Julie was an endearing, young missionary who had a fantastic ministry that I was dying to learn about. Julie came into my office and was on the verge of tears. I asked her what was wrong.
“Well, you said that you wanted to see me, and there you are behind that big desk … and I feel like I’m being called to the Principal’s office … and have I done something wrong?”
I pondered what I had done wrong, not her. I kept coming back to her words, “that big desk.” For a month, I asked people about it. I learned that my height (6’3”) can be intimidating. Put an imposing guy behind a desk, and I become formidable. I wondered, “If I appear serious when happy behind the desk, how much more when I am perplexed?”
The Paper Question
I discussed getting rid of the desk and people always came back to the same question, “What are you going to do with papers and reports?” Even without an answer, I got rid of the desk. I opted for a couch, two comfortable side chairs, and a small coffee table.
With the experiment, people found me easier to talk with and get to know. The change of furniture also helped me relax in the office, not being so “down to business.” I began to pray more with people.
The “paper question” was with me until the era of laptops. Then I had my answer. I would go with a paperless office and carry all needed items on my laptop.
From people around the nation, I have gotten the same response that many of you readers are thinking right now:
Question: In a meeting, how do you handle a report that is given to you?
Answer: Read it and give it back to the person at the end of the meeting.
Question: What about vital reports that you need to keep?
Answer: Ask the person so send it to me in MSWord or PDF format.
Question: What about … and generally people don’t have a third question.
Response: See how easy it could be?
Janet was the wife of successful president of a large mission agency. She came with her husband for a conference in my office. We were having a wonderful time, talking about overseas ministry. All of a sudden, Janet let out a gasp and put her hand on her husband’s arm.
“Is this your office?” she asked me. I nodded.
“Where are all the filing cabinets?” I told her why I didn’t need any.
“You don’t even have a paperclip dispenser!” I confessed that she was right. In my office I no longer needed paperclips, staplers or a trash can.
Janet’s eyes bulged at the prospect. Her husband’s office was littered with five drawer filing cabinets and paperclipped reports. Perhaps for him, paperclips were like brooms in Goethe’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
Pending files either go on my computer in a special area, or are kept by my Executive Assistant. The same is true for ongoing projects and long-term files. I don’t leave work scattered in my virtual or physical office. When I come into my space, I see a clean work-slate each day. Ken Blanchard, the management guru, once said that people accomplish more when then arrive at their office and the desk is clean. Yes!
“Could I do that?”
Hundreds of Executive Pastors have heard of my answer to “the paper question.” Lately it has even become fashionable to not have much paper and go “green.”
- Go paperless for thirty days.
- Put all work in folders and “hide” them each night: pending, ongoing or long-term files. Use automatic software to back-up your computer each hour.
- Maximize relational time. Listen to the needs of those who God brings into your office. Pray with superiors, subordinates and sheep. When relationships are strong, business discussions go much quicker.
Be the master of your office. Work efficiently. Focus on people.
Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’
Peter answered, ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.’
‘Take care of My sheep.’ (John 21:16)