Work space is always a premium in companies. Whether you work in a cubicle or a full-fledged office with a door, a space of some sort that belongs to you (shared or not) is vital. I remember vividly a time I had the opportunity to pour over a department’s new office space design. It was a fascinating and eye-opening experience.
Some of the team members work remotely, and I noticed there wasn’t a space designated for those who are not regularly in the office. Showing this to the person on point for working out the space assignments yielded an “Aha!” moment. She was kind to listen to a relative outsider, initially explaining how that probably happened because they are rarely in the office. Could it be that they are rarely there because there is no space for them? Something to think about if you want to rub shoulders and share ideas with those valued team members…if space is made for them.
Along with space comes the idea of a place on the team. Do you know your place on your work team? What you bring to the table? What unique role you play in the mission of your organization? C-suite leaders and department heads, of course, define some of that through a title, vision, and job description. They made a place for you on the team organizationally. Your role is to carve that place out…to add value to the work of the team through your own passion and applied competencies. Also you, as team member, can add value to your colleagues by your care for them – by being “the rising tide that lifts all boats” – [Quote #30 – Adam Grant].
How exhilarating it is when our bosses communicate to us and the larger team how relevant we are to them and the work! However, that can’t be our motivation. We must set in our own minds, that as part of the team, we have that grand opportunity to make a real difference. Whether obvious to leadership or not, we can apply our best selves to the vision, to the outcome, and to the people we work with and for. Business leader John Maxwell once spoke at the Global Leadership Summit on this very topic.
Maxwell’s book Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters focuses on this idea of “adding value” to others. At first, I thought that an odd idea because people already have value. Period. Then, the more I listened to him and the more I read about healthy teams, I saw the wisdom in this. We can get absorbed in the task and the goals, and miss the people within the tasks. It is part of the whole “space and place” component of team. Give a listen to Maxwell in this brief but packed 3:40 minute video on “adding value to people”.
In the course of busy work and personal lives, we are not even thinking sometimes of the need for “space and place”. This Monday morning, spend a quiet minute maybe on the people you call team and what space and place you’ve made for them to thrive and grow. It will always come back, like Adam Grant says, to benefit you as well.
So…what if we see the value of multiethnicity in our organization, is it apparent in our makeup?
A quick assessment can come out of the 80/20 rule: when one racial group accounts for 80 percent or more of the membership (or organization).* In the US, if our company has 100 employees, and 79 or fewer are white, we are moving in the direction of being multiethnic in our makeup. Easier than counting through employees, just look at the makeup of the leadership team. That readily speaks to the direction of the organization.
I’m not talking quotas here, at all. Racial diversity is probably not the ultimate goal. It can, however, be a part of the goal.
If we are part of a mono-cultural (a racial majority) organization, there is benefit in asking these questions: Should we look more like the rest of the world? What do we communicate when we don’t? What problems do we make for ourselves in keeping the status quo? What positive impact can we have on the present and future, if we do act, moving toward multiethnicity, with intentionality?
For starters, let’s examine the components of a multiethnic organization – color, culture, compromise, and community.
In his book, Loritts paints a clear picture of color and culture as he defines 3 types of cultural expression.
C1 – Persons within a certain ethnic group who have assimilated into another ethnic group. Loritts uses one such example from our TV pop culture of a few years ago: Carlton Banks of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air -and the It’s Not Unusual dance. On the surface, these persons would seem to easily blend into an emerging multiethnic organization. They bring racial diversity without rocking the institutional boat. Will just considering skin color get us to goal?
C3 – At the other end of the spectrum, the persons within an ethnic group who absolutely refuse to assimilate within other ethnic groups or cultures. Again, from the same 90s TV show, Loritts uses a different character as a light-hearted example: Fresh Prince Will Smith Dancing. C3s do not blend into the majority ethnic group and have no intention of doing so. What they bring to an organization is ethnic definition.
Hang in there with me. Especially if you’re thinking this has nothing to do with competence or corporate excellence. There’s more.
