Good leaders smell like sheep

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I served in Sunday’s Good Shepherd mass, and for the priest’s (Fr. Reg Tiongson) homily, he shared the challenge Pope Francis gave when he met with some French priests: the Pope challenged them to be “shepherds who smell like sheep”. This means that they need to be with those in the peripheries of society, those who are alienated, the poor and the needy and those who lost faith. This is challenging because no one wants to smell like sheep!

The shepherd who smells like sheep is a powerful metaphor that can be applied in the context of the workplace, imagine being challenged to eat, to walk, to talk, and to spend time with the lowest ranking people in the office, more often than staying in meetings or in closed office doors. I wonder if you would be willing to take on the challenge to be a shepherd who smells like sheep.

So how can a leader be a shepherd who smells like sheep?

  1. Know the people you work with. Know them by their names. Know their stories, their family background or their hobbies. This can only happen if you spend time with them.
  2. Be approachable. Keep an open door policy, allow people to seek you and air their concerns, problems and hardships to you, but of course, set boundaries.
  3. Be willing to be out there. The Japanese has this principle called Genchi Gembutsu, which means “go and see for yourself”. In other words, know what is happening by being there. I will further push this and say go, see and make your hands dirty. As a leader be willing to do the hard tasks and this could mean working alongside your team.
  4. Bring them to the right way. It is not enough to be working alongside your colleagues. The leader must also be able to lead them to the right direction. This is not just fulfilling the company’s vision but also in terms of personal and spiritual development.
  5. Immerse in their lifestyle. This maybe pushing it a bit too much but it is not harmful to do. Eat with them, try out the products they consume, watch what they watch. These examples give you a clue on what it is like to be in their shoes.

Why would you even do something that you are not paid for? To pay attention to those in the lower rank is important because it means that the leader is connected to the lives and struggles of the people he serves. It leads to stronger relationships and effective teams for the company as well. Yes, it can be challenging to do this, specially in a work environment that only focuses on its financial goals and business objectives.

To be a shepherd who smells like sheep, you need to spend time, listen, act with integrity, immerse, and work alongside with them. By embodying this principle, you create effective teams and meaningful relationships.

Quiet quitting is not the answer

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For some reason, quiet quitting has been on my mind. No, I am not quiet quitting. I just remembered that when there is a new term like this, some people try to fit their situation into the idea. I suddenly saw an influx of social media posts saying they are quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting is the new term for employee disengagement, whereby employees become like zombies at work. They are present but their mind is away and the effort is non-existent. Quiet quitting isn’t a new employee behavior, though the term suddenly became a buzzword latter part of 2022.

There are several reasons why employees get disengaged from work, it could be they are demotivated, or disillusioned because of office politics, poor leadership, no sense of direction, expectation vs. reality, or bad office environment. One of the prevalent reasons is that employees feel they are not compensated justly or their extra mile is not rewarded by the company. Quiet quitting left unmanaged will have a long term effect on the culture of the company.

An article from Gallup suggests that managers need to be engaged and be able to have meaningful conversations with the employees, and “Managers need to create accountability for individual performance, team collaboration and customer value — and employees must see how their work contributes to the organization’s larger purpose.” Many companies have done these yet it seems to be not working as employees are still not pleased.

In a business environment where the objective is to make money, hit numbers, grow the company value, gain status and earn a living disguised as passion, it will truly be hard to reconcile the needs of both the company and their employees.

When only numbers, objectives and salary are what pushes us to work, when there is no meaning and purpose, we are tempted to disengage. If we stay and only do satisfactory work, we are being unfair to the company we serve and we do not maximize our full potential, which is a waste of talent. In cases like this, it is best to be reminded that we are Catholics and that we are called to respond differently: to be excellent (unless, we are abused or unjustly paid. Rather than quiet quitting, find another more fulfilling job), and mediocrity is never the answer.

As Catholics, work is something that “honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him”…. And in hard work, or sacrifice, we are one with Christ: “in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2427)” also, “in work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature.(CCC 2428)” As consequence of good work, “not only will you be supporting yourselves financially, but you will be contributing directly to the development of society. You will be relieving the burdens of others and supporting local and international welfare projects for less privileged individuals and countries. (St. Escriva)”

It is not all work. The CCC recognizes that rest from work is necessary for human welfare and considers it a human right, “human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.”

Prolonged quiet quitting or disengagement is never the answer, it is a waste of human talent. Next time you are tempted to disengage, the choice is either to rest or to be excellent in your current work or in another.

Is your Vision Statement 20/20?

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

A Vision Statement is important because it paints the picture of the company in the future. It also serves as the company’s yardstick to gauge wether it is near or far from where it wants to be. So as leaders, it is your duty to create a compelling vision that will inspire you and your people to act, not just make the vision hang on the wall as display. Here we will examine what a Vision is and how to craft one. Continue reading

Humor in Filipino Business Names


I was in transit from Laoag to Ilocos Sur and then I saw a fitness place with the name GYM CARRY. A name like this catches attention and automatically creates buzz because one won’t miss the chance to tell their friends about it.  Continue reading

10 Tips for New Entrepreneurs


People new to business is like going back to school, there are many things to learn and tasks to do. Often, this chaos of thinking what to do makes the entrepreneur “paralyzed”. Here are 10 “DO-IT-RIGHT-AWAY” tips that will help you move towards business growth.

Continue reading