The Table Podcast

Helping People Flourish at Work

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Steve Ramseur discuss creating a work environment that helps employees flourish.

Timecodes
00:15
What is organizational flourishing?
02:04
Ramseur’s background and approach in business leadership
05:50
Creating a healthy corporate culture
12:20
How does the Bible fit into creating a healthy work culture?
18:09
How can ministry happen at work?
24:24
The importance of family at work
29:04
How does a healthy work culture impact employees?
35:36
Failure and humility at work
43:40
The importance of work
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Well, hello. My name is Bill Hendricks. I’m the executive director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center. Have you ever heard the term “soul-crushing?” Mostly it’s used in connection with people’s work. People talk about how their work is soul crushing, it depletes them inside.

The Gallup organization uses a less theological term; it talks about “employee engagement.” And they’ve been studying that since 2000, and they find that about two-thirds of the American workforce is involved in work that is not engaging. That is it doesn’t pull out the best of who they are. And we would talk about that, in many cases, as “soul-crushing” work.

So, how do Christians in the workplace, particularly those who are in places of responsibility, keep that from happening? If you’re a boss, if you’re a supervisor, if you’re a manager, if you have any authority at your workplace over anybody, today’s podcast is specifically designed for you, because you actually have an opportunity to influence and touch the souls of the people who work for you.

And I can’t think of anybody who’s better qualified to talk with us about that today than my friend – and a long-time friend of the Hendricks Center, Steve Ramseur. Steve is a senior executive in the real estate industry.

And, Steve, as I understand it, you have roughly – what? – 4,000 people that you’re ultimately responsible for?

Steve Ramseur
Give or take, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
So, that’s an awesome amount of responsibility. And maybe before we get into this whole discussion, just give us a little bit about your background, how you got into real estate, and the kind of position that you now hold and what you’re responsible for.
Steve Ramseur
Sure, Bill, good to see you. It’s a blessing to be with you via Skype. And I started off in the real estate industry cutting grass. My dad owned a real estate company, and he’s retired military, but he owns a real estate company. And my brother and I started a lawn mowing service, and we would cut the grass at his shopping centers and apartment complex.

And I can – I’ll never forget my dad calling us on a Friday; it’s an August day in San Antonio, beautiful, balmy, 106 degrees. And he calls us back out to the apartment complex to show us that we missed a couple of spots and pick up the trash and whatnot. So, that’s where I started in the real estate business is – was really in the family business.

And then went and earned a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, construction management, and a master’s in real estate from Texas A&M University and started off as an appraiser up in Seattle, and then transitioned really into a broader role within real estate where now I’m the divisional president of a Fortune 500 company.

Bill Hendricks
Wow. So, you know, most people would think, “Okay, all of these people that are in your company, some of them go to churches, some of them don’t. You know, what business is it of yours as to whether or not their souls are in any way benefited by working in your organization?
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, I think I look through the lens of love. That’s really my primary lens of thinking about work. You know, “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.” And I think about the people that work with me, and I work for, and that report to me as individuals who all have unique needs, who all have – we’re living in a broken world, and my job is really to love on them and to give them every opportunity for success.
Bill Hendricks
Wow, that’s great to hear. I want to press this point further for our listeners today when I talk about how as a person in authority you actually have an opportunity to touch the souls of the people that work for you.

Think about it this way, if a somebody comes to work, and their experience of work is that they, first of all, may not be in a job that fits them, and so they’re not doing well, and they don’t see how their work contributes to anything larger – you know, any bigger picture, and furthermore, their co-workers are nasty people, and they don’t get along with them, and then they feel like their boss isn’t really for them and is a mean individual, and they’re not getting paid all that much – I mean they’re gonna take all that negativity home, and it’s gonna influence how they relate to their wife, how they parent their kids. You know, they kick the dog, et cetera.

On the other hand, if somebody comes to work and they feel like, “Wow, this job that I have, you know, it’s not the perfect job, but I really can see how I’m contributing to something that matters. There’s a mission here that I believe in.

“And yeah, I have conflicts with my co-workers, but they get processed civilly, and we kinda work them out, and we’re getting somewhere. And I feel like my boss really is on my team, and he’s trying to help me succeed. And, you know, I’m not getting rich, but I feel like I’m getting paid fairly for the kind of effort that I’m putting out here.” They take that home as well, and it changes everything.

