All posts by Martyn Link

Exploring a Faith Network

One of the key building blocks to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is empowering employees to bring their whole self to work. If you are anything like me then you will know how powerful this is if you have ever been in a team where everyone knew each other really well, had developed a high level of trust and accepted the different abilities and experiences each person brought to the team. This goes a long way to creating a high performing team!

Over the last couple of years I have been exploring the possibility of establishing a new staff network for those employees within the company I work for who have a faith. Faith is one of the features of life that can lead you to being in the minority at work, in a social group or country.

I would like to try and establish a safe space for people of faith to raise their hand and find others that belong to that faith for mutual encouragement. I myself have a Christian faith and have benefited enormously from the group of 70+ Christians that are connected through Yammer. We have been meeting once a month since June 2019 and have found it really helpful, especially this year with all its challenges to share our concerns and pray for each other, our company and our leaders.

At the start of 2020 I put out some suggested religious festival dates that we wanted to encourage people to celebrate with their Wood colleagues, its been great to see some of these celebrated this year.

My guiding principles in this journey have been to:

  • Accept people as they are, knowing that it is in the company’s interest for us to each be our unique selve
  • Agree to disagree – we will never agree on everything, especially when faith and religion are involved, we must be generous and think well of those that have different beliefs from us
  • Advocate for our own passions – each person can decide what they are passionate about, without pressuring others to advocate for their personal interests
  • Welcome all faiths and those who are curious and want to know more.

If you would like to know more about this initiative then please get in touch.

“Learn to see” – my prayer for 2021

Father, help me to see the church as it should be

Not as it is now, but as you see.

No longer regard people from a human point of view

See with God’s eyes how we will be made anew.

See the bursts of glory all around

Exchange the errors for the profound.

See the potential in others; sin in myself

Forgive, forget, restore back to health.

“Bless others”, He says, “as you have been blessed”

“Unconditionally, relentlessly, indiscriminately”, I confessed.

Thrive Dundee

As part of our discussion and prayers on next steps from the Thrive conference (www.thrivescotland.org) we sensed God prompting us to explore establishing a marketplace city gathering across Dundee.

There are already such groups in Aberdeen and Edinburgh and we feel that now is the time to see if God is opening a way to form a similar group in Tayside. There is a growing group of people in and around the city who attended Thrive and are keen to meet up when it is possible again.

I realise there are challenges around physically meeting up but wanted to start praying about meeting face to face for breakfast in the spring of 2021. We are planning on having a Zoom call in the new year and potentially start meeting for a fortnightly breakfast in March or April.

We would ask for your prayers for this new extension of our ministry. If you would like to know more please contact me.

Navigating uncertainty in an age of perpetual crises

Or, Six Shifts on the Road to 2030

What if this goes on for two years?

I asked my team, stoked their fears

No more holding our breath,

Hoping for the best,

Watching our peers.

Time to embrace different living,

Find strength to keep on giving

No more easy sailing

Comfort Zone staying,

In the shallows swimming.

Time to embrace the raging seas,

“Out of your depth?” the doubters’ tease

Not aware our feet are firm

Changing our subtle form

A new army rises from its knees.

Back in September I asked my team a simple question – “What if this goes on for two years?” In the summer, the World Health Organisation President said we should expect two years of restrictions. It made me think, what would I do differently if this went on until Spring 2022? Since then we have had good news about a new vaccine, and a series of disappointing and continuing restrictions that have pushed normality over the horizon.

Amid this season it is easy to become discouraged and downhearted. We need each other more than ever to listen, be sympathetic and remind each other of our love and care for each other. However, if we raise our gaze beyond the immediate circumstances, I believe there are a number of shifts that are happening due to the fracturing of normality. I have outlined six strategic shifts that I see happening and what you can do within your organisation to help it prepare for a different world.

OPERATING MINDSET: Shift from Resources to Resourcefulness (What you know is less important than how you think)

In a hyper-VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world the speed of change means no one can cover a large enough domain of expertise to become the de facto guru. It turns out in a knowledge economy, it is not the accumulation of knowledge that gives you an edge – but the ability to extract actionable insights from the wealth of knowledge that you have access to.