C2 –Those persons who have the unique ability to go from one culture to another, without compromising or losing who they are in the process.
Who did Loritts give as a person we can all recognize as a probable C2? Denzel Washington. When you look down the 30-years-plus of Washington’s films, he chose to portray a wide range of characters at which we watched and wondered. C1s, C3s, and, of course, C2s. Washington is a black man with the wisdom and understanding of one who will bring his best to any situation, without losing himself.
This breakdown of cultural expressions made me take a long, hard look at my own life – if not my preferences, definitely my default. I’m a C2 wannabe in a C3 life AND organization. In earnest, I do want to be a C2, but too many actualities in my life point to the fact that I’m not there yet…but “there” is my goal.
We need C2s to grow into truly multiethnic organizations.
Compromise – To move our organizations toward a goal of multiethnicity, compromise, in the best sense of the word, will be required. As we look at our makeup and our market, we must ask hard questions of ourselves. What are we really willing to invest to get to a multiethnic leadership and true organizational partnership across cultures?
If leaders are interested in exploring and reaching beyond their particular demographic, they must understand that a lot of it has to do with …leadership. This is something that has to be flowing out of the leader. This intentionality and staffing will always prove to be a major catalyst for change. DeYmaz also issues a call for intentionality when it comes to developing diverse leadership teams…Bryan Loritts says the ideal candidate for a leadership role is what he refers to as a C2 leader. “A C2 is a person who is culturally flexible and adaptable without becoming ethnically ambiguous or hostile.” As an example of a C2 individual he points to actor Denzel Washington,as someone with the unique ability to play a variety of culturally-different roles while remaining true to himself in the process.* – Jeff Fehn
Community – With intentionality and the willingness to give space to other ethnicities and cultures, our organizations can look like and identify with the world we serve. Our products and identity can communicate both excellence, relevance, and highest humanity as we become more multiethnic. In fact, while we may strive toward diversity or multiethnicity… really the goal needs to be multiculturalism…enriching and empowering each other personally and organizationally.
While cultures are defined by their distinctiveness, community and interaction rely upon commonalities to establish unity. In order to have intercultural relationships, some accommodation must be made on one or both sides of the cultural divide. But the act of accommodation represents, to some degree, a compromise and loss of cultural values. – Mark Naylor
A truly multiethnic organization will be multicultural.
What is gained in formulating goals that bring together ethnicities and cultures with processes that encourage positive compromise and rich community? I’d say…the world.
Where will these kids work, serve, and do community one day?Photo Credit: Flickr
[Postscript: Pat Lencioni’s most recent post popped up in my email this morning, a day after my weekly post went up. He adds one other “C”: Conflict – check out his read on Diversity’s Missing Ingredient.]
If you’re like me, you might not know what that even means – Assassin’s Creed. It’s a popular videogame set in the Caribbean during the 18th century. Lots of swashbuckling, sword-wielding pirates, I suppose. The best part of this game for me (since I never played)? This guy playing this arrangement on this guitar:
Follow Beyond the Guitarhere. Every week, more music, just for us.
2) Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership Development – Carey Nieuwhof is a pastor, writer, podcaster, and leadership coach. His thinking on leadership development goes beyond the church straight into the secular workplace. He has much to offer to anyone wanting to raise up qualified leaders. His own wisdom and experience as a leader and student of leadership make him a worthy mentor. Then there are also his choices of leader interviews for his podcast. I’d like to point you to two he interviewed and then posted among his Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.
Adkins on intentionality: Leadership development requires intentionality. If you think that leadership development is going to naturally happen over time, you’re wrong. Usually leaders are also ambitious doers, and striking a healthy balance between doing and developing is only something that happens with intentionality.
Adkins on building leaders from within the organization: Are you building people or buying them? If you look at your staff and realize that you bought most or all of them, then it’s time to reevaluate your leadership development culture. There is a time or a place to buy staff, but a healthy leadership culture also produces leaders from within.
