In this episode, Prince talks with David Armijo, Chief of Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation. As Chief of Programs, David oversees Hispanic Access Foundation’s health, conservation, federal internship (MANO) and special initiatives.

Discussion topics include:

  • Managing conflict on teams 
  • Having courageous conversations with volunteers 
  • Hallmarks of strong teams 
  • Practical strategies for team communication 
  • And more! 


Guest bio

David brings more than 20 years of leadership experience to his role at Hispanic Access. Coming from the corporate world and having served on several nonprofit boards of directors, his professional experience has consistently focused on serving the community and on developing and growing quality talent to meet the needs of clients, companies and all stakeholders. David’s experience began with running his own business. He later moved into leadership roles with Target Corporation and H&R Block. 

As the Director of Multicultural Initiatives at H&R Block, David worked with Hispanic Access and other nonprofit and community partners to reach local communities and share education about the importance of paying and filing taxes. 

David is also active in his church and has served in various ministries including homeless, adult education, children and marriage. David graduated from Colorado Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and received his Master of Theology from Liberty University. 


Transcript

Prince Rivers:

What does it mean to lead now, especially in the church, especially in this political and social climate? I’m Prince Rivers, and this is Leading and Thriving in the Church, a podcast from Alban at Duke Divinity. Our mission is to help you be the leader God has called you to be. It’s been my privilege to serve as a pastor for more than 20 years, and I absolutely love supporting people who lead congregations. It’s one of my passions. But doing ministry in the post-pandemic era has unearthed new leadership challenges, and it has led us to pay more attention to the need for thriving ministers and congregations. This podcast features conversations with some of the most innovative pastors, leaders, and authors I know. They’re going to help us do church faithfully and effectively, and in a way that is life-giving to those who lead and the people we serve. I’m so glad you’re listening. I can’t wait to introduce you to today’s guest on Leading and Thriving in the Church.

We are pleased today to have on Leading and Thriving in the Church David Armijo, who is the Chief of Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation. As Chief of Programs, David oversees health, conservation, federal internship and special initiatives. David brings more than 20 years of leadership experience to his role at Hispanic Access. Coming from the corporate world and having served on several nonprofit boards of directors, his professional experience has consistently focused on serving the community and on developing and growing quality talent to meet the needs of clients, companies and all stakeholders. David actually began his professional experience running his own business. He later moved into leadership roles with Target Corporation and H&R Block. David is active in his church and has served various ministries including homelessness, adult education, children and marriage. He graduated from Colorado Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and received his master’s of theology from Liberty University. David, welcome to Leading and Thriving in the Church.

David Armijo:

It’s great to be here. Excited to have a great conversation with you today.

Prince Rivers:

Excellent. So tell us a little bit about what you’re up to these days. What are you doing at Hispanic Access Foundation?

David Armijo:

Well, the organization has grown exponentially over the past year. We have several new projects that have sprung up, and so we are very excited to see the growth within our organization. We grew from a group of about 19 to 20 people three years ago to over 70 people today. Many of our initiatives – all of our initiatives, I should say – always focus on local communities and empowering local communities and providing bridges of access to leaders to empower their communities and work within their communities.

Like you mentioned, we focus on different aspects. One of our leadership initiatives focuses on faith leadership and we work very strongly with the Faith Leadership Network. However, we also grow leadership within young professionals through our workforce development, which is called MANO, My Access to Network Opportunities. We do internships with the federal government, state government and a foundation where we provide internships, start to finish. We recruit, we hire, we do the payroll, we do everything from the logistical side, but they work for these federal agencies, state agencies in different forms.

We are starting this new program where we’ll be educating young high school and middle school students that are interested in pursuing this or might not even have an interest, but we’d like for them to know that it’s something they could pursue. But we’re not just educating the children, we’re also wanting to educate parents and families to ensure that there are no barriers from that side. Often parents don’t understand it, so they don’t encourage it. We want to be able to encourage those kinds of careers.

We do forestry programs, re-forestry programs, particularly urban and community forestry programming.