Steve Ramseur
Yeah, absolutely. And that goes for us to culture, and we view culture as a living, breathing organism; it’s something that we have to nurture and cultivate and focus on. And we really encourage a holistic culture of health, a culture where people can come to work, where they can be fed with interesting work; they can be surrounded by colleagues who genuinely have their best interest in mind.

I think about one of my mentors, whom you know, whom I won’t name, but one of my mentors who says, “If you get the right people in the right jobs working together, miracles happen.” And we intentionally work at that within my company as we focus on do we have the right people; are they in the right job; and how can we facilitate them working together so that not only they can flourish and thrive within the workplace, but that then spills over into the community and for our clients.

And so, I think about flourishing in the workplace really under three headings. If you picture a Venn diagram, you have the where and the when. And I think companies are pretty good about that, where you work and when you get there. You work at 9600 McAllister Freeway, and you get there at 8
00; you leave at 5

The second is the what and the how, “What am I supposed to be doing, and how do I do it?” Where I find the deficiency, that third ring in the Venn diagram there is the why and the wherefore. What’s the mission? What’s the message? What’s our purpose? And that’s how I think about work. And human flourishing takes place in that Venn diagram where those three circles come together. That’s where – where, what, with whom, and why we work – that’s really where people flourish.

Bill Hendricks
Well, and I know you and I have talked on different occasions about the fact that employers today, particularly in the Fortune 500 big corporations, they’re having a very difficult time figuring out how to attract, recruit, and retain Millennials. And you’re really hitting on a sweet spot here, because Millennials, they want meaning and purpose now.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
They want that why clearly identified, and they know where they fit within that why, and that their personal why and the organization’s why substantially overlap.
Steve Ramseur
Yep, exactly. And if you think about where we are just real quick, stats around the economy, there’re roughly seven million open positions in the economy right now, about half-a-million of those are in the manufacturing sector. Unemployment’s hovering around four percent. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a major metropolitan area, it’s about 2.4 percent. We have the lowest labor participation rate in the last 50 years. Wages are rising.

It’s an interesting time in the economy. So, we have to compete for that talent. And in order to compete with that talent – for that talent, we have to make sure that we have a sustainable, engaging culture, that we have a workplace that is healthy, and we focus on that. That’s a big, big part – when I’m sitting in meetings with other divisional presidents of our company or the CEOs, that’s what we’re focused on. It’s how do we create that environment where our people can flourish.

Bill Hendricks
So, a few sentences back, you used a key word here. You talked about intentionality, that you’re very intentional about building that culture and creating the why as well as the where, when, what and how. Tell us some practical ways that that intentionality manifests itself in your work.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, so, if I think about – I’ll start with the “where” and the “when,” because I think that most companies can dial into that. If you think about the engaging environment and ensuring – and this is our core business, as you know, ensuring that that workplace is safe, there’s natural light, you have good air quality within that space, the space is an engaging environment –
Bill Hendricks
So, even the physicality of the space matters?
Steve Ramseur
Physicality of space. If you think about – and there are statistics around this, but we – the USGBC, which is the US Green Building Council, has eight factors of a healthy work environment. And so, we focus on those eight factors of a healthy work environment for our people and our culture. It has to do with safety and with their health. So, they go home, hopefully, with more energy than they came to work with at the end of the day. That’s the “where” and the “when.” And I think that’s a very practical thing for people to sink their teeth into.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I love this. I’ll let you go on, but I love this ’cause what you’re talking about here is paying attention to the body. You know, sometimes in our culture I feel like we get, again, the theological word would be “gnostic,” like we’re just a brain, that’s all that really matters, but we have bodies; we’re material.

And what you’re saying is that body matters. It matters to God. It needs to matter to the employer and even the physical space in which we put people.

Steve Ramseur
That’s exactly right. Most of the people that we work with is they’ve gone to stand-up desks. People should be standing half the time, sitting half the time. They should be moving around the office. We focus a great deal on wellness within the workplace. So, those are very practical understanding of – you know, the gospel gives us a holistic view of life.

The second is around the “what” and the “how,” and that’s gonna deal with your tools, your team, and your technology. We have to give people the right tools, training, put them with the right team and the technology for them to feel like they’re productive. I think, if you think about human experience, it’s really about engagement, which you talked about earlier. It’s about empowerment, “Do I feel empowered to make an impact?” And then third, it’s about fulfillment. Those are really the three legs of the stool of human experience, and we focus on that in the “what” and the “how.”

