Tag Archives: Monday morning moment

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – the Components of Truly Multiethnic Organizations – Color, Culture, Compromise, and Community

Photo Credit: ProExcell, Eclassified

Is being multiethnic part of your organization’s DNA or core values?

Whether a part of a Fortune 500 company or a megachurch, or whether just beginning a small business or a new church plant, our values are soon exposed. First, by our goals and then by our makeup.

“Like begets like”. For better or worse.

So…what if we see the value of multiethnicity in our organization, is it apparent in our makeup?

A quick assessment can come out of the 80/20 rule: when one racial group accounts for 80 percent or more of the membership (or organization).* In the US, if our company has 100 employees, and 79 or fewer are white, we are moving in the direction of being multiethnic in our makeup. Easier than counting through employees, just look at the makeup of the leadership team. That readily speaks to the direction of the organization.

I’m not talking quotas here, at all. Racial diversity is probably not the ultimate goal. It can, however, be a part of the goal.

If we are part of a mono-cultural (a racial majority) organization, there is benefit in asking these questions: Should we look more like the rest of the world? What do we communicate when we don’t? What problems do we make for ourselves in keeping the status quo? What positive impact can we have on the present and future, if we do act, moving toward multiethnicity, with intentionality?

For starters, let’s examine the components of a multiethnic organization – color, culture, compromise, and community.

Color and Culture Pastor and writer Bryan Loritts gives perspective in his book Right Color, Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Your Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic (A Leadership Fable). Written in the style of the great Patrick Lencioni leadership books, it’s a fast and fascinating read, with much to mull over afterward.Photo Credit: Cedarville University

In his book, Loritts paints a clear picture of color and culture as he defines 3 types of cultural expression.

C1 – Persons within a certain ethnic group who have assimilated into another ethnic group. Loritts uses one such example from our TV pop culture of a few years ago: Carlton Banks of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air -and the It’s Not Unusual dance. On the surface, these persons would seem to easily blend into an emerging multiethnic organization. They bring racial diversity without rocking the institutional boat. Will just considering skin color get us to goal?

C3 – At the other end of the spectrum, the persons within an ethnic group who absolutely refuse to assimilate within other ethnic groups or cultures. Again, from the same 90s TV show, Loritts uses a different character as a light-hearted example: Fresh Prince Will Smith Dancing. C3s do not blend into the majority ethnic group and have no intention of doing so. What they bring to an organization is ethnic definition.

Hang in there with me. Especially if you’re thinking this has nothing to do with competence or corporate excellence. There’s more.

C2 Those persons who have the unique ability to go from one culture to another, without compromising or losing who they are in the process.

Who did Loritts give as a person we can all recognize as a probable C2? Denzel Washington. When you look down the 30-years-plus of Washington’s films, he chose to portray a wide range of characters at which we watched and wondered. C1s, C3s, and, of course, C2s. Washington is a black man with the wisdom and understanding of one who will bring his best to any situation, without losing himself.

This breakdown of cultural expressions made me take a long, hard look at my own life – if not my preferences, definitely my default. I’m a C2 wannabe in a C3 life AND organization. In earnest, I do want to be a C2, but too many actualities in my life point to the fact that I’m not there yet…but “there” is my goal.

We need C2s to grow into truly multiethnic organizations.

Compromise – To move our organizations toward a goal of multiethnicity, compromise, in the best sense of the word, will be required. As we look at our makeup and our market, we must ask hard questions of ourselves. What are we really willing to invest to get to a multiethnic leadership and true organizational partnership across cultures?

