Category Archives: Life Skills

Monday Morning Moment – Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – with Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Chinese Philosopher Lao Tse

Photo Credit: Waggl

We have all encountered people in life who are bright stars in our universe. They aren’t necessarily those who climb the corporate ladder or win public office. However, in their own niche, in their own small place in a company or community, they are brilliant change agents, people making a difference and moving us to a better situation. Just by showing up.

[Please take the time to share in Comments your experience of such a person – either at work or in your family or friend space.

Organizational change is usually driven from top-down planning and execution. Occasionally, those changes are not received well by the company employees or organizational members. Ownership doesn’t follow and at some point the change fizzles into something altogether different.

Wouldn’t it be wisdom to create successful and sustainable change? What is missing from typical change orchestration? Is change planned in the isolation of the executive conference room or in the company of those most impacted by the change.

Business authors and educators Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin wrote several years ago about the very environment where positive and impactful change takes place. Their piece is titled Your Company’s Secret Change Agents and was introduced to me by a friend in a huge time of change himself. I wondered if his own situation resonated with this piece.

Pascale and Sternin write about the power of positive deviance. it is defined below.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.

Five basic steps serve as the backbone of the approach. The 5 D’s are:

  1. Define the problem, its causes and common practices, and articulate desired outcome.
  2. Determine presence of PDs,
  3. Discover their uncommon but successful behaviors & strategies through PD inquiries,
  4. Develop activities based on the inquiry findings
  5. Discern (monitor and evaluate) the results. – Positive Deviance Initiative

The Power of Positive Deviance – How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems – Richard Pascale, Jerry & Monique Sternin (Slideshare produced by Melih Arat)

Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin

The Power of Positive Deviancy – Jerry Sternin and Robert Choo

What Pascale and Sternin discovered was the essential component to change embraced by those impacted was the work done to find and learn from those “positive defiants” in the particular community. The practice of PD inquiry sorts out who those persons are and then discovers what they are doing well that others within the workplace or community aren’t. It’s not a judgment as much as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s easier to ACT your way into a new way of THINKING, than to THINK your way into a new way of ACTING”. – Pascale and Sternin

Too often we think our own personal expertise (knowledge) can move us and others to a changed attitude which would then impact practice. For sustainable change to take place (as in habit formation), we figure out what effective practice is and as we begin doing it, then our attitude changes and our knowledge grows. What are your thoughts about this?

The authors quote 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu in simply and eloquently describing this process:

Learn from the people

Plan with the people

Begin with what they have

Build on what they know

Of the best leaders

When the task is accomplished

The people all remark

We have done it ourselves

Photo Credit: Brilliant Ink

I love when worlds converge giving greater import to what is happening. In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a course with Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace Richmond, instructing. The topic is Asset-based Community Development – (ABCD). It is very similar to positive deviance in setting out toward change.

ABCD is community and relationship driven. It’s not a more resourced agent coming in and trying to fix the problems of a workplace, organization, or neighborhood. It is a “working with process”. Like the PD inquiry, ABCD uses a methodology focused on listening – to individuals and to communities. These listening conversations are geared toward finding the positive deviants within that community…and seeking out their practices, attitudes, and particular knowledge.

What Is Asset-based Community Development? – Graeme Stuart

Something I ask friends and former colleagues (free-lancing as I am now) often, especially when they are struggling with a top-down decision- and change-making structure is “Who is thriving in your situation?” “What are they doing to thrive?” “What are you doing to add to or contribute to the health of your organization?”

Too often, we get tunnel vision regarding change; thinking we have no other option but to respond…or react. Like Pascale, Sternin, Lao Tse, and also Wendy McCaig…I know and believe in those secret change agents. If you don’t know any, search them out.

Or…become one.

Both/and really. Search them out AND become one as well.

[Do your bosses, your organizational leads, and yourselves a big favor…introduce them to your company’s secret change agents…those positive deviants in your lives.]

Monday Morning Moment – Men Who Finish Well – a Timely and Timeless Message by Johnny Hunt

Photo Credit: MCC

One of our neighbors is a published historian who has another manuscript ready to go. If it were me, those pages would have been mailed to the publisher months ago. Not this author. The chapter footnotes must be accurate, so weeks upon weeks have been spent on the tedious task of checking and re-verifying their accuracy.

Finishing anything well takes great effort and persistence. Especially a life well-lived to the finish.

Johnny Hunt is a pastor and author. He has been the lead pastor and teacher of First Baptist Church of Woodstock for over 30 years. Just this past week, the execution of a succession plan unfolded as Dr. Hunt begins the process of passing his baton to the next pastor.

Photo Credit: Truett McConnell University

Leadership writer Brian Dodd captured Johnny Hunt’s message on finishing well and shared those points on his blog this week.

Pastor Johnny Hunt’s 10 Characteristics of Pastors and Men Who Finish Well – Brian Dodd

His points are as followed. Read Dodd’s blog for the rest of his notes on Dr. Hunt’s excellent talk. The observations that follow the points below are my emphases. Also every point can apply to us as women as well.

