Why looking to hire a Christian is a wrong-minded concern
"I got your name from my former boss who is involved with the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. He thought you could help us in our COO search. He said you have a pretty good network."
We talked a bit about his business. The market, their technology, revenue, burn rate, and funding sources. And then he said, "The CEO wants to hire a Christian, and I'm not sure that is the right way to approach this search."
"Why does this concern you?" I asked.
"First of all, I am not sure it is legal to have the person's faith as a lead selection criteria. I want to make sure we get the best COO available. Of course, the candidate, like everyone else in our company, has to fit the core values we practice."
He then gave me a list of their core values. As he described them to me, it was clear these were not just a framed document displayed in the reception area. He explained each one with emotion. He believed in each of them. They reflected who he is and who his founder is.
He said, "Every prospective employee is exhaustively interviewed to ensure they embody these values. Our hiring process takes time, but the result of our process is almost zero turnover."
The values he listed were the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Each of them had to do with how they behaved, worked, and treated others. I would summarize these values as mission-focused, other-centered, and humble.
So I asked him, "How can your candidates embody these values and not have faith in God as the first priority in their lives?"
"What do you mean?” he asked.
I told him the story of how I discovered my values and became an angel investor along the way.
After our startup was sold to a corporation, I decided to stay and learn. There were so many bright and ambitious people in that company. I was twenty-eight years old, and up to that point, all I knew were the trials and tribulations of getting a startup out of the ground and growing it into a profitable business.
But once I was a part of the leadership team of the corporation, I saw how much more there was to learn from these people about business. The way they thought, the experiences they had in building a big businesses, their processes, their management techniques, their structure, their formal reviews, their leadership...the environment was so rich.
So I stayed. I stayed for eleven years. But over time I became unhappy. I couldn't put my finger on it for the longest time. I had a great title and responsibility. I was making more money than I had ever dreamed of making. Yet, I was unhappy. I realized I wasn’t a fit anymore. Like I was out of step. After admitting this to myself, I left.
Now I was on the street. I was unemployed for the first time in my life. This most difficult time allowed me to see why this corporate career wasn't right for me.
Their values were not my values. But what changed? It must be me.
As I went through my thirties, I began to understand who I was and what was important to me. In other words, my values firmed up. This was the cause of my unhappiness in corporate. I was not a fit with their values.
And then more truth came my way.
The values were the easy part compared to what came next. I came to realize I was a functional alcoholic. And this, too, was causing unhappiness because this behavior threatened my values of marriage and family. So I decided to be true to myself and start attending AA meetings.
I stopped drinking one day at a time. My thinking became clearer. I saw more of who I was with each day of sobriety. I was finally able to admit to my values. To list them and defend them. And then, by practicing them, they became my core beliefs. But there was still something missing.
In AA they speak of a higher power. After six months of sobriety, I asked the question, "Who is this higher power that did this miracle in my life and took away my desire for alcohol?"
This led me on a search that ended in hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I realized my last truth. I am not the authority of my life. God is. This truth was a big reset for me. I realized I am accountable to God and he is active in my life. We have a relationship, but we are not equals.
I am not god. He is God. This simplified my life. With God as my authority, his values were my values. What is important to God is now important to me. And that's when it all came together.
I came to believe he created me and created me with a purpose in mind. He held the plan for my life. With this new belief and clear, well-defined values, I submitted my life to him. At that moment my life took on new meaning and purpose.
I am here to serve others.
And the people I knew I was supposed to serve were entrepreneurs. I loved hanging out with them, listening to them, watching them, and sharing in their excitement. These were the people I wanted to work with for the rest of my life.
This led me to become an angel investor. I used all my experience, my time, and my money to help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. Not my dreams, their dreams.
Early on as an angel investor, I realized there are two kinds of entrepreneurs. Those that think they are the authority in their life, and those that don’t. The second group learned, as I did, that they are accountable to God as their authority. And these were the people I invested in.
This was the core value I looked for in entrepreneurs. They submitted to an authority outside of themselves. A supernatural authority. This, in my estimation, made them better leaders and business people. And this shared belief also made us compatible.
Building a company from scratch is hard, really hard. And because of this we had some tough times. But this core value kept us together and functioning. This single value of submitting to God aligned us.
But what about my friend who is struggling with the thought of hiring a Christian COO?
I think he came to realize it was a wrong-minded concern. It is not about hiring a Christian COO. But given the values he and his founder embrace, there is a very good chance the person will be a Christ-follower. How else could he authentically practice these values?