The Sharpened Blade

The Sharpened Blade
Issue 8 // 3rd Quarter // 2014 Category:Development By: Jessica Burchfield

Mentorship is a buzzword in today’s corporate culture; everyone wants to know how to be successful. Founded by Jeff Simmons, EDGE Mentoring, an initiative of Truth@Work, is a national program of hands-on mentorship between an established mentor and a young mentee. Uniquely positioned within corporate America, EDGE has made it their mission to equip the next generation of leaders with biblically based leadership skills that both sharpen professional expertise and offer spiritual accountability.

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 ESV

Where It All Began

In 2008, Jeff Simmons was named Senior Vice President of Eli Lilly and President of Elanco, a division of Lilly that maintains animal health and champions the cause of defeating global hunger. As a successful businessman with a blossoming career, Jeff’s heart was drawn towards the next generation of corporate leaders, and he began to design the blueprint of mentorship that would grow into the EDGE program.

Based upon a platform of stewardship and biblical principles, EDGE puts Proverbs 27:17 into practice. Jeff felt strongly that it was important to build godly leaders who practice stewardship in their personal and professional lives, while maintaining relevance within their chosen profession. By seamlessly integrating faith and work, EDGE accelerates the development of young professionals and drastically increases their value as employees.

In the beginning, Jeff identified three young men that he knew possessed high leadership potential, and twice a month, he would host an hour-long conference call. Today, EDGE mentors currently operate almost 30 individual groups with roughly 130 mentees in close to 20 states. Organically springing up across the country and operating in a silo framework, each mentor hosts a group conference call twice a month with his or her mentee while inspiring local accountability through face-to-face meetings and one-on-one phone calls. Additionally, once a year, mentees attend the America’s Best Hope conference, a catalyst event hosted by EDGE that actively confronts the need for mentorship and sharpens the focus of young professionals through special speakers and conference events.

How It Works

Dave Neff, Executive Director of EDGE and one of the inaugural EDGE mentees, believes that God laid Ecclesiastes 10:10 upon Jeff Simmons’ heart, and he responded in kind. “He wasn’t looking for ways to fill his calendar,” said Dave, “He believed in the importance of investing in young, emerging leaders, not only by focusing on how quickly they can climb the corporate ladder, but also by instilling the importance of stewardship into the marketplace. God calls us as business leaders to integrate our faith into our work, to temper the platform of success with godly leadership, and to lead our businesses with grace and humility.”

The concept of mentorship is not exclusive to the EDGE program; transactional mentorship exists in many corporations. However, EDGE is one of the premiere organizations that place emphasis upon the whole of a man, thus creating generational change within his business and personal life. Relying upon men and women of high caliber who are humble in their faith and accomplished in their careers, EDGE is a unique blend of corporate resources and spiritual truths designed to support and inspire the next generation of corporate leaders.

Dave aptly describes his EDGE group like this: “I am invested in my EDGE group, because it is a community of like-minded men, seeking to grow and be better leaders in our careers, yes, but also in our homes as husbands, fathers, and men who make a difference. EDGE is based upon Christian principles. I haven’t seen any other mentorship organization doing what we’re doing. We’re faith-based, and we don’t back down from that.”

EDGE prepares businessmen and women to integrate faith into their personal and professional selves. “We all have a defining moment,” said Dave. “It’s the moment when your business and your faith collide. When the topic of faith comes up, how do you respond? What is our role as leaders? Do we turn a blind eye when we observe unethical conduct, or do we confront it with a humble, godly manner? By integrating faith into our corporate lives, we believe that we can effect change upon American business culture.”

Rather than achieving a level of independence from a mentorship program, EDGE believes that the higher one climbs within an organization, the greater the need for accountability. Ideally, once mentees become successful within their careers, they will become mentors of their own EDGE group or join the roundtable parent organization, Truth@Work, a nationwide accountability organization of Christian business leaders who are established within their careers, seeking to join with their corporate peers to remain both spiritually and professionally effective.

"If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 ESV

Why It Succeeds

The success of the EDGE program falls upon the mentor’s shoulders. There is a desperate need for businessmen and women to stand upon godly principles within the workplace. Following the biblical examples of Esther, Joseph, and Daniel, EDGE mentees are encouraged to use their profession as a platform for marketplace ministry.

“In the end, EDGE works because the Holy Spirit is a huge part of the program,” said Dave. “God brings mentors and mentees from different geographies with various hobbies and personalities together to change corporate culture. The high caliber of people within the organization makes it attractive to the young professional. A-players attract other A-players, don’t they? Success is attractive! EDGE mentors walk the walk of success as well as talk the talk of biblical effectiveness. They model it in their own lives. Who wouldn’t want to pick their brain? EDGE is the premier emerging Christian leader-mentoring organization, not only because we teach how to become successful, but also because we integrate our faith into all that we do, both behind a desk and at the kitchen table.”