Tag Archives: leadership

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar – About a month ago, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement of Fortnite Dances. Like the popular game and its celebrity players, this video skyrocketed. 5 million views and Beyond the Guitar YouTube subscriptions doubled over the course of days. Now he has a second video out featuring another set of Fortnite Dances.  Gamer or not, if you love music, this is a fun sampler!Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!

2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.

3) Habits of Love – Thanks to Andy Crouch (see #4), I have discovered Richmond attorney and thought leader Justin Earley and The Common Rule. So thrilled about this. The funny thing is that I ALMOST heard Justin speak on busyness earlier this month but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise (ironic, huh?). When Andy retweeted this image from Justin’s Twitter page, I was captivated.Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!

Photo Credit: Common Rule of Life, Facebook

Meaningful Work – a Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul – Shawn Askinosie

4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children.  When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…

Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.

Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]

[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]

Bonuses:

Indoor Generation

Save the Storks – Pro-Woman, Pro-Baby, Pro-Family, Pro-Life

CNLP 192: Caleb Kaltenbach on How to Embrace an Outraged and Polarized Culture Most Leaders No Longer Like

Photo Credit: Matt Lieberman, Twitter

Photo Credit: Intelligence Is Sexy, Facebook page

On Being a Millennial Pastor – Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days – Erik Parker

Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

5 Friday Faves – TV Sitcoms, Communications, a Love Story, Intercession, and Recovery

Friday! Yep…here it is again…on a Saturday.  This week’s days have flown. The month of April has already been half-spent. Typical of Virginia Spring weather, we have enjoyed cold windy days and perfect sunny days. Dave has transferred our young vegetable plants into the raised beds outside, and the yellow pollen of the leafing oak trees is beginning to blanket our cars. It is as much a part of the rhythm of life as the five favorites you’ll find here.

1) TV Sitcoms – We all have our favorites. Just to hear the theme music from one of them can stir a flurry of happy TV-driven memories with quotable lines to match. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has posted his arrangement of some of our favorites.

For me, TV sitcom The Office is one of the best. As one of his patrons, we could suggest themes and I suggested the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but it didn’t make the cut…this time. Enjoy!

Beyond the Guitar’s TV Sitcoms Sheet Music – Music Notes

2) Communications – When we added the “s” to communication, we ramped it up to a science. Communication itself is as old as humanity. We remain ever challenged in it but supremely motivated to get it right. In my career, communications have been a big chunk of my role – either through customer care, customer support, employee engagement, or community development. How about you? Even the most introverted of us, even those in product development or manufacturing working in your own singular workspace…our lives are peopled. We want to make our best efforts in clear and caring communication. You know the experience of finding out just how little a colleague cares by the lack of such communication. Toward the goal of clear and caring communication, I love finding little gems of succinct information. Here’s this one:

This One Question Will Improve How You Communicate to Everyone Marissa Levin

Without your having to click on the link, (which you should; it’s a quick read and excellent resource) here is Levin’s one question:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

By simply asking someone how they prefer to receive their information, and by telling them how you need to receive information, you’ve paved the way for abundantly clear communications and aligned expectations. – Marissa Levin

For a few fascinating years, I worked in the role of communications strategist for a new venture. It was an extraordinary experience to learn how to enhance communications between designers and then our communications with the parent company and our clients. Maybe we can’t always customize our communications…but if we don’t at least establish some variation in our communication streams, we will miss people – their input, their understanding, and their engagement.

Worth the work…people are too valuable to lose, especially if it’s because we use our own preferred communication processes… ignoring the preferences of others in the process.

3) A Love Story – First Lady Barbara Bush died this week. That’s actually too passive a description. Really, she closed the book, finished her race, and loved her God and family until the end. She was ready to go.

Mrs. Bush was the wife of U. S. President George H. W. Bush (72 years married) and mother to U.S. President George W. Bush. She was a tireless champion for literacy and that legacy will follow her.

More than anything else, she loved her husband and she loved her family.Photo Credit: Facebook

Her graciousness, wit, and command of life will be remembered fondly…along with her fierce love. She was a force of nature…and she exercised it for good.

“At the end of life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.“ – Barbara Bush

In her last days, at the age of 92, Mrs. Bush removed herself from the hospital arena of life-extending medical care, and returned home to be in the company of her family. Whatever privilege she knew in life, she lavished it on others. Hers was a beautiful life right to the end… holding hands with her love of 70+ years.

It was a glorious love story…epic.

