On today’s Bottom Line Faith, Justin Narducci talks about Lifewater International, the legacy company he helped reinvigorate through clarifying their core values, measuring every outcome, and staying focused on what they’re called to do.

Justin Narducci is the fifth President/CEO of Lifewater International. Prior to leading Lifewater, Justin served as a Vice President of an Africa-based ministry that worked with local churches to meet physical and spiritual needs of street children and slum dwellers. He has an MBA in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and worked for The Boeing Company in its international business unit prior to transitioning to Christian community development work in 2007.

For more than 40 years, Lifewater has been bringing clean water, improved health, and the hope of the gospel to families living in extreme poverty. Since 1977, it has served more than 2.5 million people across 45 countries.

“Prayer is one of those things that we are under-utilizing as part of our Kingdom life and lifestyle.”

“It’s the small things that cause those big drifts over time.”

“It should be very obvious that what you’re pursuing is in alignment with whom you’ve identified you want to become.”

“Focus on what God called you to do and do it really well.”

Key Takeaways:
1. Can your company’s core values change?
2. To be a good steward you must measure outcomes.
3. What to do when you’re tempted to compromise your mission.
4. How to approach your own turnaround phase
5. What’s your “couch”?
6. Don’t let what’s normal keep you from going forward.


Justin Narducci – LinkedIN

Full transcript:

Ray: Hello everyone, this is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith and this is the program where we bridge the gap between faith and leadership in the marketplace. We have a chance to go across the country and we interview some of the most amazing leaders in the marketplace who are living out their Christian faith. We love to learn what they’ve learned and how the Bible instructs them and their leadership, some of their successes and failures and how their faith has brought them along the way. If this is your first time joining us here at the program, welcome. If you’re a long time listener, welcome back. I am fired up because today we are going to hear an amazing story of a young leader that God has equipped and called in the marketplace and this young man has been used by God to lead an amazing turnaround story, an amazing turnaround story. I have the chance today to interview Justin Narducci now. Justin is the President and CEO of Lifewater International and this is an amazing organization. They seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus among the world’s most marginalized communities. Justin, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.

Justin: Thank you Ray. It’s great to be with you.

Ray: Well Justin, I have been looking forward to this conversation. You and I spoke a few weeks ago, got to know each other prior to this conversation. You have an amazing background, especially for a young guy. Justin, help our audience understand a little bit about your background and then we’ll talk at great length about Lifewater and leadership and so forth. But just help us understand a little bit of your personal background.

Justin: Yeah, I think I have sort of an interesting story and it wasn’t one that you sort of just put on a piece of paper and execute. I started my career with the Boeing company doing defense contracting on helicopter programs and doing international finance and contracting work with Middle East and North African governments. But I really wanted to get into work with the poor when I became a Christian that sort of changed everything. And one of the biggest things that changed was we were involved in country clubs and I was playing golf and doing all this sort of stuff and all of a sudden I felt this like, I don’t know, Paul on the Damascus type experience where all of that desire went away and I just had this burden for vulnerable and poor communities and this was like when I’m at 19 or 18 something like that.

So I always wanted to go down that path, but it’s actually very hard to get into professional Christian community development work or relief and development work. So I started with Boeing and then I ended up going to graduate school at a school called Thunderbird that just does international business. And I was able to study emerging economies and I thought I would sort of end up with micro finance or doing things micro lending or things that help poor economies grow. And what I found through the research was that there’s this whole economy that is working with people who are sick. There’s witchdoctors and shaman who are trying to heal people in villages all over the world and they take a fee for those services. And there’s international corporations that are trying to repackage their products into smaller items or products that poor can come by. And I saw that all of this stuff was taking place and that a lot of these diseases were actually preventable. And so I started getting involved in public health 12 or 15 years ago. And that’s what we do today. So it’s sort of a circuitous route to get to where we are today, but sort of started in business, big corporate work, defense contracting, and now community development with very poor communities, predominantly in Africa and a little bit in Asia.