So those are a few of the things that we do here at Hispanic Access, and I actually came to work at Hispanic Access through one of the first programs they did with H&R Block. We did a tax education program. I was on the corporate side, I was the Director of Multicultural Initiatives and we were working with Latino communities and nonprofits. Hispanic Access approached us and said, “Hey, we’re getting a lot of calls from our community about fraud and misunderstanding around the tax system. A lot of our community are immigrants and they get to the U.S. and don’t understand the tax system.” Which my response was, “I’ve been a citizen my whole life, and I work for H&R Block, and I often don’t understand the tax system. It’s so complicated. So I can see why it would be confusing.”

So through local churches, again, we ran this program in about 22 different communities around the country, really focused on just providing workshops on what’s a 1099? What’s a W-2? We did that for about five years and I fell in love with the organization at that point, about 13 years ago. Then three years ago, I had the opportunity to come on board as Chief of Programs, and here I am.

Prince Rivers:

I know that people come into working with nonprofits and the church through a variety of ways. Your path is not one we see every day because you started in corporate America. Do you feel like the two journeys, the one in corporate America and where you are now with Hispanic Access, and even your working in the church the way that you do, do you feel like they’re two separate journeys, like they’re connected in some way? And if connected, how do they overlap? Where do you see the symmetry there?

David Armijo:

Well, I truly believe God has been preparing me for this role for a long time. The things that I take from corporate America from a leadership perspective, the things that I was able to learn from a logistical and process perspective from corporate America have helped me in this nonprofit role, but it also helps me in ministry because I do serve in kids’ ministry at my church and I’ve been serving – I worked at the church for a time in kids’ ministry. So what I’ve been able to do in kids’ ministry has been – I feel like the foundation was laid in that corporate America leadership development and really understanding how to lead people.

Now, my father also owned his own company, so leadership has been something that I’ve experienced my entire life. I used to go to work as a young boy with my daddy, and I would see how he interacted with his team and his employees, and the respect that they had for my dad because of the way he treated them. And it taught me that being a leader is about coming alongside people, not driving people, not pushing people, setting clear expectations and then helping them succeed in those clear expectations. So I think my dad kind of set that also in motion for me as far as leadership.

Prince Rivers:

So you’ve made a couple of references to leadership. Do you have a working definition of leadership or a concept for how you think of what leadership is for you?

David Armijo:

Yeah. When I say I’m the Chief of Programs and I’m introducing what I do at Hispanic Access, people will often ask, “What does a Chief of Programs do?” And the way I see it and the way I see my role as a leader is my role as a leader is to clear the path so that my team can be successful. I don’t have to be an expert at conservation. I don’t have to be the expert at workforce development. I don’t have to be the expert on STEM or forestry. My directors are those experts. That’s why they’re in their positions. My expertise is in leadership and clearing the path and providing them the resources that they need to be successful.

I also believe that we learn from failure, which doesn’t mean that I want my team to be failing all the time. But I tell my team, “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Don’t be afraid to step out and do something different.” And if it breaks or something doesn’t work, I’m not going to come to you and be upset. My question that I’m going to do is I’m going to come to you, I’m going to ask you, “What did we learn from this? And what are we going to do differently from the experience?” Oftentimes when you do something different, it doesn’t break, it actually makes it better, and we’ll never know if it’s better if we’re just in the rut and the status quo of doing it the way we’ve always done it. I want you to break it every once in a while and push the limits a little bit and then if it doesn’t work, don’t worry that I’m going to be upset. We’re just going to sit down together and we’re going to go, “What do we do to fix it and make it better and improve the process?”

Because there’s a reason that you’re pushing the boundary because maybe the status quo isn’t working anymore, especially in an organization that’s growing. The organization of three years ago doesn’t exist anymore. So we can’t be running like an organization of 20 people when we’re an organization of 70 people. So we’re going to have things break down. We’re going to have things not work. We’re going to have things challenge us, but that’s okay. I look for the challenge and I look for the opportunities, but my job is to help them along the way to identify those breaks and help them come up with the strategy and the solution to overcome it.

