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.
Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.
[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of Warby Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]
The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare
We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.
Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:
1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn
A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.
2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn
Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.
3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn
Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.
4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn
At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).
The Energizer Bunny is an iconic symbol of its own message: “It just keeps going and going…” Such is our belief in high capacity employees and volunteers. In fact, the default is never imagine these tireless folks could run out of steam.Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr
They don’t usually. However, there are situations when their “keep going and going” is out the door.
[High capacity: Nieuwhof describes these folks as those who “can attract other capable leaders; don’t drop balls; love a challenge; constantly overperform”.]
This content is easily generalized to the workplace.
Before we launch into Nieuwhof’s observations, let’s celebrate high capacity folks for a moment. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a colleague or fellow volunteer who immediately came to mind. That person who stays long at-task after others have lost interest, determined to figure out the solution or finish the project. That person we count on to be “a rising tide that lifts all boats”. That person who carries the ball or puts all she has in the game as if the outcome depends on her. Dependable, tireless, and visionary. Like in the classroom, we in leadership roles too often focus on others more than these because 1) others are either more needy or more demanding, and 2) we figure these “energized” ones don’t need our oversight.Photo Credit: Pixabay
We communicate core values in this, whether we’re aware or not. Nieuwhof’s insight and counsel are much-needed in a high-pressure workplace or organization. For leaders who themselves are already stretched, we count on our high capacity folks to stay at the work they love and we focus our energy elsewhere. Actually, the return on such our investment here, as prescribed by Nieuwhof, would work to our advantage.
The challenge isn’t big enough. – When the role is too well-defined and task-oriented with little scope for a broader impact, high capacity individuals may lose interest. It’s less that they have to matter (to the larger organization) but that their work matters…and they can see that by the trust given to them in the challenge.
Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy. – Nieuwhof defines these as:“Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how.” If high capacity individuals are clear on the why, they can engage with the mission and go all crazy with the generation and execution of strategy. Leaders are wise to set vision and then let loose these folks to get after it.
You’re disorganized. – Plenty of us struggle with being organized. It can come with the chaotic schedule of leaders and managers. As we work with our high capacity employees and volunteers, we are wise to focus on providing them with what they need to be successful (direction, resources, right people at the table – including those in charge, on occasion). As time-consuming as this may seem, the outcomes will always be worth it.
You let people off the hook too easily. – Nieuwhof doesn’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. Without intention, we can find ourselves modeling a low-accountability, slacker-friendly work ethic. Not because it is what we value but because our own heavy work-load keeps us from moving our personnel (or volunteers) to the next level of performance. We talk about it (in meetings galore) but we struggle to truly expect it in a real (work)life situation. We keep depending on our high performers to carry the bulk of the workload. High capacity individuals don’t necessarily mind the work but they crave high standards. They see the value and want it for themselves and for those they work alongside. Again, not in a mean way but in a genuinely caring way.
You’re not giving them enough personal time. – Ouch! Where on our full to busting schedules are we going to insert time to touch base with our high capacity folks? We’re talking minutes here – fractions of time in a workweek – that will yield way more than we think. Dropping a meeting or two off our schedule to add face-time with these individuals will speak volumes to how you value them and what they bring. “Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people. Flip that.” – Carey Nieuwhof
You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers (or employees) around them. – We make a grave error in judgment when we think our high performers just want to be left alone to do their work. These individuals are often energized by others like them. They welcome opportunities to learn from and encourage each other. Turn over large projects to these folks and give them the authority and resources to run them together. Then give them the perks of such responsibility – they present on the project; their names are linked to the project; they travel to represent the project. Is it because high capacity individuals need the recognition or significance such a collaboration gives them? No. They have already had the satisfaction of doing a good work with valued coworkers. What this does is to say to the company, organization or world that their bosses truly know and publicly value their contribution. That matters.
A lot to chew on on a Monday morning. Thanks, Carey Nieuwhof. Please write another piece on how you apply this wisdom in your own workplace.
[By the way, y’all, don’t miss the Carey’s commentary on his 6 reasons AND the comments at the end of his blog – so good!]
The lyrics that we in the US church call to mind as Martin Luther’s are actually a translation from German to English by Reverend Frederic Hedge. American-born, Hedge was a German scholar therefore his handling of the lyrics of this great hymn should be supposed as honoring of the original.
Still, Hedge was a Unitarian minister. His particular theology, in Unitarianism stresses the oneness of God, without the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – three persons in One being). This thinking did, in fact, shift some of the meaning in the translation of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
David Mathis’ 7 points on what was lost in translation help us appreciate the hymn even more, in its original form. Read those lyrics re-translated from German by John Piper and Matthias Lohmann in Mathis’ article.
