Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Responsibility & Humility

Edwin Arlington Robinson's cast of characters stand out for their genuineness in an age of idealism. Two of my favorites, Miniver Cheevey and Richard Corey, also present an interesting contrast. Miniver, the daydreamer, "scorned the gold he sought" but was "sore annoyed" without it. Richard, on the other hand, "was rich - yes, richer than a king", yet thanks to Paul Simon, we all know how that ends. Richard Cory (sic) became a 60's icon of materialistic folly.

But I think another Paul provides better insight. Miniver refuses to take responsibility for his failures and Richard takes far too much credit for (and too little satisfaction in) his successes. Paul manages to be just the opposite of both: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth" (I Cor. 3:6) . Paul everywhere urges us to strive to accomplish the things God has set before us; avoiding Miniver's envy and excuses. But when success follows ... when we prove God faithful by beginning to reap what we have sown ... we are to recognize that it is all grace from first to last; crediting others, but most importantly, crediting God. After all, "What did [we] have that [we] did not receive [from God's hand]?" (I Cor 4:7).

As a Project Manager, I have seen the value of this approach over and over again, especially in "Project Rescue Operations" where I have been contracted to take over a project that is "in the ditch". It is hard work. It requires the kind of energy and focus that Richard Corey evidently put forth to get where he was. (And yes, I am rejecting Paul Simon's envious assumption that he just inherited everything.) And when aspects of it inevitably go wrong, Miniver's excuses will not help. A project manager is responsible and must take responsibility for achieving success. Yet it is not the project manager who actually does the work of the project ... it is the team members, many or most of whom are far more "essential" to the project than the project manager. For more on this Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve, see the Harvard Business Review article by Jim Collins.

I have to admit that my temptations tend more toward Miniver's daydreams. I, too, "miss the medieval grace of iron clothing". But God has prepared us for battle with better weapons and better armor. And he has called us to battle, each in his or her own appointed role. Mine is often as a project manager ... a role that brings ample satisfaction when I remember to take responsibility, not credit.

No comments: