I attended Sunday school, while attending a Baptist church growing up. Sunday school is oftentimes a half to an hour’s worth of study time regarding a Bible story, theological concepts, and sometimes or oftentimes the dogma of that individual teacher. One of my earliest recollections of Sunday School which was memorable were lessons regarding Barnabas.
When I was a little boy I thought Barnabas had cruel parents. They named him Barnabas! Later though, I learned that that was not his true name. His name at birth was Joesph. Joesph like Paul earned a new name. Saul became Paul. Joesph became Barnabas. He was given this new name from the apostles after selling his goods and giving the proceeds to the apostles to further their ministries.
This new name that Joesph was given had a meaning of ‘son of encouragement.’ As human beings we all need encouragement. Anyone who does not need a friendly pat on the back or a thumb’s up, an accolade, a word of praise..etc, is likely lying. Barnabas sold his possessions and provided financial encouragement to the apostles. That’s a form of encouragement.
Barnabas was not a long running biblical character. He is mentioned in Acts, he is mentioned in 1st Corinthians, and now he is venerated by those in the high church as being the patron saint of Cyprus. Barnabas may not have been a Paul or a Peter, but when it comes to encouragement his name says it all. I’ll explain.
When I was a Field Agent-In-Charge for a national private investigations company I supervised a team of twenty-five agents in six different states. These agents came from a wide variety of backgrounds: former infantrymen, former cops, former insurance agents, subcontractors, two in particular were of interest: one former FBI special agent/former Green Beret, and another was a former Deputy Sheriff, Vice cop, and correctional sergeant. My team was very capable. But I do not think they were encouraged at the right moments.
My former boss made this comment regarding my new command. “You can say whatever you want to these guys. Lay into them.” I was quick to reply with this. “I believe in treating people with respect. ——, if I treat somebody by berating them or rebuking them constantly they’re just going to think I’m a son of a bitch. If I am treated that way I think the person who is treating me that way is a son of a bitch. It is better to lead with respect, and if problems come up handle them with fairness and professionalism.”
I cannot remember his response, and truthfully it does not matter. I was warned about one employee who in fact had great metrics, but they kept telling me to watch him. In reality this employee was incredible and yielded immense results. His skills at mobile surveillance needed some improvement, and he did improve! But after some encouragement and coaching. What kind of encouragement you ask? Not this kind, but this kind of encouragement:
My words to him: “——–, we’re at a point where you need to simply not loose the claimant during mobile surveillance. The client has expressed some dissatisfaction regarding events that led to the loss of the claimant during the mobile surveillance. I know you are a talented investigator and your metrics have informed me that you are someone who always brings home results. I need to see increased aggression from you. And at this point it is better for you to have your cover blown rather than for you to lose the claimant during the course of this investigation.”
He acknowledged my words and affirmed the new expectations laid out for him. His investigation was a success. We’re all sons and daughters of encouragement. We’re all human beings. And regardless of your religion you need to be encouraged and nurtured to fulfill your goals. If I constantly berate and degrade you, it is unlikely you’ll accomplish anything. If I lift you up and build you up I imagine you are ready to end the standoffs with your challenges and engage them.
Not only was this employee victimized by a lack of encouragement he was also victimized by a personality conflict. Liz Ryan of the Human Workplace writes on this in her Forbes column. I will discuss this in a future blog post. As I continued working in this environment I learned that some flawed perspectives were in place and unfortunately these perspectives were reaping negative consequences. Again, this is for later.