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Barbara Bush’s Code Name Was Absolutely Perfect – Tranquility – Jonathan Wackrow

Remembering Barbara Bush – CNN Video

4) Intercession – This may be a word unfamiliar to some. Intercession is the deep and longing prayer for someone else. Only God knows fully what His answer means to us who want so desperately for Him to move on behalf of a loved one…or even a country. Only He knows.Photo Credit: Quotes Creator, Facebook

Right now, Dave and I are interceding for a dear church family in another state going through a difficult and dividing trial. We are lifting up a friend who has miscarried multiple times. We are also praying for some in our lives to come to faith in God – some, for decades. Even when our hearts cool over time,  God Himself seems to stoke up the coals, and we feel the anguish again of prayer not yet answered. Knowing He can and He will.

We’ve been praying for almost a year now for the American detainees being held in North Korea. As a meeting looms just ahead between our two countries’ presidents, we sense a hope and a possibility. This could fade…but one thing I know, with every beat of my heart: God is able. He calls us to pray. He loves his children.

When situations arise, and we feel utterly helpless in them, we might casually say: “Well, at the very lease we can pray.” No…at the very most, we can pray. We can call out to God even in seasons he seems silent and immovable. His answer might not always be our preference…but it is in the praying, the interceding…that we find hope, and even promise…and we experience the joy of finding Him in the midst of struggle…whatever way it goes in the end.

Free USA3

Be Heard Project – Praying also for Andrew Brunson, an American detainee in Turkey right now. Please pray with me for him and his family, along with the three detainees in North Korea…and their loved ones who wait for them to come home.

The Great Intercessor – David Brainerd

David Brainerd’s 300th Anniversary – Thomas Kidd

5) Recovery – A hard road stretches before the addicted person and those who love him. At some point, either because of imprisonment or shattered health and finances, the addicted person is forced to examine what is left of life for him…or her. At some point, recovery becomes the goal and returning to real life is the hope. Relapse is a constant risk and is often a detour on the road to recovery.

We feel fortunate to know our friends, Ryan and Ashley, who have come out the other side of drug addiction. Ryan gave me permission to post the pictures below. First is a series of arrest photos of Ryan, all related to consequences of his drug addiction. The second is a picture of his family reunited. Ryan is currently a case manager for Real Life in Richmond, Virginia. What an appropriate name for what is possible post-addiction. It is worth fighting for. Thank you, Ryan, for giving us glimpses of what can happen in a life turned around. We know it wasn’t easy, but so worth it.Photo Credit: Ryan Riggs

So…that’s my Five.

What happened in your week? Any notable mentions of your own? Please share in Comments. Enjoy the weather (whether it’s Spring or Fall, rainy season or dry – depending on your hemisphere or location)…and each other.

Bonuses

Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee or Naps Alone – Joseph Stromberg

 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Monday Morning Moment – Adam Grant on 3 Traits of the Highly Functional Workplace

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I love Mondays! It’s ripe with possibility…and prospects of new beginnings. The tricky part of the start of any week is not settling into your work station and returning to the “same ol’, same ol'” – whatever that might entail. Even when we are excited, or at least hopeful for what’s next, we can default to usual rhythms and routines. They are familiar and comfortable (at least on the surface). Neuroplasticitythe brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice – can be both our enemy AND our friend.

If you love your work and you see how you fit integrally on your team, and you love your team, that is fantastic! Celebrate that every day! For you, I would just love if you could take a minute and comment below. What do you see at work in your situation? What do you do yourself to nurture that workplace experience?

[Even if you love your job, would you be willing to consider how you could help other teammates to have your experience and move to the top of their professional game?]

Adam Grant is one of those guys who loves his work…and shares generously with all his readers and TED Talk and podcast viewers/listeners.Photo Credit: Flickr

WorkLife with Adam Grant: A TED Original Podcast

Adam (he makes it feel comfortable to refer to him by his first name) is an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton Business School. He’s authored excellent books and is now moving into a new role as pod-caster. He has affirmed much of what I believe about workplace culture and its impact on day-to-day function, employee engagement, and outcomes/product.