Men Who Finish Well

  1. Want to finish well. – Desire and the focus of our desire are the foundation of finishing well.
  2. Ooze with humility. – This is not about talking humble or having an humble expressiveness. This is genuine humility – a person who inserts his life into the humble; willing to do humble things; a person with a clear understanding of who he is and what he is capable of (both holy and horrible).
  3. Know they could be steps away from a fall. – One bad choice can follow us all through our lives, or catch up with us. We shouldn’t be discouraged by that, but we should be aware, from a young age, that consequences of our actions come…sooner or later. Best to avoid or correct as early as possible.
  4. Are intentional, putting up guardrails in their lives. – Guardrails are barriers we put up for ourselves that keep us from the edge of an activity or mindset that could cause damage down the road. We have all said, thought, or acted on “That’s not so bad.” or “Everybody’s doing it.” What we once considered unacceptable may be considered acceptable today but tomorrow it could be a high crime. We must intentionally determine where the edge is and take a step back by putting guardrails in place. Not for fear of consequences but out of care…and aiming to finish well.
  5. Plan to finish well. – Guardrails are part of this. Do you have a plan in place? What does it look like?
  6. Firmly committed to their families. – This makes a huge difference. Huge influence on our decision-making.
  7. Have some kind of mentor in their lives. – Another guardrail actually, but also vital to honest accountability. Lone rangers who may often find themselves at the top of organizations and culture influencers are highly vulnerable to falling from their own isolation.
  8. Live in the Word of God and on their knees. – Johnny Hunt is finishing strong because he doesn’t separate sacred and secular. He understands the importance of having a guide to live life in a fickle, changeable world system. A sign of his own humility is his dependence on being daily in God’s Word and daily praying.
  9. Committed to integrity. – Finishing well requires us to be consistent and dependable in our actions and decision-making. Dabbling in less-than-honest transactions with people will eventually find us out.
  10. Evangelize regularly. – This may seem an odd characteristic of finishing well if you are reading as a person not given to faith or especially faith in God through Jesus. In Johnny Hunt’s long faith walk, he has taken the claims of Christ very seriously and has seen the work of God’s grace in his life and others. He knows the glorious good that comes out of that relationship with God and would not withhold the knowledge of that from anyone.
  11. Ambitious only in honoring Jesus. – Dr. Hunt could have stayed in his pastor position for another 10-15 years or more. This mega-church pastor role can be a real head-trip if these men don’t take precautions to guard their hearts against that level of pride. For the sake of his church’s future and doing his best to listen to God’s leading, Dr. Hunt chose to step down…for very good and Godly reasons.

[I counted 11 so we got a bonus help from Dr. Hunt and Brian Dodd.]

When our children left home for college, one by one, we had many talks together. Trying to prepare them for what could lie ahead. All through their lives, we had taught them to treat others with care. To also see the wrong in taking advantage of someone or some situation for ill, no matter the reason. Some of that teaching came out of our own histories, Dave and me, and from making our own mistakes as young people. Doing all we could to ensure these precious ones would avoid the pitfalls of life that can take you down.Photo Credit: Michael Staires

Avoid situations where you are alone with the opposite sex, especially late at night. Don’t accept open beverage containers. Be cautious in group events where there is drinking and no supervision. Abstain from recreational drugs or beverages. Make choices regarding dress and demeanor as to not compromise another person. Keep your hands to yourself. Be responsible in choosing whom you spend time with.

[Nothing original here. The nature of these teen talks became more serious as our kids were preparing to be out on their own. No one looking over their shoulder. Their choices could have life-long implications.]

This year, I listened to a good friend process sending her oldest son off to college. He is one of the sweetest young men I know – a good heart, respectful, and genuinely friendly to all he meets. This mom (and the dad) wanted to make sure that he understood that college today is not just about his choices but how others perceive his behavior. It’s not just being careful to do right by others but also to behave in such a manner that no one could take offense…now or twenty years from now. Especially in any perceived sexual offense. Other? What are your thoughts?

This is where we seem to be today in America.

Finishing well, especially as men, might be more complicated today but it is still within the grasp of those who determine from the beginning to aim far and run their lives with steadfast resolve.

Finish Well – Michael Staires

Guardrails – Andy Stanley

Why You Need Guardrails in Your Life – Robin Steele

Four Essentials to Finishing Well – Jerry Bridges – Desiring God

7 Characteristics to Help You Finish Well – Ken Boa

Real Momentum

Monday Morning Moment – Truth Matters

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

“What is truth?”

Centuries ago, a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked this question of an innocent man, brought before him by accusers. Religious leaders who wanted to destroy him. Men who would have their way no matter what it meant for this man…even death.

Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ because he found no evidence against him, yet, to satisfy the loud voices crying out against him, he washed his hands of the matter and sent him out to be crucified.

Truth matters.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This morning I read a local news account which has disturbed me all day.

The article surprised me because I actually knew the particulars of the story very well. The reporter described a recent event and then added a completely unrelated previous event. The first was morally neutral, but the second event was scandalous. The innuendo was clear. The article fairly sizzled with the possibility…probability that the two events…the two persons (very different from each other) were linked. Thus casting a shadow on the innocent one with the clear guilt of the other. Just a shadow. Just a possibility of wrong.

Just innuendo and nuance.