Now, that’s not to say that everyone’s going to always be successful at it. There will be times when we have to hold people accountable. There are times when people will fail and fail and maybe not be the right person for the position. So you have to have those courageous conversations and say, “This might not be the best place for you, and I want you to thrive in what you’re gifted with, and this is not where you’re gifted.” And so sometimes you do have to have those conversations, but as long as I feel like I’ve provided every resource and every capacity to get them to where they need to be, I feel comfortable that that was my role as a leader.

Prince Rivers:

Yeah, you said a lot in that. So let me start with this. Can you think of maybe an example where you really did see failure or something break and it did result in something better on the other side after people processed and learned?

David Armijo:

Yeah, I can think of a few examples, but one of the best examples I had was when I worked for Target Corporation, I had a team leader who was not succeeding in their role. It was not their passion, it was not what they were designed to do. They couldn’t get it. No matter how much I tried, I wanted them to be successful, but no matter how hard I worked at it, they were not going to be successful at that particular role. And so it came to the point where we had to put them on corrective action and then gave them sufficient time to correct, it didn’t correct, gave them another opportunity, it didn’t correct. And it got to the point where I was going to have to let them go, and I was an HR partner. And so in HR, the first thing you learn is anytime you’re going to have that courageous conversation, you have a third person in the room as a witness. So it doesn’t turn into “he said, they said.”

So I brought my third person in and they were just there to observe, and I started having the conversation and just really started talking about what their gifts were and that they were not designed for this role, and I felt like this role was holding them back from what their potential was and that it was not a good fit and I was going to have to let them go. Long story short – which most of my stories turn into long stories – long story short, she ended up giving me a big hug and thanking me for letting her go and really getting her to think about the fact that it was not the right role for her. And I remember she was actually our assets protection, her name was Kelly, and when the team member left, kind of packed up their stuff and left, Kelly sat down with me and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody hug someone for firing them. You have a way of flipping the narrative.”

And I said, “I’m not flipping the narrative. I’m being honest. I think she’s very talented. She’s just not designed for this role.” And it wasn’t like we didn’t work with her. We gave her ample opportunity and she knew it was coming. She had to know it was coming because we’d had that discussion. You have 30 days to correct it. If not, we’re going to move to a final. On the final, you have 30 days to correct it, and it was not going to improve, and it was no hope for her or for us. The right thing was for her to move on to something that she would do. So there are situations like that. It’s hard. It’s not easy because you want to do well for people and you don’t want to see them lose their position, but at the same time, you also have to have the best interest of the organization in mind and the best interest of that person because she was miserable at her job because she was failing at it and she knew she was failing.

Prince Rivers:

So I’m listening to that and I agree wholeheartedly, and I’m listening now for the pastors who say, “Well, you have such great infrastructure in corporate America and the rules are clear. How do I go through a similar process in a church, maybe, where I’m dealing with a beloved staff member and I haven’t been at the church that long, or a volunteer, an unpaid person who’s been in the role, but clearly is not effective?” Any counsel, wisdom for trying to have those same kinds of conversations in an environment, in a context like a congregation?

David Armijo:

Yeah, I think it’s the same thing even with the volunteer. We’re all gifted and created uniquely, and God has a purpose for each of us. We have to figure out what that purpose is. I may have wanted to serve in adult ministry and I felt like I was very good at it. I’m a good speaker, I’m a good presenter. Give me a room of 10,000 people and I’m more comfortable than one-on-one. That’s how God created me. I am blessed – I have a group of about 120 to 150 kids that I get to teach and preach to. I have my own little kids church and we have a whole worship service, and I get to do that and it fuels me and I love doing it. But where God called me is not where I saw myself thriving. I had to be receptive to what the Holy Spirit wanted in me.

So I think oftentimes when we struggle with volunteers – and often churches are like, “I’ll just put up with it because I need a volunteer. I need a body” – I think it’s the wrong perspective to have. I think we have to have those courageous conversations with our volunteers and ask them if they’re uniquely designed for that role. And if they’re not, find them a role within the church that they can serve where they’re gifted. Because if someone has the heart to serve, again, they’re not going to be happy if they’re not succeeding.

