Leadership Made in Africa with Modupe TAYLOR-PEARCE: The five C’s of a great employee – Calling


Last week, I shared thoughts on the 5 C’s for a great employee (Competence, Character, Culture, Calling, and Chemistry). Over the next five weeks, I will be expanding on each one of the C’s, not only on what they mean, but on strategies for assessing whether the employee you are about to hire possesses this facet for your organization.

This is the fifth of the five articles, and in this article I will focus on CALLING.

In the last three decades, the Christian evangelical movement in Africa has spread rapidly. It appears that each week, a new church is being planted and Pastors are being ordained by Bishops who sometimes appear to be self-appointed…at least that is the way one of my octogenarian aunties describes the situation.

“I refuse to attend a church that I am older than!” she proudly proclaims as her defense for driving past five new churches to attend the church of her childhood which is a 20-minute drive away from her house. When I probed her further about why she does not like these “new” churches, she explained that she believes that these churches abuse people by getting them to give up their time at the expense of time at home or time spent at work.

“People are attending these churches on Sunday and volunteering their time on Monday to Saturday and it is wrong! They need to go out and find more productive things to do with their time!” As I reflected on the views of my aunt, the question came to mind, “Why are people willing to give their time and talent to something that does not give them a salary reward?”

Amos (name changed for confidentiality) is a procurement and finance professional who has worked for the United Nations for over a decade. His duty station is a couple of hours’ flight away from where his family lives and he generally operates on a six-week-on-two-weeks-off schedule and gets to see his family four to six times a year. He hates his job. When he first shared this with me, my first thought was that he does not like the travel and being away from his family.

Thankfully, as a coach I have learned to avoid assumptions and ask open-ended questions. So I asked him “What is it about your job that you don’t like?”  His reply: “I don’t like being in finance and managing procurement. I went into it because it was a safe career that I was told would assure me of cash flow to feed me and my family, and it is. However, I just don’t enjoy it and I don’t even believe in the mission that we are engaged in right now.  I just feel like I am wasting the best years of my life here.”

When I probed further to ask him what he would love to do, his answer was surprising. “I love teaching. I enjoy working with teenagers and young adults and would love to be doing something that helps them to make a better life for themselves and to teach them skills that would enable them to be successful. But how am I going to do that and feed my family?”

BCA Leadership is in its first decade of existence and like most companies in their early years, requires of its team members the willingness and ability to stretch themselves beyond their stated job descriptions into taking on challenges and responsibilities that simply need to be done because they are in the best interest of the company. This reality means that sometimes a finance manager may have to support the project management of an event and a marketing manager may find herself doing administrative tasks.

Recently, one member of the team was asked to take on the task of resurrecting a service that BCA had unsuccessfully tried to initiate three years ago. To my surprise this team member (I will call him “Tony” for confidentiality reasons) made amazing progress with the service and briefed me on how he had restructured the service and was going to market it and create impact for our clients.

I was amazed at how much thought and preparation Tony had put into this and had anticipated the risks, revenue collection opportunities and challenges, and the finer details of getting this service off the ground. I kept wondering to myself, “Where was this ability in Tony hidden all this time?” The answer for me came halfway through our conversation about the service, when Tony said to me “I think I have found my superpower.”

I asked him for clarification, and he explained that doing this – this area of work, working on this service – aligned with his talents and his passion and he absolutely loved it and believed in the value that the new service would bring to clients and in his ability to pull it off. As a result, Tony put in more time than anyone expected into making the service operational and in the next few years BCA’s clients will be the beneficiaries of this service because the company succeeded in finding and placing someone in a position that aligned with their calling.

Every person in this world has a purpose…a reason why they were born, and fulfilling that purpose is essential for any human being to find satisfaction in their life. This purpose is closely related to the CALLING on one’s life. The dictionary definition of calling is a “strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence”.  A calling is more than a hobby or a vocation; it is that thing that you do that you know you were meant to do.

  1. Your calling is what makes you sometimes work without pay or for insufficient pay when you don’t have to.
  2. Your calling is what makes you go the extra mile in some areas even when nobody may be watching you or rewarding you for it.
  3. Your calling is what makes you passionate about what you are doing or working on to the point that some of your family and friends may not understand why you have to give so much time or attention to it.
  4. Your calling is what makes you feel totally alive when you are doing it and even if doing it for a while makes you tired, the nature of your tiredness is an exhilarating tiredness that leaves you with what some people describe as “happy exhaustion”.

It is not difficult to identify people who have found their calling and are fortunate enough to be working in a job that aligns with their calling. These are the people for whom the job is not “WORK”.

To quote Confucius, “find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”. These people actually look forward to Monday morning when they have to go to work and don’t identify with the terms “humpday” or “TGIF” (Thank God It’s Friday) because for them, the job that they are doing it gives them a deep satisfaction that makes them look forward to it rather than dread it.

Companies that successfully recruit and place employees in roles that match their calling are going to benefit from the extra effort and excellent results that are produced by a team of motivated people who go the extra mile because they believe passionately in what they are doing and are willing to apply their skills and talents to making it happen.

There is a long distance between the level of effort or output that is required to keep you from getting fired by your company and the level of effort or output that you can produce if you are truly motivated and passionate about what you are doing.

Dear African Leader, recruiting and retaining the best employees is one of your most significant responsibilities in your organization. In addition to finding employees with Competence and Character who have Chemistry with you and their peers and fit your company Culture, it is important to look for employees whose Calling aligns with the mission of your organization and place them in positions where their superpower can be utilized. This requires a level of scrutiny in the recruitment process that may go deeper than what you may be accustomed to doing. Here are three questions to ask that might enlighten you to a potential employee’s calling.

  1. What activities or roles have you chosen to do on a voluntary basis in the past decade?
  2. What are you passionate about?” or “What gets you most angry or excited?
  3. What is your Superpower?” or “What is your gifting?” or “What is it that you are so good at doing that there are very few people that you know who do it better than you?

Whether you are a start-up entrepreneurial leader, a community leader, or a Fortune 500 leader, your success and your legacy will be significantly determined by your ability to recruit and retain the right people for your organization, especially the people that report directly to you. Getting the right people “on the bus” and the wrong people “off the bus” is your responsibility and even though your HR officer can support you in this process, you cannot delegate this responsibility.

For the sake of the health of your company/organization, assess each member of your current team against the standard of the five C’s: Competence, Character, Chemistry, Culture and Calling. If any of them do not fit here, it does not mean that you have to sack them immediately; however it means that you will have to move them on to something else eventually. The level of urgency that you should have to take action to remedy or move a member of your team should go in the following order (highest urgency to lowest):

  1. Character
  2. Competence
  3. Chemistry
  4. Culture
  5. Calling

In other words, for issues of character, take immediate action; do not allow anyone on your team to stay with your organization a day longer when there are issues of character that do not align with your values. For issues of Calling, you may take your time in finding a better fit – be it within your organization or in another – for the employee. How much time? It depends on the nature and size of your organization; however, let this be your guide…by the time you are leaving the position or the organization, you must ensure that the team you leave behind are completely aligned on all five areas. This is your legacy.

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