Ray: Okay. So you’ve got this at the time, this amazing corporate career going on. You’d go to grad school a number of these different things, but how did you end up where you are in leadership within Lifewater International?

Justin: It’s a great question. I think building building teams and building organizations is what I’m really interested in and and focusing on doing one thing sort of well, so I read Collin’s book Good to Great, which I think probably all of your listeners have read and saw that as not just a marketplace tool, but also a tool that nonprofits or ministries could use to really pursue excellence in their work by focusing on one thing and doing it really well. It sort of took me a while to get through. I worked for another ministry in East Africa for a number of years. And then the Lifewater opportunity came up, which was, you know, a legacy organization that had been around a long time trying to do one thing well and was sort of at a pivotal place with its organization. And so that’s what brought me here to Lifewater was the opportunity to take that theory, that Collins’ hedgehog theory and apply it to a legacy organization and see if an organization that had been doing something for 35 years that wasn’t working anymore could be re-imagined and re-invigorated and use that principle and regrow. And that was six or seven years ago now. And that’s where we’re at today and it does work interestingly enough.

Ray: Okay. Walk us through then, Justin, exactly what is Lifewater International? Give us what you do, size and scope kind of the work that God’s calling you there.

Justin: Sure, yeah. So we have a seven and a half million dollar budget this year. We have 160 staff around the world and we have a program model called our vision of a healthy village. And we do it in about 600 villages right now, and it’s the same thing. We work with communities to start washing hands, going the bathroom and toilets. A lot of times they have to build latrines that they don’t have at their home or in the community or at schools and these simple little behavior changes that they can do on their own and it allows them to sort of gain confidence and to start improving their health. And we also incentivize them to accomplish these goals. Then at the end of it, we will actually provide a safe water source for them. So we basically have turned community development into a standard program that communities can manage at their household level.

Like your little family, if you’re in a rural Ethiopian village, would have these six objectives that you could undertake over a year period of time to learn how to wash your hands at critical times and build the latrine and manage your feces properly. It’s stuff that you and I don’t talk about a lot, right? But a lot of what we’re dealing with in the developing world is waterborne disease and a lot of it’s fecal. Meaning people don’t handle their waste properly and they don’t go to bathroom in safe places and you have fecal contaminants that are entering people’s mouths or contaminating their watery. So a lot of what we talk about in public health is behavior change and disease prevention and working at a really grassroots level with each home and every village to change the way that they manage their health. We sort of use John 10:10 as our principal, which is the thief has come to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that all may have life and have it in its fullness.

And we’re dealing with a crisis where a child dies every 60 seconds in our world from preventable waterborne diseases. And a lot of them can be prevented with people building and using a latrine at their home, or washing their hands after they go to the bathroom, or storing water safely. You know, we need water wells and people need clean, safe water, which we obviously provide, but they have to make these behavior changes or that water, if it comes into a village, will be contaminated when someone gets it in their home and they’ll still get sick. So addressing the cycles of poverty and these really huge global problems at a grassroots level with families in a very structured, repetitive way is what we do day in and day out.

So we’re in 600 villages, predominantly East Africa, and our staff work each house house to house in a very sort of discipline, regimented way like a salesforce, but they’re trying to sell improved health and a better livelihood for the children and families. And we’ve been able to hire all Christian staff who see this work as a proclamation of the kingdom of God and a demonstration of the kingdom of God. And people’s circumstances are pretty challenging.

Ray: I believe, I read that you are perhaps the oldest or one of the oldest agencies in this space globally. Is that correct?

Justin: Yeah, our founder was early to the game, so to speak. He was a Christian man in California and started doing clean water work in Mexico. Actually Navajo land too in Arizona in the sixties and seventies with a bunch of his friends. And Lifewater was started in 77 and here we are today, was it 2019 so we’ve been around 42 years formally, but sort of informally from the 60s.