Bill Hendricks
Now, Steve, what I love about this is you’ve laid out sort of this overview of building a culture. You haven’t used one Bible verse to do it.
Bill Hendricks
And yet all of these things find their ways back to what we would call Biblically-based values, it seems to me, in which you are respecting the fact that human beings are created in the image of God. They were put here for a purpose, and you’re trying to help them discover that purpose and live it out through their very work. Is that – do I have that correct?
Bill Hendricks
You do, and I learned that from you.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, you’re kind.
Steve Ramseur
I spent a couple of years in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and really looking at the – what we call the creation mandate or the blessing that God bestows on humankind to bear His image as stewards – oikonomia – over His creation. And I think about that in terms of really calling, covenant, and then cultivation in Genesis 1 and 2. But then those words don’t really work in a – in today’s workplace.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Steve Ramseur
I can’t talk to somebody about covenant. But what I can talk to them about is here’s why your work matters. Your work matters because you’re part of a bigger team. We have a term that we use around sustainability that is building a better tomorrow, and that’s part of what our company does. We take tons of greenhouse gases out of the environment. We go in and build up communities that need to be gentrified. We bring economic development and impact in the community so people have jobs. And that’s a purpose bigger than just the individual.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. Again, I love what you’re talking about. And I think for many who may be viewing this podcast, oftentimes the way that we talk about work, it’s like, “Well, yeah, if I work with a bunch of Christians, then all this would kinda come together ’cause we’re all on the same page.

But you work with many people who have very different worldviews than you have.

Steve Ramseur
True.
Bill Hendricks
And it sounds like you’re finding ways to make it work for them and vice versa. Talk to us a little bit more about that.
Steve Ramseur
Love is a universal language, and everybody understands love when they experience it. I think that’s probably the common denominator of working across cross-cultural teams. I enjoy the fact that I work with people from – we have 600 different locations around the globe; we’ve got 83,000 employees. And I have the privilege of working with people from all different backgrounds, and I thoroughly enjoy that aspect of my job.

And, obviously, I’m a Christian, and I bring those Biblical principles into my workplace, and I look at them through the lens of love.

Bill Hendricks
Well, and for many, “love” sounds a bit soft word, but let me put a different angle on this whole thing and talk about leadership for a moment. I’m reading a book right now by a Professor Gordon Conwell called – named Timothy Laniak, and the book is entitled Shepherds After My Own Heart. And in there, he traces the fact that the image of a shepherd has been the – has basically been synonymous with the concept of leadership for as long as human beings have been alive.

Now, in our culture, we don’t really think much about shepherds, and what we do think, we kinda get out of the 17th-18th century, you know, sort of pastoral imagery and so forth. But what he points out is that shepherds have a very tough life because they basically live to take care of those sheep, because the sheep are the economic lifeblood of everything. And if you lose a sheep, I mean you’ve lost an asset. And that’s why you will give your life for a sheep. You know, he lays down his life for the sheep.

Steve Ramseur
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And if you go through Scripture, you discover countless passages where the image of a shepherd is given for leadership. And so, what you’re describing with love is sort of a, if I could put it this way, a tough love. It’s like, “Look, I’m here on behalf of these other people. If they don’t thrive and flourish, I don’t thrive and flourish”.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And if I’m thriving and flourishing and they’re not, then that’s a big problem.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, you’re right. And I’m probably one of the only people you’ve had on this podcast who’s been a shepherd.
Bill Hendricks
[Laughs] That’s right.
Steve Ramseur
My second job was – I worked on a 7,000-acre ranch between Medina and Bandera, and we ran a feed lot.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Steve Ramseur
I had to give 18 tons of feed every other day to care for about a thousand head of lambs. And so, I know that life well. It is an accurate representation. You know, we hear a lot that they’re unable to care for themselves, protect themselves, et cetera, and that’s really the job of the shepherd.

But leadership is a core competence for us. We have three primary values which is teamwork, ethics, and excellence, and then leadership as a core competence. The last meeting I was at with our CEOs and regional presidents, we focused on servant leadership as a core competence for our team.

I’m going through the reviews of my direct reports this week, and yesterday I finished a review. After the review, I said, “Now remember, at the end of the day I work for you.”

Bill Hendricks
Mmm, mmm, that’s a profound statement.

A name that may be familiar to some of our listeners is Ray Stedman. Ray Stedman was a pastor out in Palo Alto who founded Peninsula Bible Church, and he was a very good friend of my father’s, Howard Hendricks.