If leaders are interested in exploring and reaching beyond their particular demographic, they must understand that a lot of it has to do with …leadership. This is something that has to be flowing out of the leader. This intentionality and staffing will always prove to be a major catalyst for change. DeYmaz also issues a call for intentionality when it comes to developing diverse leadership teams…Bryan Loritts says the ideal candidate for a leadership role is what he refers to as a C2 leader. “A C2 is a person who is culturally flexible and adaptable without becoming ethnically ambiguous or hostile.” As an example of a C2 individual he points to actor Denzel Washington,as someone with the unique ability to play a variety of culturally-different roles while remaining true to himself in the process.* – Jeff Fehn

A Training Curriculum Model of Multiethnic Ministry Best Practices Designed for Harmony Vineyard Church – Jeffrey A. Fehn

Community – With intentionality and the willingness to give space to other ethnicities and cultures, our organizations can look like and identify with the world we serve. Our products and identity can  communicate both excellence, relevance, and highest humanity as we become more multiethnic. In fact, while we may strive toward diversity or multiethnicity… really the goal needs to be multiculturalism…enriching and empowering each other personally and organizationally.

While cultures are defined by their distinctiveness, community and interaction rely upon commonalities to establish unity. In order to have intercultural relationships, some accommodation must be made on one or both sides of the cultural divide. But the act of accommodation represents, to some degree, a compromise and loss of cultural values.Mark Naylor

Photo Credit: Together for Adoption
A truly multiethnic organization will be multicultural.
What is gained in formulating goals that bring together ethnicities and cultures with processes that encourage positive compromise and rich community? I’d say…the world.

Where will these kids work, serve, and do community one day?Photo Credit: Flickr

[Postscript: Pat Lencioni’s most recent post popped up in my email this morning, a day after my weekly post went up. He adds one other “C”: Conflict – check out his read on Diversity’s Missing Ingredient.]

Right Color Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Your Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic (A Leadership Fable) – Book Review by Chis Pappalardo and J. D. Greear

Right Color, Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Your Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic (A Leadership Fable) – Bryan Loritts

*A Training Curriculum Model of Multiethnic Ministry Best Practices Designed for Harmony Vineyard Church – Jeffrey A. Fehn

Monday Morning Moment – On Being White in a #BlackLivesMatter America – in Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery, Alpha Stock Images

I have never felt so white as in recent years. Even all the years we lived in North Africa weren’t like now. Being white, politically conservative and evangelical, some would say, in our current political and cultural climate, that folks like me come from a camp of perceived unsavories.

That reality is might be changeable as political parties come and go in power. What I would love is to have conversation with you…if you would engage with me in the Comments below…is about the realities of those whose skin and cultural experience is black.

No matter what my heart is toward people of color or my attempts to bridge the racial gaps of this city…is it too little, too late? No. I know it’s not too late, but what can I do definitively to help?

This is what I’m asking and searching out.

When the Rodney King arrest happened and became a cultural phenomenon, we were living in the hills of East Tennessee. Far from the struggles that poverty and racial tension bring to urban America.

With violence in the US on the rise, it is easy to see how edgy police officers could get. Police brutality is never the answer. It is, however, a part of the many problems we have in our country right now.

Don’t Just Blame the Cops: Who Is responsible for America’s Killing Fields? – John W. Whitehead – Huffington Post

[I couldn’t imagine someone I loved being in law enforcement and am grateful for these men and women who try to do right and try to keep us ALL safe.]

What stirred me to write today (besides it being MLK Day) was an account by a friend of mine who was pulled over recently by local police. This friend is well-educated, conservatively dressed, articulate, and kind. He lives in a part of the city that is being revitalized, doing work in a non-profit organization and he has a family. He is also black.

When we talked, he told me this was actually the fourth time he had been stopped for confusing reasons that could have put him in harm’s way, when he wasn’t guilty.

When he was in high school, he was among a group of students gathered by a police officer. The purpose of the class was to teach them “how not to get shot” if ever approached by law enforcement.

My friend has applied those lessons on these multiple “pull overs”.

When he and his wife shared the details of some of these encounters with police, it caused me to be scared for them…and for all those who experience this kind of profiling (because of their color?).

That conversation reminded me of my only experience that was anywhere close to his. [And then, it’s not even close.] Once when we lived in North Africa, a police officer pulled me over, took my papers and refused to return them to me until I paid him “a fee”. I had done nothing wrong, and I couldn’t leave without my papers. Stuck. It was the only time in all the years we lived overseas that I essentially cooperated with a bribe.

As infuriating and exasperating as that North African experience was, I still felt the benefit of white privilege. I had the money to pay him. I, an unaccompanied woman, was driving a car. I knew if I appealed (to anyone in our hearing that day), he may have probably backed off.

A big difference between my friend’s situation and mine was that I knew there was a way out. Not sure of his confidence of that…

Photo Credit: Flickr

The phrase “white privilege” feels wrong, to be honest, and I chafe in every conversation where it comes up. I wanted to be a person who has tried to be “color  blind”. The problem with that “color blindness” is our black neighbors, coworkers, friends don’t have that option. I’m beginning to see and acknowledge how privileged I am in so many ways. This is what I used to call “blessed” which had no color attached. Unfortunately, when my friend shares his experiences, I want to agree with him. There is privilege attached to my life. If there is privilege, then how do I use it for the sake of others?… This friend of mine has his own privilege through education and class, BUT the color of his skin trumps all of that.

YouTube Video – If Someone Doesn’t Understand Privilege, Watch This

On Sunday, at the start of our church service, I saw, sitting by our pastor, a person of color, wearing the “pastor’s mic”.  I’d been praying for some time that when we added to our staff, we would seek a black man or woman. When Rayshawn Graves was introduced as our speaker, I forgot for a moment that his presence was aligned with our observance of MLK Day. Initially my heart thrilled at the possibility that he was preaching “in view of a call”. Oh well (I would find out later)…he is contentedly on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond.

Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. His message was so encouraging to me as a white believer desiring to figure how to deal with racism in America (what could I do?). My takeaways from his assuring and equipping sermon follow:

  • Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
  • Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
  • Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
  • Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
  • We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
  • Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.

You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.

#BlackLivesMatter: A Guide for Confused White People – Sarah Wotaszak

YouTube Video – A Biblical Response on Race – Sermon by Tony Evans

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

As we pause on Martin Luther King Day and reflect on the sobering issue of racism in our country, and world, we can be hopeful. The hope must be grounded in what has already been done for us to be unified…and what we can do, based on truth, towards racial reconciliation. Still thinking of my friend, somehow profiled by law enforcement, I am more resolved than ever before to reach out in as many directions as possible. May God open doors and bring unity.

Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist – Daniel Kleven

Postscript: Below I have excerpted just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions.  He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.

[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Photo Credit: Flickr
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Day – Resolved

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Today we started another sugar detox to deal with those few extra pounds from all the great holiday eating. Also started a gentle-on-the-heart decluttering project. Will deal with exercise at some point.

What I’m most excited about are the resolutions that were actually spurred on by our pastor during his sermon Sunday [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. Cliff challenged us to commit to some to the Lord…together.

In fact, before the end of the service, we were to think, pray, and write down our resolutions and place them in a self-addressed envelope. He will mail them back to us in three months to encourage us back to resolve if we have faltered at that point.

Cliff preached from 1 Corinthians 1 about the callings God has placed on our lives…and with the callings He empowers us, providing all we need to be successful. Our responsibility…privilege, really…is to resolve to enter into the life God intends for us, rather than play around with something much less. God calls us into deep relationships with him and with each other. We can miss that by paddling around in the shallows of life…choosing superficial over the supernatural.

Anyway, I was resolved, before that sermon, to go deeper with God this coming year and to surrender myself to Him in my relationships with others as well. Cliff’s encouragement came at just the right time. I especially appreciated a phrase he used about God being the “first voice” in our ears each morning. Not our phones, not email, not social media, not any other distractor. Just His voice…first.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example to us of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Monday Morning Moment: Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Is What We Do Enough? Are We Good Enough? No Matter. Jesus Is Good…and Good Enough

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable [unspeakable] gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

The countdown to Christmas can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Last shopping trips. Last online ordering. Lists checked off. Presents wrapped or bagged.

Is it enough? Is it good enough? If there is any holiday that coaxes out our need to please people or to perform well, it’s Christmas. Our motives are well-intended. We love those whom we shop for…otherwise we wouldn’t spend all that time and money searching for that special something to put under the tree for them.

