Matthew 7: 13-14
Although my goal is to teach Christians how to live a 7-day practical faith, I haven't said much specifically about how to practice faith in the business world. I'm certainly not naïve on the topic. From decades in business settings, I've encountered a number of circumstances when what I was asked to do conflicted with my faith. Let me share one example of when I was faced with a choice: tell the truth and make my company look bad, or tell a lie to make my company look good.
In my late twenties, I was working for a division of Citibank that delivered communications software for banks. In those pre-Internet days, banks needed custom communication solutions to connect to ATMs, gas pumps, and bank branches.
I was the project lead for a new customer, a Nevada bank with very difficult requirements for a year-long project. Another company was splitting the work with us. The bank had a tight timeline and was adamant that everything go smoothly.
There came the first time to integrate the software between companies. The integration offered high visibility and high pressure. I was able to drive our software from our home office, as did the other company, while the bank monitored their test site.
It started off well, but within an hour, a problem cropped up where the two sides of the solution weren’t communicating anymore. I first was convinced that the other company had a problem, but as I delved into it, I realized that the mistake was in my software – and a fairly substantial one at that!
My colleagues encouraged me to point the finger at the other company while I fixed the problem. It’s easy to do in a technical situation like that; there is enough confusion that you can fix a problem and install new software, things start “miraculously” working, and you never have to admit to the problem.
But I told everyone, “I’m not going to do that.” So, I got on a conference call with the bank and the other provider and admitted that I made a mistake. I said, “I know what the problem is. It will take me three days to fix it. Let’s reconvene on Friday, and I’ll supply software that will work.”
The bank representatives were almost too stunned to react. Finally they grumbled that we could get together Friday, and it had better work then. Luckily, I had a great boss who shielded me from our own upper management's wrath.
Friday came, my software was ready and well-tested, everything went perfectly, and off we all went from there.
But an interesting thing happened. Throughout the project, whenever there was a key decision, or there was a question as to what to do, the bank personnel went out of their way to ask my opinion. Since I was a junior member, it seemed odd. But on one occasion, the bank's project leader explained, “The reason I’m asking you is that when things were the toughest, and you could have lied to me, you told me the truth. I’m assuming that you will always tell the truth. So, I want to hear what you have to say.”
My word was golden throughout the project. My opinion drove every major decision.
All this happened because I believed that, as a Christian, I should be honest and forthright with others. This was part of my faith. As it turned out, doing the right thing (and the hard thing) also had a business benefit.
That shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus gave us very difficult commandments and said, this is what you should do. Jesus wants us to live a practical faith every day. His are not ivory tower commandments; Jesus is saying, things will go better in life if you put my words into practice. For example, for this situation, I feel like Jesus would repeat Matthew 7: 13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Certainly, I understand there can be different perspectives of what is truly going on. I learned how to portray my company in the best possible light when things weren't perfect behind the scenes. But there are times when you simply have to take the approach that the truth must come out, and you must fall on your sword (so to speak) and deal with the consequences. On more occasions after that software gaffe, I found that a lot of people might be angry, inside and outside your company, when things go wrong, but they also deeply appreciate the truth.
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