And I have a recording of Ray Stedman, here at Dallas Seminary, from back in 1984, and he was speaking out of Ephesians 4 on the gifts that are listed there. And he got to the pastor gift – the pastor-teacher gift. And he was making the point that that gift is actually distributed far more widely in the Body of Christ than we realize.

It’s – you know, we typically think of pastors as, “Oh, those are the paid professionals. These are the ‘clergy’ as we call them.” And clearly we need people with those gifts in those professions.

But his point was, “And then there’s a whole bunch of other pastors out there that are in different professions.” And he said, “If you think about it, you can see why God would do it that way. Because in this world, so many people have pastoral needs. They come to work, and they’ve got a sick relative, or they’ve got a troubled child, or they’re despondent in their soul. And right there in the workplace, you know, yes, we’ve got to get the work done, but you’re dealing with people.”

And as Henry Ford said, “When you hire a hand, the rest of the body comes with them.” And his point was people show up with all of who they are to the workplace.

And you’ve got stories in abundance of situations where you’ve actually, quite apart from the work itself which has to be done, is important, is critical. The work matters. But then there’s these souls; there’s these human beings that you’re right alongside, and you’ve actually been able to, in a sense, pastor some of them. Tell us about that.

Steve Ramseur
Yeah. So, I’ve actually officiated five funerals. I’ll officiate my second wedding next month, in April, for a young man I baptized about five years ago. So, I’m doing everything that a pastor does in a church setting. And what I find is that because we live in a broken world, when you genuinely love people – and by love, I mean it’s an intentional expression of love to them, and not expecting anything in return – when the world crashes upside of them, they’re going to come to the person who’s loved them.
Bill Hendricks
Mmm.
Steve Ramseur
They’re going to share that experience, and they’re going to look for that word of advice. And being in the workplace with people who may never enter a church even on Christmas or Easter, that provides me a very unique and humble privileged position to pastor people. And I think that if – you know, you’re talking about Ephesians 4:11 and 12, where Jesus is – He ascends on high and gives gifts to people that are pastors, teachers, evangelists for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry; it’s the saints who are out in the workplace every day who are doing the work of ministry.

And I look at the partnership of the team that we have, where I attend church here in San Antonio, and they’re kind of like the training and coaching staff. Right? The home team comes in; they do concussion protocols; they maybe tape a wrist; they put an elbow in some ice; they encourage them, and they send them back out on the field. That’s the partnership with what should be taking place from Friday to Sunday, Sunday to Monday.

Bill Hendricks
Yeah, that dovetails with that thought that I’ve often had that the success of a church is not measured by what happens on Sunday nearly as much as what happens on Monday and the rest of the week. That it’s when the people in that church are out in the community, and they’re being the hands and the feet and literally the heart of Christ to people.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, that is. And we are in a post-Christian world. It is antagonistic out there. There are – they’re definitely forces that come against us. But I think that really genuinely focusing on individuals and showing them what is the broader mission and message here, how is the work that we do transformational, and then you can tie that back into Genesis 1 and 2.
I mean the Bible opens with the story of a good God creating a good world and putting good people in charge. We decided to go astray and the rest of the story goes from Genesis 3
15 on. But the story starts out with us as stewards and image-bearers of God as you said earlier. And whether or not people are Christians or not, they have that echo of the fall – the echo of the creation mandate inside of them, and they long for that purpose.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, and as you pointed out, when people are in significant need, like their soul is distressed because of the circumstances of life, and everybody goes through that, sheep really do respond to the voice of a shepherd. And if they’ve come to know your voice as a shepherd’s voice, that you care – and this has nothing to do with personality so much as it has to do with setting things up to prosper the sheep, ’cause them to thrive. They can tell you’re on their team, that they instinctively move toward that as opposed to away from that when things get tough. Right?
Steve Ramseur
That’s exactly right. And one of the divisions that I look after, that I steward is a division we refer to ourselves as “the family,” and we genuinely feel that way. Over the last ten years we’ve gone through deaths in the family; we’ve gone through cancer; we’ve gone through a lot of different things with different people. And we genuinely care for one another, and that is reflected in this team. This is also one of the highest-performing teams in the company.

When people are fulfilled in their work, when they have the tools that they need, they’re in the right team and the right position, that fulfillment is going to result in increased productivity, higher satisfaction, all of those metrics will follow. But you can’t start with those metrics; you’ve got to start with the person.

