Recognizing God’s control lifted burden for company owner

| August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

John Norris

Owner, Atscott Mfg, Inc.

Age: 67
Parish: St. Charles Borromeo, St. Anthony
Spouse: Nancy
Volunteer activities: Pine Technical College Foundation Board, Knight of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Catholic Services Appeal executive board, Twin Cities Legatus, parish finance council, parish lector
Education: University of Minnesota, 1973

Q: What does leading with faith mean to you?

A: Leading with faith is about example and witness of our Catholic precepts in word and action each day and in every moment. It is about the way we treat people as individuals and the values they bring to a team. [It’s] to see Jesus Christ in every person we meet [and] his will in every decision we make and in every action we take. Projecting Christ’s love for others and joy in all personal interactions is leading with faith.

Q: How do you concretely apply your faith and Catholic values at work?

A: Most of my coworkers know my faith and its importance in my life. In my office hangs a copy of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” which I installed after reading [Father] Henri Nouwen’s book of the same name. Nouwen describes the father, sons and onlookers in the painting in detail and makes the case that everyone at one time or another is each character represented in the painting. But it is the father’s character offering unconditional love and forgiveness that is the most desirable to emulate. Atscott Mfg. is a contract manufacturer in an extremely competitive and challenging business field. In this environment, things go constantly awry with pressure to quickly respond and correct problems. I have come to acknowledge that all want to do their best, I trust in others’ judgment to make good decisions, and I work to project joy and interject fun into stressful situations. These actions help me apply my faith at work.

Q: Describe a time when applying your faith at work really made a difference.

A: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I cannot recall the day or even the events that changed my approach to managing my business. For most of my work life, the weight of success or failure rested squarely on my shoulders alone. At some point, I recognized this dependency was a form of pride that permeated my every action. When I acknowledged that both positive and negative events were gifts from God, my outlook and management style changed. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I began to share responsibility and control with others. My management concentrated on supporting others’ effort in their jobs. The released burdens opened up more joy and gratitude for God’s gifts into everyone’s workday.

Q: Who or what has been most inspirational to you in bringing your faith to the marketplace?

A: Managing a business is a balancing act that I have not always balanced very well. My No. 1 inspiration is my wife of 47 years. Nancy covered for me in my absences during late nights and weekend work, kept me grounded in faith and humble in life. Her sacrifice and love for me has been unwavering and an inspiration. Business associates who have impacted my life include my good friends I see each month at Legatus of the Twin Cities. Many have been recognized with past Leading With Faith awards. Fred Zimmerman, professor emeritus at St. Thomas, is a mentor and a master at diffusing tense situations with a kind sentence that is to the point, well crafted and a joyful statement of fact. Lane Freshwater, a retired 3M Black Belt who has battled a rare kidney disease for 20 years, maintains his positive attitude through his adversity with the phrase, “Let go, let God.”

Q: What achievement at work are you most proud of?

A: First, through 37 years of economic ups and downs, Atscott has maintained a positive bottom line thanks to the hard work of many. Second, Atscott has provided stability for employees with 13 current employees with over 30 years of service, and retiring 15 people with more than 40 years of service. Third, while medical insurance cost has skyrocketed, Atscott has continued to cover 75 percent of both single and family medical coverage costs for over 20 years. Fourth, Atscott has returned 25 percent or more of its profits over many years through employee bonuses. I am grateful to God for these gifts and the people in my life who are key to these successes.

Q: In what specific ways have you experienced God’s presence in your workplace?

A: The events that are most touching to me are retirement parties. Atscott was started in 1963, and we have witnessed the retirement of many wonderful, capable and hardworking employees during this time.

Q: What advice do you have for others who want to lead with faith?

A: I have a long way to go, but I have come from a long way back. I can only offer the activities that have improved my Catholic leadership: 1) Read and study Catholic literature regularly about our faith, our saints, our history and our Scripture to better understand and appreciate the gift Christ gave us in his Church. 2) Make an effort to start and end each day in a prayer of thanksgiving and reflection. 3) Use the sacrament of confession to be aware of our own weaknesses and better understand and forgive the weaknesses of others. 4) Attend Mass as frequently as possible. 5) Spend an hour a week with the blessed sacrament to seek God’s will in our leadership. 6) Attend an annual retreat for a few days of quiet reflection on life’s directions. I believe it was Socrates who said, “A life without reflection is a life not worth living.”

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Category: Leading With Faith