The dilemma comes when we look back over our lists and look under the tree and wonder, is it really enough? What would be enough anyway? There’s always one more thing that would just be the perfect gift…one more thing that would make you the best. mom. ever. Or not….

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable, indescribable gift in the Lord Jesus Himself! Brooding over whether I’ve sufficiently displayed my love for family and friends through these Christmas gifts adds nothing to what we’ve already been given.

What fun to see the joy a wisely-chosen treasure brings to someone I love on Christmas morning. Yet that is nothing, less than nothing, compared to the glorious gift of Jesus…His very nature God, His human birth, His perfect life of love, His sacrificial death for our sins, and His amazing resurrection. He is the Best. Gift. Ever.

2014 Phone pics July-December 118

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  – John 3:16

God gave…God already gave. It is enough.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

What God gives is good, and what God gives is enough. Even Jesus bore witness to this, when He said, from the cross, “It is finished.”

It’s enough, Friend. Take a deep breath, and let Christmas wash over you with the peace of God. Jesus is good. Jesus is enough.

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Image – Christmas card front – Anton Raphael Mengs’ Nativity Scene

YouTube Lyric Video of Indescribable written by Laura Story and performed by Chris Tomlin

What does “unspeakable” gift mean? 

10 Reasons Jesus is Enough by Jarrid Wilson

God’s Unspeakable Gift – Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, January 8, 1893

YouTube Lyric Video Christ is Enough by Hillsong Live

Monday Morning Moment – Are Customers Loyal to Your Company or to Your Employees?

OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.

My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book.  Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.

Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.

What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.

Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.

In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:

Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.

1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways
2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train
3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path
4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews
5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief
6. Recognize and Reward Initiative
7. Ask Employees What They Want
8. By All Means, Have Fun
9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place

To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:

• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements
• Practice effective story-telling
• Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust
• Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip.
• Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value
• Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein

Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.

Research: Are Clients Loyal to Your Firm or the People in It? – Joe Raffiee

Why Managers Should Care About Employee Loyalty? – Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy

Does Employee Loyalty = Customer Loyalty? And, Did It Ever? – Michael Lowenstein

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills Writer

Eyes on the Customer Experience Prize: Will 2016 Be the Year of the Emotionally-Driven Employee Ambassador? – Michael Lowenstein

Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Companies No Longer Reward Loyal Employees – Eilene Zimmerman

8 Reasons to Keep Your Customers Loyal – Rama Ramaswami

Monday Morning Moment – Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary – The Fred Factor

Photo Credit: SlideShare

Happy Monday, Friends! This weekend’s activities included a visit with friends in their home in the Virginia mountains. The wife is an artisan, and the husband is on staff at a nearby university. He, in fact, mentors student leaders as part of his work. In my little gift bag for them was a favorite leadership story by Mark Sanborn. Its odd title is The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.

[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]

The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare

We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.

Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:

1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn

A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.

2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn

Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.

3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn

Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.

One Behavior Separates the Successful from the Average – Benjamin P. Hardy

Six Simple Ways to Rekindle Your Employees’ Love For Their Job – Lama Ataya

4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn

At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).

Photo Credit: SlideShare

The Fred Factor – SlideShare – Jitendra Gupta

GoodReads Quotes – The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary by Mark Sanborn

Monday Morning Moment – Taking Care of Our High Capacity Employees and Volunteers

Photo Credit: Ben+Sam, Flickr

The Energizer Bunny is an iconic symbol of its own message: “It just keeps going and going…” Such is our belief in high capacity employees and volunteers. In fact, the default is never imagine these tireless folks could run out of steam.Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr

They don’t usually. However, there are situations when their “keep going and going” is out the door.

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

This week, Carey Nieuwhof, one of my favorite leadership guys, pointed us to the 6 reasons he believes we lose high capacity volunteers.  

[High capacity: Nieuwhof describes these folks as those who “can attract other capable leaders; don’t drop balls; love a challenge; constantly overperform”.]

This content is easily generalized to the workplace.