Bill Hendricks
Well, you’ve introduced an important thought here it seems to me when you used the word “family.” We have to realize that when people go to work, in a sense the workplace becomes a kind of a second family for them because you’re with people side by side all day. You interact with them. You have this lengthy experience over time with them, and they become kind of like a second family.

And in addition to that, when you employ someone, we don’t just employ individuals; in a sense, we employ families, because when somebody shows up to the workplace, all of the ties they have to their family, whatever it is, even if they’re single, they bring all that to work don’t they?

Steve Ramseur
Yeah. They do. And we actually look at the family or significant others holistically in terms of how we serve that individual. Now, I’ve learned that again from one of my mentors here, that the spouse, the significant other is important to that person’s performance at work. So, we can create a work environment, and we can send some of that fulfillment and goodness home, then it becomes reciprocal.

If I were to go home and tell Angie, we’re leaving this company, she would – she would not let me do it because she loves the people that I work with. She knows the spouses of the people that I work with, and she cares deeply for them.

Bill Hendricks
So, she’s feeling it at home. Like you’re there at work all day, but when you go home, she’s feeling it, isn’t she?
Steve Ramseur
She is. And so are my kids. And I think Josh, and Grace, and Riley – and you met Joshua – but they’ve experienced that as well. We have been treated so incredibly well, that when I come home – I want to give and serve when I come home the way that I’ve been served at work.

And I realize that our culture is unique, and I wish it wasn’t, but I was up with visiting my daughter at Baylor last week, and her roommate had interned with us in the Houston office last summer. She went on and on and on and on about our culture and about the impact that culture makes on her, how she can’t wait to start with us when she graduates in May. It’s a gravitational pull for people into our organization.

Bill Hendricks
That’s fantastic. And this – what you’re describing here, Steve, you know we talk about Christians who are leaders in the workplace and many who think about that, they’re thinking, “Oh, okay, I guess that means I need to do Bible studies, or pray with people, or share my faith.” And listen, all of that is fantastic if somebody’s doing that.
Steve Ramseur
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
But what you’re describing is going way beyond that. You’re talking about actually setting up a whole ecosystem, if you will, in which, if I could put it this way, kingdom values to the extent you have control over it, are emphasized. And those values, by being practiced, cause the people to flourish. Is that what I’m hearing?
Steve Ramseur
Yeah. I would – and I would emphasize that I’m a very small part of it. Again, you know who I have worked for, and it comes through that senior – that leadership who genuinely treats each person in the company as a very important human being first, second as an asset of the firm, and then wants to extend that not only to their families but out into the community.

I had a conversation with a gentleman that I work with here before you and I were having this meeting about work we’re doing in the community for people with intellectual disabilities. And it’s that kind of thing where it’s a holistic view of life, that giving and serving goes out from us into the community, that giving and serving comes from the community back in to us, and life has this holistic, satisfying, aura about it.

And I don’t want to paint a picture of perfection here, because we live in a fallen world. But at the same time, I think that culture provides that shepherding atmosphere, if you will, for companies.

Bill Hendricks
Well, so let me take this down to a more granular level, if I may. ‘Cause, you know, you’re at the top of a 4,000-people unit. You know, you’re at the top of the food chain, and I’m thinking about the person who’s way down toward the bottom. I mean they’re down there in the basement, in the parking garage, processing people’s parking tickets, or they’re sweeping the floors, or they’re – you know, they’re doing paperwork. You know, they have a job, you know, but they don’t have much authority.

And I can imagine they hear all this, and they’re like, “Well, this is great if you are up where you can – you’re a mover and a shaker, and you can cause all these wonderful things to happen, but I’m just a working stiff. What difference does this make for me? How would I ever cause anything to flourish?” What would you say to that person?

Bill Hendricks
It’s a great point. And most, as you know, the business that we’re in, a lot of our team members are in the parking garage, or they are on sites in buildings or locations around the world where they’re cleaning staff, their engineering, their maintenance, they’re doing these types of things. And I think that it is the job, the responsibility of leaders in a servant organization to start at the bottom and to make sure that those individuals understand how their work contributes to the success of that given client, or that given building, or those employees within that building.

And then if you build – if you go from the top down, it’s difficult. If you build from the bottom up, it’s much easier to do. And I’ll tell you a story. One of the ladies who cleans the building here, she’s a remarkable woman. Every time I see her, she says, “May the Lord bless you.”