God is not only our safe refuge but He is also our strong offense.
God doesn’t just help in some of our woes but in ALL of them.
Compared to Hedge’s strong statements abut God’s power and our weakness, Luther’s original lyrics were extreme descriptions – ALL-powerful God and our total defenselessness.
In Luther’s words: All that happens is according to God’s plan.
Hedge speaks of God’s sufficiency in our day-to-day, and Luther further clarifies that even in our worst situation possible, we are secure in God’s sovereignty.
Hedge’s claim that God never changes is true, but Luther stressed that there is no other God. Full stop.
Hedge closes the hymn with the great truth that God’s “Kingdom is forever”. Luther personalized it more stating that His “kingdom must remain for us.” For us. Hallelujah!
The nuances are worthy of note. Hedge’s translation brought the hymn to English for many more of us to enjoy. His translation left intact the hymn’s power in speaking to the greatness of God and the church’s confidence in Him. Yet, Luther’s original lyrics were even more emotive of the glorious nature of God, His working out His purposes in the world, and His complete provision for us.
I know it’s Monday (when I usually write about leadership), but as the year closes on the grand celebration of the Reformation, can we worship together? Hedge’s English translation will more than suffice.
A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho’ this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.*
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings… – Proverbs 22:29
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. – Daniel 6:3
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31
The snooze-alarm doesn’t hold back the work-week, nor should it. Monday morning comes. Full of possibilities. Those of us who are Christ-followers can function as logistical agents for God. We avail ourselves of whatever our situation and allow our lives to point to God, in all His love and goodness. He will display His glory and draw people to Himself all over the world today.
Why not in our workplace?
A very wise friend of mine said once, “All of life is stewardship”. Many people have said that, but when I heard it from him, the message resonated with the vibrancy of his life. In positions of great authority and influence, his life is full of responsibility and time pressures I will never know. Yet, he stops to speak to all along his path. Encouraging, affirming, inspiring. In his travels, he is ever ready – stewarding brief encounters with strangers to share the love of Jesus with them, in word and deed. Even as I write this, I’m reminded of where that stewardship of his life originates – waking early, plunging into God’s Word, entrusting his prayers to the Lord…every single day. Out of this springs a life God can use to bring glory to Himself and to draw people to Himself.
On my worst days, I struggle with doubt and insecurity. The dark cloud of imposter syndrome hangs over my head and heart. Having known great favor in most of my career, those successes almost haunt me and disturb the joy of life that is meant to be ours…today…no matter our situation.
Like a plane careening out of control to the ground, I am urged to “pull up”. God is faithful to His children – reminding us of what is true and then giving us the grace to pursue Him in truth.
It’s not about my favor in a situation – at work or in the community. It’s about stewarding what we know God brings to any situation…if we allow Him. Being in the Word early, praying, and staying alert to Him ever in our circumstances together form a strong foundation for stewardship.
Be encouraged by the example of Daniel in the Bible. He lived for God in a pagan kingdom. We never know what God will do in our workplaces, if we bring our Sunday devotion to Him straight through to Monday. Let Him thrill you with the joy of infusing your work with His faithfulness.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.
It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.
Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.
When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.
Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.
Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.
As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.
She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.
Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.
That was 16 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.
Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.
Today’s workplace bends with the culture. Historical and current contexts are present in our work culture, whether or not we acknowledge it. What if our culture has lost its interest in history…in experience… in the wisdom of the ages? What does that mean for those of us in the workplace, when cultural context isn’t seasoned by what we learn from the past? What does history teach us about leadership, about work, about each other?
When I think of audacious leaders, by definition, they can be two different sorts of folks:
Courageous bold risk-takers, or
Arrogant, impudent decision-makers
A negatively audacious leader demands followership. A positively audacious leader, in his own way, also demands followership. Still the most followable leader is the one who leads with both courage AND care.
Hopefully your experience of audacity in leadership is the most a positive one (as will be spelled out more below). Two things leaders always communicate, either positively or negatively, is that “work matters” and “people matter”. Context and history both matter, also, even though the trend in thinking is toward the ever-changing “latest and greatest”.
I am sounding really old here, but fortunately those who speak with much greater authority across the business world are starting to sound the same clarion call. Take Steve Farber and Paul Sohn.
What do they say about radical, audacious history-changing leadership?