Author, entrepreneur Damon Brown interviewed Adam Grant and posted recently on the traits of companies which are the most highly functional. His findings weren’t surprising to me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

3 Traits of the Most Highly Functional Companies:

  1. These companies make a high priority of helping their employees discover both their weaknesses and strengths, together with their coworkers. The goals relate to outcomes, sure, but, as part of that, the professional development of each employee, as well as team cohesion and a “best practice” level of collaboration. How refreshing when both department heads and all stake-holders turn a mirror on themselves for the sake of both the individual and the whole. Having this core value could turn a company on its head…in a good way!Photo Credit: Pixabay
  2. Adam Grant has discovered that many high functioning organizations have flexible hierarchies. You might walk into one of these work meetings and not be able to tell who the “big boss” is. Also, when a decision is made, it is not always top-down. Sure, the decision is given authority from the top, but the process clearly demonstrates and validates the employees closest to a decision (and the impact of the decision) to make that decision. Again, please comment below if you work in such an environment. For me, the whole idea of this is so reasonable and wise. By the way, even if your hierarchy is currently rigid, what would it look like, if you began working toward flexibility? What could be your next steps?Photo Credit: Pixabay
  3. Highly functioning organizations use the word “family” in describing themselves. Not in a smarmy, feel good way, but in actual experience of community and belonging and care. We as colleagues can make this happen within a team, whether it is a top-down experience or not. We communicate and demonstrate, in good faith, that we have each other’s back. We show genuine care for each other and don’t allow ambition or personal preference blind us to the needs of the rest of our team. This actually can eventually have a cross-team impact…if we are patient. If you wonder how, just search on-line for Adam Grant – he has both written and spoken volumes on this.

All three of these traits, or patterns, point to a vision that is highly peopled. It is not just driven from the top. Nor is it owned by one work group over another. A shared vision, in the truest sense of its meaning, gives room for all players…with their varying strengths and weaknesses. There is space for leaders and those who prefer to follow (excellent leaders or even those not-so-much), for the persuaders and those willing to consider the persuasion, for the decision-makers and those who want to speak into the decisions. Your over-all vision might be right but engaging all employees in going after that vision makes for highest function (especially for all you efficiency folks out there). Highest function and greatest care for each employee. That is a vision all of us could share or even own.Photo Credit: Flickr

What all this says to me is that people matter. Not just the most brilliant, bombastic, or brand-worthy, but everyone in the organization. Maybe you already work in such a company. if not, you …each of us can move it in the direction of such a company.

After all…it’s Monday. Who knows what could happen by the end of the week?

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

WorkLife with Adam Grant – Podcast – The Problem with All-Stars

Why Our Brains Fall for False Expertise, and How to Stop It – Khalil Smith

Infographic: 1 of These Four Strengths Is Your Superpower – Damon Brown

Self Sacrifice Won’t Get You Ahead. Wise Leaders Do This Instead – Damon Brown

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Adapted from the Archives]

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was not killed on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.Hispanic celebration at Central High SchoolPhoto Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit – Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

YouTube Lyric Video – Revelation Song – Kari Jobe – Passion 2013

Holy Week – Day 4: Silent Wednesday – Mary Fairchild

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

Podcast – Easter and Hymns with Keith Getty – Rainer on Leadership

Holy Week Timeline Graphic

FREEDOM TO WORSHIPCHINA RELIGIONBlog - Holy Week Wednesday 4Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 2BLog - Holy Week Wednesday 3Photo Credits – Baptist Press

Monday Morning Moment – What We Learn About Leadership at a David Crowder Show

Photo Credit: Baylor Lariat

The line wrapped around the back of the National Theater in Richmond, Virginia, last night. We were all waiting eagerly for the doors to open. Finally, Crowder had come to us on his American Prodigal Tour 2018.

Once in our seats, snugly fitted in a balcony row of a packed house, we got a look at the audience. All ages, all races. You know how it is, going to a concert of a time-tested, enduring and endearing artist, you feel like you are among friends. Then the lights went down, and the opening act took the stage. The Young Escape is a youthful sibling pop band, and they were actually very good.

Then the emcee gave an inspiring and effective pitch about child sponsorship through Childfund International. An intermission followed and the excitement was palpable as we waited for David Crowder.

He and his band never disappoint. They performed for two hours and it was sheer joy to be there and have that audience experience. Really, it didn’t feel like being a spectator. It was as if we were all a part of what was happening on the stage. So much life!

Even in the middle of taking in the great music and the spirit of the moment, I couldn’t help but ponder:  what all goes into making this such a joyful and redemptive experience?

Getting home, I couldn’t sleep for a bit, because of all the thoughts bouncing around in my head. David Crowder is a consummate artist, a real crowd-pleaser, and a prophet guide. Something in how he managed that concert experience got me thinking about leadership.