Did this reporter lie? She did not, in so many words. Did she shade the truth? Yes.

“The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:

   1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
   2. Truth is that which matches its object.
   3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.” – Got Questions

Telling the truth is a huge core value in our family. Growing up, our children knew that lying would bring a most undesirable consequence. We would rather know they were telling the truth, even when it exposed something that would grieve us as their parents.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

We live in a culture today that seems to thrive on a semblance of “my truth” or “truth as I know it”. What that means is “If I can convince you I am right then we will all be better off…well, especially me.” There seems almost a fever for exposing lies. The irony is the lengths people will go to to expose falsehood in others – political opponents, for instance. Even lying to do so. Making lying a necessary “evil” or a “moral high road” to bring down the greater villain or threat.

I know personally how easy it is to be deceived and to deceive oneself. In my 20s, I had my Sunday life and my “rest of the week” life. Politically, I was fairly soft on the issues, bowing to those in my life who were more articulate or who had done their homework… more than me. Spiritually, I wanted the world too much to be faithful to the God whom I owed everything. I wanted to be liked, admired, accepted…the tinsel of a life pleasing to others blinded me for awhile. I was deceived.

“Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Though to me it wasn’t so much lies as a matter of judicious editing. We all inevitably present a version of ourselves that is a collection of half-truths and exclusions. The way I saw it, the truth was too complicated, whereas the well-chosen lie would put everyone’s mind at ease.”  Caroline Kettlewell, Skin GameGoodReads

I can actually tell you the moment that the scales fell off my eyes (another time). At that moment, I remembered that truth was the hinge that swings open the door to life as it’s meant to be lived. Or maybe truth is the door.

For sure, seeking the truth and speaking the truth are huge. In our home, with our kids growing up, even just watching a movie, we would point out the messages that had lies as the foundation. [That might have driven our kids nuts, when I think about it now.] We would do the same about the latest social commentary and, as they went off to college, we talked about what they would encounter in terms of worldviews different from their own.

In my younger years, I loved how journalists rabidly exposed lies, protecting us from evil politicians or uncivil servants. These days, the vigilance of reporters and partisan politicians regarding “what is truth” seems too self-serving and mean to be righteous.

“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.”Ravi Zacharias

If I have been harsh in this writing, please forgive me. That article of earlier in the day is still ringing and stinging in my ear. Truth is not meant to be a hammer and everything else a nail. Even the One crucified gave us the example of Truth lived out in love (Ephesians 4:15).

So…for our children. Thank you, for not being too hard on us while we taught you, out of our own mistakes and short-sightedness. Thank you, for still being willing to have truth conversations with us. Thank you, for continuing to seek the truth, even in the midst of a culture of innuendo, nuance, half-truths (definitely a misnomer), and sizzling stories that beg to be believed.

Also, thank you, you influencers out there, who also love the truth and guard it with your life and that influence.

Exposing lies is important, but if the desire in going after the truth is really motivated by the desire to destroy someone in your way…or to elevate your own agenda…no matter how noble…it can’t be worth what is lost along the way. It must not be.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Got Questions – What Is Truth? – an excellent read on the truth…and The Truth

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – “What Are You Doing These Days?” – the Utility Infielder

Photo Credit: Service Desk Show, James West

When I was a little girl, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was easy to answer. I wanted to be a nurse. Being on the serving end of helping people in crisis was the stuff that even populated my nighttime dreams. It was my passion as a child.

In my teen years, teachers and other adults commended me on my writing. For years, kind people who actually read what I read have asked, “When are you going to write that book?” A much harder question for me than the earlier one.

Photography, music and drama clubs were my loves in high school and college, mixed with a budding political activism. That activism was baby steps at first, with rallies and protests. Long conversations over coffee on Saturday mornings. Nothing requiring much commitment. Our military conflicts were confusing to me (with seemingly never an end in sight). In my youth, I would write to soldiers serving in far countries…doing my small part to encourage them and humanize their situation. I still have a box of letters from those soldier pen-pals.

My girlhood goal was to do nursing overseas…among the poorest of the poor. Those strong youthful dreams directed me first to Emory University for nursing and grad school. Then a few years later to Yale University to teach. In the between time, my “poorest of the poor” turned out to be on the oncology unit of Grady Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia’s inner city…

The “what do you want to do when you grow up?” question took on a life of its own. As did the question: “What are you doing these days?”

Depending on the season of life, it was cancer nursing, home-schooling mom, cross-cultural living, facilitating a cultural exchange program, teaching ESL, communications strategist/social media manager, and finally freelance writing.

Now…after all these seasons and address changes, the question, “What are you doing these days?” is mystifying. I almost feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t landed anywhere as a specialist in anything.

Just this morning, a friend posted on her Facebook page a TED talk that encouraged her…and it also encouraged me.

The speaker on the TED talk was writer, creator Emilie Wapnick. She describes herself as a multipotentialite which she defines as “someone with many interests and creative pursuits“.  Wapnick is the founder of the website Puttylike…out of which has evolved a fascinating global community of other multipotentialites.

In her TED talk, Wapnick describes three “superpowers” of these multipotentialites. They are:

  • Idea synthesis – “combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection”
  • Rapid learning – multipotentialites “go hard” at learning. They have been beginners many times, therefore, they aren’t afraid to try a new way. They “rarely start from scratch”.
  • Adaptability – “the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation”.

Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick TEDx

The Fine Art of Bringing Together Unrelated Ideas Emilie Wapnick

Now whether being a multipotentialite applies to my career journey…or yours, it is so refreshing to to be reminded that going in multiple directions professionally can be a normal and good thing.

I love “both/and” situations, and there are lots of them out there, if we open our eyes to see them. A few careers back, I had the opportunity of being a cancer nursing specialist, but looking ahead, being an expert in any given discipline is unlikely. Being decent, however, (maybe even good) at both this…and that is possible. Being a generalist works for me… However, I can still aim at being a versatilist (see below). How about you? Where are you in your career?Photo Credit: Gartner, Shi Wen, HR in Asia

Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists, and VersatilistsShi Wen

You may have never heard the term multipotentialite or versatilist, but in America, especially in the summer, you may have heard of a utility infielder. “A utility infielder (UI) is a baseball player, usually one who does not have a regular starting role on the team and who is capable of playing more than one of the four defensive infield positions:   second base, third base, shortstop, and less typically first base. Utility infielders are generally considered excellent defensive players who do not hit well enough to remain in the starting lineup,[2] but can fill in at multiple defensive positions to give the various starters a rest, or replace a starter late in a game to provide improved defense when the team is winning.” – Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Dan Ryan, Ryan Search & Consulting

Why You Want to Be a Utility Infielder – Dan Ryan

A utility infielder is definitely someone you want on your team. I’m married to one. Multipotentialite, versatilist, utility infielder. Whatever this person’s title, he or she brings their own special strengths.

Some days, dark days, I despair of some of my career choices and wonder if I’d been more focused, or less inclined to chase after this opportunity or that dream…would I have been more effective? Would I have made a greater difference? Today, and more days lately, I am content with the roads taken. Some of us have laser focus and sharp skills. Others of us are more like the Swiss Army utility knife. Both are indispensable. Both/and.Photo Credit: CBT Nuggets

The Value of an Adaptable Skill Set – Leadership Made Simple

5 Ways a Compliance officer Is Like a Swiss Army Knife – Compliance Experts

Getting Ahead at Work: Are You a Hammer or a Swiss Army Knife? – Carlos Portocarrero

Monday Morning Moment – Picking a Lane – It’s Never Too Late – Deb Mills – an example of a multipotentialite who is excellent in all his pursuits, best I can tell.

5 Friday Faves – Mission Impossible, Digital Dementia, Habits that Can Change Your Life, Piles of Books, and Food for Thought

Friday! Whew! With family visiting and some travel also, writing took a back seat the last couple of weeks. It’s always good for me to sit down at my desk and put words on the screen. Something really soothing to my mind in the sound of clicking away on computer keys. Hope the reading soothes you as well.

1) Mission Impossible – Nathan Mills, with all the lovely summer interruptions, still managed to get out an arrangement of the Mission: Impossible Fallout theme. Watch it here.  This makes the sixth of the Mission Impossible films  He covered the film trailer which blends the Mission Impossible theme and Imagine Dragons’ Friction.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Classical Guitar Cover by Beyond the Guitar

2) Digital Dementia

Brain researcher Manfred Spitzer coined the term “digital dementia”. It relates to the deterioration of brain function with the overuse of technology. This could include memory loss, attention issues, concentration, and emotional distress such as depression. He would have all digital technology taken out of classrooms. We know that is not going to happen, therefore we must intentionally “exercise our brains” in ways that counteract the brain drain caused by digital technology.  The following are found in Jessica Gwinn‘s piece:

  • Use Your Head. Retrieve information from your brain organically. Sit there and concentrate until you can recall it. [“Use it or lose it, the experts contend. The brain, just like a muscle in our body, can atrophy if we don’t use it.  Perhaps consider a digital sabbatical…If we focus instead on having real conversations, reading books, getting out into nature, and disconnecting from technology, we will be taking care of our brain health and our emotional health as well.”]
  • Crack Open a Book. That’s right. Reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  • Learn a new language. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.
  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both side of the brain – like the piano or the guitar, for example, which help strengthen and balance it.
  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain. – Jessica Gwinn, Dr. Carolyn Brockington

Overuse of Technology Can Lead to Digital Dementia – Jessica Gwinn

Dealing with the Effects of Digital Dementia – Tony Bradley

Digital Dementia: The Memory Problem Plaguing Teens and Young Adults

Kwik Brain: Memory Improvement | Accelerated Learning | Speed-Reading | Brain Hacks | Productivity Tips | High Performance – Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, Founder of Kwik Learning

Adam Gazzaley: The Neuroscience of Attention

3) Habits That Can Change Your Life– We develop habits of all kinds in our lives. They happen almost without thinking. Let’s consider what we want for our lives and then think of what habits we could deliberately put in place to support that desire. I love New Year’s Resolutions, and one of mine from this January is now a habit that will hopefully stick for the rest of my life. It is the habit of making the first voice of each day that of God. Attorney and thought leader Justin Whitmel Earley talks about that as one of his habits as well.