But I was talking to her in our break room – she comes in and gets coffee or those types of things in our break room, and it was around Christmas time, and I said, “Hope you’re going to enjoy your time at Christmas.”

And she looked at me, and she said, “Jesus is coming soon.”

I said, “Yes, He is.”

And every day, she’s a witness everywhere she goes with a smile and a radiance for the Lord. And I think that that’s probably the essence of how that is – it is the transformational nature of the gospel.

Bill Hendricks
Well, she’s living out Colossians 3:23, which says, “Do you work heartily as unto the Lord” It’s ultimately Christ whom you serve. He’s the ultimate boss. And even if your boss on Earth is – as Paul says is unreasonable and a jerk, if I could put it that way, yeah, you gotta deal with that. But at the same time, you realize he or she is not my ultimate boss. Christ is my ultimate boss.
Steve Ramseur
You have a good point. And I think that it’s our job as leaders to make sure that if there are those jerks in the chain of command, that we work with them, coach them, and if they’re not coachable, we remove them.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm, yeah.
Steve Ramseur
That’s not tolerated in our culture that we – you don’t treat people that way. And again, that comes from the top.
Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s a good point. You know, the number one reason that people quit their jobs is they can’t stand their boss. And whatever the number two reason is, it’s way back there.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
It – the – I can’t emphasize this enough. People’s experience of their work is highly conditioned by the kind of supervision they get, the management that they get. And if you’re a believer in Christ, and you are in a position of responsibility and authority – where you have people reporting to you, and you have influence over how the work is getting done and how things happen around here, which is what we call “the culture” – this is a real.

It’s both a responsibility, but it’s an opportunity to bring Christ’s likeness into the workplace, again without quoting any verses. It’s about as practical as you can get when you – the word you used earlier is to bring “love” into a work context. Right?

Steve Ramseur
It is. And you mentioned earlier – I’ve been thinking through the “soul-crushing” terminology. If every believer, whatever role they are, everyone’s a leader in the workplace. Whatever role you’re in, if you would – if we would come into the workplace with a soul-nurturing, a soul-encouraging focus, then I think our people will, in turn, reflect that and take that home with them at the end of the day and out into the community.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I want to go back to the shepherd image. You know, if we think of ourselves as shepherds, and the people around us are – and I don’t mean this pejoratively, but they’re sheep, you go to Psalm 23, maybe the most well-known passage in all of Scripture, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me beside still waters. He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

The image there is that this Shepherd has taken great pains, in an arid climate, to find food, to find protection, to find water, ’cause he wants that sheep to thrive. And whoever the people are around us, we have an opportunity to cause them to thrive by the way we interact with them and what we do in our work with them.

Steve Ramseur
Yeah, that’s right. And I enter every room that I walk into knowing that I’m probably the chief of sinners in that room. I’m fallen, I’m broken, and I’m not coming in with this idea of, “I’m up here because I’m a Christian and the rest…” I’m coming in there with the idea of, “How do I help them experience that flourishing that you just outlined in Psalm 23, or the beautiful foot washing that Jesus lays out in John 13?”

You know, the greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves the most. And I think that bringing that kingdom ethic, as you said earlier, into the workplace is going – is transformational.

Bill Hendricks
Well, you used the term “chief of sinners,” and I’m right with you there. And I’m thinking about my own team and the people that I have some authority over. And, you know, one of the challenges I face in my work is, as a human being, the way my giftedness works is I’m highly independent. Like I do my job really, really well, but I don’t think about how that touches other people.

And so, in coming into the Hendricks Center, I now work with a team. And I’ve discovered that that independence has some dark sides to it where I make decisions, or I say things, or I do things, or I don’t inform people – or whatever it is – ’cause I’m not thinking in terms of team.

Talk to me about – what does a leader do when you realize, “Hey, man, I’ve really blown it here; I’m embarrassed; I dropped the ball; I’ve offended somebody; I’ve hurt somebody; I’ve caused a problem I didn’t intend to cause”? What do I do?

Steve Ramseur
Well, that one I can – I have experience in. And I think that the authenticity is one of the key characteristics of leadership is to step into that situation humbly and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. There’s no better place for the gospel to thrive than when those types of situations occur.

And I haven’t always handled it perfectly, but I have made a significant number of mistakes. I tell people that in the last two years, I’ve probably made more mistakes than any other point in my 30-year career because I took on a big technology project the last couple of years, which is a very different animal from commercial real estate, where I feel like I’m an expert. And that really exposed a lot of weaknesses, blind spots, et cetera in me, where I had to, as an independent leader, lean on a team who have expertise in an area that I don’t.