Groeschel on feedback: Create a culture where feedback is craved rather than avoided. The higher you rise in any form of leadership, the harder it is for people to tell you the truth. As a leader, your posture sets the tone throughout the organization. If you don’t ask for feedback and receive it well, you’re limiting your own growth and the growth of everyone working around you. Not only will people refrain from telling you what they think, they will also fail to hear constructive criticism for themselves.
Groeschel on delegating: Delegating empowers other leaders in your church. Lead pastors try to hold on to too much because of issues with trust and control. But delegating empowers other leaders and breaks down the limitations that come with one person carrying the load. Overtime, pastors should give up more than they could ever think possible.
3) Snow Days – Love snow days. The sparkle of sun-lit snow. The profound quiet. How all the other colors around us pop against the white background. The breaking up of routine. The pot of a favorite hot on the stove. Movies, books, fires in the fireplace. Mmmmmm.
Thankful also for all those folks out there who keep working – you medical and emergency staff, you power and water company employees, you whoever you are who still get out there in the deep cold. Thank you!
4) Internet Discoveries –The internet is replete with fascinating subject matter. The danger is being drawn off task by chasing rabbits that pop up during a “quick check” of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Here is one that happened to me this week and, as it happens, enriched my life (even momentarily). Photography is my hobby, so when the Master Class with Annie Leibovitz came up in my Facebook feed, I watched the teaser. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In the video, she talked about photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Penn Warren. He had cancer at the time and would later die from it. If you love poetry, maybe you know his work. Or that of his daughter, Rosanna Warren. I didn’t know them until now.
Studying some of Robert Penn Warren’s biography and reading father’s and daughter’s poetry was a highlight of this week’s finds.
Poetry inspires me but I am not a student of poetry. This was a momentary, fascinating find. Have you had one of those finds this week – incidental, serendipitous? Please share with us (Comments below).
5) Cost of Security – Anyone who travels on airlines (especially since the 2001 9-11 bombings) knows something of the cost of security. There have been too many other public attacks since then, moving us to give up personal privacy and freedom for the sake of safety and security. We have all been in these conversations; some of us even in on the decision-making related to security protocol.
So what makes this a find of the week? This statement made around a table of friends earlier this week: “Convenience and habits are the enemies of security.” It got me to thinking about what we are willing to give up, in terms of convenience and routines, to fortify our security (and the security of others, actually). Things like passwords and keys are not easy to keep up with, but they are essential in today’s world. Photo Credit: Slideshare
Routines or habits that make us more vulnerable might need changing. Like going back and forth to work the same time/way every day. Or running alone. Or being the last one out of the building. When we have routines in our public life, we tend to become less situationally aware. If we all do the work of assessing our own security situation and become more in tune to potential hazards, then we may avoid losing more personal freedom and privacy to other agencies given the task of keeping us safe.
Something to think about…and I have this week. Tightening up some habits and tweaking some routines.
Shyndigz – a dessert restaurant (always a pleasure, not just for the sweets but the surroundings. A beautiful experience. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Shyndigz website
Gel Pens – Celebrating these wonderful little inventions. About the time our daughter moved from pencil to pen, we were living in Cairo, Egypt. In the Korba district of the city, we found a lovely little gift shop called EveryMan’s. This was the place and the season, mid-90s, that we discovered gel pens. I was reminded of the wonder they are this week during our mid-week small group meeting. We were all women in attendance with just Dave as our only guy (which was unusual). At some point, the conversation turned to gel pens (oh, we were writing New Year’s resolutions), and we all sang their praises. Dave commented, “I feel like we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there were more guys here.” Probably…their loss, his gain to be in our mix that night.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.
[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of Warby Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]
The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare
We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.
Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:
1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn
A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.
2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn
Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.
3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn
Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.
4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn
At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).
The Energizer Bunny is an iconic symbol of its own message: “It just keeps going and going…” Such is our belief in high capacity employees and volunteers. In fact, the default is never imagine these tireless folks could run out of steam.Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr
They don’t usually. However, there are situations when their “keep going and going” is out the door.