[I previously wrote about Justin Earley’s habits of love here.]

In the midst of life in a high-pressure law practice, he had a revelation that he wanted his life to be structured around habits of love. He lays out these habits on his website and book The Common Rule.

Photo Credit: The Common Rule

What habits would you like to eliminate to make room for others? What habits would move your life in the direction you hope to go?

The Common RuleJustin Whitmel Earley

Scripture Before Phone, and Other Habits That Could Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

YouTube Video – Waking up at 5AM Is Changing My Life – Jordan Taylor [Dealing with his phone addiction]

4) Piles of Books – If you love to read…and love books, in general, you may have something called tsundoku. BBC journalist Tom Gerken introduced me to this term which essentially means having piles of unread books. I struggle with this. Now, I will eventually read the books, but sometimes the stack gets larger as I fall behind on my reading. Keeping them close, as on my bedside table or desk, gives me the comfort of the possibility of reading them. To dangerous to put them on a bookcase unread. Such is the dilemma.

Tsundoku: The Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them – Tom Gerken

Here’s my current pile. Some have been almost completed but not quite. How about you? Is tsundoku a word that defines the state you find yourself, regarding books yet to be read?

5) Food for Thought – Dave and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last weekend. We were passing through Williamsburg, Virginia, on that Saturday afternoon, with the plan in mind to stop at a favorite restaurant. It is Food for Thought and we love everything about it. The food is excellent and the whole restaurant experience prompts sweet conversation. You are literally surrounded by words at Food for Thought. Quotes of note. Conversation starter cards stacked on each table. Political and literary opinions framed on the walls. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is a friendly and welcoming place. The whole idea is bringing people together for food and talk – both of which are meant to be enjoyed and reveled in. During our meal, restaurant owner Howard Hopkins joined us for a bit of conversation. It felt as natural as an old friend sitting awhile on her way to her own table. Lovely time all the way around. I’m thinking this will be where we’ll be for our next anniversary.

Food for Thought, More Than a Clever Name – Tammy Jaxtheimer

Bonuses:

A Guide to the Science of Giving – Rafael Sarandeses

A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter – Li Yuan

The Most Dangerous Prayer a Christian Can Pray – Darrell B. Harrison

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg, Twitter

Jesus Understand Your Loneliness – Jon Bloom

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton

Monday Morning Moment – When Your Work Culture’s In Trouble – with Matt Monge

Photo Credit: Career Addict

Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.

Below you will find Monge’s piece 7 Signs Your Culture Is In Trouble. Click on the link to go further into depth on what these mean.

  • Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
  • Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and  development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
  • Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
  • Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
  • Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
  • Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
  • Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.

Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James

Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community

I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.

My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

YouTube Video – Matt Monge: Speaker, Writer, Leadership & Culture Expert, Depression Fighter

What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team – Ron Carucci

Turnover Trouble: How a Great Company Culture Can Help You retain Your Best Employees – Emma Sturgis

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter in the Hallways – Workplace Humor

Photo Credit: Arkadin, Sophie Huss

Michael Kerr makes a living with Humor at Work. His video  “It’s Monday Morning!…I can’t wait to go to work.” is the stuff of wonder. Wasn’t there a time you couldn’t wait to get to work? If never, or especially not today, then you could start with lightening your workday baggage with lightening your heart.

Photo Credit: Awesome at Your Job Podcast

Kerr talks about using three mental tools – 3 R’s – to shake-up your perspective in a happy way:

  1. Reframe – Stress is one person’s take on a stressor. Where the voices in our heads take us isn’t necessarily how the situation will play out in reality. So wisdom is to “practice playing with the voices in our heads”. Reeling in our negative reactions to stress isn’t about stuffing them but about turning them into healthy (and potentially) humorous responses. My husband and I have a couple of mantras – lines from an old Western movie titled Silverado – that we use to lighten a situation:
    “It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.                                                                   “That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover.                                                                                                                     YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge
  2. Reward – Kerr prescribes attaching a reward to something that is stressful. Say if there is a specific type of meeting or a particular colleague that stresses you out. Put a reward in place that you can go to after those meetings/encounters. It doesn’t have to be chocolate. It can be a walk around the building – inside to say hi to encouraging people or outside to just enjoy nature. If you find yourself demoralized by a situation, what can you do to both laugh at yourself and give others the opportunity to do the same? We can take ourselves and our stresses entirely too seriously. Our enjoyment of work and our work itself can both be debilitated if we can’t figure out how to “pull up”. Rewards. What sounds like it would work for you? For your team?
  3. RelaxStress does terrible things to us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Laughter does just the opposite. Sometimes, our focus on spreadsheets, email, and weighty decision-making leaves little room for laughter in our work lives. Who’s responsible for that? We can blame our boss, or the CEO, or whomever. However, we can also just learn to relax – creating space – putting distance between us and what causes our stress. Kerr talks about a Humor First Aid Kit. This could include funny books, workplace humor photo signs to use for selfies etc., props to wear or place on your or your coworkers’ desks, bobbleheads …chocolate. What would you recommend?Photo Credit: AppAdvice

The Power of Workplace Humor – Podcast with Michael Kerr – Awesome at Your Job

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Photo Credit: Sam Glenn, Facebook

We have all had the occasional forced fun day foisted upon us by C-suite execs – leaders who have diagnosed that way too many employees are silently and loudly giving all indication that morale is low. They are trying so give some grace here. Don’t punish yourself by refusing the free lunch or tshirt. Just come up with your own ideas of what helps you and your team get the joy back.

