Look at the mission statements of Fortune 500 companies. Forty to fifty percent believe they exist to create shareholder value.
If you were a company, who would be your stakeholders?
My father was an Army Colonel and a Southern Baptist deacon. He was kind, but stern. I have early memories of trying to please him — believing that my grades were never good enough nor my bed made taut enough. Like many young girls, my dad was my first “stakeholder” and I wanted to be of value to him. During my thirteen years at Nike, while I was surprised at my success, I also found that whatever job title I earned or accomplishment I made, it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. My job became an idol and my boss, the CFO of Nike, was a core “stakeholder” in my life. I realized later, much of my commitment to work was to seek his approval.
Another job and a few years later, I found myself exhausted to the point of burn out trying to please a CEO who on good days was brilliant, and on bad days could be as demanding as Glenn Close in The Devil Wears Prada. I was a wreck. I quit, realizing I had turned into someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t want to be.
I spent a year working with an executive coach, looking for a job, and soul searching. I was on my way to becoming my own major stakeholder in my life.
A year later, we were in New England. I had been hired to replace the CFO of a privately held company whose CFO was meant to retire. I found myself working for someone who often found his power in bullying others, and who (it turned out) didn't really want to retire. I was told by a female senior leader in that organization, “We know you are smarter, more valuable, and more strategic — but you need to let him think that he is.” At this point, something important thing happened to me: I discovered what it looked like to live for Jesus by watching college students (including my daughter) and I realized that I wanted that. I eventually left with the firm conviction that God had created me for a better purpose. Two years later I was using my God-given gifts and talents as the CFO of a missions agency. Finally, I was allowing God to be ultimate shareholder of my life.
Shareholder Value in the Kingdom
There are lots of theories about shareholder value, but in simple terms —
Shareholder Value = Stock Appreciation + Dividends.
Dividends are loosely based on the ability to generate cash through company profits. One could say the dividends paid by the company are the most controlled variable of shareholder value, but in most cases, it probably only makes up a small percentage of the total value attributed to shareholders.
While a company’s performance is often closely correlated to stock price, the reality is that stock appreciation and depreciation is often based on Wall Street’s perception of company performance, especially compared to the company’s expectations of its own performance. Consider Nike’s earnings release one recent week:
- Revenues up 5 percent to $8.4 billion; 7 percent growth on a currency-neutral basis
- Diluted earnings per share up 24 percent
- Every geography had revenue increases
Although these numbers showed positive growth, it was not as much as the market had expected — and the stock price declined 7% in one day after the announcement.
God, however, appears to be concerned with completely different measures of value — something that took me quite a bit of time to learn, and that I’m eager to share with those who will listen:
- Our value comes from how God sees us — the value he has placed on us — not how others see us.
In stock market terms, value can be created or lost simply by an expectation gap, a simple mistake, or someone not liking a decision. Think about the stakeholders of your life. Can you ever meet their expectations? How much energy do you expend allowing others to determine your value? The Scriptures remind us of our value to God by showing that we are created in his image and reminding us of the price he paid to redeem us. What I have learned is that my own value should not be determined by anyone “of this world” — my dad, my boss, even myself — but by my father in heaven who values me so much that he gave his son for me.
Give yourself permission to value your life as God values you. Don’t let anyone else steal your value.
- We work to bring glory to God, not to prove our own worth.
I have coached many women over the years with the hope that they won’t make the same mistakes I made. So often we use work to prove themselves. We think if we work harder than everyone else — if we generate better results than everyone else — we will be valued more by those who are in charge. We look at others and we try to conform. By allowing others to dictate our value, we are always working to prove our value and our worth. Believing that our worth comes from who we are as daughters and sons of God, rather than how we perform, frees us up to be who he has created us to be and to do our work to the glory of God.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” — Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
Work knowing that God has uniquely gifted you for his purposes and that you have been perfectly made to do the work he has prepared for you.
- Work is our “mission field.”
Our work has value because it is given to us by God to do. It is a means for us to demonstrate our love for him and our love for our neighbor. Our excellent work is a strong reflection of our faith and can open doors for great conversations with people who may never meet another believer. Jesus calls us, in Matthew 5, to be the light of the world:
"No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)
Our work both glorifies God and is also a way that others can see God. Do that work so well that your good works will bring glory to your Father in heaven and so that others will see Jesus in you. See your workplace as your mission field, intentionally working with excellence to bring glory to God.
What would your life look like if you lived as if your only shareholder was God? This is life in the economy of God's Kingdom — true and abundant life.