Ethical Edge

By Russell Williams

Ethical Edge

Preaching Often – Words Not Necessary

The Ethical Edge
The Art of Integrity
Preaching Often – Words Not Necessary


International HR Consulting and M&A Services

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
St. Francis of Assisi

I began working at World of Maths when I was 18 as a first-year college student in South Africa.  I had just received my driving license and was missing working, having given up a high school job at the local supermarket to begin college.  World of Maths provided me the opportunity to work with high end, in-home math tutoring to students all around Johannesburg.

Just over a year later, I was about to begin my final year of Actuarial Science and Statistics Studies. This class was considered the hardest course on campus and free time was at a premium. At that very same time, my manager, Hugo Mendes, asked whether I’d become the manager of one of the two branches of World of Maths.  In addition to my studies and teaching, I would now be tasked with everything from new business, new tutor applications, weekly meetings with all 19 tutors plus administrivia.  I accepted the position.

Two months in, I was overwhelmed.  Five days a week I had classes until 3pm before hitting the office to work until 8pm, followed by college homework. Saturdays were split… half at work and half in study. Sundays were study-only days. There was simply no down time. I knew I was failing my first Real Life test and it was sending me into panic!

As I was spiraling down, Hugo never wavered in his love for me. He sat me down to explore how I felt. He asked me what could be done to support me. He pushed me to come up with new ways to solve the issue of managing my life challenges. I didn’t quit.

As the year went on, Hugo stepped with me into every challenge. When I messed up, he was gracious, yet a Truth-Teller. When I clumsily quoted music lyrics in a note to express my frustrations, he insisted on a meeting with me to work it through. Nothing passed unnoticed with Hugo’s graceful attention.  Somehow, his accompanying guidance was the difference-maker for me.

It’s no coincidence that Hugo was the one I called when I had my first date with the woman who became my wife.  He was the one who got me ready with roses and champagne!

The night my sister died, I called Hugo…and I would call him again.  Each time Hugo insisted on face-to-face meetings to help me move through today’s turbulence. While he was a solid Christ-follower, he never preached down to me.  I was an atheist at that time.

I left South Africa in 1999. Today in 2013 Hugo remains a close friend. He continues to lead and inspire me in the same nurturing, yet directive way.  May I preach half as well as he does… with many actions and few words.


This week’s article was contributed by Iain Jones. He writes in his private capacity.

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