Sometimes a volunteer might feel like they’re succeeding, and you have to help them see that they’re not succeeding where they’re at. And I’ll give you an example in kids’ ministry. If we have a volunteer who just stands around and doesn’t interact with the children – like in the worship hour, our volunteers help keep the kids engaged in worship, and then we also have activities where they come together and connect with those kids. Well, if they’re not connecting with those kids, we have to have those conversations: “Hey, this is kind of my expectation. This is a great time for you to disciple these kids. We’ve set aside this time to disciple them. How can I help you?” Training, coming alongside them, but also holding them accountable that I have an expectation. My expectation is that you’ll be discipling kids and if it doesn’t work, then you have to have that conversation of, “Is this really where you want to be serving? Is this really the right place for you?”

And we’re often blessed with students whose parents are like, “Go volunteer in kids’ ministry because I don’t want you running around the church.” And oftentimes it might be a struggle for some of those students. That’s not where they want to be. It’s where mama and daddy want them to be. So they’re kind of contained. So you may even have to have that conversation with parents and say, “They’re really not gifted, or this is really not the place for them to serve. There are plenty of opportunities to serve in a variety of ways.”

So really working with them to make sure that they are being fulfilled and that they are meeting God’s call in their life, whatever that looks like. I always tell the kids, “We’re all designed differently. Some of us are called to go around the world.” I’ve been to Africa, the Ukraine, Colombia, and I’m going to Mexico in two weeks, but not everybody is called to do that. I’m called to be in kids’ ministry. As a matter of fact, we were looking for opportunities for Easter Sunday on how our life group was going to serve, and one of them was kids’ ministry, and of course I’m like, “Y’all should come help us.” And they’re like, “No, we’re going to be greeters. It’s not what we’re designed for.” I get it. We’re not all designed to love the same thing and pursue the same thing, but we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made. We just have to tap into that.

Prince Rivers:

Yeah, that is so true. I know that sometimes we assume that maybe because someone is young, they’re a teenager, and they’re kind and gentle, that they would automatically love working with little children. And I have made that assumption myself, and I love the honesty that I’ve gotten back from some people: like, “No, I really don’t enjoy that. So I want to help in other ways, but that maybe is not my forte, not the way I’m designed,” to use your language.

One of the things that you’ve talked about a couple of times is the teams that you work with, the teams that you’ve had in corporate America, the teams that you work with even today in church and certainly at Hispanic Access. What are some of the hallmarks of strong teams?

David Armijo:

I would say great teams are made up of great communication and great expectations, making sure that your team knows what your expectations are and that we have clear communication. I’m a talker. I’ve had to learn … my grandma used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you talk.” And she used to tell me, “You should have two mouths and one ear because you talk twice as much as you listen.” But I’ve had to learn that listening is paramount in leadership. I have to hear about the needs of my team, but I also have to set clear expectations of what that is, and if there is not a clear expectation, then you’re going to have failure on your team.

Recently I had a conversation with someone. We were talking about something we heard, and as we were discussing it, we both realized we had heard two completely different things and we were approaching the situation from two completely different angles, which were counterproductive. The way she heard it and the way I heard it were two different things, and we had to clarify what we heard. Because we were trying to solve a solution, and I was off on right field and she was out in left field, and neither of us were ever going to solve the problem because we had two different perspectives. Had we not sat down, had a discussion and come back together to really listen and understand the need, we would’ve probably both been off the target.

So oftentimes it’s also checking for understanding. Does your team really understand when I say XYZ, do they know what XYZ is? Because if they don’t, they’re going to go on what they believe, and oftentimes that causes problems within a team because your team member’s doing what they think is the right thing and you’re frustrated with them because they’re not doing the right thing.

Then it creates this tension of the team member going, “Man, I’m not even being recognized for all this great work I’m doing. All I’m getting is harped on and I’m doing exactly what I’m being told, and my boss is just on me.” And the boss is like, “Why are they not doing what … I was clear.” Obviously there’s a lack of communication, so check for understanding. “Do you understand what I’m talking about? Tell me again what you heard. Did you understand what the needs are? Would you explain it back to me so I can hear how you heard it?” Those are key.

