“You’re a second alto,” the choir director told me.
“No. I’m a first soprano,” I assured him. I was now a freshman in college, and I told this new director that for the past six years I’d sung the highest voice in the choir all through junior and senior high school. How could I suddenly be an alto?
“Well, you may be able to hit those high notes, but your strength is in your lower range. You’ll be a great second alto.”
I actually came to love singing those harmonies, floating down to those rich tones. I can still reach those atmospheric high notes on occasion, but my comfort zone is definitely alto! I was the right singer singing in the wrong section all those years.
That great football coach, Ara Parseghian, was given quite the challenge his first year at Notre Dame. The previous year, the team had a two win/seven loss record. They hadn’t had a winning season in years. On top of that, Parseghian couldn’t use the freshmen players he had recruited. They weren’t allowed to play varsity sports back then. He wouldn’t be allowed to put his personal stamp on the roster for another year.
Unlike some leaders, he didn’t complain or make excuses about the people he’d been given. Faced with the realization that nothing was going to change, he took a careful look at his players. He studied all of the game films from the previous seasons and made a wonderful discovery: He had good, talented athletes. They were just playing in the wrong positions. He moved an end to the tackle position. He shifted other players too. And then he moved a lineman to running back.
What a surprise they gave the opposing teams that year! Notre Dame went on to a 9 win/1 loss season, and within three years they became national champions. Yet even that championship team had seniors from that original team, the team Ara had never personally selected.
What was different? It’s obvious Parseghian was a great coach. But the secret wasn’t just in having talented people. It was how he used them.
God tells us we are all part of a body, His body. He compares us to those body parts… feet, hands, ears, eyes, nose and head (1 Cor. 12:12-20). But the best part is the fact He has placed those parts “just as He wanted them to be” (v. 18). Ah, to have the perception of our Lord Jesus when it comes to management!
Unfortunately some organizations and companies resemble my children playing with Mr. Potato Head. My boys would put the pieces in the wrong places, ignoring the protests of their sister. They dissolved into hysterical laughter at the ear in the nose’s place and the mouth sticking out the side of his head.
But when a leader is faced with a dysfunctional group or one that just doesn’t seem to be hitting on all cylinders, it’s no laughing matter. If things aren’t working right, and we’re in charge of our company or organization, we can replace people, get rid of those who are dragging the group down or causing friction. That’s the “addition by subtraction” that good managers are so familiar with.
Often times, though, there are no replacements. Moses complained to God, “What am I to do with these people?” (Exodus 17:4). I don’t remember ever being asked if I’d like to handpick the students I would be teaching. I certainly couldn’t tell God exactly what kind of perfect child I expected to be born into our family. And I’m sure there are leaders and managers who often must accept the employees they are given.
Oh, to have the wisdom of God to know how to take advantage of the best in people. To be able to recognize right away if someone is a foot, or an eye, or a finger. To be able to see a Mr. Potato Head with all of his pieces in the right place.
Ah, yes. Wisdom. That’s what Solomon prayed for when he could have prayed for virtually anything and received it from God (1 Kings 3:9).
When the cards I’ve been dealt won’t be changing anytime soon, when I can’t throw them all in and ask for a new hand … that’s when I need to go to my Lord Jesus in fervent prayer for His guidance and listen carefully to His answers when I cry out, “What am I to do with these people?”
Blessed with a new perspective, I can then look with fresh eyes at the blessings before me. That’s when I will find joy in serving… using my blessings wisely and, at the same time, honoring my Lord.