Bill Hendricks
Mmm. And so, you’re raising a case here of what is very common in what we would call knowledge work. We – in our economy now, the place of work has moved from the land to the mind. We – Peter Drucker said we employ knowledge workers, and most everybody here in this podcast is a knowledge worker. And that knowledge work is great because it’s more sophisticated so it involves more of the person, but it also means that in many cases, as you pointed out, you’re working with people who know more than you do.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And they have skills that you don’t have and gifts that you don’t have. And so, what you’re describing is a certain humility to realize how valuable they are, and I need you. And I don’t have all the answers. And sometimes I not only don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know what I’m doing here, and I need their help to figure that out.
Steve Ramseur
Well, I can give you a quick vignette on that is my CEO – my boss asked me to take on this project a year ago. I started the project Inauguration Day, so kinda put a stake in the ground in terms of the timing. And I called the team together in Chicago and the leadership of the team, and we laid out our roadmap and where we’re headed.

I flew back and thought, “Okay, we’re – kind of business has been set. We have a true North; we’re flying in formation, and this is great. Within 30 days, there was noise within the team. And I flew back up to Chicago, called the team together, took out a yellow pad, sat in the middle of the room, and I said, “Okay, let’s identify what the problem is.” And for about 20 minutes I just listened. I filled in two pages on a yellow pad, and I realized there was a common denominator for the problem; it was me.

Bill Hendricks
Mmm.
Steve Ramseur
And so, I said, “Okay, have I heard you?” And I listed out the different areas. And I said, “Okay, from this moment forward, I work for you. You understand the architecture. You understand the analytics. You understand the programming. I don’t understand this; it’s not my expertise. I work for you.”

And from then on, the calls that I had with those different leaders I took to-do items from from those calls. I didn’t give them to-do items; they gave me to-do items. My job was – you know, I’m a big sport of curling, the guys who are brushing ahead of the ball there, that was my job was to brush ahead of them, to make them efficient and help them do their jobs – do their jobs better. But as a 32-year veteran and divisional president of a Fortune 500 company, to sit there and hear that wasn’t easy.

Bill Hendricks
Oh, I can imagine. But you really did realize your job was to make them successful, because in their success, your success lie.
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, it does. I mean that symbiotic nature of the team – if I were sitting in a room around commercial real estate, I can hold my own with just about anybody. Sitting in those rooms, where you have a scrum master, program manager, data architect, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, I was the most ignorant in every room I sat in. And so, I had to lean on their expertise.
Bill Hendricks
Well, you know, I’m reminded of the passage in Jeremiah where God says to the exiles, the Israelites who were in exile there in Babylon to, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have placed you, because in its prosperity, you will prosper.”

And in a way, that’s what you were in there. It’s like, “Look, you gotta make these guys succeed because in their success lies your success.” But it puts you in that servant role, if you will, that the first shall be last. “And I’m here to, in a sense, give my life, as it were, my time, the best of my energies. I’m here for your benefit, your prosperity. If you do well with the gifts that God’s given you, then things are gonna go well. And if not, nothing’s gonna – nothing good’s gonna happen.”

Steve Ramseur
Yeah, that’s right. And I think about what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where he talks about a work of faith, a labor of love, and a steadfastness of hope. And I was thinking about that labor of love, and he kind of outlines 1 Thessalonians in that structure.

But the labor of love is a labor because I want to put myself first. I want to get the credit. That’s what I want, and I have to put that aside for the benefit of the team, and I have to pass that credit to the lowest person on the team. I have to give the accolades to the team as a whole, and that’s a labor. That’s hard; that’s difficult to do.

Bill Hendricks
Well, labor – you know, you have to work at it is what you’re saying. We’re back to intentionality.
Steve Ramseur
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
Like you’re showing up aware that that’s your mandate, and then I’m gonna take practical steps to make that happen. Right?
Steve Ramseur
That’s exactly right. And I think that that’s how we nurture – going back to your initial opening comment: soul-crushing vs. soul-nurturing work. I think that as leaders, that’s the way that we nurture the souls of our people. It also means, though, as a shepherd, that there are times that we have to fight off the wolves. There are times that we have to take a difficult stand. Those come as part of the job description.

But nurturing the souls of the people that we work with, in order that we can achieve our corporate objectives. But beyond that, something greater, that we can impact the communities in which we live and work.