In leadership coach Steve Farber‘s article What Is Extreme Leadership?, he talks about taking a “radical leap”. He asks the question: “What can I do, right now, regardless of what others around here are or are not doing, to change my piece of this world/company/organization for the better”?
I love Farber’s definition of extreme (audacious) leadership and I’ve had the great fortune of working with leaders like that.
Paul Sohn, also a leadership coach, write about a bold leadership model – one that incorporates the practices and wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth.
[Sidebar: It’s a shame that most think of Jesus as belonging to Christianity. I wonder, even, if only Christians read to this point of the piece. There is so much to learn and appreciate in the teachings of Jesus. Being put off by how we as clay-footed believers represent him at times is part of our dilemma today. Please don’t miss the wisdom and understanding his life offers to all of us.]
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
“One will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is such a beautiful picture of audacious leadership in the most positive sense. We who work together to develop a product or deliver a service can create something better together. Not only is the product or service better suited for the customer, but we are changed in the process.Photo Credit: George Couros, Flickr
I do actually think it matters who the leader is, because our whole culture moves and shifts in response to who’s making decisions. However, we can determine (as leaders or as team players) to honor and elevate one another…as servant leader Jesus demonstrated in his life and teaching. We can build capacity, caring, and community, as Farber and Sohn prescribe, in how we lead and work.
We look back to what history has taught us; we consider the context of current culture; and we work forward to, hopefully, a better future. It’s only in giving up, that we fail. Be audacious in moving forward. It’s Monday…lots can happen.
Today, the idea of legacy fills my thoughts. To think of how to build and leave a legacy…to pass a baton well…planting it firmly in the hand of the next runner…how do we prepare for such a thing?
Yesterday, two events stirred my heart and mind in how well we can leave a legacy. In the morning, during their worship service, an older church in Richmond gave its keys to a younger growing church. Photo Credit: Chris Kollman
Such an example of selfless generosity caps the legacy of this church’s service to this community. Part of legacy, the passing of the baton, is for the second runner to take it and run hard with it…to finish the race…to win the race. For Patterson Ave. Baptist Church (the website is already down), the race is finished…and finished well…for Movement Church, there is still a race to be run. May we finish well, too.
The second event yesterday was a small party for a couple of friends of ours – a celebration of 60 years married. These two have taught usmuch about marriage, but they have also taught us and walked us through to a deeper faith. They are a living legacy to all who are fortunate enough to know them.
So often when we think about legacy, we think of older ones, but legacy building can start in youth. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps started very young. He began as a young athlete pouring into the lives of children who hoped to grow into athletes like him.Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
Phelps was amazing to watch in the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning gold medal after gold medal. Then in the 100m butterfly final, he lost to Joseph Schooling, of Singapore, who met Phelps when Joseph was just 13 years old. 8 years earlier. Michael Phelps’ legacy of 27 gold medals may be what most will remember about him. However, his silver medal will be what Joseph Schooling will remember, after winning the gold medal himself in that event. Michael Phelps is still young and his legacy-building continues.
My mom is in Heaven now…for 15 years so far. Her impact in my life and that of many others goes really deep. However, I’m not sure how long my children will remember the incredible good she poured into their lives. Their children won’t even know her. It is what it is with life in our youth-oriented culture. Still…my mom’s legacy is safe with me. I will never be the tireless servant or the big-hearted womanshe was…but it is my endeavor to grow in that direction. As long as my memory endures, her life blends with my own.
Leaving a legacy is on the minds of us moving into our senior years, but building a legacy begins much earlier. I have enjoyed reading about it in preparation for this piece.
Bart Astor wrote a piece on legacy for Forbes. He proposes four ways to leave a legacy:
Provide a family history. – Websites and guides abound on this subject. Asking older family members good questions can start that process. I will never forget when my mom died that it wasn’t 5 minutes before something came up and my immediate response was “Mom would know”. Too late. Ask questions early; label pictures; build a family history. Even if others in the family may not seem interested. It’s worth doing.Photo Credit: Success
Give to charity. –What do you care about? Leaving money to our children may help for a season. Giving to charities during our lives makes a difference in real time. Giving builds a legacy and models legacy-building for our family. We also believe in supporting causes that aren’t necessary considered charities ( crowd-sourcing, for instance, like Patreon helps us support a favorite musician).
Write a legacy letter – In a way, I started blogging with this in mind. Writing a letter as if you knew you were going to die sooner than later may seem morbid, but it is really a beautiful way to speak the words you want to make sure get said before you’re gone. Whether it’s in months…or many years later. A legacy letter can be written over the course of years…almost like a journal. Some things are too precious to leave to an aging memory.