Ray: Very good, very good. And I want to go back just a moment ago, I think you said, was it 600 villages in Africa?

Justin: Yup. 600 villages each about 200 to 300 people in size. So you know, we sort of think of an average village that has about 50 families. They’re rural. So if you sort of picture of rural Africa, if you know a home with a plot of property and they’re sort of spaced out and home to home grassroots work, teaching people that God cares about them, that God actually has a purpose for them to grow and to thrive. And that part of that is the way that they handle their waste.

Ray: Okay. Let’s say you’re looking for village number 601 or 610. Walk us through that process quickly that the criteria, how do you set it up? Because you have an ultimate end game that’s kind of built around the local church if I understand it. So walk me through that.

Justin: Yeah, so if you were sort of looking at a macro level and going down to a micro level, communities are all over the world, are somewhat familiar organized in that we have counties here. So inside of a country you have states and instead of states you have counties. That’s how we’re organized here in the United States. Well it’s not that different. And even developing contexts, they have administrative structures and they have means of sort of understanding what the tax situation is in their little local government region or administrative region. And so we work with church partners in counties. So right now I’m in San Louis Obispo County. There’s 250,000 people in this county. Our average program size is about 20,000. So maybe 10 programs. And they’re three years each. So big picture thinking we’re going to be in this county a very long time to reach every person in that county.

And we want to have a church partner that is interested in either expanding their reach in that county or going into that county and maybe there’s no churches there at all. So from the get go, we actually work with a church planning partner, a church mobilizing partner, depending on the context. And our mutual goal in all of this is to reach every vulnerable child family in that county and for the local church to be a key catalyst in it. So in a context like Uganda where there are a lot of churches, we’re actually trying something different there where we’re mobilizing to go and serve the child headed households or the widowed homes that normally would be sort of left behind in these that are interventions. So that in the neighborhood where a local church is, there are no vulnerable children that are underserved and there are no widows that are underserved.

And then in contexts like Ethiopia, you’re dealing with regions where you might not have any local churches that are in those counties or maybe just one or two. And so we’re working with some church planning partners to help plant churches in those areas that they strategically have prioritized. And we see a huge unmet need and we do that together. And that’s worked really quite well for us. And for the local church partner because it’s one thing to preach or people who are sick, it’s another thing to serve them. And this is that demonstration and proclamation of the gospel. And you really have to have both in the world because people need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have to have an explanation for this work because these people have been living in this context with these struggling, with these challenges for you know, years and years and generations.

And when some good news comes, it really does have to be explained and you have to explain the source of the good news. And that’s a huge opening to the gospel and for local churches to grow and to take root in these communities that otherwise wouldn’t have some thing to be really excited about, go like a new water program or a new sanitation program. And so we’ve worked really hard to integrate our work with strong local church planning partners in these regions. And that’s not something that’s going to happen like a flash change overnight, but as a longterm endeavor for us and the local church to take roots that make a lasting difference in these places over long periods of time.

Ray: That’s excellent. So I think we’ve got a great understanding now of you know what Lifewater International is all about, a little bit about your model and so forth, but when you were brought in leadership just a few years ago, the organization wasn’t as healthy, the organization itself was at a real crossroads. Tell us a little bit about that and tell us what were some of the things that have occurred to help turn things around.

Justin: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I think it’s one of the most interesting things that I’ve been part of in my life. I was hired to take this role over at 30 and I want to really commend our board for taking a big risk on a 30 year old with a legacy ministry. But one of the great things that happened was that our founder was still alive and he’s since passed. But at that point our founder was still alive and I actually went and spent a couple of different days with him just talking about what he sensed God’s call was for his organization back in the early days when he was getting this thing started. And I’ve heard this advice before from one of my mentors and he sort of says that God’s calling doesn’t change for organizations, but the methods and the tactics and the strategies you use, they sort of evolve over time.