Then the other thing is trust. I have to trust my team. Like I said, trust is really important. If it breaks or something goes wrong, my team has to trust that they can come to me and say, “Hey, it didn’t work.” I don’t want them hiding it, I don’t want them trying to Band-Aid it behind me so that I think that they’re doing well. I’d rather them come to me and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m failing.” I want to hear those words from them, but I have to have that trust with them in order for that to happen. If we don’t have trust, then it’s not going to happen. So I think trust is paramount in leadership.

Prince Rivers:

Yeah, that’s great. I know that sometimes, especially preachers and pastors, we think we are communicating when we are talking or we just haven’t said it enough. Can you think of some really practical, effective strategies for team communication, sort of like on a daily basis or weekly or monthly, just to kind of ensure that the team is hearing? Are there things that you do with your teams, things that you would encourage pastors or pastoral leaders to do with their teams?

David Armijo:

Well, probably the most powerful word I’ll use here is “relationship.” Ensure you have a great working relationship with your team, and that means just beyond work. And I don’t mean … you don’t have to have a personal relationship, you don’t have to be friends, but you need to know about who they are, what they stand for, what they believe, where they come from. All those things are important. In culture, we have what I call the outside view of culture. We can surmise about someone’s culture based on how they dress, how they talk, how they speak, the foods they eat. Those are all these visual things about culture, but there may be things that are hidden in our culture – sense of harmony, sense of time – which are maybe cultural norms for some people. So you have to kind of understand that about people too. Why does somebody react the way they do in a situation?

The other thing is also understanding that we all process differently. I’m a rash, quick thinker. I want a solution right now, and I’m probably going to give you a solution immediately because that’s just the way I process. I’m a quick processor, I’m quick to think, I’m quick to do, but I’m also a big visionary person, so details are great, but I don’t want to get in the details. I just want to give you that big vision and then we’ll create the details later. That doesn’t work for somebody who’s a slow processor, who needs a lot of details. So to have good clear communication on the team, I have to know who the people on my team that are maybe introverted, they take longer to process because they’ll get left behind in a team meeting. Us quick thinkers, we’re quick thinking, we’re already designing, we’re already like four steps ahead, and that slow introverted processor’s like, “I’m trying to figure this out.” And they probably have brilliant ideas, but we’re three days ahead of them. In the 20 minutes, we’ve already built the rocket ship and we don’t even have fuel for it.

And the slow processor’s trying to figure out, “How are we going to get fuel to the rocket ship? They built this rocket ship in the middle of the desert, how are we going to get fuel to it? Because they built it so quick, they didn’t think about we should have built it near a fuel station.” And that’s what happens. And then it’s like, “Oh, why didn’t you speak up? Why didn’t you tell us that we should have built the rocket ship next to this fuel station?” And they’re like, “Well, I was trying to process everything you were doing.” So you have to understand where people are coming from, understand your team dynamic. Are they introverts? Are they not going to speak up unless asked? I often have to ask my team, “So-and-so, what do you think of what we’re talking about?” And now with that trust, they’re able to say, “I need some time to really think about it.”

“Great, well, let’s all slow down and come back to this again later and work on it. In the meantime, let’s set some milestones and some deliverables that we can all work on in that timeframe instead of us quick builders trying to build it quickly.”

Prince Rivers:

And this is especially true, I think, inside of a church leadership environment. You’ve got 12 people sitting around a table and there’s a great idea for vision out there, and you’ve got people who are really ready to go with it, and some people who we might think are resistant to the idea, but they’re processing it differently.

David Armijo:

Exactly.

Prince Rivers:

And if we aren’t attentive to that, we can get discouraged instead of leaning into the communication even more to at least help them understand what the idea actually is. Have you seen that?

David Armijo:

Yeah. And also from a cultural perspective, in many cultures hierarchy is important. So if the pastor says, “We’re going to do this” – well, the pastor said it, so we’re all going to do it. So they’re not going to push back. They’re not going to throw their idea out because the pastor, he’s in charge.

I experienced it when we went to the Ukraine because I was the team leader on the team for the Ukraine. The person that was our point person never spoke to anyone on my team. They would only come to me and decisions that needed to be made by other people on my team would have to go through me because I was the leader.