[High capacity: Nieuwhof describes these folks as those who “can attract other capable leaders; don’t drop balls; love a challenge; constantly overperform”.]
This content is easily generalized to the workplace.
Before we launch into Nieuwhof’s observations, let’s celebrate high capacity folks for a moment. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a colleague or fellow volunteer who immediately came to mind. That person who stays long at-task after others have lost interest, determined to figure out the solution or finish the project. That person we count on to be “a rising tide that lifts all boats”. That person who carries the ball or puts all she has in the game as if the outcome depends on her. Dependable, tireless, and visionary. Like in the classroom, we in leadership roles too often focus on others more than these because 1) others are either more needy or more demanding, and 2) we figure these “energized” ones don’t need our oversight.Photo Credit: Pixabay
We communicate core values in this, whether we’re aware or not. Nieuwhof’s insight and counsel are much-needed in a high-pressure workplace or organization. For leaders who themselves are already stretched, we count on our high capacity folks to stay at the work they love and we focus our energy elsewhere. Actually, the return on such our investment here, as prescribed by Nieuwhof, would work to our advantage.
The challenge isn’t big enough. – When the role is too well-defined and task-oriented with little scope for a broader impact, high capacity individuals may lose interest. It’s less that they have to matter (to the larger organization) but that their work matters…and they can see that by the trust given to them in the challenge.
Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy. – Nieuwhof defines these as:“Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how.” If high capacity individuals are clear on the why, they can engage with the mission and go all crazy with the generation and execution of strategy. Leaders are wise to set vision and then let loose these folks to get after it.
You’re disorganized. – Plenty of us struggle with being organized. It can come with the chaotic schedule of leaders and managers. As we work with our high capacity employees and volunteers, we are wise to focus on providing them with what they need to be successful (direction, resources, right people at the table – including those in charge, on occasion). As time-consuming as this may seem, the outcomes will always be worth it.
You let people off the hook too easily. – Nieuwhof doesn’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. Without intention, we can find ourselves modeling a low-accountability, slacker-friendly work ethic. Not because it is what we value but because our own heavy work-load keeps us from moving our personnel (or volunteers) to the next level of performance. We talk about it (in meetings galore) but we struggle to truly expect it in a real (work)life situation. We keep depending on our high performers to carry the bulk of the workload. High capacity individuals don’t necessarily mind the work but they crave high standards. They see the value and want it for themselves and for those they work alongside. Again, not in a mean way but in a genuinely caring way.
You’re not giving them enough personal time. – Ouch! Where on our full to busting schedules are we going to insert time to touch base with our high capacity folks? We’re talking minutes here – fractions of time in a workweek – that will yield way more than we think. Dropping a meeting or two off our schedule to add face-time with these individuals will speak volumes to how you value them and what they bring. “Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people. Flip that.” – Carey Nieuwhof
You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers (or employees) around them. – We make a grave error in judgment when we think our high performers just want to be left alone to do their work. These individuals are often energized by others like them. They welcome opportunities to learn from and encourage each other. Turn over large projects to these folks and give them the authority and resources to run them together. Then give them the perks of such responsibility – they present on the project; their names are linked to the project; they travel to represent the project. Is it because high capacity individuals need the recognition or significance such a collaboration gives them? No. They have already had the satisfaction of doing a good work with valued coworkers. What this does is to say to the company, organization or world that their bosses truly know and publicly value their contribution. That matters.
A lot to chew on on a Monday morning. Thanks, Carey Nieuwhof. Please write another piece on how you apply this wisdom in your own workplace.
[By the way, y’all, don’t miss the Carey’s commentary on his 6 reasons AND the comments at the end of his blog – so good!]
Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area, we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.
1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.
This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.
I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:
“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” – SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest
2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.
When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.
Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:
Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.
I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.
3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.
What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo
4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings… – Proverbs 22:29
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. – Daniel 6:3
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31
The snooze-alarm doesn’t hold back the work-week, nor should it. Monday morning comes. Full of possibilities. Those of us who are Christ-followers can function as logistical agents for God. We avail ourselves of whatever our situation and allow our lives to point to God, in all His love and goodness. He will display His glory and draw people to Himself all over the world today.
