Kathy Sierra – Possible Church Advice

kinnon —  February 7, 2007 — 2 Comments

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’d know I’m a Kathy Sierra fan. Kathy is probably the best example of the Generous Web @ work.

Kathy’s latest post is Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company! It’s another brilliant read. (I can’t wait for Kathy to publish her book, Thoughts from the Blog, Creating Passionate Users – it will be a best seller.)

People ask me, “How can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?” Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant. Passion for our profession and the kind of work we do? Crucial. If I own company FOO, I don’t need employees with a passion for FOO. I want those with a passion for the work they’re doing. The company should behave just like a good user interface — support people in doing what they’re trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way. Applying the employer-as-UI model, the best company is one in which the employees are so engaged in their work that the company fades into the background.

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She has a simple four question test for people who are passionate about work – including that they would be doing something similar as a hobby if they weren’t doing it as a profession. Cathy goes on to describe people who are “passionate about the company.”

The ultimate team player who goes along with the group rather than voice dissent
Works late nights and weekends because “everyone needs to pitch in on this project”
Defends the company to anyone, anywhere that criticizes or questions its products, policies, or practices
Puts responsibility to employer above responsibility to customers, without question
Questions, but does not challenge the status quo
Is well-liked because they do whatever is asked, enthusiastically
Accepts (and uses) phrases like, “this is what corporate needs us to do.”
Cares a lot about his career path in the company; focused on getting management recognition.

And contrasts them with people who are passionate about their work (edited):

Scores well on the 4-question test (read her blog post)
• …they work late when they’re driven by something they know they can do better on.
• Defends the quality of his own work…and…the work of his team
• Puts responsibility to his own ethics and values–especially related to quality of work–over responsibility to employer.
• May not be extremely well-liked, but is highly respected and tolerated because he’s known as one who, “cares deeply about doing the best possible job, and is very good at what he does.”
• Does not accept, “this is what corporate needs us to do” when it conflicts with quality and ethics.
• Does not care about upward mobility in the company. Cares about doing fabulous work and possibly the recognition of his peers in the industry.

So how does this apply to the church?

Too many churches of my acquaintance demand loyalty to the institution/leader over and above anything else. (Let me again point you to Emerging Grace’s Leadership series, here, here and here.) “Team player” language is used to command & control, and mavericks are to be removed. (If you read my Random Muttering post from last week you might remember the church leader who used a parking-lot-analysis to decide on team members – being “well-liked” is a critical component for team members in this “leader’s” estimation. This leader might benefit from taking this test – devised by Bob Sutton, Guy Kawasaki & the folk @ Electric Pulp.) (As an aside, Ed Brenegar has a great series on Mavericks @ Work on his Leading Questions blog that is worth reading.)

People caught up in this world will not stand for any questioning of the leader or the institution – often exhibiting cult-like responses (including the nonsensical usage of, and badly exegeted, “don’t touch the Lord’s anointed” passages.) They are desperate for the leader’s approval and will do just about anything to get it – and would love to move up in the organization to be as close to said leader as possible. And these folk will defend near criminal activity on the part of the church leaders – as their leaders apparently “hear directly from God.” (I have heard of one preaching mother of a Senior Pastor, who defended her son from the pulpit because “he was the one God appointed in this church to hear from Him.” What utter nonsense!)

Missional mavericks are the stuff of the church in the 21st Century – they dearly love people but aren’t particularly concerned about what others’ opinions of them are. They have a heart to see everyone released into the work the Father is doing and will defend those folk to the point of death. They will not comprise their ethics to achieve status or “build something for God.” They believe Jesus when He says, “pick up your cross and follow me” and they also believe Jesus was serious in Mark 10 and Matthew 20 when He spoke of servant leadership. They love to be amongst missional people, hearing their stories – as well as telling their own. And they celebrate what God is doing anywhere & everywhere. These people aren’t passionate about whatever organization they are a part of – they are passionate about the Kingdom and excited about being a part of what the Father is doing in the earth.




A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to Kathy Sierra – Possible Church Advice

  1. Bill,
    I appreciate your support of my latest posts. It really means a lot to me.

    This post was amazing. It triggered so many thoughts related to our personal situation, which is the furnace in which my current beliefs about leadership were formed. Sadly, we’ve had a front row view of the cultic kind of leadership you described.

    I can’t wait to show this post to my husband, and it is likely I will interact with it in a future post, after pondering it for awhile.

    Your final paragraph was inspiring and encouraging.

  2. Unfortunately the command & control mentality is even more prevenant in faith-based agencies (missions and parachurches) than in churches themselves. And the passionate people get hurt for not toeing the organizational line.


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