Here is what last night revealed about the essence of a good leader:

A Good Leader:

  • Builds trust. – Everyone in that audience (and I’m sure, on the stage) knew they could count on David Crowder for an incredible concert. He has shown himself dependable in this over decades. His proven character and commitment to excellence shown through again last night. Not out of duty, not for the money – but for the sheer joy of it…for his band and crew, for his wife and the rest of us in the audience, and for God.
  • Is fully present. – Crowder, in his own brilliant quirky way, seemed completely engaged. There was such a flow with this fellow band mates, the crew, and even the audience. People felt completely comfortable shouting out things to Crowder and what he heard, he responded to. He could have been completely exhausted, given the tour schedule he has, but his focus was as if this was his biggest, most important gig. We felt it and felt valued in it. That full presence with us.
  • Has the right people making things happen for everyone’s sake. As mentioned above, his crew seemed to know exactly what to do when, including stepping up to play an instrument when needed. They were switching out instruments for Crowder and moving things around on stage. They knew him and he trusted them. He even admitted that he didn’t always stick to his set list (and last night was no exception), and they just knew how to flex. That kind of commitment, competence, and care were part of what made up the amazing experience of seeing Crowder perform.
  • Gives credit to his team. All night long, Crowder gave shout-outs. To his wife, Toni. To the venue – The National Theater. To us in the audience. Then to his band – B.J. Cherryholmes, Todd Bragg, J.R. Collins, Antoine McMullen, and Kenny Hutson. Every one of these musicians could have solo careers. They clearly loved being a part of Crowder’s band and he spent generous stage time on each one of them.  That meant a lot to us in the audience because it made them all more knowable…and Crowder, even more lovable. He did not make the concert experience about himself.
  • Celebrates past accomplishments, showing value to a multi-generational fan family. I actually wasn’t prepared for this. In his song set were favorites from several albums, including some super oldies. Maybe some of the younger audience weren’t as familiar with the older songs, but it spoke volumes to those of us who bought those albums and were part of that precious past.
  • Shares future vision with stake-holders. Toward the end of the concert, Crowder shook up the schedule by asking his band and crew about doing a song “for the first time”. [Turns out it was the second time they had played it in concert but very cool for us to be a part of its coming out.] Great leaders give their teams glimpses of the future…we become more a part of the process when we see a vision unfold, rather than just having it given to us fully-formed at the end of an unknown process. I know this was only introducing a new song to a bunch of fans who eventually will buy the album…but there was something very sweet and inclusive about it. The brief chaos of setting up for that song gave a picture of vulnerability on Crowder’s part. It was winsome.
  • Demonstrates passion. – For two straight hours, Crowder exuded a joyful passion in what he was a part of and the message being communicated. This wasn’t just a business. It wasn’t about a celebrity personality. He had just two hours to invest in us maybe even for a lifetime. He took that time and opportunity very seriously, without us feeling any pressure to receive him any particular way, and he sang and played his heart out. His passion reminded us of what could matter in our lives…should we forget.
  • Gives real food for thought. Crowder writes and sings about a holy and loving God pursuing a lost and sinful people. The American Prodigal Tour relates to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. The picture for us today is how much we have in America and how far we have wandered from God and have impoverished ourselves in the wandering. Much of Crowder’s music speaks of redemption, forgiveness, and love…even when we are at our worst (even when we are at our most religious and hypocritical). As he communicated that message through an array of country, rock, and unplugged acoustic music…in the dark of that theater, it gave pause. There was so much more going on to think about and consider than just great music and fun concert vibes.

[In a Q & A article with Crowder on what he hopes fans take away from an upcoming concert, he had this to say:]

I hope that —and music is great at this, so I hope it happens that night— but we have such a hard time living in the awareness that we spend every second in the presence of God and every moment’s sacred, and a night like that can just shift our view to that reality.

So, that would be it. That you leave with an awareness that we are in the very presence of God, and this is sacred and beautiful and worth the journey. We can’t wait to get there. – David Crowder

Can you tell I loved the concert last night…at all kinds of levels?!

For you in the US, hope you are able to catch one of his shows in this tour that that spans most of this year and covers much of the country. In the meantime, check out his work on his website and places like CrowderVEVO.

