Early in my ministry experience, I was working as a Christian school teacher while also serving as the volunteer junior high youth director in my church. Because I was teaching junior high and high school courses at school, and the school was affiliated with the church where I was serving, I found myself interacting with a number of the same kids in both the classroom and the youth group. Each responsibility seemed to be an equally difficult yet rewarding job. After some time, I realized that I was impacting the same type of young people (and, in some cases, the same people), but in two different contexts with two different methods. This realization led me to some self-reflection: if both roles provided a way for me to impact young people, but in different ways, which way was best suited to me?
As I thought through this, I started thinking about the skillset and capabilities required for each role, as well as my own personal strengths, abilities, and interests. It seemed that both responsibilities gave me the same opportunity for impact, but one was in a more formal, structured way, and the other much less so. Meanwhile, I was learning that I functioned better in the more structured context. The result was that I figured out where I best fit, and that understanding shaped my direction for the next 25 years (and still going).
I Corinthians 12:12-19, in speaking about spiritual gifts, provides a good lesson on the same idea in organizations:
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
One of the points in the passage is that everyone is a different part and fits in a different way, and it is the combination of the different parts that makes a whole. Sylvester Stallone, in the movie Rocky, said it this way when, in stating why he fit with Adrian, he said, “She’s got gaps and I’ve got gaps, but together we ain’t got no gaps.” Jim Collins said it like this: get the right people on the bus, and into the right seats. All of these make the same point – not everyone fits in the same place or in the same way, so people need to be where they fit. They need to be working in a role and in a manner that best fits them, and in doing so, they function better and the organization functions better. The team and the organization will be more complete, and the work will be done more effectively.
Therefore, one of your responsibilities as a leader is to help people be where they fit. That may mean providing appropriate training to improve them where they fit, moving them into a different role or capacity where they fit better, or helping them to leave because they don’t fit and need to be someplace else (that’s often the hardest move to make, but in the end is better for everyone, including the person who needs to be freed up to find the place where they do fit).
So one of your jobs is to put people (including yourself) where they fit. In order to do that, you have to know them, and you have to know the requirements of the job. Remember, what you are actually doing is developing people, helping them to be the best they can be, find fulfillment, and make a difference. And that happens when they are where they fit.