Jim Amandus knows that regardless of an organization’s size, whether it’s a nonprofit or a for-profit, the issues are pretty much the same: How do you develop and keep staff? How do you have the right people in the right place? How do you resolve conflict?
“The number one plague isn’t finding, but keeping people,” said Jim. “The issue that separates the Fortune 500 from everyone else in the marketplace is the ability to resolve interpersonal conflict. More money is wasted by workers withholding information and talent because they’re [angry]. It doesn’t matter what size organization you’re talking about, the ability to resolve conflict is paramount to the health of that organization.”
Not a Pastor, Definitely Not a Pastor
Jim was born and raised in Southern California, the son of a Navy man and grandson of Swedish immigrants. After high school, he attended UCLA to study teaching and, having inherited a strong entrepreneurial drive from his family, business. He planned to do something in business while working as a public school teacher with at-risk kids.
Halfway through his degree, Jim became curious about the Bible. So curious, in fact, that he decided to go to Bible school right then and there.
“I wanted to learn the Bible, because I didn’t believe in the Bible,” he said. “I had been studying comparative religions and actually involved in comparative religions. I had friends that were Jewish and Roman Catholic. This was coming out of the mid ‘60s and ‘70s, there was a lot of free thinking. I went to Bible school to try to disprove the Bible was true, and couldn’t. I was actually amazed at the impeccable accuracy of the Old and New Testaments.”
After Bible school, Jim still wanted to learn more. Not that he wanted to be a pastor or anything — not a chance. Jim’s desire was to serve street kids. In fact, right after they were married, Jim and his wife went to work with the youth they found living on the streets of Portland. They started a club that grew from three or four kids to 70 or 80, and started talking about doing something similar overseas, maybe in Europe (Germany, specifically) or South America.
But first, Jim attended Dallas seminary to learn to read and write Greek and Hebrew. After that, the Amanduses started making their plans to go into the mission field.
That’s when Jim’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The diagnosis completely changed their plans. An opportunity arose for Jim to serve a church as the one thing he never intended to be, a pastor. Needless to say, he was reluctant, but his mentor told him churches with mission-minded pastors needed as much as missionaries were.
So Pastor Jim served at a church in Oregon, then another in California before heading north to become the senior pastor at Highlands Community Church in Renton. During the 30 years he served in that role, Jim was able to work with national leaders in hard-to-reach countries, served as president for Rotary in Renton and partnered with Rotary internationally on their objective to eradicate polio worldwide.
“That’s what I’ve been about, strategic partnership and leadership development, both locally and globally,” said Jim. “Here in the Puget Sound, we’ve partnered strategically with Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, Young Life, World Relief, World Vision.”
Jim also continued to feed his entrepreneurial drive by working with business leaders, executives and politicians at the local and state levels.
“I’ve always believed what Wilberforce said when he stepped into emancipation in England. He said politicians are the permission-givers, business leaders are the ones that can make it happen, but church leaders are the ones with the vision and direction.”
Jim’s experience brought him to understand, over the course of his educational and professional life, how conflict impacts an organization. He became an expert at teaching people how to resolve it, even teaching conflict resolution at the doctoral level. His initial interest was personal.
“I was really good at creating conflict,” he said. “I was not good at resolving conflict. I learned that I needed to take responsibility for my own crap, but I learned it early on coming here that there’s a lot of my own stuff that I continue to work through. So, as I dealt with my character flaws, I helped the team deal with issues as they arose.
"Talk about synergy and unity and the ability to share ideas and thoughts! This is what moved us, moved our team to be a place where people wanted to be.”
He’s not exaggerating. Jim retired after three decades from a role with an average turnover of two years. At the time of his retirement, every member of his team had been there for at least 12 years, including a youth pastor who had spent 19 years in a position that boasts an average turnover of a single year. In addition to this longevity, the church also had a pipeline of leaders Jim and his team were actively developing, which he said helped the church grow, stay relevant and remain flexible.
Leveraging Decades of Experience
After Jim retired from Highlands, he took some time off to focus on his family and do some reflecting. During this time, his friend Tom Dabasinskas told him about OneAccord. Jim started paying attention to what OneAccord was up to, and early this year decided to join the team.
“I wanted to leverage my gifts and my experience in a meaningful way,” Jim said. “OneAccord is a place to build a team, as well as a place to work through a team that is pretty selfless. It’s not about money, it’s about making a difference. That’s what I see. And business men and women, they know how to make money, but what most impressed me about the men and women I’m meeting at OneAccord is they know how to make a life. They live life meaningfully, they live life on purpose.
“There’s more to life than money. I see that — the OneAccord model is about principally speaking to leaders with compassion and truth, to care. We really do care about the leader, the founder, the team, and we’re going to speak the truth. We’re skilled, we know how to do that well. As we address leadership issues, they‘re going to be more effective.”
When Jim isn’t working, he enjoys scuba diving, hiking and wakeboarding. When it gets really cold, he and his wife, Lauri, love to visit the sunshine and warm waters of Mexico or Hawaii. Lauri still lives with the diagnosis of terminal cancer she received more than 30 years ago.
“She’s infinitely rare with what she has, her case,” said Jim. “People who have this die from it. Ninety-nine percent get it age 60 and older — she was diagnosed in her twenties. She’s gone through therapies and treatments and on and on and on. We live each day as if it’s our last and we love life. She’s amazing.”
Jim and Lauri have four adult children. The first three were grown and out of the house when they decided to adopt their youngest, an at-risk 7-year-old from Siberia who is now in college.