But in the core, like the calling or the original purpose for existing that that organization has doesn’t really change or it shouldn’t really change or it should become a different organization if it does. So I spent time with our founder, Bill Ash, and we just sort of went back and said, what was God calling you to do? And those early days, why’d you go to the Billy Graham crusade for itinerant preachers in the eighties you know, why were you involving your friends and well try to get at those core pillars or foundational elements of what he sensed God was calling the organization or the ministry to be at that time. And we went back to our roots and, and I listened and I sort of took it all in and I took the principles from those conversations and we made sure that they were core values for us.

So we updated our core values. So I listened to Bill and then the first thing I did was let’s make sure that these principles are sort of inshrined in our core DNA. And then the easiest sort of more logical way that I thought of doing that was to make them our core values. And so we updated our core values and we put some language on them. That was a thing that we had to do with the board and even the few staff at that time sort of reimagining who we are, what we stand for, whom we stand for. That was a big step for us. So that whole process that I just described in two minutes probably took 18 months for me to listen to Bill, to really internalize it and to visit all of the things we were doing at the time and sort of see, okay, these are the things that I see us doing.

These are the principles I see Bill talking about, here are where we’re aligned, and here’s where we’re misaligned and to establish the values that would help create the organization or the foundation for the organization that we were going to build from that point forward. So it was listening to our history, observing what was happening, seeing the core values that we wanted to be about moving forward, getting all of that right before we really did anything differently, if that makes sense. Like we made a whole lot of changes after that, but that was the foundational work that I thought set us up on the right path.

Ray: I would imagine in this process of discovering the history, going back to the roots, if you will, translating that into written core values that we’re now going to really build the organization on. I would imagine Justin, somewhere along the line there were, there’s at least one hard decision that you had to make to turn this thing around. So what was the hardest decision that you did have to make and what role did your faith play in it?

Justin: I think the hardest decision is going to sound really not that hard when I articulate it, but I think the hardest decision was to make our first core value Christ centered. And the reason I say that is because we had gone through a number of leadership turnovers and we were sort of like a ship without a rudder on where we stood with our Christian identity. The reason that becomes important in a faith based organization like ours is that sort of defines who your audience is, right? Like if we’re going to say we’re a Christ centered ministry, we’re going to pray together. You’re sort of saying, and I’m not going to engage with X, Y, Z funders or donors because that’s going to be a turn off for them, right? This all came from my conversations with Bill and a lot of work with our board.

And when we made Christ centered our first core value and identified that institutionally as something we would then incorporate into our programming and into our corporate practices and our rhythms, that was probably a turning point for us, I think. And the reason that you can be a faith based organization that just does things out of good intentions or just as programs that serve people. But if you’re really about the work of the kingdom, I think it does take a different tone or tenor to it. And it also changes from whom you seek your support to do your work and whom you don’t. And so for us to sort of draw that line in the sand, you know, who are we going to hire? Are we going to hire people who like Christian values or are you going to hire people who actually are active in a local church?

You know, those are the sort of questions that you’re wrestling with when you draw a line in the sand like that. And I don’t like having to draw lines in the sand, but I think organizationally we had sort of gotten lost on our identity and working with Bill and having that come out as one of the core principles of what he thought Lifewater is being called to do in those early days, I think was a very difficult decision for us. And it essentially eliminated funding sources that we had been pursuing. And this stuff’s all fun and games until you have to pay payroll and serve people that you’ve committed to. And so I think that was a pivotal decision that we made.

Ray: And as I’m listening, I’m reminded recently we had Peter Greer, the author of Mission Drift. He talked about how quite often organizations, particularly Christ following organizations to whether it’s to pursue dollars or donors or to bring in more people or communities or whatever, we drift from the mission that Jesus originally called us to. And it sounds like you then were able to recalibrate and recenter the organization back to its original columns.