“It’s Monday morning!! I can’t wait to get to work.” Do it for yourself and for those you care about at work.

Utilizing Humor in the Workplace – Michael Kerr

The Work-Laugh Balance: Why Humor Is Key to Workplace HappinessSophie Huss

YouTube Video – Humor at Work – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

Photo Credit: Andrew Tarvin, TEDx Talk, YouTube

YouTube Video – The Skill of Humor – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

YouTube Video – Communications – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Workfront and Tripp and Tyler Present: “Email in Real Life” – includes Outtakes

The Four Keys to a Successful Workplace Culture That Drives Business Results Michael Kerr

 

Monday Morning Moment – Great Bosses and Those Not So Much – What Makes an Exemplary Leader?

Photo Credit: Identity Magazine, Shereen Gaber

We burn entirely too much energy and each other’s time commiserating over bad bosses. We are all best served by remembering the great ones and what it is about them that makes us better for knowing them. When we take the time to puzzle out what makes for a great boss, we have the path marked for becoming that sort of boss…or leader…ourselves.

Last week, I discovered a piece on great bosses by seminary dean and leadership writer Chuck Lawless. In a bit, you will read his 10 characteristics he puts forward as common in his personal experience of top ten leaders.

10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With – Chuck Lawless

First though, after i took some time myself, thinking back on what was it about the great bosses I had that distinguished them above all others.

Here are my 10 Characteristics of Great Bosses, in no particular order:

  1. They were trustworthy. We knew they had our back…always.
  2. They had consummate integrity. They were consistent in attitude and action no matter the audience. Even under intense pressure, whatever it cost them, they stood their ground for what mattered.
  3. They showed faith in me and each of us on the team. Not just to get the job done but to do it as only I/we could.
  4. They (those male leaders) didn’t treat us women differently. In fact, if they ever did seem to treat us differently, the great ones modeled a valuing of what the women brought to the conversation. Great leaders never diminished us, either overtly or covertly.
  5. They showed genuine care, even fondness, for us. They didn’t just spend their best time and energy on work meetings outside our team. They actually carved time out with us as a team for seemingly the sheer joy of it.
  6. They gave us a voice in the decision-making…especially as it related to our particular work and how we thought it should be done.
  7. They knew us well enough to call us on our own character stuff. It was never just about the work, the project, the product or service. It was about our own growth.
  8.  They kept a sense of humor and regularly brought perspective. This wasn’t just about lightening the mood; this was about returning our thinking to the bigger picture, the greater good.
  9. They provided opportunities for each of us to keep growing and developing professionally.
  10. They pushed us in meaningful ways toward a shared vision…to keep our focus and stay on track.

That’s my 10 in looking back to the many great bosses…invaluable leaders…I’ve had in my career.

Dr. Lawless’ 10 Common Characteristics are these (go to his article for helpful commentary on each).

  1. They know Christ. – (his article was to a Christian audience. Still, many consider Jesus of Nazareth the greatest leader who ever lived.*)
  2. They continually dream about what’s next. 
  3. They trust the team they’ve enlisted. 
  4. They take care of their team. 
  5. They read present-tense reality well. 
  6. They get a lot done while still taking time off.
  7. There is no pretense in them. 
  8. They know the organization is bigger than they are. 
  9. They laugh a lot. 
  10. They adore their family and make time for them. Chuck Lawless

12 Characteristics of Effective Team Members – Chuck Lawless

*The Greatest Leader of All – Geoff Loftus

Whatever experience we have had with great bosses or those not so much, we can learn from them. I was glad to have Dr. Lawless’ prod to look back on the leadership in my own life. It was remarkable how both great bosses and bad ones hang in our memories. One day I might write about the bad ones – and I have stories… Today, I just want to think about them with compassion, figuring they didn’t get to that place without being negatively influenced somewhere along the way.

As for those great bosses…the ones who lead brilliantly, with genuine care and provision for those who work under them…here’s to you. May we learn from you, follow hard after you, and not be shy to show our own appreciation and consideration for you as well.

Photo Credit: Twitter, David Chou

In closing, I would love to hear about some of your great bosses… those leaders in your lives that stand out in your memory (or present experience). Please comment below. Feel free to tell stories or give tributes. We can celebrate together!

Are You a Great Boss? – John Lynn, Healthcare IT Today

Four Types of Bosses You Need to Avoid – Shereen Gaber

Photo Credit: Workboard

5 Friday Faves – Women of Influence, Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar, Suicide Prevention, Fathers, and Hard Redeemed

Friday Faves! Here are mine for the week:

1) Women of Influence – I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life with the presence of women of influence. Many I have known personally. The list would be long if I wrote out the names of all those who come to mind right now. You know who you are to me. Women who, in their own ordinary lives, shake foundations and raise up all around them to a higher plane of life. Today, I want to name three women who are very very different from each other. I do not know them personally, nor do I agree with everything they say… but they have caused me to think.

  • Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor, a writer, and a Christian activist. I feel like I know her through her Facebook and Twitter pages. She is as real to me as a friend would be. As brilliant and articulate as she is, I am sure we could have a conversation on difficult issues without losing each other in the process. Recently, she was hit by a city bus while walking and miraculously lived to write about it. In her forced convalescence at home over the next months, I’m thinking we will learn much from her alone time…with God and through her reflections.

“The Sage Ones” – 10 Faith Writers Over 50 – Jody Lee Collins

Photo Credit: Twitter, Anna Deavere Smith

#NotesFromTheField

These are very public figures. They use their renown to influence in the positive. We all know other women of influence – working in refugee camps, in the classroom, in research labs, in neighborhoods, and those aging ever so gracefully before us – who make a difference in quieter yet profound ways.

2) Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar – When the film The Incredibles came out in 2004, our kids were all in high school. The film follows the adventures of a superhero family trying to have a normal life while subduing bad guys. 14 years later and its much-welcome sequel opens this weekend. Note I didn’t say much-anticipated, because the first film appeared to be a stand-alone after all these years.Photo Credit: Gizmodo

In celebration of Incredibles 2, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged Michael Giacchino‘s film theme. You can enjoy this jazzy spy melody here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

[Have you considered being a patron of Nathan’s part of his support community? Creating music takes concentrated time and to do it for a living takes a team of folks who love what he’s doing and want to help keep it happening. Here‘s where you can find out more.]

Spotify – Guitar Covers Vol. 2 – Beyond the Guitar

3) Suicide Prevention – To go to such a dark place mentally that suicide seems the only way out must be a terrifying, deeply lonely experience. There was a time in my own life that the pressures of life mixed with emotions I couldn’t seem to control pulled me in that direction. Fortunately, nothing happened, and with God’s help and that of my family and friends (without them even knowing what was going on), the darkness broke.

We are living in an age of loneliness where social media and superficial gatherings give the facade of community, but not its reality. Truly watching out for each other and touching base, especially, with those who live more solitary lives is life-saving.

Talk Saves Lives. We can’t just assume we know what helps prevent suicide. Let’s get educated and lean in to those most vulnerable.

Resources abound. Each of us can do something to turn the tide.

Photo Credit: Twitter, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib – Deb Mills Writer

4) Fathers – This Sunday is Father’s Day in the US. We all have had a dad in some capacity or another. The impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. I’ve written a bunch about fathers and fathering.

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t

The father I never knew…I have only two memories of my own of the man who gave me half of my DNA…

Then there’s this man who became my dad…until the end of his life.

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God

When Dave and I married, he gave me another dad. Lovely and kind.

Marriage was a late gift with no surety I’d get to be a mom. This dear man helped make it so. In his own quiet way, he is a good and rock-solid father…and now, grandfather.

I could go on…brothers who are good fathers…nephews…men in our lives who are loving fathers to other people’s kids…and our own son (and son-in-law) who are also great dads. They are easy to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday Faves – Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Friday Faves – Dads Who Get It – Deb Mills Writer

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood – Ray Ortlund

5) Hard Redeemed – Anybody in our lives knows I’ve had a couple of hard weeks…those come and go, like for all of us. The ability to weather relational and situational heaviness is galvanized by those who come alongside. Including and especially God Himself who has been there for any and all who walk with Him…through the ages.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Joseph  Genesis 50:20

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!Romans 8:38-39
The hard of these several days is still with me but so are those who walk alongside. Friends, family, community…God himself.

What an amazing blessing are folks who reach out – like a friend, across the ocean, whom I haven’t seen since 2002. Or the friend who gave me this upbeat life-affirming little song Dream Small.

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

God, help me to be that kind of friend…redeeming the hard in lives of those You place in front of me.

__________________________________________________________

Have a great weekend! Peopled with those you love and those who could use your love.

Bonuses:

Better Late Is Still Late: Advocating for Victims of Sexual Abuse

The Dinner Party Flex: Cooking in the Age of Social Media

Posted by Wild And Wonderful on Monday, May 28, 2018

10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With – Chuck Lawless

5 Friday Faves – Answered Prayer, Avengers on Classical Guitar, Financial Security, Community, and Moms

Friday Faves – let’s jump right in!

1) Answered Prayer – This week has been wave after wave of answered prayer…so much so that I’m without words…almost. Many times when we pray, we have to wait…sometimes for years. I have prayers on deposit with the Lord that (at least on this side of life) are still “in waiting” for his perfect timing. We pray on. Then we have the acute occasion when we seek a quick and crucial response. My brother spent a night this week in ICU because of a hard fall to concrete. How grateful I am for people who stand “in the gap” for each other in prayer, no matter the time of day, or whatever is going on in their own lives. For hours we prayed and waited for news that he would recover…and tonight he sleeps in his own bed at home. Just. Like. That. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Answered prayer does not always turn out the way we want. When our mom got cancer, we all prayed she would be healed. Her prayer, through the three years of fighting that dreadful disease, was a constant “for His glory”…only. Her prayer was answered in the positive, countless times. Our prayer was answered with healing in Heaven. Still, we praise God with all our hearts for how we saw Him draw near to her in the hard places. Her tender communion with God in those days was the sweetest I had ever seen in her life.