Bill Hendricks
Well, and I want to – I want to sort of wrap this up by coming back to the core mandate from which all this flows. And you mentioned it earlier, right out of Genesis 1. The very first words that God gives to human beings – you know, these creatures that he’s created, the very first words that He says to them have to do with their work. He basically defines their purpose. You know, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth, rule the Earth, steward the Earth.”

And, you know, the world on its own is not very fruitful; it just gives us raw resources, and only human beings can add value to those resources that cause the world and its people to flourish.

And I just – I think about how many thousands – hundreds of thousands of Christians there are out there in the work world today, and they have, many of them, significant opportunities for influence because they’re in networks and webs of relationships that they affect the lives of other people.

Yes, they’re doing the work itself, which is critical. That work affects the lives of other people and ought to be done to the glory of God. In doing that work and in relating to their co-workers, they really have an opportunity to cause the world and its people to flourish. And that’s really the vision that we’re trying to start to create here.

Steve Ramseur
I would agree, and you’re right. That’s where the Bible opens is that flourishing picture, and that’s where the Bible closes.
Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Steve Ramseur
So, once He’s on the throne, He said, “Behold, all things are new,” and we will enter into God’s kingdom here on Earth where we will again work with our hands. The lion will lie down with the lamb. The child will lead them. This picture of work, you’ll no longer have the curse in this flourishing.

So, my thinking is – this goes back to the steadfastness of hope. The story opens with flourishing and in a relationship with God and others. The story ends in flourishing relationship with God and others. We should pull those together into the here and now –

Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Steve Ramseur
– as laborers and think about how do we bring that together in our work and life today.
Bill Hendricks
That’s exactly true. The instant that you become a believer, the instant that you put your faith in Christ and you now have a new relationship with God, a restored relationship with God, the kingdom life begins at that moment.
Steve Ramseur
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You have an opportunity, at that moment, to begin living according to the kingdom values. Right?
Steve Ramseur
Yeah, and in the garden, you have God walking in the cool of the day. You have this beautiful picture of relationship. You have that beautiful picture of relationship in the kingdom that is yet to come, and that beautiful picture of reconciliation and relationship today in our work. This is Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:15, who were placed in the garden to serve and protect, to keep that creation.

We have the opportunity to walk with God in our work every single day. Every day we walk with God in this garden, His creation, in relationship with Him and in relationship with those that He’s put around us.

Bill Hendricks
Well, Steve, you’ve really kind of opened our eyes to a whole new set of possibilities here today. I want to thank you for the work that you do and the people that you’re able to touch and influence. I think the first time I met you, and you told me about the work that you do, you were very graphic.

You said, “Bill, you know, I’ve been thinking maybe I needed to quit my job and go get a degree and end up, you know, pastoring a church or something.”

Steve Ramseur
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You said, “I realize I already have a megachurch of 4,000 people.”
Steve Ramseur
[Chuckle] Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And you –
Steve Ramseur
When you go back to the lunch you and I had, where you made – you helped me understand that, and that pushed me into a couple of years of study in Genesis 1 and 2. So, I’m grateful to you and the Hendricks Center.
Bill Hendricks
Well, thank you. I mean I love the fact that your purpose in life, in one sense, is to cause the souls of the people that work with you to thrive and flourish.

And I just want to recommend to all of our listeners to the podcast today that this is what the Hendricks Center really is about. We’re trying to create more Steve Ramseurs, if I could put it that way.

So, Steve, thank you very much for being with us today.

Steve Ramseur
You’re welcome. Thank you, Bill.
Bill Hendricks
And listen, if you have a topic that you would like us to consider for future episodes of the table, please e-mail us at thetable@dts.edu. And for the table podcast, I’m Bill Hendricks, thank you for being with us today.
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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Steve Ramseur
Steve Ramseur is Managing Director of Occupier Services at JLL (formerly Jones Lang LaSalle). He has 25+ years of real estate experience in managing global portfolios, transaction management, lease administration, project management, facility management, strategic advisory, and national valuation and property tax expertise for both national and global corporations. Steve has published numerous articles on real estate and the economy. He was the recipient of the F. Grady Stebbins Scholarship of the Society of Real Estate Appraisers and the American Society of Real Estate Counselors Scholarship. He has also served as an instructor for the International Association of Assessing Officers and is a member of the Real Estate Roundtable for the Mays Graduate School at Texas A&M University, where he lectures.
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