Justin: And to be honest, it’s really hard to do. And I think that’s why Peter prior to read a whole book on it, right, because it’s the small things, or at least I think it’s the small things that cause those big drifts over time, right? Right now we’re hiring a position here at headquarters that is sort of a general position. Let’s call it a graphic designer. Okay. And there’s a lot of graphic designers out there, but part of our requirement, and we’re allowed to do this as a faith based organization, and I sort of know that all listeners aren’t, so I empathize with that. But as a faith based organization, we can actually ask people about their church activities. Are you active in a local church? It’s one of the questions on our questionnaire. And we don’t have candidates that are, and I have a position that needs to be filled right now and I don’t have candidates that are, and so we’re going to keep waiting and we’re going to keep praying and it’s painful.

And I know the person who manages it would love to just have the graphic designer drawing awesome pictures that help us ensure that children have more water every day. You know, there’s a direct correlation between what we do and the outputs that we have and we’re going to wait and we’re going to wait until God brings us the right person. And it’s going to be not that fun probably at times, but it’s those small decisions that we make every day. It’s not really about me and my face, it’s about the institution and our core values and how those core values are lived out in those small decisions that we make every day, especially with the people that we invite to join our team.

Ray: But what you’re saying is so powerful in that someone who’s listening to this right now, they may be tempted. Maybe they’ve got an opportunity, maybe a potential partner, an influx of capital, who knows what, but what you have just reminded us, Justin, is either our core values are core and we value them, or they’re not.

Justin: Yep.

Ray: So you’re doing some really important work here. You’re providing water to needy people on a global basis and yet a core value, you’re so committed to that you’re going to hold off doing even really important work or at least contributing to that aspect of it, the graphic design in this case, because of your core values,

Justin: We had the same thing in Cambodia. You’re dealing with a a population that’s maybe it’s less than 5% Christian and it is very, very hard to hire people who have a technical expertise and who are Christians. Very, very difficult. We’ve been waiting for one water engineer in one of our communities for more than a year. We’ve had that job posted trying to find someone who’s a Christian, who also has a water expertise. We’ve been praying about it for probably the last nine months when we realized we had a real problem on our hands here. And that’s the person who delivers the water to the community. It’s less obstructed, even the graphic designer. But we’ve been waiting for that person and I’m happy to say we were just able to hire one in January at the beginning of this year, but it was a long drawn out process and there were so many times where I thought, you know what, it’s not going to matter. It’s just one person, right? We have so many other Christians, it’s fine. But we didn’t do that, and we stuck to it. And I’m so proud of our team for being patient with me because I know it’s really annoying when they have a bunch of work that they need to do and there was no person, a bunch of applicants, but no, you know, not the right fit. It’s very hard to do. And I think what what we have had to do is rely on God to provide those people for us and be eminently more patient than we want to be in those hirings and I think over the longterm though, if we keep a long view, those are the right decisions.

Ray: I am really fired up about this part of the conversation, so I’m going to ask you to do me a favor. What I’d like you to do, Justin, I’d like you to just give a word of encouragement to that person right now who’s being tempted to get off mission or compromise on their core values. Maybe they’ve got a great opportunity, a potential deal, a potential new person in their company, an influx of capital acquisition of a new customer or what have you, but they’ve been wrestling with something just doesn’t feel right about it. Maybe it’s taken them off course a little bit about hitting that bulls-eye and who or what God’s called them to be, compromising a core value, you name it.

Justin: My word of encouragement would be to look at the core values and make sure whatever you’re doing passes that sniff test or the red face test, meaning if what’s written on our wall is what we’re truly living, are these things compatible? Or would someone who’s looking at this from the outside be like, wait, what are you doing? Why are you doing that? It doesn’t align. It shouldn’t be complicated. You shouldn’t have to explain it away. It should be very obvious that what you’re pursuing is in alignment with whom you’ve identified you want to become, right? Values are who we are saying we are today, but they are also things that we are becoming every day. We’re becoming better at being Christ-centered. Like, you know, I’m reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline today. I’m not great at praying as Foster outlines, but I’m becoming someone who’s a better disciple through this learning, right?