A strong and diverse network with a rapid speed of response becomes more important than hoarding resources. Informed instincts become more important, and speed of adaptation becomes a competitive advantage, even in some places a survival attribute. Seek to build an open and diverse group of voices that you listen to and allow to speak into your life and leadership.

LEADERSHIP: Shift from Positional to Purposeful power (Who you are is more important than your role or title)

Old hierarchies have been overturned almost overnight. Those leaders that kept their people in line by walking past their desks and looking over their shoulder are powerless in a work-from-home world that runs on flexibility and trust. In an age where everything is available and accessible online, people are voting with their fingertips for the people and programmes they want to follow. Command and control is very hard to implement down broadband cables.

When location is irrelevant, meeting people has never been easier, keeping people has never been harder. We must stop giving orders and start listening to questions in order to motivate people to want to do what we want them to do…take 50% longer to share the vision than you think necessary. People will follow when they believe in the purpose.

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT: Shift from Administration to Exploration (Your Comfort Zone is shrinking every day!)

At every organization there are those that are simply keeping the engine ticking over – either knowingly or unknowingly. When crises after crises hits us and business as usual becomes business unusual, what happens to the person who can only operate within a limited frame of skills or experiences? When we are off the map, and in uncharted territory the heart of the explorer returns.

It was the privilege of our earlier ancestors to go into parts of the world that weren’t on any map. That task now falls to us – but not geographic exploration, rather a re-inventing of the economic model that is built on new principles. Look to the fringes of your organisation for inspiration, there are probably people already adapting to the future within your organisation but don’t have access to the top decision makers. Find, empower, and follow these emerging leaders.

ENGAGEMENT: Shift from Assumed to Asked / Online to Engaged (What does discretionary effort look like when no one is watching?)

A key question for leaders in the future will be “What are the measurements and metrics that help you understand if your message and mission is being followed and making an impact?” In the old world we knew if people were paying attention because when we looked round the Town Hall, we could see how many people showed up and who was paying attention. In the new world we have no (immediate) idea what the organisation are thinking and if anyone is following. We have lost the most important communicator of all – body language.

We must now deliberately take the time and effort to ask people what they think and build an expectation of transparency and openness, which will enable them to be honest. Don’t take attendance for engagement, learn how to get under the skin of your organisation and get their 100% honest, unfiltered opinion. By the way, this will probably be painful!

FRAGILITY: Shift from Risk to Resilience (Only the bendable will survive!)

Much of our past thinking about the future has been to avoid risks and find opportunity. Now we can see that the events we need to navigate are too big to avoid, and the key uncertainties are timing and scale of impact. In this world we must practice our crises response way ahead of time. Resilience is the idea that we come back stronger after a severe test. We must understand the fragility of our system and what vulnerabilities could be exposed during a shock.

Those that thrive in the new world will be those that see the value in investing time, effort and money in small adjustments to build resilience ahead of the coming shocks, rather than pay massive bills after it has happened. Practice worst case scenario thinking…be brave enough to ask the really tough questions and work back from there. Small bets, less borrowing, patient growth.

VALUE: Shift from Value Extraction to Value Creation (How to make more with less?)

We must find a way to generate value without reducing our resources. Resource scarcity drove our understanding of economics in the past – get as much as possible as quickly as possible and earn as much as possible. This is a zero sum game when our resources are reducing the inhabitable portion of our planet.

People will always pay for a service or a product that they value. The organisations that thrive in the future will find a way to generate that value without contributing to the ever diminishingresources equation. It is possible but hard. Every future business case will need to explain how the idea contributes positively to the accretive impact on our natural and human capital. Our number one challenge is to leave this Earth a richer, more beautiful, more diverse place than how we found it.

There is no better way to sum all this up than by the saying of the late, great football manager Gerard Houllier who died last week and once said:

“Leadership is a transfer of emotion”

It is the heart that connects to other human beings and inspires them. If we want to make an impact in the midst of an ever changing and uncertain future we must dig deep to find our inherent values and passions and be the person who others will trust enough to share their deep frustrations and emotional struggles. If we are genuinely following this path, the rest will follow naturally.

