do you get your ministry teams and the church working one way, how do you get your corporate groups who are tasked with certain responsibilities to work. And the amount of similarity that that involves is almost stunning.
David Ridley: I agree with you. There is a lot of just translation, because when I listen to you all talk, I don’t understand some of the words. It’s gonna – but then when I ask questions, I realize, “Wow, that’s what I’m saying too. It is very similar.” People are people. And we’re all sinners. And the folks in the church are no different than the folks in the business place. We’re all sinners, and we all need to look to God to give us the rules to play by, the most effective rules.
Darrell Bock: Talk a little bit about the challenge that a corporation has, particularly in holding on to young people. This is something that you and I and Steve Ramseur and Bill have been talking about a lot. Talk about that dimension of why this is important. Why would a corporation care about these kinds of questions?
David Ridley: Well, basically the baby boomers, as you know, are finishing their careers, and the millennials are coming up. And they are driven by different factors, and it really is more around – I mean, they’re just so different, and I’m just loving watching it. But they’re so much more technical, and they’re onto all the iPhones and all the things they use technology. And they want purpose and meaning in what they’re doing. They don't want to just join the org chart, as I heard somebody say here, and follow our path. They want to know why. And so we have to be different. I’m seeing Steve’s company really address that, some others aren’t. And so I think it’s brilliant that they are, because they’re gonna be the meat and potatoes of the next generation of business people here in the US. So we have to pay attention to who our new most valuable asset is. By far, it’s our folks, it’s our people. And how to relate to them.
Darrell Bock: And part of what you were able to generate at Invesco was this ability to keep people around, and buy in to what was going on there. And one of the challenges that corporations are finding with millennials is, they come, but if you don’t give them something more than a slot to fit into, they go.
David Ridley: Forget it. It won’t work. And it’s hard to hold onto young folks anyway in the middle to bottom ranks of your firm, because they need room to move. And sometimes our stability fought against that. There was nowhere to go, so we knew we were gonna lose some people. But the way we held onto people was never the money. Every now and then that became a factor and we had circles where we said, “We’re just not losing that person,” and we would take care of that. But for the most part, it was the culture.
And culture’s too easy a term. Culture is formed by a great platform, which are the health issues. And that’s what make people want to be with you. They feel loved and they feel like they can really work in teams and have that kind of fellowship. Because we are meant for togetherness. Period paragraph. We are, there’s very few people that aren’t.
Darrell Bock: So when you get – it’s a very powerful and affirming thing when you get people working in the same direction for the same goals, sharing a care for one another. Not just about performing a task, but having a sense of, in the midst of it all, I’m getting to know you better, I’m getting to appreciate who you are as a person. And bringing those values into the workplace become a way of really – it’s odd in some ways, you’re cementing both the task that you are trying to perform, but you’re also cementing people at a personal level that is satisfying to them as people.
David Ridley: That’s exactly right. To oversimplify a business, you’ve got great execution capabilities or you don’t get a ticket to the dance. You have great operational capabilities or you don’t get a ticket. And neither of those matter if you don’t have great prospect engagement, client engagement techniques. Okay, both prospects and existing clients. All that, a lot of folks get right. Not as much in the engagement piece, but they get it right. What they don’t have, what makes them enduring – that’s why I talk about building enduring businesses, is they don’t have that solid foundation which is the people side of the equation that you just referenced. They miss that.
And the reason big companies miss it all the time is because they’re run by ex-CFOs that are now CEOs, and really, if they can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter. And that’s the way that business has been run for years and years. And this is a hard thing to measure. And another thing, it’s just too simple. And so they ignore it. Southwest Airlines didn’t ignore it, okay, but they have great accountants too. So that makes the big difference, in my opinion. And it’s probably the single biggest factor today that most big companies could grasp onto to improve themselves.
Darrell Bock: Interesting. So we’re running out of time here, and I really appreciate you taking the time with us to kind of walk us through what this is like. And for those who are in ministry, to kind of get a glimpse of the issues and the tensions of what it is to work in the workplace, but then on the other hand, to have us see and appreciate the similarities of what it means to build community, to think about how community does get shaped and formed. And in the midst of doing that, to think about the way in which we relationally engage with people to give them value and affirmation so that they’re willing to hang in there with us. So David, I really do appreciate you taking the time to come by and talk with us about this.
David Ridley: Thank you, very flattered to be here. Thank you so much.
Darrell Bock: And we hope you’ve enjoyed your time with us here on the Table, and we hope to see you again soon, and our hope is that this has been a beneficial conversation for you to reflect on.
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About the Contributors
Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000–2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.