John Maxwell is one of the best-known leadership experts in the world, and his books have sold over 13 million copies. In the third segment of his interview with Preaching, Maxwell talks his experiences in the corporate world.
Preaching: You do a lot of work in the corporate area, as well as in the Christian leadership community; so you really have a foot in two different worlds. Are there some things you’ve learned about connecting in that corporate world and culture that can be translated into our church world as pastors seek to communicate?
Maxwell: Certainly. First, the hardest job I’ve ever had was not learning how to connect. The hardest job I’ve ever had was when I left that world and went into the secular world.
In the Christian world, the key word is relationship. A few moments ago, you got on the phone and called me. We haven’t talked to each other for a little time, but immediately it’s like I talked to you yesterday. We picked right up. “How are you doing, Michael?” “John, how’s it going?” We have this relationship because of Jesus Christ and what He’s done in our lives; we’re brothers in the Lord, and it’s wonderful. It’s what makes the body of Christ so beautiful.
In the corporate community, the key word isn’t relationship. The key word is respect. Almost all negotiating, deals, learning is based on respect. Until the corporate community respects you, it won’t give you an ear and certainly not its heart. It guards its heart pretty closely anyway; so what I realized when I got in that world is that I had to gain respect. I had to teach some things people in that world didn’t know. I had to help them with some practices in their business that would work, and I had to work very hard to get respect.
Here’s what’s beautiful. Once you get respect, then you get the relationship. When you get respect, it opens the door. I could tell you beautiful stories of wonderful conversions of people who didn’t go to church. God wasn’t on their radar screen at all. Once I got the respect, pretty soon the relationship began to open up.
I’m teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, but if I was back as a lead pastor in a congregation today, I would have my people work on getting respect. I would say, “Go to your work place, do your job with excellence, and gain respect. If you gain respect, you’re going to be salt and light, and you’re going to be an amazing influence. You’re going to be able to break people into the Kingdom, but don’t share Christ with them until you’ve got their respect, because it’s a message that will land absolutely nowhere.”
It’s something I learned, so now I do my best when I go to an organization—whether it’s West Point Military Academy, Microsoft or any organization—I find out what they want. I spend a lot of time getting ready for them, and I walk in and do my best to deliver with excellence.
If I do, two things happen. One is they come and thank me and usually say, “Come on back,” and I develop a real mentoring relationship in the corporate world. More important than that: Every time I help them, every time I really deliver for them, I get a little closer to their hearts. After a few visits, they open up, have me come into their office and sit down and start talking about their family falling apart and asking what could they do with that issue. Then God really opens those doors.
Respect comes before relationships, and I didn’t know that until I got into that world. When I got in that world, I realized I wasn’t going to survive unless I could get their respect. So I had to work hard for it.