My working friendship with Dan Monterde is a bit of a paradox. He was and is one of my closest friends. Our wives get along and our kids are in similar ages. This is a friendship involving our whole families.
But we had extremely disparate backgrounds – family, schooling, exposure, etc. Every once in a while something would come up that would highlight that difference. Like that time I asked him, “What’s the most criminal thing you’ve ever done?” (Can’t say the answer here. Let’s just say it was disturbing.)
We weren’t similar in many things. But we were the same in the right things – passion to disciple students, eagerness to succeed, and willingness to make sacrifices.
The other thing we loved was learning. Dan is a sponge for new things and he never hesitated to learn even if people mocked him for it. That is material for another blog – our first and second international trips together.
But one season that really stands out to me was when we worked together at the Every Nation Campus National Office.
There’s a great story behind it of leadership and humility. But I can’t say it all now. (I should probably blog that too.)
At first, I was reluctant to work with Dan because he is such a close friend. Now everyone I work with is a friend at some level, but Dan would be the first who was a friend first. (Did that make sense?) And I was afraid to be put into a position where I’d have to choose between our work and our friendship.
Here’s the thing I appreciated the most about Dan: He NEVER put me in that position. In almost three years of working closely together, I never felt angry with him for forcing me to make the right decision at the expense of our friendship.
He always worked hard, displayed the highest integrity, and had the good judgment to know when to be a friend and when to be a colleague. I don’t know of any rumors of favoritism in the office. People knew we were close and the shared history was obvious. But he never used his closeness to get extra favors, to get out of work, or even to soften the consequences of his mistakes.
When I had to correct him, he took it bravely. And when I needed to be corrected, he wasn’t afraid to tell me either.
We’d have unfiltered debates at the office. We were most heated with one another, while CJ the Wise mediated between us. After work, we’d meet our families for dinner and effortlessly switch over to friendship mode.
Our friendship only grew stronger from working together. Something that can’t be said for all such relationships.
His impact on our campus ministry in those few years were huge, having served at almost every area – regional director for Central Luzon, Hub Leader, office manager. And most famously, conference director for our Every Nation Campus conference – Ignite 2015.
Lessons I learned from working with Dan
1. Doesn’t matter where you’re different. Focus on where you’re the same.
Dan and I couldn’t be more different. But what mattered is where we’re the same. If you work with people with the same Mission, Values, and Culture as you, then you can work together. Your differences are only adding to your superpower repertoire.
2. Unfiltered communication
Look to build an environment with unfiltered communication. Some of the most stinging corrections I got as a leader came from Dan. But I appreciate all of them. If you, as the leader, show that you can take it and are grateful, your people will speak up. And it’s good for everyone if they do.
3. If you’re working with friends, don’t force them to choose.
There’s a whole new blog I can write about this. (That’s three now. Better stop.) But the simple fact is working with your friends can be a great joy or a great pain. Don’t slack off because you’re working with friends. Work EXTRA hard. Don’t take advantage. Give up more privileges. Your friendship will grow, even as your work does.