Why More CEOs Need to Clean Toilets was the title of a recent Fastcompany blog post by Simma Lieberman. She was commenting on the reality show,  Undercover Boss, in which executive leaders go “undercover” as new hires in entry-level positions, to better understand how their organization works.
The first episode featured Larry O’Donnell, President of Waste Management, Inc. cleaning porta-potties along with one of his employees. After each show the executives reveal their true identity and talk about what they’ve learned.

Lieberman comments: “To some people this is a revolutionary concept, but I have to ask, ‘Why doesn’t every manager, executive or CEO take time to understand what their employees actually do at work?”’ She goes on to argue that in her consultancy work the most common complaint and question is, “Why doesn’t my manager/ director/ CEO, try to do my job?”, followed by, “if he or she tried to do my work, they would understand what I have to deal with everyday.” Lieberman concludes, “Employees who think you have no idea or empathy for them are not going to be engaged or productive…but when inclusion, communication, and empathy are part of the culture, employees are happy and they are much more likely to make your customers happy.”

God lives with us and like us
Last week I was speaking to an elementary school assembly about Israel’s Tabernacle. I really struggled in preparing my message. But, as I spoke, the simplicity of the Tabernacle’s message really hit me. When the Israelites saw the Tabernacle, they said, “God lives with us, and God lives like us!” By the Tabernacle, God dwelt in the midst of His people. And as His people lived in animal-skin tents, so He also lived in an animal-skin tent. What a graphic and vivid picture, “God lives with us, and God lives like us!”

But, like all Old Testament truth, the Tabernacle pointed forward to something even better. It pointed forward to an even greater revelation of Immanuel, God with us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt (literally “tabernacled” or “tented”) among us…full of grace and truth”(Jn. 1:18). In a new way, God lives with us, and God lives like us. This time not in animal skin, but in human skin! Jesus is the ultimate “Undercover Boss.” He lived with us and like us. He did our work. He understood what we have to deal with every day. In Him we find perfect “inclusion, communication, and empathy.” He saw the disciples’ feet soiled and smeared with the animal and human waste of Jerusalem’s filthy streets, took a towel, and washed them with his own hands. He lives with us and lives like us.

But for me there is something even more amazing than God dwelling in animal skin, or even in human skin. He dwells in my skin, my sinful skin. By His Spirit He lives in me (1 Cor. 16:19-20; Col. 1:27).

Where is my “engagement and productivity?”

  • Paul C

    This is an excellent post. What a great God we serve. I read this yesterday:For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. – Is 57:15What a paradox: high and lofty, yet dwelling with the lowly?Hebrews 4:15 also comes to mind:For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.

  • David Murray

    Isa. 57:15 is a clincher text Paul. Wish I’d thought of it!