The world in front of you is nothing like the world behind you

If there is one book that has incapsulated the journey I have been on in the last 15+ years it has been Canoeing The Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. I only read it three years ago, but little did I realise I had been experiencing the reality of its challenge long before Tod articulated it for me.

It was the summer of 2017 and I was sitting in Cafe Nero riveted to Tod’s description of explorers Lewis & Clark. They set out in 1803 to map the western part of America, an expanse previously unknown and assumed to hold a water course to the Pacific Ocean. Tod interlaces this analogy of exploration with the steady marginalisation of the church in western civilisation.

The beauty of what Tod does in this book is that he is able to draw insightful parallels from their unexpected adventures in the wilderness with the monumental shifts that have taken place in society’s relationship with the church.

The gems in this book are too rich to summarise in a soundbite, they reward the thoughtful. This book deals with how to lead transformational change within an organisation when all around us is shifting. In the military they call it VUCA – volition, uncertain, complex & ambiguous. How do we lead change in a VUCA world?

What kind of leader do we need to be in order to both care for people and lead them into uncharted territory?

I have found its wisdom has remained with me these last few years. It calls us to not remain in the shallows but cast out for deeper waters abandoning our preconceived assumptions of what life would hold. Complete surrender is the goal, letting go of the need to gain approval or acceptance.

Stepping in to the unknown will mean we let go of our human resource to find all sufficiency in God’s provision – often in the unlikeliest of places & the least listened to people.

Reflecting on this book helped me to see two things clearly that I will be forever thankful for:

I need to care less about what people think of me – I surrender my need for approval

I need to care less about the problems causing the decay – I surrender my need for control

This is the fifth book review ahead of Thrive Scotland 2020, a catalyst conference starting on 9th September for encouraging Christians in the workplace.

The father’s heart for authentic living

A review of Unravelled by Jon Peterson

Unravelled is the fourth book in my Recommended Reading ahead of Thrive Scotland conference in September 2020…and it is the most hard hitting so far. This book is part manifesto for a renewed vision for a 21st century way of being church, and part guidebook to experiencing unshakable spiritual security in the Father’s love.

This book came to mind as I was doing some amateur stone dyking in my garden. I wanted to jump straight to rebuilding the wall and filling in the gaps…but before I could do this I had to do the hard, boring, dirty work of removing soil, weeds and small stones from the collapsed section.

In exactly the same way Jon expertly deconstructs our false thinking about leadership, authority and spirituality in western church culture. As a master surgeon he splits our skin with his scalpel in order to extract the tumour. And some of it is close to the bone as a result – this is a deep examination of our motives and hidden drivers for how and why we do ministry.

If we would see churches and workplaces transformed by the power of the gospel some deep surgery may be required. We all know churches have individual characteristics that express the gifts and flaws of their family makeup…are we ready to put ourselves on the operating table in order to become more like Christ together?

One of the key questions I have found this book making me ask myself is how do shift from “attending” to “belonging”?

The first authentic step I found fairly painful was to examine my own heart and realise that I was putting the vision of what I thought God was calling me to do before the people I was doing it with. This vision-first dynamic creates dividing lines and weakens the family bonds.

The second step was realising I needed to deliberately put myself in a place of weakness and vulnerability to hear what God was saying to me through others. This Stumbling Edge, as Ken Janke (one of our Thrive speakers) calls it is the place of faith, failure and growth. Eventually, we can even come to enjoy our feet not being able to touch the bottom as we learn to live beyond the illusion of control.

There are many more lessons within these pages for those with the courage to walk this path with Jon. It was a blessing to meet him and Ken Janke in March 2019 – and then read some of Ken’s story in this book. My prayer is that God uses this book to help us become more humble, more real & more secure in the Father’s heart. Enjoy!

This book review series is in anticipation of the Thrive Scotland conference coming in September.