And so if you look at the values and you look at what you’re doing, and if an outsider could sort of just look at them objectively, what’s two sentences? Are they in alignment or not? I think that’s a really good litmus test. And ultimately what I’ve found is if it’s easy, it’s probably not right. So there’s a lot of things that we do, or these battles that we face in these decisions that are like carbohydrates, they’re cheap fuel that don’t last. The protein that’s harder and more expensive, right? And the same is true with the decisions that we make. If it’s cheap and easy, it’s probably not right. And if we can look objectively and compare the values and see if there’s a correlation to those things and what we’re trying to do and, or your spouse looks at it objectively, you don’t have to explain it away or get into some long diatribe about how it fits, you know, then I think it’s the right thing to do. But if you do have to find yourself being like, I put a PowerPoint presentation to show you how this fits with our core values, you know, then it’s probably not right. It’s probably just cheap fuel or carbohydrates and you know, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Ray: That is very, very powerful. And so living around these core values, driving your organization has led this turnaround and you have a handful of principles, right that you guys operate by there at Lifewater international. What are just a handful of the, you know, these biblical principles that really guide and shape your day to day operations there?

Justin: I think the first one is we do pray as an organization and for us, we are allowed to do this and so we do. We pray every day at 1:15. So if you come to our office at 1:15 and show up, we have a remote staff on the screen and our other staff were huddled around and we’re planning for big things like that water engineer in Cambodia. Prayed for that for like nine months. And we’re praying for a tax exemption in Uganda for some drill equipment and we’re praying for smaller things like some of our donors share these concerns that they have with us about, you know, sick family members or stuff. And we pray for those too and we don’t spend a ton of time on it. We sort of share the concerns. It’s about 15, 20 minutes a day. What we started doing now this year is actually praying for each of the villages so we won’t be able to get to all of them in one year.

It might take us a two year cycle, but we actually share a story from a person in that village and we pray for that village independently. And I think prayer is one of those things that we are under utilizing as part of like our kingdom life and lifestyle. And see we’ve been doing it for six years, we’re going to keep doing it. We have to sort of have a discipline of doing that corporately. And if we started losing that, I’m guessing that our staff would be like, Justin, why aren’t we doing that anymore? You know? And so I think for us that’s been central to our core identity, goes back to our values. Another one that we practice a lot is measuring outcomes. We struggle with this in Christian work because we know that the work of the Holy Spirit is something beyond what we could plan or imagine.

But I think if we put our plans together with the work of the Holy Spirit, we’re talking about a multiplier here and we’re not going to do smaller things. I can’t imagine. So what we’ve started doing is measuring and measuring everything. And what I’m talking about there is actually measuring the little changes that those homes and villages are making and using that information like Facebook does with all of the information that they gather about us and looking at trends and seeing where we are being effective and where we’re not being effective in real time. And this has really improved the quality of our work. And I think there’s these opportunities to measure activities. So if it’s a sales organization, how many touches did you have with potential new clients this week? I think the more that we bring transparency to what are seemingly opaque outcomes, the more that we can manage our organization’s a little bit more effectively.

And if we take big data, which is what happens when you collect a lot of information as you get a lot of data back, right? And you start looking at trends, you can see where you’re performing well and where you’re not very quickly and sort of course correct much faster than you would if you weren’t measuring things. And I have lots of examples on how we do that in the field, but I think it is a principle that applies broader than just you know, work in rural Africa.

And then for us, the last one that I would say is worth mentioning is to really focus on what God called you to do and do it really well. So we always deal with this temptation to expand our offering beyond just water and sanitation and hygiene. We could work on early childhood literacy, we could work on feeding programs and starting community gardens and all that stuff. And what I’ve sort of landed on this one is that there’s so much need in the world for what we do and it’s so hard to do. The more that we can become subject matter experts in it, share our knowledge with other organizations, implement really high quality programs, the last that’s a better stewardship of the resource that I’ve been entrusted with in this organization or the board’s been entrusted with as an organization.