Before we launch into Nieuwhof’s observations, let’s celebrate high capacity folks for a moment. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a colleague or fellow volunteer who immediately came to mind. That person who stays long at-task after others have lost interest, determined to figure out the solution or finish the project. That person we count on to be “a rising tide that lifts all boats”. That person who carries the ball or puts all she has in the game as if the outcome depends on her. Dependable, tireless, and visionary. Like in the classroom, we in leadership roles too often focus on others more than these because 1) others are either more needy or more demanding, and 2) we figure these “energized” ones don’t need our oversight.Photo Credit: Pixabay

We communicate core values in this, whether we’re aware or not. Nieuwhof’s insight and counsel are much-needed in a high-pressure workplace or organization. For leaders who themselves are already stretched, we count on our high capacity folks to stay at the work they love and we focus our energy elsewhere. Actually, the return on such our investment here, as prescribed by Nieuwhof, would work to our advantage.

6 reasons you’re losing high capacity volunteers (employees)

  1. The challenge isn’t big enough. – When the role is too well-defined and task-oriented with little scope for a broader impact, high capacity individuals may lose interest. It’s less that they have to matter (to the larger organization) but that their work matters…and they can see that by the trust given to them in the challenge.
  2. Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy. – Nieuwhof defines these as: Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how.” If high capacity individuals are clear on the why, they can engage with the mission and go all crazy with the generation and execution of strategy. Leaders are wise to set vision and then let loose these folks to get after it.
  3. You’re disorganized. – Plenty of us struggle with being organized. It can come with the chaotic schedule of leaders and managers. As we work with our high capacity employees and volunteers, we are wise to focus on providing them with what they need to be successful (direction, resources, right people at the table – including those in charge, on occasion). As time-consuming as this may seem, the outcomes will always be worth it.
  4. You let people off the hook too easily. – Nieuwhof doesn’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. Without intention, we can find ourselves modeling a low-accountability, slacker-friendly work ethic. Not because it is what we value but because our own heavy work-load keeps us from moving our personnel (or volunteers) to the next level of performance. We talk about it (in meetings galore) but we struggle to truly expect it in a real (work)life situation. We keep depending on our high performers to carry the bulk of the workload. High capacity individuals don’t necessarily mind the work but they crave high standards. They see the value and want it for themselves and for those they work alongside. Again, not in a mean way but in a genuinely caring way.
  5. You’re not giving them enough personal time. – Ouch! Where on our full to busting schedules are we going to insert time to touch base with our high capacity folks? We’re talking minutes here – fractions of time in a workweek – that will yield way more than we think. Dropping a meeting or two off our schedule to add face-time with these individuals will speak volumes to how you value them and what they bring.
    “Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people. Flip that.” – Carey Nieuwhof
  6. You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers (or employees) around them. – We make a grave error in judgment when we think our high performers just want to be left alone to do their work. These individuals are often energized by others like them. They welcome opportunities to learn from and encourage each other. Turn over large projects to these folks and give them the authority and resources to run them together. Then give them the perks of such responsibility – they present on the project; their names are linked to the project; they travel to represent the project. Is it because high capacity individuals need the recognition or significance such a collaboration gives them? No. They have already had the satisfaction of doing a good work with valued coworkers. What this does is to say to the company, organization or world that their bosses truly know and publicly value their contribution. That matters.

A lot to chew on on a Monday morning. Thanks, Carey Nieuwhof. Please write another piece on how you apply this wisdom in your own workplace.

[By the way, y’all, don’t miss the Carey’s commentary on his 6 reasons AND the comments at the end of his blog – so good!]


6 Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers – Carey Nieuwhof

9 Phrases Bosses Should Say Often to Inspire and Motive Others – Marcel Schwantes

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People – Gary Chapman & Paul White

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the High-Tech Industry: a Tool for Engineers to Grow Soft Skills – Paul White

8 Bad Mistakes That Make Good Employees Leave – Travis Bradberry

Great Entrepreneurs Look After Their Employees

Photo Credit: Pixabay