Embedding whole life discipleship into your church’s DNA

A review of Scattered & Gathered by Neil Hudson

This is my third book review on our Thrive Scotland reading list. If the first book (Thank God it’s Monday) helped us understand our work as a joyous calling to kingdom living, and our second book (Every Great Endeavour) helped deepen our biblical basis for whole life discipleship, then this book is our manual for embedding these truths in our churches.

Neil writes with warmth, sensitivity and empathy, learnt no doubt through years of helping church leaders wrestle with these meaty topics. He uses his experience to gently unpack our established expectations of church – what it means to be a gathered community.

Throughout this is a book of encouragement and exhortation for church leaders, who Neil wants to spur on rather than drag down. This is not a book selling a new formula for quick fix discipleship, or a list of new initiatives to do on top of our current activities.

Instead it is a realigning of what we are already doing across a broader canvas and with our frontlines in sharper focus

Each chapter starts with a reframing of testimonies from biblical characters – shedding fresh light on some familiar stories. After delving into key topics such as worship, preaching, small groups and fellowship from a whole-life perspective, he then identifies helpful examples of how it might look in practice, alongside advice on making a start on incorporating a wider kingdom perspective into our church rhythms.

This is a timely and practical book for church leaders keen to equip their church for life on the frontline. For those who have sought to create a church culture more supportive of our scattered lives, but seen it remain a fringe issue, this book provides the blueprint to moving from gesture to posture, for…

“Gestures are fine and are appreciated when offered, but a posture is permanent“

This series is in anticipation of the Thrive Scotland conference coming in September.

Essential reading for the Christian at work

A review of Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller

It is a rare jewel of a book that effortlessly articulates and unpacks the complex struggles and dilemmas that those of us seeking to serve God in the workplace wrestle with, yet this book cracks the code of our unspoken questioning.

If you have ever wondered if your work is important to God; if God has a greater purpose in putting you in an organisation; or if your work can be meaningful in the midst of the mundane then read on.

Some of us are struggling just to survive in our jobs let alone thrive. How can I do what I do every day in a way that is more connected to God’s purpose of extending His kingdom? Throughout the book Keller explains the wrong thinking that has shaped our assumptions – like why society values certain types of roles over others and why work is so tough, even when you’re in the right role.

He meticulously unpicks our sloppy thinking around our subconscious spiritual hierarchy, and society’s beloved idols that unwittingly shape our thinking.

I found it a book of immense helpfulness in aligning my own job to how I can then serve others, serve society, model competence and witness to Christ – a formidable calling!

If you have all that sorted then feel free to skip this book, for the rest of us it is Induction Course 101 in essential frontline living – every Christian entering the workplace should digest its rich teaching before picking up your new lanyard and photo ID.

This series is in anticipation of the Thrive Scotland conference coming to in September.

A new perspective to start your week

A review of Thank God it’s Monday by Mark Greene

Have you ever found yourself lying in bed on Monday morning wishing that you had one more day of lockdown before heading back into the office? Wishing that you didn’t have to face the world of half asleep, mask wearing commuters on their way to another dull day in the office or factory?

Not many of us bounce out of bed on a Monday pumped full of delight at a new week at work. For the Christian this can present a dilemma – we know that we should be thankful for, and serve God, in everything, but why is it so hard to be satisfied in our efforts to serve God at our workplace? How can we flourish in the workplace?

This book from Mark Greene is the metaphorical light switch to help illuminate our thinking. If you want to see your work from God’s perspective and how we can thrive at work you will love this book.

Central to the book is establishing a new context for our service, using real life stories told with Mark’s irrepressible wit and charm. It’s a funny, compelling, warm-hearted exhortation to see the kingdom of God as it touches every aspect of life.

Can we see with new eyes what God wants to do through us?…through you…with that difficult to deal with boss, or dismissive colleague? Or lonely neighbour. This easy to read book is littered with real examples to connect what we think with how we act.

Mark’s aim is to not to give us a new To Do list everyday, but a fresh way of approaching our everyday lives. One of the key questions it raises is: Who are our hero’s? This book is jam packed with real heros from the Frontline, people who won’t have their biographies on Christian bookshelves, but who have their deeds etched in heaven’s annals.

