Jesus understood the necessity of retreat for his disciples. They were constantly pressed by the needs and demands of the crowds, not to mention the relentless scrutiny of the Pharisees. There were several ways Jesus withdrew himself and his disciples from the frenetic pace that consumed them. He took them out on the fishing boats where the crowds couldn’t reach them. He took them out of the region of the Jews, to unknown parts, where their celebrity status went undetected. Sometimes they withdrew to the mountains, or to the homes of beloved friends where the door could be shut to the crowds. As a leader, Jesus knew when to “lighten the yoke” of their mission to provide rest and relaxation for his men.
Stress at work for your team is a given, especially when deadlines of service and product are required. Middle management answers to the boss, and the boss answers to the shareholders if production and service falls below each quarter’s projections. But service and product must also be excellent, and excellence can’t be achieved if workers and staff are driven to the point of exhaustion—with no end in sight. God didn’t wire us to work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. He created a day of rest (the Sabbath) so we could rest our bodies, and our souls. A body can’t rest with an agitated soul, and a soul can’t rest when the spirit-man is dry. We need a day of rest to rejuvenate and recharge all three parts of our being: body, soul, and spirit. In this we receive spiritual enrichment through reflecting and meditating on God who is our source of strength and life.
One of the chief cornerstones of the Chick-Fil-let franchise is the closing of their stores on Sunday. Its founder, S. Truett Cathey, made sure he lightened the yoke for his corporate headquarters and stores through a day of rest, despite the loss of revenue. His value was in people, caring for their well-being first, not the company’s profits. This translated into a higher morale among his employees, and a release valve for stress. That’s effective leadership. Making the producers/managers/workers/servers of his successful chain the greater priority, over more hours for revenue. Yet, revenue actually increased.
Another way to lighten the yoke of stress is through a leader’s interaction with his team. When there’s a fox in the hen-house, or near the hen-house, the chickens are too stressed to produce eggs. When there’s a wolf circling the flock, the sheep are too stressed to eat. The same type of stress can come from a harsh, driving, ungrateful task-master who is never satisfied with a good day’s work. His or her tyrannical demands keep the stress levels high among their employees and staff. Tension enters the room whenever they come in and morale drops—along with a better performance from the team.
Bad leadership will drive the pace of any company beyond its limits, whereas good leadership discerns the pace necessary to produce excellence. The team then enjoys coming to work for a leader who rewards them accordingly, and provides time to recharge at a pace that’s reasonable and appreciated.
Gratitude and praise received by leaders also goes a long way to relieve stress on the team. Is there a time to push? Certainly…at crunch times…where the need to press for better results in unusual circumstances is necessary for the team to pull together and go the extra mile. But we must know when to stop with the full on “press” and reward the team—as Jesus did—with time to recharge.
Be a leader/manager/supervisor/employer who carries within your leadership and strategic planning the style of Jesus: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” In other words, the work Jesus calls us to do is made lighter because his leadership style is as a caring shepherd. That’s why the disciples followed his leadership to the ends of the earth where ever he sent them, and, yes, even unto death itself. Does your team feel the same way about you? Or are they temporary tools to throw away when they’re burnt out and replaced by another?
Know your flock. Value their need for a reasonable pace, and they’ll value your company’s needs for favorable results.
Then Esau said [to Jacob], “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.” But Jacob said to [Esau], “My lord knows that the children [with me] are tender and that I [their leader] must care for the ewes and cows [producers of product] that are nursing their young [future producers of product]. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die [from the stress]. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children [not of the driving pace of Esau], until I come to my lord [Esau] in Seir.”