Many of us spend a large amount of time at work, contributing to the goals of an organization and interacting with peers, subordinates, and managers. Today, I found the following principles in the Book of Mormon to help me be a better employee:
Principle #1: Take ownership.
Three days after Ammon accepted the assignment to guard King Lamoni’s sheep, a group of men scattered them. Ammon’s colleagues immediately began to cry, because the king had executed another group of servants who had lost the sheep previously. Ammon expressed confidence that they could recover the sheep, which they did. Then, he single-handedly defeated the men who had scattered the flocks (Alma 17:25-39).
In economics, a disconnect between the goals of a manager and an employee is called the “principal-agent problem.” The principal (the manager) would like the agent (the employee) to act on behalf of the principal, making the same decisions the principal would make if he or she were there. But the agent has different incentives from the principal and may act in his or her own self-interest instead of fulfilling the expectations of the principal.
As soon as Ammon’s fellow servants believed their lives were in jeopardy, they stopped focusing on the goals of the king and began instead to worry about the danger they personally faced. Only Ammon was able to keep a level head, maintain his focus, and continue to act as an appropriate agent for the king.
Principle #2: Be conscientious.
Before Ammon and the other servants took the king’s flocks to get water, the king told them to prepare his horses and chariots when they returned. After Ammon miraculously defended the king’s flocks, the other servants went directly to the king to tell him what had happened. Ammon went to feed the horses. You might think that, after such an experience, he needed a little time to decompress and recover. But he simply moved on to the next task.
The king was amazed at what he had done but even more impressed when he learned of Ammon’s conscientiousness: “Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man,” he said; “for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them” (Alma 18:10).
To remain steady like this, we need to develop Ammon’s emotional equanimity. We need to learn to experience success without needing to pause and celebrate, and to experience defeat without needing to pause and cheer ourselves up. Like Ammon, we are most effective if we are able to take all events in stride and move on to the next task.
Principle #3: Speak up.
When King Limhi learned that some of the daughters of the Lamanites had been kidnapped and that his people were being blamed for it, he was furious. He commanded that his people’s homes be searched until the culprit was found. But one of his military leaders, Gideon, advised him to change his plan. The people had already been through so much. Searching their homes would have humiliated them needlessly. Gideon reminded the king that the wicked priests of his father, King Noah, were still at large and that they were likely the kidnappers. Limhi heeded the advice of Gideon and defused the situation while maintaining the confidence of his people (Mosiah 20:15-26).
Later, when Limhi was searching for a way to escape from their Lamanite captors, Gideon came forward with the idea which ultimately proved successful (Mosiah 22:3-9).
Principle #4: Encourage others.
In the allegory of the olive trees, the Lord of the vineyard is clearly in charge. He makes decisions, gives commands, and teaches his servant. But at one point in the story, he becomes discouraged. In his frustration, he commands the servant to cut down the trees and burn them.
In response, the servant simply says, “Spare it a little longer” (Jacob 5:50). This simple plea is enough to convince the Lord of the vineyard to give the trees another chance.
Today, I will resolve to be a better employee. I will take true ownership of the assignments I’ve been given, work conscientiously, speak up when I have something to contribute, and provide encouragement to others.