If we are willing to see it, God is inviting us to bring His peace, His Shalom, to our broken world, and this not through perfect people but through the frail and faltering steps of His children who really do thank God it’s Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday…

This book review series is in anticipation of the Thrive Scotland conference in September.

Reviews of this book from other Christians in the workplace can be found here

Calm in the storm?

For many of us this moment in our life could well be the most uncertain and fearful we have ever been. Not only is there an oil price shock destroying global markets, but much of the world is sitting it out in the their living rooms, hoping and praying they stay safe and health. I remember living through the oil price crash in 2014/2015 (my first one), and the massive impact this had on people. What we are facing is on a totally different level.

We all deal with fear and anxiety in different ways. Before I was a parent I used to be very laid back, but now I know that their is a time to panic!! (I still remember the feeling of seeing one of my kids uncontrollably vomiting due to an unknown allergic response, and when they wandered too close to a flooded river at the bottom of our garden.) Some of us are natural worriers, others more stoic. Being alone for a long time is probably not helping us to remain positive, as our fears often grow when we are alone too much. I don’t have the cure to such problems, but I do believe this crises could change us for the better, if we allow it.

This lunchtime a small group of us within Wood were praying for our company, the employees and our leadership. We shared examples from history in how God has helped in the midst of previous disasters, reminding ourselves that we are not alone. One of the team shared this insight:

Faith and fear have one thing in common – they are both concerned with things we cannot see

It got me wondering whether the forces that shaped our society – materialismconsumerism and individualism, that I have grown up with for four decades, could now be on the brink of crumbling? I know people are grabbing toilet roll like its going out of fashion, but underneath the legalized looting I also see communities reconnecting in ways that they haven’t done for years. I see people stepping up to serve their neighbours, and WhatsApp groups springing up so people can still touch each other digitally.

Could these seemingly invincible forces be infected with a new perspective? Is it possible that this societal shock could enable us to break from our past, to create a different future? All my life I have lived in a society where we have assumed more is better, where my choices out-trump everyone else’s needs, and only the latest phone upgrade is good enough. We have been given a chance to hit the pause button. What story will play out when we hit record?

On Friday 6th March I was at a McKinsey meeting on Climate Risk & Response in London. At that meeting the speaker said this was “the decisive decade“. (Maybe he should have said the decisive month!) As he talked about the impact on the world if we take no further action to reduce our emissions he focused on systemic thresholds where we reach points of no return and experience catastrophic failure of infrastructure, agriculture and the human body.

At one point he asked the question “what defines a crises?” Little did we realise that we would find out by the time I had logged into my computer on Monday morning

After the presentation I was reflecting on the urgent need to change our lifestyle in order to try and deal with the climate emergency we face (seems like a distant memory now!). This is what I wrote down that day as I asked myself if the world could finally be ready to make the necessary changes in our shared mindset that are required to write a new narrative:

  • From being focused on the the needs of “my” people (in the wealthy west), to also considering the needs of the foreigner (in the exposed east)
  • From being focused on the desire to create wealth for myself, to the desire for creating wealth for my children’s children
  • From living as I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone, to living with the knowledge that every choice has unintended consequences
  • From using our good intentions as a cover for sloppy choices, to every choice and decision being accessible (and Tweet-able!)
  • From authenticity being a choice, to a world of digital transparency

It was Winston Churchill who said “never waste a good crises“. This is certainly a bad crises, but it still presents an opportunity for systemic change. Perhaps I am fortunate that I am used to exercising the muscle of faith. As a Christian you are used to going against the flow and believing the (seemingly) impossible.

Could this global reset be an opportunity for more of us to start believing that change is possible?

There is no vaccine for fear, but one thing I know, the only way we will ever accomplish what needs to be done is by first believing that it is possible to achieve it. For the first time in a long time I can see the powerful forces that have shaped western society for decades are crumbling. What happens next is up to all of us.

This post was published on my LinkedIn account yesterday, you can access it here.