Brad Rex held many titles at The Walt Disney Corporation, including VP, EPCOT. Something happened when he was working in the finance department that taught Brad an important lesson about relationships. Disney was searching for a new Director of Operational Finance, and the interviewers met with a promising candidate. Disney was using a tool called The Gallup Profile which included an extensive phone interview. After the interview, Brad received a follow-up call from a Gallup representative who said right away, “Brad, in the twenty years of using this profile we have never had anyone ‘ace’ the questions … until today! You need to hire this candidate because he will be successful wherever you place him.”

But although the candidate had received such high praise, some of Brad’s teammates and leaders were skeptical, and even cynical towards him. They wondered if the candidate was “too talented”! Some thought that the candidate, an African American, might be “overly ambitious” and would not stay in the position long. Was there subtle racism at play? If you were Brad, what would you do?

Most business leaders will tell you that the trickiest problems they face have to do with people. Successful relationships are key to any successful endeavor. Jesus demonstrated this by putting relationships above all other priorities while he developed his leadership team. Jesus took a year and a half to work on relationships with his followers before he selected his top team of twelve. The more important the work ahead of them, the more time Jesus spent on relationships. We see just how Jesus led others through loving relationships. We also notice how you can apply Jesus’ insight to your own relationships in life and business.

As we follow Jesus out of his preparation period into leading, we see his focus shift from preparing himself to preparing others. Whereas his first 30 years focused on building a relationship with God, Jesus turns now to building relationships with specific people. It’s important to note he started with a small group of guys. He didn’t launch into performing in front of crowd, or doing any sort of external marketing that might hype up his brand. The recorded miracles Jesus performed during the first eighteen months were low-key. He did them not to impress other people but because he was moved by personal relationships.

Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana, was almost performed under duress. ( John 2:1-12). His mother nearly ordered him to bring out his miraculous power. She was moved with compassion for the wedding hosts who faced the embarrassment of being under-prepared to serve their guests. Although Jesus protested to her, “That’s not our problem – my time has not yet come,” his mother went ahead and told the party servants, “Do whatever he tells you” ( John 2:4-5). In the end, Jesus obliged and turned jars of water into wine. His relationship with his mother trumped his desire to lay low and hold off demonstrating his power. With so much riding on launching his public career at the perfect moment, Jesus still put aside his version of the timeline to honor his mother. He valued her and the wedding hosts. His first miracle shows just how much Jesus cared about relationships!

Jesus’ second miracle, healing a nobleman’s son, also took place in the remote area of Cana ( John 4:46-54). It was only after the nobleman “begged Jesus” that Jesus said the words that healed the small boy ( John 4:47). Like Jesus’ first miracle, this second miracle also took place within a parent-child dynamic. Perhaps the unconditional love exemplified in the parental relationship informed the budding relationships between Jesus and his followers. The team that Jesus was training witnessed both these miracles, and deepened their commitment to trusting and following Jesus.

In the initial eighteen months of this training period, Jesus quietly focused on relationships. He was careful to attract people who would be committed to a relationship with him. In my experience, the best teams are built with the following recruiting principle: the way you attract teammates is the way you will retain them. Attract them with a “wow” factor like money, power or prestige, and you will need regular “wows” to retain them. If this is your hiring strategy, you’ll always need to come up with new resources of money, power, and prestige to keep people on your team.

If, on the other hand, you attract people with genuine relationships, relationships will be the critical factor in retaining talent. Some modern bosses do this particularly well. A leader that I first met in Atlanta years ago, Joel Manby, sings the praises of such a boss. He worked for 20 years in the auto industry, and help launched Saturn as CEO of SAAB North America. Even though he has an MBA from Harvard, he says: “nobody taught me what the most important leadership principle was, which is love.” He says he didn’t realize that until he worked for a really loving boss, Jack Herschend of Herschend Entertainment. Here’s what Joel says about Jack:

“There is no better example of an encourager than Jack Herschend. Jack taught me this phrase: The CEO is the Chief Encouragement Officer. I know that might sound corny, but if you knew Jack you wouldn’t see it as corny, because he gets the best out of people. I’ve never seen people in my life work as hard as the people at Herschend Entertainment work. It’s because they love Jack like a father. I know I love him like a father, and I work my rear-end off because I don’t want to disappoint him.

He also knows how to hold you accountable. He’ll tell you when you’re doing something wrong. But he always keeps it in a good balance. He gives me a praise three or four times for every admonishment that I get from him.

Love is a verb. It’s how you behave; it’s not how you feel. It’s also how to get the very best results out of those you lead, because it builds healthy relationships that bring out the very best in people.”


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