So I think doing one thing and doing it really well, going deep and making a lasting change and not trying to be everything to everybody and staying focused is a stewardship principle. Just like measuring is too, you know, we’ve all been entrusted with these resources, whether they’re human resources, financial resources, and if we don’t know what they’re doing or how they’re performing, I don’t know how we can say we’re being good stewards of them.

Ray: So just in summary, and we’re praying consistently at measuring everything, gathering data, tracking, how are we making a difference, how effective are we? And then really that hedgehog concept really get really good, really great at one, maybe two things. Focus there and don’t get distracted. And by the way, Justin, what is the best way is someone’s listening to this conversation to want to learn about Lifewater International? What’s the best way for them to reach out and contact you?

Justin: I would say there’s two ways. We have a great website LifeWater.org very simple or on LinkedIn. I really like LinkedIn and connecting with others on LinkedIn. So if you just type in my name, Justin Narducci and then connect with me and write a note that maybe you heard on the podcast or something, I would love to connect with you that way too.

Ray: Yeah, and that’s N A R D U C C I, Justin Narducci. Now Justin, as we’re beginning to wind down in our time here, I want to just have a couple of questions with you about advice. And so, if there’s a business leader, a ministry leader that’s listening to this conversation, what advice or counsel would you give to them in terms of excellence of living out their faith in the marketplace or how to make a difference in their leadership?

Justin: I will pass along one really big idea that I think was passed along to me and I sort of would love for other people to do it. When we went through our, we call it our turnaround phase. We had to take a lot of inventory on what is working in the organization and what we’re doing just because that’s the way we’ve always done it. You know what’s funny about a turnaround is we all sort of go through these little turnarounds every time we come to work. Like we can choose to look at our organization objectively and see if it’s performing like it’s supposed to or if it’s not. But a lot of us just sort of like go through our day to day work. We aren’t fully aware of what’s going on. We’re just doing things because that’s the way we’ve always done them. And when you have a turnaround situation like ours, you sort of have to really take stock of why you’re doing certain things, especially if they don’t produce the results that you’re looking for.

Justin: Andy Stanley has a great talk called, Don’t Be that Couch. And it’s about the couch that’s in your grandmother’s house that no one sits on cause it’s really uncomfortable, doesn’t look right. It’s like green and it doesn’t match the motif. But it just sits there because it’s been there and that’s the way that grandma’s house has been for the last 50 years, right? And I think there’s so many of those couches in our organizations where we do things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them. But maybe it doesn’t serve a functional purpose and maybe it isn’t in line with what we’re trying to do today. I think sometimes those are the hard employee decisions that we don’t want to make just because we don’t want to do the hard thing and deal with that situation. It’s been fine. It’s the way it is. You know, the couch is benign and the grandma, it’s not causing any problems, but it’s really not relevant with what’s going on them today in neither grandma’s house or in our organization.

And when we see those things and don’t address them, I think we do a disservice to the rest of the organization because they know everyone can see that hideous couch is over in the corner and no one’s doing anything about it. And as leaders, we have the responsibility to not only see them, but to make sure that that couch isn’t weighing us down. We had this assumption that the only way we could serve communities was through national partnerships. So we would find a national nonprofit organization we would work with and we’ve partnered with them. And so when, when I came and I just sort of assumed that’s how we’re going to do it, that’s the way we’ve been doing it for 35 years. It’s the way Bill’s been doing it. We had this moment where, I remember my coworker, Pam and I, we sat down, we just saw Andy do one of these talks and I was like, Pam, what’s our couch?