Why not in our workplace?
A very wise friend of mine said once, “All of life is stewardship”. Many people have said that, but when I heard it from him, the message resonated with the vibrancy of his life. In positions of great authority and influence, his life is full of responsibility and time pressures I will never know. Yet, he stops to speak to all along his path. Encouraging, affirming, inspiring. In his travels, he is ever ready – stewarding brief encounters with strangers to share the love of Jesus with them, in word and deed. Even as I write this, I’m reminded of where that stewardship of his life originates – waking early, plunging into God’s Word, entrusting his prayers to the Lord…every single day. Out of this springs a life God can use to bring glory to Himself and to draw people to Himself.
On my worst days, I struggle with doubt and insecurity. The dark cloud of imposter syndrome hangs over my head and heart. Having known great favor in most of my career, those successes almost haunt me and disturb the joy of life that is meant to be ours…today…no matter our situation.
Like a plane careening out of control to the ground, I am urged to “pull up”. God is faithful to His children – reminding us of what is true and then giving us the grace to pursue Him in truth.
It’s not about my favor in a situation – at work or in the community. It’s about stewarding what we know God brings to any situation…if we allow Him. Being in the Word early, praying, and staying alert to Him ever in our circumstances together form a strong foundation for stewardship.
Be encouraged by the example of Daniel in the Bible. He lived for God in a pagan kingdom. We never know what God will do in our workplaces, if we bring our Sunday devotion to Him straight through to Monday. Let Him thrill you with the joy of infusing your work with His faithfulness.
As I write the sun’s going down on another work week. Friday came and has almost gone as the days shorten in Fall. Before the day passes into the weekend, here are my favorite finds of the week.
1) Super Mario Brothers – Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, Nintendo is releasing its latest version of the popular video game series: Super Mario Brothers Odyssey. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has played these games for much of his life. So many memories.
When he arranges and performs some of composer Koji Kondo‘s themes, you will hear the love and sweet nostalgia, in his playing.Check it out.
2) Great Television – So many viewing options these days with cable channels, Netflix, etc. It is amazing to me how many great shows are on TV right now, without us viewers having to be bombarded with vulgar language, and so much sex and violence. Three of my absolute favorite shows are on the regular networks. They are The Good Doctor (ABC), This Is Us (NBC), and Blue Bloods (CBS). Photo Credit: Facebook, International Business News, CBS
The writers on these shows really seem to know their audiences. Intelligent, touching, and riveting stories. I’m not going into all the reasons why these shows are favorites today, but I would love to know why you love these or other shows (please share in the Comments below).
3) Not Hoarding – In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on a project that has required much manpower and discernment. It relates to clearing out a much-loved property left “as is”, in order for the next occupants to use the space. The word “hoarding” has been thrown around several times, and I’d like to address the use of that word in today’s culture. Actual hoarding is a painful, psychologically and socially debilitating disorder.
To call anyone a hoarder is insensitive. It’s not a word that should be used casually to judge people. What some would call hoarders are actually resourceful, frugal, or innovative.
Financial planner Amy Jo Lauber posted a great piece on this: There’s a Fine Line Between Being Resourceful and Being a Hoarder. On the surface, some could appear to be hoarders, but their reasons for holding onto things make a difference. My mom and dad had two sheds full of tools and treasures when Mom died. As we cleared out those sheds, I was reminded of her reasons for having the things she had in storage – it was always to bless others. She didn’t hold onto things because they gave her some measure of comfort or stability. They were in storage and in transition, on their way to others…and she just didn’t get to finish. After she died, Dad began going through his tools and did give most of them away to family members and friends.
It’s easy to just judge people as hoarders if you don’t know them well. A key to determining if it’s not hoarding is to look for margin. Are there chairs to sit in and room to maneuver in your home or that of your friends and family? Is the kitchen usable? Can you park cars in the garage (of course, the garage is sometimes used for storage? Are material things barriers to relationships or are they just stuff?
