I had an interesting childhood. I grew up in the small town of New Caney, Texas but spent my summers boating with my parents in the Pacific Northwest. While my small town roots kept me firmly planted on solid ground (one of the best gifts God ever gave me), my summer vacations presented me with opportunities to learn from some pretty amazing people. I learned how to play guitar from Steve Miller. I flew in our next door neighbor’s helicopter for lunch near the ink blue glacier like lakes on tops of mountains. I fished and explored with all kinds of interesting tycoons, one of which was Lamar Muse, then President of Southwest Airlines.
In follow up to Monday’s post about allowances, I was reminded of something Lamar taught me as a young girl. One day, he was explaining his business to me. He shared that one of the reasons his company did so well was because he believed that the employees should not just work for the company, but that the company had to be THEIRS, in their own minds. They needed to take ownership of their job. Lamar went on to explain to me the idea of profit-sharing with his employees…that the company believes in rewarding the employees with the benefits of their hard work and service, so they show it by giving employees added benefits in profit-sharing investment accounts and stock ownership as well as offering stocks at a reduced price to their employees. In this way, when Susie Stewardess is serving you coffee, how she serves you—with excellence and a great attitude—may just result in you purchasing further flights, recommending Southwest Airlines to your friends, and thereby driving up stock prices and profitability and a fatter profit-sharing increase for Susie. When Susie shares the values of her company, takes ownership of her job because it is an investment into her future, and serves you in a way that represents her airline well, she has a long term gain.
Now, I am no Harvard MBA grad. And truthfully, this conversation is nearly thirty years old, so I may be a bit fuzzy on the details and I am certainly not up to date on Southwest and their current profit-sharing or stock options or even stock prices, ok? But the idea further cements what I was trying to get across Monday.
When you pay junior for his “chores,” (and I HATE THAT WORD CHORES) you are basically relegating him to a hired hand. He works for you for a pittance. Even if you overpay him, he is still just a paid worker. He has not invested ANYTHING into your family, he has just done what he has been paid to do. You can even pay junior a just amount for a hard day’s work of regularly expected jobs, and he may learn to work hard, but the heart of his service will be far different than if he were working out of love and devotion to the family.
I’ll give you an example. My dad bought an old RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) boat when I was a kid. It was his dream to turn this vintage floating memorial into a pleasure cruiser…which he accomplished beautifully over the course of about 15 years. We enjoyed traveling on that little piece of history throughout the surrounding waters of Vancouver Island. But man, was that ol’ lady a ton of work. My dad had a never ending list of jobs that needed constant attention on the boat and I know for all of his blood, sweat and tears he thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
One of my jobs was to shine all the brass. And there was A LOT OF BRASS. I have told you before my father was a marine and he expected that brass to shine so bright you could use a door knob as a mirror. “DO IT AGAIN!” was a resounding holler I heard more than a jillion times because I had not done it well enough. And truly, I am so grateful he was such a tough nut. I learned to WORK HARD. It was a great favor he did to me.
But here is one of the ways I have come to understand why paying for regular “chores” is not the way to go. Since I was paid for the job, every time he bellowed that it looked like crap…was not up to snuff, wouldn’t pass inspection even if the drill sergeant was blind, (all true, by the way, it probably did look awful…he was right) I grew BITTER because I felt as though I was being treated like a servant. I got angry because it was just “never good enough.” And I think the fault in this miscommunication lies in the fact that I was being paid.
If, instead, Daddy had told me how important it was for me to do my best in every job I do, no matter how mundane…and if he had explained to me that how shiny our brass looked made the ol’ gal just gleam in the rare pacific northwestern sun…and how when she gleamed, it made him proud of all his hard work to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse…I would have gladly shined away until my fingers fell off because I would have done ANYTHING to make him proud. I would have taken ownership and seen the boat as mine, my father’s vision as my own, and my small part in making it beautiful would have been personal to me because it would have belonged to me. The work itself would have felt profitable in more ways than a simple $10 at the end of the week.
Do you see the difference in the heart? Do you see how being paid can actually cause bitterness when you correct a child on a job less than well done? Ownership of the family’s values, purpose, and vision is far more profitable in the long run than teaching junior how to budget $15 a week (or whatever the going rate is nowadays). The child has to learn to see your criticism of their job as an investment into their future and a long term gain. Taking pride in a clean house as we work together to welcome visitors for the evening is something money can’t buy. A son’s joy in a good-looking lawn that blesses his mom and makes the neighbors shower him with compliments gives him a heart of service that shows gratitude for all the ways his mom and dad bless and serve him.
I have always run my family like a small business, believing that we are selling people on the joy of Jesus, the blessing that children are, and that the end product of our faith should be irresistible inquiry from those who don’t know the love of our Heavenly Father. And He knows profit-sharing way better than my old friend Lamar Muse. Lamar’s been with the Lord since 2007, reaping untold profits in Heaven. But I thank him now for explaining to me as a kid how important it was to take OWNERSHIP in your job, and see profitability down the road as an investment you place in your work today.