What Everybody Ought to Know About David Crowder

YouTube Video – Crowder MusicAmerican Prodigal Tour 2018 – Paula’s Adventures – [Fan video but gives a taste of the experience] 

Story Behind the Song – Lift Your Head, Weary Sinner – David Crowder – with Kevin Davis

8 Ways to Spot Great Leadership – Mike Myatt

5 Friday Faves – Easter Reading, Classical Guitar Wonderment, Giving Place/Space/Voice, Touches of Whimsy, and Food for Thought

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in – here are my favorite finds of this week…

1) Easter Reading – Every year during Lent, I pull out a small pile of books. One, in particular has been a companion of mine for 20 years: British author Adrian Plass‘ book The Unlocking: God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. Another book found a place in my pile just this past year, yet the author has many years’ influence in my life as well. This one is Preparing for Easter by another British author, C. S. Lewis.

Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:

“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.

All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.”C. S. Lewis

“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.”Adrian Plass

Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.

2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:

YouTube Video – Full Metal Alchemist: Brothers (Kyoudai)

YouTube Video – Civilization VI: Sogno di Volare

3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.

You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills Writer

How to Help Emerging Leaders Find Their Voice – Ron Carucci

4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds.  He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.

This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:

[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]

5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.

C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.”

5 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t Get Seduced into Skipping Stones – Dan Lovgalia

7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know – Erin Canty

Photo Credit: Brene Brown Twitter

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can’t Pay Attention – Jacqueline

A Kick-starter Campaign by Composer Christopher Tin – the video itself is so beautiful.

This Restaurant Way Out in the North Carolina Countryside has the Best Doggone Food You’ve Tried in Ages – Shatley Springs Inn and Restaurant – Robin Jarvis

I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellatathis one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:

The one below for us writers:

What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team

Blog - Space and a place - gtrinityPhoto Credit: Gtrinity

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].

Blog - team a place for you - the brand bankPhoto Credit: The Brand Bank

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.

Monday Morning Moment – Blind Spots…Gulp. What Are Yours?

Photo Credit: Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

What do our faces and body language communicate? A friend and I were talking recently about how, as we’ve aged, our faces apparently have a resting pose of anger or disapproval. What?! When we were clued in on this, we both took action to keep a bit of a smile on, as a practice to avoid being misunderstood.

Not really a blind spot or is it? Blind spots are features of our personality (and physicality) that communicate something (usually negative) to others yet we are unaware of it ourselves. Blind spots are not necessarily intentional and if we were made aware of them we might be highly motivated to change or reckon with them.

Do we have blind spots in our posture and our behavior? In our decision-making or execution? Yes…and yes.

This isn’t a case for navel-gazing or over-thinking. We actually can’t discover our own blind spots without the help of others. However, sorting out our blind spots can, in fact, makes for healthier and happier relationships. As we realize how these not-easy-to-see patterns can have impact on work and life.

Following are four takes on blind spots by four business leaders. You seriously might want to jot down any of the blind spots that could be at work in you. Then check out these authors’ take on how to wrestle with these blind spots. Read the full articles by clicking on the links.

Thought leader, and CEO of her own management consulting firm, Davia Teman on 10 Leadership Blind Spots That Can Trigger Business Crises in 2017

Photo Credit: Davia Teman, Forbes

[Teman goes into these 10 surprising “don’ts” in her article here with excellent  counsel on how to get started dealing with these blind spots. Her expertise in crisis management in companies and careers gives weight to the idea of steering clear of over-trust and leaning into tested verification. Fascinating.]

The Top 10 Leadership Blind Spots, and 5 Ways to Turn Them Into StrengthsMarissa Levin – Entrepreneur and CEO of Successful Culture

  1. Going it alone
  2. Being insensitive of your behavior on others
  3. Having an “I know” attitude
  4. Avoiding the difficult conversations
  5. Blaming others or circumstances
  6. Treating commitments casually
  7. Conspiring against others
  8. Withholding emotional commitment
  9. Not taking a stand
  10. Tolerating “good enough”

Levin’s consulting firm provides help with leadership and strategy development, as well as culture-building. I am amazed sometimes what kind of assistance we can get online for such things. You can read more on her 10 leadership blind spots and especially her 5 compelling prescriptions for them here.

Leadership coach, consultant, and blogger Dan Rockwell‘s piece on Sudden Breakthroughs in Subtle Blind Spots

  1. Over-estimating your strengths. You think you’re a great communicator. They think you’re boring.
  2. Over-estimating your approachability. You see yourself as welcoming and open. Teammates nickname you, “Pitbull.”
  3. Over-estimating your listening skills. You think you’re exploring options. In reality, you’re killing ideas, cutting people off, and talking too much.
  4. Over-confidence in your solutions. You call it problem solving. They call it defending your viewpoint and devaluing theirs.
  5. Over-confidence in your ability to understand how others think and feel. You call it insight. They call it out of touch.

