Your Problems or Your Purpose: Where is your Focus?

In 1997, I started a company that grew from 3 to 380 employees in just a few years. In 2008, I founded another company that grew from 4 people to 500 in just 16 months. Today over 2,000 people work for Khidmah. I tried to be involved in much of the interviewing and hiring.

For most people in the world, work is a team sport—and ministry is always a team sport. How do you know whether or not someone will be a good addition to your team?

When I interview someone for a job, I can usually get a pretty accurate understanding about their viewpoint of “opportunities” within the first couple of minutes. The simple question is if someone is problem-focused or purpose-focused.

Here’s the Problem

Problem-focused people…

. . . are victims of their circumstances, blaming others or other factors if something does not go their way.

. . . are paralyzed by problems and fail to find solutions.

. . . are quick to point out problems and criticize anything and anyone—except themselves.

. . . resist good leadership because they perceive it to be a threat.

. . . resist change because they cannot see the benefit of a new direction, only the problems.

. . . take it personally when someone is placed above them in the organizational chart.

. . . never take responsibility for their actions.

. . . don’t respond to encouragement, don’t want supervision, and don’t listen to advice because they perceive themselves to be sufficient.

. . . like having other problem-focused people around because they like to sit around, criticize, and talk about problems.

. . . succeed by mistake or by talent, never by effort or planning, because they are more focused on problems than how to overcome them.

. . . bring their problems onto a team.

. . . create more problems, because it gives them something to do: dwell on problems.

Purpose Full

Purpose-focused people…

. . . approach problems as opportunities to shine, not mishaps to overcome.

. . . never bring up problems without multiple potential solutions.

. . . focus on their strengths. They know what they are good at and seek out opportunities to use their skills.

. . . acknowledge their weaknesses and know the areas where they must improve.

. . . respond to encouragement. Because they understand their own shortcomings, they appreciate knowing that someone believes in them.

. . . remain upbeat and positive because they see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Even in a crisis, they remind others that the end is in sight.

. . . don’t mind when someone is placed above them in the organizational chart, and respond by asking, “What can I learn from this person?”

. . . want to learn and get better at everything they do.

. . . love good, supportive leadership because they love to learn and grow. Purpose-focused people will not tolerate poor leaders for long.

. . . are quick to admit when they are in the wrong or are the cause of a problem, and are equally quick to address it and correct it.

. . . are slow to take credit.

. . . focus on the success of the mission rather than personal gain, status, or credit. They want to see the objective met and fulfill their purpose in making the greater purpose happen.

. . . like having other purpose-focused people around because they want to be a part of a strong team where everyone’s unique strengths add value for the betterment of the whole.

. . . view their defeats or failures as their greatest opportunities to grow. They see situations of subpar performance as an opportunity to seek humility, corrective action, and/or acquisition of new skills.

How Can You Tell?

All that you need to know will be in the answers to the questions you ask. When I ask a potential team member about his/her strengths and weaknesses, the response is generally a good indicator of whether or not the candidate is focused on problems or on a purpose. A purposed-focused person will be very aware of their weaknesses and will actually be able to communicate how they are actively working to improve this area of their character or skill set. A problem-focused person will not be aware of their weaknesses.

Other good questions to ask:

  • Have you ever been terminated from a job and if so, what happened?
  • What was the largest mistake of your career and what did you learn from it?
  • Who was the best leader you served under and why? What did you learn from him/her?
  • Without disparaging anyone’s character or gossiping, describe the most difficult leader you served under and why? What did you learn from him/her?
  • Give an example of a peer (someone at your same organizational level) whom you helped improve their skills and advance to the next level?
  • Why did you leave your last role? What was the biggest challenge that company or ministry faced?

Obviously, building trust and assessing character require more than a few minutes and these questions by no means guarantee you will always protect your team from toxic members. However I hope this general concept and indicator questions can be of some use for those in leadership. I also pray that the Holy Spirit has been gracious to reveal any areas of needed personal growth and sin of which you need to repent. We would all be doomed to our problems without God’s common grace and Jesus’ victory over sin. He gives us hope and calls us to focus on the greatest purpose of all: himself.

–Sutton Turner

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