Top Down

It is early morning, and the room is tense. We are waiting for the Boss to arrive who always makes his entrance last. He has that parking spot where no one else is allowed to park, thus he can cut his time fine. I know my work is not on standard, that I am not reaching my targets as I should and feel terrified as to if he is going to address this in front of the others. I will not show my emotions, however. My dress code, my qualifications and reputation keeps up this great front, yet I feel like a little kid that is going to get caught out. You know what is on the agenda, but these meetings always swing in a direction you never anticipate!


What, you thought this was a Monday morning business meeting? No, this is a typical scene I have sketched from my experience of a gang meeting between the members of the Hard Livings gang! By the way, please take note that it is politically incorrect to talk about gang. Gangsters themselves will speak of their organisation.

LifeXchange started many years ago with our focus on the gang scene, drugs and intervention. But as the years progressed we stumbled upon a massive truth…often, there are very little difference between how a gangster runs his organisation and how a CEO runs theirs. We have realised that as trapped as a young person often feels in a gang, the same emotion is found within adults trapped in their work system, church members in their faith institution or children within their family context. It is not the gang system that is primarily the problem, it is the need we have to rule over others by using fear, manipulation and shame to steer people to deliver and perform the way we want them to. Corporately we say, “do this or else your job is in danger!” In families we would use fear to tell our children, “do this or else your freedom or your behind is in danger!” And in the faith institution we would say, “do this or your soul is in danger!

However, what we discovered years ago is that when we use fear tactics, shame or manipulation, you will never get the best out of people. You will get them to perform…but they will only do enough to avoid the “or else” and nothing more! Tell people to be at work at 8am or else they will get a written warning…they will be there at 8am, but only start working at 9am! Or tell them that they should stay at work till 5pm, or else they will lose their bonuses….they will stay till 5pm, but will start packing away at 4pm!boredatwork1

When we started with our very first gang intervention, we said we will always work with the goodness of people, their potential, with their talents, gifts, passions and what they are good at. We will be real with them and treat them like adults. Our results were amazing! Then we realized that if we can help managers to do the same with their staff, and pastors with the members of their churches, the results are as significant! People can live out their passion in the work place. Working hours and job descriptions need no longer be the slave driver, but the freedom that turns my 8 – 5 job into a place where I have purpose and can make a difference.

I sat in a meeting like the above the other day, this time not in the context of a gang, but that of a large corporate company that really wants and needs change. The Boss had ten senior staff, highly qualified and mature adults sitting around him like little children and he spoke with a god like authority, which no one dares to challenge. If they don’t like the job they can leave! In fear of not wanting to leave, they bow before him even though they know there must be a better way. It does not need to be like this! No gang leader can overthrow a gang. Company culture can change without your executives making the decisions! I have seen this, and continue to see this all over the world!

So if you thought that LifeXchange was only in the drugs and gang intervention industry, please take note. We are involved everywhere and in any context where top down leadership steals the joy of living out of one’s passion! Do not hesitate to contact us should you think we can assist you in your current context and situation – this is what we do and we are good at it!

 by Cobus Oosthuizen

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