S - Neh 5:7-12 (NASB)
Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.8 I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word to say.9 Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?10 "And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.11 "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them."12 Then they said, "We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say."
Neh 5:17-19 (NASB)
.18 Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep, also birds were prepared for me; and once in ten days all sorts of wine were furnished in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the governor's food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people.19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
O - We see here that Nehemiah in his 12 year reign as governor began turning around some of the culture of the Jewish people that had been corrupted by the Persian occupation. The Jews that remained, were on one hand supporting the rebuilding of the wall but on the other hand still practicing loan people money with interest to pay there taxes and to barely survive. Those Israelites returning from exile probably faced the hardest trials as they no longer even possessed land and simply were trying to survive. The debts that they were accumulating would obviously way heavily on their spirits as they faced also the daunting task of rebuilding the wall. The old testament commandments forbid the Israelites from this type of heavy usury, instead it outlined a means to take care of one another and forgive debt (recall the year of jubilee were everything gets restored) Nehemiah is reversing this trend of usury at the time to when it was critical to build his team's spirit and restore the true character of the people of Israel. Nehemiah himself exampled this selflessness by denying some of his own rights as governor to be paid and fed by the people, but instead often had people at his own table who were struggling to support themselves and their families.
A - The application for me as a project manager is to follow Nehemiah's example.
1. Listen to the workforce - It was interesting to note that Nehemiah heard the cry of those oppressed. Now that wasn't possible if he surrounded himself with the upper leadership, those likely privileged by position and possession. But rather he heard the cry of those that were being led. Our tendency as leaders is to look to our closest confidants to determine the state of the project and the workforce, but we must be careful to understanding there is filtering that goes on as information flows up a management chain of command. I am not saying listen blindly from the workforce and ignore your leadership team, but you must be willing to listen to both, discern the truth of the situation and make leadership decisions.
2. Practice charity and subordination on your team - Nehemiah's message to the people was "Hey we are all in this together, we should all be doing our best to make sure everyone is well cared for, and supported. Jesus's message was clear, "I came to serve, not be served". Nehemiah understood that this was the most effective way to keep the workforce motivated and highly effective. If your workforce is struggling not with the work but with outside factors like home, family, finances, health, wellness, it won't matter how good a plan you have, their focus won't be on the project, but rather their problems. Leaders need to recognize this and subordinate to the workforce to serve their needs, rather than press them to just perform.
P - Dear heavenly Father, thank you so much for this in depth study of Nehemiah, it daily refreshes my spirit and heart as a leader, project manager, and disciple of Christ. I pray Lord that you help me ingrain these lessons into my own personal leadership of teams and people, so that I might be your light to the world of the way you wish your people to be led. I pray all this in Jesus name, Amen.