James L Castellano has spent his entire adult life living, developing and teaching leadership techniques. He uses a unique blend of biblical truths and worldly principles, called VALID leadership, to reach his audience. Born in New York City, James moved to Fort Worth, TX in 1979 to serve in the United States Air Force. James and his wife, Rosemary, just celebrated their 10th anniversary. They currently reside in Tyler, TX. They have six children ranging from 17 to 29 years old, and as a family recognize Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. James is a frequent contributor to several periodicals including The Enrichment Journal and The Voice of Grace and Truth. His new blog can be read at www.proverbialintake.com
“James, call me,” his voice blasted through the intercom.
“Doesn’t he know how busy I am!” I wanted others to hear my dissatisfaction with our leader.
“Luke, this is James, what’s up?”
“Come to my office.”
“I’m in the middle of something. Can it wait?”
“No, we need you here now.”
This doesn’t sound good. “I’ll be right up.” He’d already hung up.
On the way upstairs I stopped in my office. Most people would kill for an office like mine. It’s bigger than most apartments. The best features, though, were the pictures of my family. I grabbed my planner and headed upstairs.
For six years I’ve walked from my office, through the huge lobby, and up the stairs to the executive offices. At times the stress was unbearable, but never did I experience the uneasiness I carried now.
“Sit down.” Luke pointed to the chair next to Forrest Cheetham, CFO.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“James,” Luke said, “you are like part of our family.”
I knew my days were numbered.
“You have done everything we asked, and more. You’ve performed better than we expected. But we need a different skill set to get us to the next level.” He stopped, seemingly waiting for someone to speak. No one offered and he continued.
“We had to make a tough decision.”
“Such as?” I asked.
“We’ll provide a severance package and let you finish out the week.”
Just like that? “Who’s my replacement?”
“Leon McGuirk. I know this is difficult. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off and think about it.”
I glanced at the clock. 4:30. Wow, thanks. “Think about . . .?”
“The whole thing. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Let me get this straight. I’m like family, did everything you asked and more. Performed better than expected, but you need a different skill set and selected Leon McGuirk to replace me?”
“We can discuss your package and exit strategy in the morning.”
I was stunned, but also relieved. For the first time in six years I felt happy and at peace! I stood, thanked Luke for six wonderful years, and left the office.
On the way home I called my wife. “Sweetie, you’ll never believe what happened today.”
“You got a raise?” She always finds the bright spot in every dreary moment.
“Not quite. I just got fired.”
“Yes, and guess who’s replacing me.”
“I have no idea.”
“Leon McGuirk. Of all people . . .”
“Do you know what this means?”
“That we are in deep trouble?”
“No, goof ball, it means we can put our trust in God to the test!”
She never ceases to amaze me!
By the time I made it home, my curiosity was piqued. What did she mean putting our trust in God to the test?
“Hi, baby!” She greeted me with a huge smile, just what I needed. “Are you hungry?”
“I don’t have much appetite right now.”
“Okay, well sit down. Let me show you something.” She grabbed her Bible and opened to Proverbs. “Remember that we read this during our study today!”
We read a chapter of Proverbs every morning before heading to work, and we selected one verse to exercise during the day. We call it Proverbial Intake. Today was the twenty-second and we chose verse 19 to practice. No coincidence, God does talk to us!
“It gets better,” she said. “Listen: ‘humility is in the fear of the Lord, and its wages are riches and honor and life.’”
“Okay, what are you getting at?”
“Why don’t you show them who the bigger man is and volunteer to train what’s-his-face?”
“No! I learned the hard way. So should he!”
“You’re missing the point. Humble yourself and trust in the Lord. Leave them in a better position than you found them. It’s the right thing to do.”
“I don’t know. If you think it
is wise . . . Now, you asked if I was hungry . . .”
Going to work today felt different. Even the call center looked brighter; my people seem friendlier. My office was just a room now. Before leaving the house my wife and I prayed for wisdom, guidance, and God’s will. I was ready to meet with Luke.
“Good morning, Luke.” I shook his hand.
“Have a seat. What’s on your mind?”
“Several things. I’d like to modify the severance and work a deal on buying the company car. And can we arrange a ‘mutual agreement’ to end my time here, which gives McGuirk more credibility and helps me save face?”
“What do you mean ‘modify’?”
“A lump sum instead of over the next six weeks.” I trust the Lord, not Luke.
“Let me get with Forrest and see what he thinks. Is that it?”
“Well, there is one more thing. When I started here six years ago, nobody helped me learn the job.”
Luke looked confused, so I continued. “Because I had to learn everything on my own, it took a while to get grounded. Let me stay one more week and train McGuirk.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’re taking this much better than I anticipated.”
“What do you expect me to do? Cry? God has me under His care, Luke. My identity is not in what I do to earn a living. I’ll be gone on Friday as agreed. Thanks again for the six wonderful years. We’ll keep you in our prayers.” I shook his hand again and left his office.
The rest of the day proceeded as normal with the exception of my stress. I called my awesome wife.
“Well? Are they letting you stay to train what’s-his-face?”
“No, Luke didn’t like the idea.”
As we were talking, Luke beeped in. “James, come to my office.”
“Sure.” I switched back to my sweetie. “Hey, baby, I need to go. I’ll call you on the way home. Love you!”
As I entered Luke’s office, I noted Forrest sitting in a chair.
“What’s up, fellas?”
Forrest cleared his throat. “About the severance . . . we can’t pay a lump sum. We’ll have something about the car worked up by Friday. I’ll also draft an email stating you are leaving to find more fertile ground.” He grinned.
I wanted to punch him.
“Fair enough,” I said.
“We talked over your offer to train McGuirk and think it’s a great idea!”
“I changed my mind. In fact, tomorrow will be my last day.”
Luke jumped up. “James, I would consider it a personal favor to me.”
He fires me, replaces me with McGuirk, and has the nerve to ask for a personal favor! I shoved my fists into my pocket for safe keeping. My mind went to our verse for the day, about being wise and speaking what is right.
I took a deep breath. “I’ll stay but don’t consider it a favor. I expect to get paid for the week. Plus, if it becomes uncomfortable for either of us, I will leave and still be paid for the entire week. Deal?”
“Deal,” Forrest said.
I turned toward Luke. “I need to hear it from you.”
He nodded in agreement.
I returned to my office and started packing.
Leon McGuirk took over like a wildfire, making immediate personnel changes. He had several questions after my departure, mostly about the pressure and politics. He admitted to being in over his head. Within two months he flamed out—left one evening and never came back.
I was blessed with the car, severance, and my year-end bonus. The best benefit was spending several weeks with my wife. Our relationship blossomed! We’re on to our next mission to serve our Lord.