What might we see altered in this world, were it not for our prayerlessness. This week, because of my brother and othersacred turns of events, I am again reminded of great and present value of prayer. Not just in what we secure from God’s hands…but the journey with God Himself.

2) Avengers on Classical Guitar – I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my summer film list. Like with other arrangements of Beyond the Guitar, I look forward to hearing this now familiar melody rise and fall in the background of the film itself. Since Nathan’s Fortnite Dances video debuted, his viewership and YouTube subscriptions have taken off.  Become a subscriber or Patreon supporter to be a part of the team that guarantees we see more and more of this young classical guitarist’s creative work. His arrangement for Avengers follows:

3) Financial Security – Sociologist and elder rights advocate Dr. Brenda K. Uekert has written a fascinating piece on losing her job in her 50s and the financial safety net that got her through that time. Take the time to read her story, but here are her 6 safeguards to consider in our own financial journey.

  • Pay off your mortgage.
  • Max out retirement contributions.
  • Max out accumulated leave.
  • Be wary of dabbling in individual stocks.
  • Shore up your taxable accounts.
  • Be careful in your spending, in general.

The simplicity of this is its own brilliance. Thank you, Dr. Uekert.

Fired in My Fifties: The 3 Best and Worst Moves that Determined My Fate – Brenda K. Uekert

4) Community – I write about community often. It’s hard for me to imagine maneuvering through this life without the constancy and care of community. For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been briefly in the life of a homeless woman who, it turns out, was just passing through Richmond. Her story had the sad markings of one who had either lost community from no fault of her own or had burned bridges with community across the years. She had to reach out to strangers because there seemed to be few else who would or could help. The margin we have to thrive in life, thanks to community, was difficult to even discern for her. I have no idea where she is right now. We did what we felt we could do, hopefully without being a toxic influence in her life…and now she has moved on.

It reminded me, all over again, how thankful I am for real and deep community. I pray that for us all.Community Group, Movement Church

5) Moms – This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day in the US. For some, it is an uneasy day… Not all of us have had loving, nurturing moms. Not all of us have become moms…or not yet anyway. Mothering can also be a painful experience. I think of dear friends who are estranged from some of their children…and other friends who have lost children, either through miscarriage or death.

Mother’s Day can be painful. Even in the pain, celebrating mothers ever how we can is a good thing. None of us would be where we are today were it not for mothering, whether good, bad, or just imperfect.

Today I remember the two women who have had the most impact in my life as mothers, and it is all for good. My mom and Dave’s mom.

As with all of us, through the years, other women have captivated us with their love, their servant hearts, and their wisdom. I celebrate them as well.

My friend Carol Ann Lindley captured the hard and even awful when mothering didn’t happen or go as we had hoped. Read her words:

I am all for celebrating moms…I look forward to celebrating my two miracles every year. I cherish it because I waited so long. I rejoice with my friends who have endured long years of waiting and have the chance to celebrate. I am aware of some who will be missing a mom this year. Mother’s Day is special because motherhood is such a gift.

But don’t forget to look around and remember the ones who ache this Sunday because they hoped that this year would be different. The ones who watch the celebrating and remembering from a distance, hoping to join in next year. I never ever resented the celebration…I just longed for the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.

I have had some hard Mother’s Days. I have had the “maybe next year it will be me” Mother’s Days. And I have had the “I’m missing a baby that I lost” Mother’s Day. Today, I am thinking of our 3 little ones who are celebrating with a different Momma. But I am also rejoicing over God’s two miracles that I have the privilege of being Mom to.

No one said Motherhood would be easy. In fact, the journey to Motherhood is hard. The day to day mothering of littles is hard. And I’m sure I will face other hard days in the future. But it is a precious gift from God and I rejoice in it every day.

So, you Moms who are enjoying this Mothers Day. Don’t feel bad. When I was waiting, I never wanted my Mom friends to skip out on Mothers Day. Enjoy and it and give your kids extra kisses. And look around and see who you can hug and encourage. I had those people on those hard days and their acknowledgement of my “hope deferred” made all of the difference.

And you Moms who are waiting for your babies or are missing your babies. I’m with you. I know how you feel. This is a hard day. But I can promise you that God is faithful and will not waste your tears. The desire to be a Mom is a good one and you are not wrong to feel sad today or to feel like a little piece of your heart is missing. If I could hug you, I would. And I am definitely praying for you.

Here’s the verse that pretty much sums up my journey:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Carol Ann Lindley

Happy Friday! Happy Weekend! Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to being gentle with each other and lavishing love on those around.

Bonuses:

YouTube – Dr. Seuss Does Advance Directives: A Tim Boon Poem – ZDoggMD

Bobos in the Church – Scot McKnight

Bobos In The Church

Stop Making Hospitality Complicated – Brandon McGinley

Why So Many Americans Are Lonely – Quentin Fottrell

Boss Doesn’t Trust you? Here are 4 Likely Reasons Why – Randy Conley

Brave Global – a Catalytic Movement for Girls

Photo Credit: The Kindness Rocks Project, Facebook