Stuff management requires from its owner time and energy. However, so does shopping (and the finances) for replacements for the things discarded.
To judge others based on how they deal with their stuff can be as misguided as the old addiction of trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. However, we would be just as culpable if we negatively judge those who don’t hold onto things. I hope this makes sense; I’m wrestling with it this week…wanting to understand both sides.
4) Thrifting – Don’t you love discovering great finds in thrift stores? This sort of thing goes along with “not hoarding” as we reuse, repurpose, recycle. Here’s a sweet story about thrifting. One of my favorite thrift shops is West End Thrift in Richmond, Virginia. It’s just been open since the Spring of 2017. When it first opened, one of the promotions was new wedding dresses at thrift store prices.Photo Credit: Facebook
The story goes that these dresses were donated by a consignment shop owner who was retiring. She apparently had final ownership of the dresses and gave them to West End Thrift. I was only in the store once when a young woman took advantage of this great deal. She had been in the store in the Spring and had seen a dress she loved… but didn’t buy it (for whatever reasons). More recently she dropped back by, and inquired if it was still available (doubting such a possibility). The dress was still there and fit her beautifully. Here’s this lovely young woman, and a handful of store volunteers, and about the same number of customers – who in that moment were like her moms, sisters, and friends. Complete with tears and picture-taking. What we pass on to a thrift store often becomes someone else’s affordable find. Love it!
5) Simple Pleasures – Lastly, can I just go on a minute about the simple pleasures of life? God is so kind to give most moments – and even days – of complete joy. Often, these pleasures require no special planning nor a ton of resources. They are just part of this amazing gift of life. Here are a few of mine from this week:
Visits with grandchildren (if you don’t have any yourself, borrow some – their moms would probably be grateful to share).
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt wisdom, understanding, and experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.
I’ve had this experience…in fact, just yesterday. Worst is when I see it happening in the lives of people I love…Actually whether they are known to me or not, watching people being devalued or treated as inferior to others just plain makes me mad. I want to know when and how to intervene when that happens and in an appropriate manner.
I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit this year. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.
On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines two terms: “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:
“The first type drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman
[Sidebar – Diminishers are not necessarily evil people. Their focus could be so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. It’s possible some are accidental diminishers. Hopefully they will have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives. They, too, could change their habits and disciplines.]Photo Credit: Multipliers Books
A diminisher (accidental or not) holds tightly to control, is exclusive (tribal) in her relationships, gives rationale that seems well-thought-out but demeans the hearer, wants the stage, breaks down trust, and lacks care or respect for those in her charge. I shudder at the possibility that I could become such a person…but it is possible for any of us to stray into the relational style of a diminisher.
A hard-wired diminisher may not be able to change – wouldn’t see her thinking or methods as a problem, in fact, sees them as part of how she ended up in charge. However, an accidental diminisher could recover…if he saw what was happening…through over-work, too much responsibility, or having personally experienced the ill of diminishing and taking on its qualities without being aware.
I want to always be a multiplier – one who genuinely cares for people, who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.
Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under your watch in your workplace or organization, we want to offer the best leadership we can, right? However, we can all fall prey to habits over time that diminish others.
Shift from giving answers to asking questions. The best leaders don’t provide all the answers, they ask the right questions.
Dispense your ideas in small doses. If you are an idea guy who is prone to tossing out more ideas than anyone can catch, you have “the gift of gab.” Try articulating your ideas in increments. Introduce fewer ideas and leave white space. First, it creates room for others to contribute, and second, your words will be heard more frequently and will be more influential.
Expect complete work. People learn best when they are fully accountable and face the consequences of their work. Ask people to go beyond pointing out problems. Ask them to find a solution. By wrestling with it themselves, they’ll grow their capability and be able to operate more independently.
Wiseman also talks about effective leaders (or multipliers) as operating in the role of change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.
“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.” – Liz Wiseman
Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thank you, to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.
Read Wiseman’s book. I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.*