So hierarchy is really important, and we have to understand that, that our positional power may hold people back, and I tell my team, “When you look at the org chart or you look at our” –  we call it our accountability chart – “when you look at our accountability chart, I may be at the top of the chart, and I want you to flip that because the community, my associates, my managers, my directors, and then me, the community is the most important. The people doing the work, the associates that are out in the field doing the work, they’re the second most important because they’re helping that community. I am the least important person on the org chart, so don’t let my title get in the way of great ideas because I don’t know the answers. I don’t have all the great ideas, and I want us all to work in tandem together to create those great ideas.”

And I’m an extrovert to the extreme, I’m a quick processor, so don’t let me stifle your creativity because I’m shooting 10 things out because I also process externally. I can be sitting alone in my office, but I’m talking to myself because I’m an external processor. I have to hear it to process it. So I may be shooting 10 ideas out. Doesn’t mean we’re running with those 10 ideas. I’m just trying to process them too but that’s the way I process. So making sure that people are clear on how we process things, how we do things, because my position, I could say, “Let’s go build a rocket ship in the desert with no fuel anywhere near.” And [with that] positional power, a lot of people on my team might go, “Well, the boss said we’re going to do it, so we’re going to do it.”

So I think in church, that’s the same way. Sometimes a pastor will say, “This is my vision. This is what I’d like to see the church do.” Immediately that becomes the gospel for them: “Oh, the pastor said we’re going to do this, so we’re going to make it happen.” And maybe that pastor’s like me, just externally thinking, “these are the things I’d like to,” but nobody will speak up. So giving people room and space to have their creativity come to light, and then recognizing that in yourself. I think pastors need to take a step back and say, “I recognize that I often get in my own way,” and we have to be honest with ourselves that we are the root of the problem, not necessarily our team.

Prince Rivers:

So I heard two things in that: the importance of relationship so that people can have the freedom to express themselves and the importance of self-understanding. I mean, you know yourself to be an external processor, you know yourself to be an extreme extrovert, and so you know what’s going on when you’re doing certain things. But if I don’t know what’s going on when I’m doing what I’m doing, then maybe I assume that either other people get it, other people see it, understand it, or I may also assume that if everyone else isn’t doing what I’m doing, then something’s wrong with them, which can have negative consequences for the team as well.

David Armijo:

That’s right.

Prince Rivers:

Yeah. Yeah. So when we deal with differences, which we will on a team, this will inevitably involve conflict somewhere, somehow. It’s just the nature of human beings. So what do you want to say to the person who is really trying hard to figure out how to manage conflict on a team that they’re leading?

David Armijo:

There’s an expression we use in our marriage ministry, and it’s “draw the circle.” Draw a circle around yourself and then fix everyone inside the circle. Recognize that you’re part of the problem. Recognize that maybe it’s your view of the other person or your misunderstanding, but work on you first and then address the conflict. So there wouldn’t be a conflict if it wasn’t two-sided. If it’s only one-sided, there’s no conflict, because if I’m not disagreeing, there’s no conflict. There’s a reason there’s a conflict: [it’s] because [there’s] two of us. So you have to recognize your part in the conflict, and then you have to be willing to humble yourself and make compromises.

My grandma was so wise. She used to say, “We should listen for understanding. We shouldn’t be listening to respond.” You should be listening to understand what the person’s telling you and then take time to respond. But we’re often listening just to get our point in. We’re trying to win the battle. We’re warriors, and we want to win that battle. And so we’re just listening for the break in the talking. It’s like Charlie Brown’s parents: wa, wa wa, wa, wa. And then you jump in with your wa, wa, wa, and they’re waiting to respond and nobody’s really listening to understand what the other person’s saying. So in conflict, it’s a matter of slowing down, taking the time to really understand the other person’s point of view. You don’t have to agree with the other person’s point of view, but you have to understand the other person’s point of view and then agree to compromise because it’s going to take compromise to resolve a conflict. There’s nothing written that says one of you has to win. There’s a win-win in there somewhere or a lose-lose for both of you. You both have to give up and you both have to gain something from it. But there’s no written law that says one of you has to come out ahead.