Rockwell gives 10 gut-punch but empowering rapid-read prescriptions on how to take blind spots to breakthroughs. Read them here, if you’re ready to deal with those 5 blind spots or others.

7 Leadership Blind Spots That Drive Your Team Crazy – Carey Nieuwhof, Pastor, Leadership Consultant, and Podcaster

  1. Underestimating How Much Work It Takes
  2. Impulsive, Emotion-based Decision Making
  3. Being Indecisive
  4. Being Too Decisive and Not Valuing Input
  5. Creating an Unsustainable Pace
  6. Working Too Few Hours
  7. Expecting Others to Put in More Than You’re Willing to Put In

[Read Nieuwhof’s succinct and helpful commentary on each of these here.]

Months ago, I also wrote about blind spots (here). The following is an excerpt:

Life coach and writer Martha Beck prescribes a way to discover our blind spots.

“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.

Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”Martha BeckPhoto Credit: Vimeo

As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.

Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.

For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response can reveal a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am “totally right” in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? My blind spot response in that situation leaves little room for figuring out what the other person’s own “stand” truly meant.  It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications with colleagues…well, with everyone.

What do you think?

Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots – Martha Beck

What’s Your Blind Spot – Jane Taylor

6 Career Derailing Blind Spots and How to Overcome Them

How Successful People Cure Their Blind Spots – Kevin Kruse

How to Watch Out for Blind Spots in Your Leadership – Lolly Daskal

5 Friday Faves – The Speech of a Great Leader, Free USA3, More Than an App, Valentine Sweetness, and Bonuses Make 5

Here is a lightning fast rundown of my favorite finds this week:

1)  The Speech of a Great Leader – I wanted to quickly point you to Rams coach Sean McVay’s speech accepting the NFL award of 2017 Coach of the Year.  He never made it about himself. He expressed gratitude for man after man in his organization (and also his mom and girlfriend). Great leaders make it about everybody else.

Photo Credit: NFL

Also…just wanted to share this video of the Philadelphia Eagles:

2) Free USA3 – The Winter Olympic Games has its Opening Ceremony today. How beautiful to watch this display of international cooperation! To see all the athletes representing their nations is quite a sight. This year, as well as a few other times, North and South Korean athletes have walked together in the parade of nations. We will want to applaud.

Photo credit: Opening Ceremony, NBC

Then we remember the threats of nuclear attack.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of another sober reason not to celebrate. Three Americans are still being detained in North Korea. Businessmen. Educators. Americans. Held without reason. Sentenced without a trial to hard labor. Months ago…

Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, posted a video on Youtube about the plight of these three Americans.

Photo Credit: CNN

Please do what you can if you are at the Olympics or on social media talking about the Olympics. Use #USA3 as a hashtag. Raise 3 fingers if you are present at the Games, when you cheer for our US athletes.

     And pray.

Free USA3 Facebook page

3) More Than an AppKrueTV is shutting down.

This app is going away after today. It was a livestreaming platform for artists – new ones and seasoned ones alike. It was a springboard for many, including Beyond the Guitar.

I’m sad – watching many artists doing their “last stream” on Krue today. They will go to other platforms and we will find them. What I will miss is this community. It was extraordinary.

4) Valentine Sweetness – Gather a bunch of great women friends around February 14, and you get a feast of Valentine sweetness. Here is just a sampling:

5) Bonuses – This week was about 5 minutes long. I will close it out with what was going to be the bonuses. These will suffice for my fifth find:

A Film:  Isle of Dogs

A Quote: “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” – James Baldwin

A Newly Discovered Product: Probably over 10 years ago, at Christmas time, in Cairo, Egypt, I attempted to make caramel. A Brazilian friend of mine told me how. Take unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk and cover them with water and heat on the stovetop for 3 hours. Really simple. Unless you fall back asleep after putting the turkey in the oven in the pre-dawn of a Christmas morning. At some point later, I awoke to a loud pop! On my way to the kitchen, another pop happened. When I arrived the white walls of our kitchen looked like the side of a Guernsey cow. The water had boiled out, and the cans had exploded. Golden brown caramel was splattered over every surface of the kitchen…on Christmas morning. I never made caramel again.

This was a lovely find this week:

and…Spring is coming:

Have a weekend of making memories with those you love. See you soon.