Prepare an ethical will. This is something we can all do, whether young or old. A will is not a document we want to use to punish people or reward some and leave out others. A will is a final blessing we can give to others. Putting off writing a will is not helpful. We’ve encouraged our children to do wills while in their 20s. Wills can always be changed but they are an excellent way to provide for those we love during a terrible time of loss. When writing a will, it’s wise to do all we can to make our intent completely understandable and loving. We have tried to do just that with our wills.
We do well to mark our position in the race before us…to grip our baton…and then run hard. Our race does not last forever. There comes a time we hand off our baton to that one waiting eagerly to grip the baton at our release. Hopefully that runner has done all she can to be ready for the next leg of the race. Hopefully we have done our part…well…building legacy and leaving it in good hands.
Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.
Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.
We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.
At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.
This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.
In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.
She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:
Have a thin skin and make it about you.
Do not ask for input.
Bully and berate others or their ideas.
Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
Ignore ones who raise issues.
Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
Take credit for others’ ideas.
Accuse and blame in public.
Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
Pit one person against another.
Override every decision others make.
Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.
Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.
Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.
We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.
“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.” – William Ury
I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.
Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.
Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.
We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.
[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]
We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.
Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.
Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.
My mom was an intuitively reflective person. All of life was full of meaning for her. People mattered – what they said, what they did…what they didn’t say or do. She noticed how things played out, and she made decisions based on outcomes. Her decision-making was tempered by her faith and her understanding of the constancy of God. She was intentional in all she did.[a magnet always on Mom’s refrigerator]
She wasn’t perfect, of course. Reflection can spiral down to worry or fretting, and Mom struggled with that. Reflection can also err in over-thinking or over-analyzing. Mom could fall into “meddling”, giving instructions, or offering advice not asked for, but this was a most rare occasion. Even when she did it, I knew and appreciated her heart. She was right on the mark much of the time.
My whole life I have strived to learn from her and to be like her.
Reflection as a life habit is difficult for me. I like to fill time…even if it’s only with purposeless activity. Screens are my nemesis, be they computer, phone, or TV. Also over-committing or over-scheduling also hamper reflection. There seems a perverse and mythical work ethic that requires our days be full of meetings. If we don’t have our weekends similarly filled, we vigorously look for ways to fill them.
To our peril.
Reflection is to look back – over our day, or an event, or a conversation – and to pause and think deeply about it. What did we learn? How do we adapt our thinking and actions related to what we experienced? How do we go forward?
We can have reflective practices in our work and personal lives, even built into our days. These include alone thinking time, “sharing thoughts” conversations, and journaling/writing. My husband comes home from work and, in good weather, changes clothes and heads to work in his garden. After awhile, he settles into a lawn chair and just sits, watching and thinking. At some point in those moments, reflection blossoms.
[I benefit because he shares those reflections with me…and others later sometimes.]
Benjamin P. Hardy, my favorite writer on productivity right now, doesn’t talk about reflection so much, but he preaches it without saying the word. He recommends the deep work that happens outside of work. He also strongly promotes journaling as a “keystone habit”. In his article Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life, he is so thorough in his support of journaling that I can’t imagine anyone NOT journaling after hearing him list out the many life benefits.
I have journaled all my life, but it hasn’t always been as focused as it could be. My journals have sometimes just been reporting tools, emotion-processing devices, rant writing, and the like.
However, like my Mom, I discovered that writing is a way to bring reason to my irrationality and resolution to conflict. After writing awhile, I can come back to life, refreshed and better equipped to do what’s next…whatever that might be.
The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”
Inam provides a kickstart to journaling with these questions and writing prompts:
What’s present for me now?
What’s going well? What’s creating that?
What’s challenging? What’s creating that?
What needs my attention?
What’s meaningful? What am I grateful for?
What strengths do I notice in myself?
What strengths and contributions do I notice in others?
What am I learning?
What is an action I’m committing to?
Inam’s questions are helpful. They can bring focus to our ramblings. You might choose a different approach to how you use journaling in your reflections. Please share in Comments. Also, journaling may not be your preferred vehicle for reflection. I love, for instance, when workplace leaders encourage reflection over the course of a work day. Isn’t it lovely when a training or conference has reflection time built into the program…so it’s not just an “information dump” with no time to process. If you have experiences, either negative or positive, about your own use of reflection in the workplace, please share with us. We’re not just talking about productivity here, but personal growth and community building.
Talk a few minutes and reflect on the possibilities.