Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work at and manage a high-end wireless retail store. Toward the end of my career there, I was promoted to store manager of a store that was at the bottom 10% of performance in the entire state. Soon after I started, the employees made sure they expressed their dissatisfaction with upper leadership and also made me aware that I was the 6th manager within two years.
I began one-on-one conversations and found out that these employees felt they were being led by fear and had their trust broken multiple times by upper leadership within this district, which in turn gave them reason to make every manager’s life miserable. The good news is that I knew exactly what I needed to do to turn this store around and help gain the employees trust and buy-in.
In my past experience, I learned something called “peer-to-peer coaching”. This concept was basically a way of empowering regular employees to coach other employees (not management). In order to do this right, I chose who I thought was the most negative person in the store. We’ll call him Dave. Turns out, Dave was also the most influential person in the store; setting the tone for all of the complaining, laziness, defiance, and overall negativity in the store.
One day I took Dave out for coffee. During our time together I took off my name badge in front of him and told him I wanted to talk to him without the “manager” label in between us. In that conversation, I let Dave know my intentions for the store and that there was no way I could succeed in helping the store succeed without his help. I recognized his talent, skill, and influence on the team during that time as well.
After the long and emotional conversation, Dave agreed that he wanted to help and that he was tired of coming to a negative place every day for work. Immediately, Dave became the employee that I empowered to begin coaching and teaching the team.
Now, imagine this: You’ve got the most negative guy on the team, the guy who complained the most, the guy who did whatever he could to work less, now coaching the team and actually being a positive influence on the team! Over time, all of the employees began to act differently. They actually began to smile at work (trust me I’m not exaggerating). Little by little our store began to perform better and catch the attention of district and regional leadership. Our store became lively, professional, and a great place to work in a matter of months!
What in the world happened!? Simple! No longer was there someone with a title using their authority to make people do whatever was needed. Now, there was someone who looked just like everyone else, got paid the same as everyone else, had the same title as everyone else taking ownership and guiding others to success because he wanted change.
It’s no secret that our communities are in need of a change. All around us are people that desperately need God. They need the gospel to reach them. Did you know that over 2000 years ago, God took off His badge (so to speak) and empowered us through His Holy Spirit to be “peer-to-peer” coaches in our communities?
What’s amazing about our God is that truthfully He doesn’t need us in the same way I didn’t really need the employees’ buy-in. I could’ve just fired everyone and hired robots. God didn’t take that route. He became a man, died, rose again and sent His Spirit to give us the privilege and the power to speak His Word of grace and love to others around us.
Here’s the beauty of it, just like Dave was the most unlikely person the other employees would see make a change and teach change, so are you! Regardless of your past and present struggles, regardless of your insecurities, God has chosen you to speak life into your surrounding community. As mentioned before, God doesn’t need you, but He does want you to speak up. He knows that there are so many others just like you. He’s put you at your job, school, and other community spaces to be that unlikely person to speak change.
You and me, we’re Dave. Better yet, we can be like Peter, Jesus’ disciple. Peter over and over again fell short. He became over emotional at times and also fell into guilt after denying the Messiah three times. But still, God chose Peter who was a very unlikely person to do the work of God, to preach to thousands, work miracles, and spread the gospel like not too many others have. If God can use Peter, what makes you think He can’t use you?
We can simply go with the flow of a suffering culture, or we can accept the empowerment from our boss, Jesus Christ, and influence others for Him. After all, God uses unlikely people, in overlooked places, to do extraordinary things.