And she’s like, it’s the partner model. And I’m like, well that’s what we’ve been doing for 35 years. And it was that moment where we realized, but it’s really not serving our purpose anymore and we can’t get the level of quality consistency out of it. And so, you know, when I started, we had one international staff who was working with these partners. We have 132 international staff, national guys working in the field now are Lifewater employees. And that never would have been what we did unless we evaluated what that thing was in our organization that was preventing us from going forward. But it’s just assumed as normal. So I think my advice would be to look at objectively at those couches as this, we’re taking these turnarounds in our day to day life. Like any at any day, we could be in a crisis. It needs to have a turnaround. So why not just do it preemptively or proactively look at those things that are the way they are, but really don’t know why and have courage to address them? And I think that helps all of our organizations get better.

Ray: I love it. That’s great. And just one thing, as I was listening to you share that analogy, I remember every time that I turned my couch upside down or I pull the cushions away, I always find something valuable. I find old change. I find a few dollars, I find an article or something. And so what I’m hearing there is take that old green couch, tear it apart. There’s going to be some value in that, but it’s probably time for a new couch. Just what I’m taking from that.

Justin: Right. I mean there’s a great organizational theory called the S curve, jumping the S curve. And it basically states that our organizations have to make changes every five to seven years or they begin to stagnate, and it’s not these huge changes. It’s just these micro adjustments to the way that we do what we do to make sure that we’re still being effective and relevant because change does happen. We can’t just stay in the past and those little changes, the more we’re objective and we can see those, there’s obviously value in that couch and the reason that couch is there, but if it isn’t serving the purpose anymore, we really have to. That’s the hard question of what would be a better way.

Ray: Fantastic. Justin, hard to believe. We are at the end of our time together. And so I have time for one more question and it’s based out of Proverbs 4:23 we’re Solomon writes above all else, guard your heart for it determines the course of your life. And so what I’d like you to do, Justin, is I’d like you to think for a second here, what is that above all else advice, that one piece of encouragement or advice that you’d like to pass along to our listeners here at Bottom Line Faith?

Justin: I think for, for me personally, what I found works for me is starting my day in quiet silence and solitude, reading the Scriptures and making that a habit, connecting with God before I do anything I do. And I think that’s something that’s so hard to do in our culture and our climate, but it does center us on the kingdom and whom we belong to. For me, even as an organization, we practice that and we’re not always perfect, but I think that’s one of those things that connects us to our life source and our core purpose, which is to be disciples and to follow our King. And if we aren’t connecting with the King every day, I think that’s hard to do. So that would be my one little takeaway, 30 minutes in the morning. Sounds old school when I say it, but like silent solitude, study of the Scriptures, making it a discipline and a rhythm has really been life-giving for me.

Ray: That’s some pretty terrific above all else advice. One more time, Justin, how can our listeners check you out, learn more about you and the ministry at Lifewater International?

Justin: Thanks Ray. It’s been a blast. Visit us at Lifewater.org or connect with me on LinkedIn, Justin Narducci, and I would love to get to know you guys.

Ray: Fantastic. Folks, this is another amazing episode of Bottom Line Faith in the books. We are so honored to have the opportunity to interview leaders like Justin who teach us and who model for us living out faith in the marketplace, sharing from their mistakes, lessons learned, how their faith in Christ guides their leadership. And in this case, is literally bringing fresh water to people across the planet. We get asked here at Bottom Line Faith from time to what’s the number one thing that you can do to help us? That is share the word, go online, give us a review, give your comments on our conversation today with Justin. The more reviews we get, the more people are exposed and hear about this. Secondly, share this with your friends. If you’re not a regular subscriber, go onto a Google Play or iTunes or Stitcher, whatever your podcast platform, subscribe and listen and share it with your friends and family and associates. Our goal here at Bottom Line Faith is to simply do this: and that is to bridge the gap between faith and leadership in the marketplace so that we as followers of Christ can be salt and light in the business world and in the marketplace. And so I want to thank you for joining us on today’s program. And until next time, I am your host, Ray Hilbert, encouraging you to live out your faith every day at work. God bless. We’ll see you next time.