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By Jodi Schwan
Think about every conference, seminar, webinar or workshop you’ve attended.
Now think of one memorable thing you took away that you still use often in business today.
If you’re like me, this could be a little challenging. I’ve been to many valuable training sessions and events, but I sometimes struggle to retain much as the months and years pass. Last year, though, I heard something that stuck.
It came while I hosted the Faith and Business Conference, an annual event organized by the Catholic Men’s Business Fraternity but open to men and women of all faiths.
I couldn’t tell you who said it, but here’s the memorable message:
When you face a pivotal moment or key decision in business, take a legal pad into your church and work through your thoughts.
At the time, I had been trying to work through my next career move. I had been making notes on a legal pad. So, while I didn’t know where the thoughts in my head and on paper might take me, I knew right then where I would eventually end up when it came time to go from ideas to actions.
Fast-forward about seven months and I was starting my own business. It was a very quick time preparing to launch, and every day I kept thinking “I’ve got to get to church.” No way was I going to start the business without following the suggestion I’d heard at the Faith and Business Conference.
I cut it really close.
But one cold, early March morning right before I announced the business, I took the legal pad outlining my plan and sat down in the chapel at St. Joseph Cathedral. This, incidentally, is a fast and easy way to feel conspicuous in a church.
I am not going to claim a bolt of inspiration or wave of clarity about the business hit me as I sat there unsure whether I was supposed to be mentally working through my plan or praying about it. But that really wasn’t the goal, at least for this visit.
The point was to acknowledge I wasn’t really the one in charge here and to ask for the help I knew I’d need in the months and hopefully years ahead. I know I would not have felt as ready to start the business if I hadn’t made that stop.
Faith in business takes all kinds of forms, but when you own a business I’m realizing it can be particularly pronounced and not especially easy. Too often my fear is people hear “faith in business” and equate it with outward, obvious expressions of faith. The CEO quoting Scripture on social media comes to mind.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it misses the larger and deeper role I think faith plays for many of us in leadership. For me, it’s most noticeable when I have to make certain decisions.
When I worked in city government, I used to say that the need to make decisions generally didn’t reach us in the mayor’s office if they were black and white. Most people feel comfortable making those. By the time an issue got to us, there always was some gray area involved. That’s the case all the time as a business owner, too.
Navigating through the gray is where I find myself drawing on my faith.
It has come into play with what I’ve looked for in hiring, how I’ve set pay and rates, and how I’ve handled situations that have called on me to go with what I know is the right thing to do. Even when it’s not the easiest or most convenient approach.
I don’t really talk about it because I feel like actions communicate beliefs more effectively, but a couple of times I’ve told people why I’ve made certain choices. “If we believe what we say we do,” I remember saying, “Then there’s really no option but to do it this way.”
To think, I’ve been at this only a little more than four months.
I already can’t imagine navigating the decision points of business leadership without faith as a guide. I’m grateful I don’t have to.
I am sure there will be trips back to the chapel as I continue down this path, but first I’m looking forward to returning to the Faith and Business Conference. I’ll be hosting it for the third consecutive year, and it’s looking like this could be our largest crowd yet.
Please consider joining us Aug. 10.
Faith in business takes all kinds of forms, but when you own a business I’m realizing it can be particularly pronounced and not especially easy.