I think really if we look biblically, if we were truly following biblical principles, it would be like, “I’m going to let you win this one.” That’s how Jesus taught us. “I’m going to let you win this.” However, Jesus was not a doormat. He held people accountable. He made people think. He brought it into a perspective that people could understand his point of view without being disrespectful to their point of view. Sometimes he did push the limits with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He might call them out, but that was okay, that was needed. But I don’t believe that we need to often, especially in working with our volunteers or working with our staff, it’s just a matter of that compromise and humbly accepting and understanding where they’re coming from.

Prince Rivers:

That sounds a lot like servant leadership, which you and I have talked offline a little bit about that. Is that something you try to lean into, servant leadership?

David Armijo:

Absolutely. And like I said, I think I experienced that from my father growing up. He was a servant leader. He was tough. He was a man of his word, and his word was important, and what he stood for was important, and his team knew that. But they also knew that my daddy was there for them anytime he needed them, that my dad would be there to support them in anything that they needed. Even financially, his team knew that if they were in a financial bind, they could come to my dad and my dad would help them.

Also, just from a resource standpoint, just providing them with … My dad owned a plumbing company, and I can’t tell you how many people he raised up to own their own plumbing companies. He didn’t consider it his competition. He considered it a way of raising people up. My dad used to say, “I’ll let my reputation speak for itself. If they want to go somewhere else, then that’s up to them. But my customers are loyal to me because of the reputation and how I treat my people. And so I’ll let that be. And I’m not worried about another plumber in town.” And we didn’t live in a big town so they couldn’t have too many plumbers. “But there’s always work, there’s plenty of work to go around. I can’t do all the plumbing, so it’s okay if I raise somebody up and they become a great plumber, good for them.”

Prince Rivers:

That is a great legacy, and certainly I can hear how it has inspired you and your work and your leadership, and I know that you’re making your dad very proud in the way that you’re doing what you’re doing.

So let me back up and ask one more question. I’ve heard the influences from your dad, your grandmother. Who gave you sort of what you think of as your best leadership advice, and what did they tell you, David?

David Armijo:

He actually was my boss at Target, and then he brought me over to H&R Block. We were talking about budgets one time, and actually I was at Target at the time, and I had a budget for team parties and investing in our team. And I went over on my budget on all the great events that I was doing. And so we were going through the budget and it came up that I had overspent on all these great activities I was doing for the team, investing in the team. And he sat back and he laughed and he said, “If you’re going to overspend, overspend on your people. Invest in your people because the rewards and what you get, the gain, the ROI in investing in your people will be more profitable. And that’s why our store is so successful, because we make our team feel valued.”

Your volunteers in a church, if they are serving and don’t feel like they’re adding value, they’re not going to stay. People don’t leave positions. They leave leaders. I’ve had people say, “I got a job offer and it pays more and it’s doing this other thing, but I don’t want to leave because I want to stay working for you, so I’m going to stay here because you’ve invested so much.” And they see the value of a great leader investing in them. And I encouraged my team. One of my directors just left our organization, and when she called to tell me that she was thinking about leaving, she was pretty emotional. And I said, “Don’t be emotional. This is a good thing for you. I want to see you succeed whether you’re within the organization or outside of the organization, and you have to do what’s right for you.” And I think that’s part of that is ensuring that we’re investing in our people. You can’t go wrong when you invest in your people.

Prince Rivers:

Well, we can see that in the work that you’re doing. You’re sowing into children for the kids’ ministry, you are investing in your team, and you’ve been doing that for a long time, and I know that will pay huge dividends and bear much fruit in the future. And David, I just want to say this has been a real treat to talk with you and get to know you and hear about the work that you’re doing, and I wish you all the best as you continue to invest in more and more and more people.

David Armijo:

Well, thank you so much for this opportunity to chat with you. It was great chatting with you. I love sharing my story, so thank you for allowing me that.

Prince Rivers:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Leading and Thriving in the Church. This podcast is produced by Emily Lund and recorded in the Bryan Center Studios on the campus of Duke University. I’m your host, Prince Rivers. If you want more great leadership content, be sure to check out our website alban.org, where you can sign up for the Alban Weekly newsletter, and make sure you subscribe to this podcast on your preferred podcast platform so we can keep you informed as we release new episodes. Until next time, keep leading.


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