We place far too much importance in this world on “titles”!

I’m really not sure why I’m writing this blog today; however, feel convicted to do so. If you happen to be the one needing this, please let me know. Candidly, there isn’t much to offer beyond what the subject title reads, “We place far too much importance in this world on ‘titles’!” Yet, allow me to give a bit of context.

Years ago, I had what most would consider in this world a “successful” career. I was climbing the corporate ladder and found myself in an executive role in a mid-size corporation. While my title was noted for changing regularly, some tend to resonate with the title “Director, Engineering and Continuous Improvement”. While I’ve grown greatly in personal humility and I was noted as having some arrogance and pride within my title back in those days, I don’t believe I was totally off track. As an example, I’ll always remember coming out of a meeting with the union of one of our manufacturing facilities and one of the union representatives pulling me aside and saying, “Chris, you truly believe the janitors job is as important as yours, don’t you.” To this I responded, “Yes, {name}, I do and appreciate you recognizing this. While we all have different roles on the team, no one’s role is more important than another.”

Now, many of challenged me on this statement over time believing there is no way the “CEO” position is equivalent in value to the “janitor”. While I can appreciate and reason that, yes, the “CEO” carries some responsibilities and accountabilities that may increase their “pay grade” a bit, I don’t see that their “value” as a person is any more or less. That “janitor” may be the one who has the idea that completely transforms the company if we’d only treat them with this type of respect and value their contribution.

As many know reading this blog, in October 2008, I was stripped of my executive title and identity. Seemingly overnight, I went from a person who could pick up the phone and have a conversation with nearly anyone I desired to speak, toward, having challenges with anyone ever even answering my phone call. Yes, as a sole proprietor and self-employed, I seemingly had little value to individuals. Answering that awkward question of “what do you do?” became more and more awkward over time. Again, once I could not attach myself to a “title” with a “larger corporation”, I suddenly became insignificant.

My story isn’t unique in that a few weeks ago, I was having a conversation regarding a CEO who grew a company from nothing to over $200M with an exit. After exiting, he aligned with a private equity firm and desires to consult for companies; yet, can’t even get in the door to have a conversation. He shares my frustration of what it looks like when one no longer has the title.

More recently, I was walking the floor at a trade show. Looking at a piece of equipment that I was interested, the sales rep, after a bit of small talk, proceeded to ask me what my role was with the company. Reluctantly, I shared that I was the CEO for which his immediate response was, “Oh, then I’m talking with the real decision maker than aren’t I?” I’m not sure exactly what my face looked like after hearing these words but I’m guessing it was not one of favor. I immediately responded, “no, there are plenty of other more important people in my organization who will need to be a part of any decision to purchase your equipment.” Once again, “we place far too much importance in this world on ‘titles’!”

I’ve given these examples of value the business community places on titles; however, my point goes well beyond the business community. As I’ve discussed this with others, people have even raised the topic within the context of their local church. Let’s think about it, how many “janitors” do we see on church elder boards? This is not addressed to my personal local church; however, I would acknowledge that most elder boards seem to be made up of those whom seem to have “success” in the business community. Why is it that a “title” is favored more so than a “calling” when it comes to some elder boards? {cricket, cricket)

A few years ago I was having this conversation with a friend to include both the topic of business and church communities. He said, “Yes, Chris, it’s unfortunate the world sees things this way; however, that’s in part why I kept my CEO title as I handed over my company. I rarely am involved with the company now; yet, doors are opened for me strictly as I still have a CEO title.” Now one might ask why he continue to approach things in this manner; however, it’s about influence for him. He knows his title opens doors allowing him to influence in the direction of his biblical beliefs.

As much as I’m presenting the argument, please understand that I do still believe in the use of titles. Titles aid in giving clarity within an organization to roles and responsibilities. As I shared with that union steward, no one role should carry more “value” than another; however, we do have differing roles and responsibilities which a culture of excellence realizes the need for understanding.

I’ll close with a final thought from the attitude Dayton Moore, GM of Kansas City Royals, stated in a recent Bottomline Faith podcast. Dayton stated, “The most important thing in the world to me right now is you.” If we truly believed this in our interactions with others independent of their “title”, how would it change this world we live?

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