Tag Archives: Monday morning moment

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

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

Photo Credit: MCC

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Truett McConnell University

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

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

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

Men Who Finish Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where we seem to be today in America.

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

Finish Well – Michael Staires

Guardrails – Andy Stanley

Why You Need Guardrails in Your Life – Robin Steele

Four Essentials to Finishing Well – Jerry Bridges – Desiring God

7 Characteristics to Help You Finish Well – Ken Boa

Real Momentum

Monday Morning Moment – Truth Matters

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

“What is truth?”

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

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

Truth matters.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

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

Just innuendo and nuance.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – Thriving Under a Narcissistic Boss and a Not-so-random Inspiring Other Story

If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…

[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]

Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.

10 Signs Your Boss or Manager Is a Narcissist – Preston Ni

The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.

One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 212: Erwin McManus on How to Spot a Narcissist in Leadership, Overcoming the Need for Approval, and What He Experienced at the Global Leadership Summit 2018

McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”

In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:

A Narcissist has:

A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.

A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.

A Narcissist doesn’t:

Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.

Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.

Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.

McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.

Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).

What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”.  Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:

  1. Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
  2. Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
  3. Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin. “Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
  5. Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it. “Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
  7. Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
  8. Don’t argue. The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
  9. Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal

A Mild Case of Narcissism? – Dana Robert Hicks

As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News

This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*

[*See article by Carey Nieuwhof below.]

If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.

Postscript:

“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving AccidentJoni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

Joni’s Favorite Quotes on Suffering (We would do well to make copies of these and put them at eye-level at our work stations. Perspective.)

What Self-Aware Leaders Know that Others Don’t – Carey Nieuwhof

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

Photo Credit: Service Desk Show, James West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fine Art of Bringing Together Unrelated Ideas Emilie Wapnick

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

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

Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists, and VersatilistsShi Wen

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

Photo Credit: Dan Ryan, Ryan Search & Consulting

Why You Want to Be a Utility Infielder – Dan Ryan

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

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

The Value of an Adaptable Skill Set – Leadership Made Simple

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

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

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

Monday Morning Moment – 10 Characteristics of a Good Leader – What Do You Say?

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lehmacher, Quora

Too often we focus on what makes for a bad boss rather than looking at those good leaders in our lives. For the last several days, I’ve been asking friends what makes for a leader of excellence…one who  brings excellence to the table and also brings it out in their teams.

Before I asked these friends…from various disciplines (education, health care, private sector, and non-profits)…I developed my own list. As they talked about the good leaders in their lives – either past or present – their characteristics resonated with mine below.

10 Characteristics of a Good Leader

  • They enjoy their personnel. – Story after story of bosses who made the workplace more pleasant by their sheer enjoyment of their colleagues and teams. They were present. They didn’t have to have the room’s attention. They clearly just took pleasure in the folks with whom they worked (up and down the chain of command).
  • They know their personnel. – Leaders were described as excellent when they really knew their employees. They not only asked about the progress of work but how the individual was doing as well. They knew successes and failures. They knew the families. Maybe not in so many details, but it was obvious, by their interest that they genuinely cared about their employees…as well as what they were doing on the job.
  • They treat their personnel with dignity, even in hard conversations. – When conversations were disciplinary or corrective, these leaders still respected boundaries and showed care. No raised voices, no demeaning, no putdowns, no threats.
  • They reel in stress, instill confidence, and bring perspective. – Along with the above, when outcomes weren’t as hoped or when difficult change had to be executed, these leaders kept drama out of it. What was communicated was that we would get through this…together. Now, that wasn’t always possible, as when downsizing has to happen, for instance, but every effort was taken to care for those most negatively impacted.
  • They sacrifice for their personnel. – Business coach Ron Carucci wrote a post earlier this year entitled 3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic Culture. He talks about how easy it can be for leaders to become isolated from the majority of their employees, so focused on the success of the company…or their own success…that employees below them are neglected in the process. Time and time again, friends talked about how leaders would interrupt their own schedule…even travel or meetings…to deal with some difficult situation with a team or employee. This is a rare circumstance, I’m sure, but what a trust-builder, right?
  • They develop their personnel. – None of us know really what kind of person we can be until we have proven ourselves through experience and training. I hear so often about the problem of “not enough leaders”. Good leaders develop their personnel with broad generous strokes. Then, in time, they will discover who may very well be of the caliber to be in the line of succession for their jobs…avoiding the crisis of “not enough”.
  • They provide platforms for their personnel to shine. – One comment I received repeatedly was “She believed in me.” or “He knew I could do it.” Being challenged and then given the resources to be successful/effective were huge for folks describing good leaders.
  • Their decisions make sense to their personnel. – Because good leaders keep their teams up-to-date with vision, plans of execution, outcomes, then their decision-making brought no confusing after-shocks. Besides, good leaders instill trust, so buy-in comes more naturally. Often because leaders allowed their teams to speak into the decision as well. This is huge.
  • They extend their reputation to their personnel. – By this, I mean that good leaders share – with those on their teams – the responsibility and rewards of engineering a product or service. It’s not just the upper echelon leaders who collect the kudos. It’s the organization as a whole.
  • They show up when their personnel need them. – Lastly, this characteristic seemed to carry a high emotional ring to it with those I questioned. When an employee is in a tough situation, with an unhappy parent, or a litigious customer, or just having a really bad day, these leaders don’t leave it always to someone else. If they are needed they come…one way or another. “He always had our back.” “She knows me so she knew how hard it was for me that day.” For leaders to show this kind of character requires margin in their lives and willingness to let go of some other piece of their work to show up in this way. Again, I’m thinking these situations are rare, but they reflect a level of leadership that we all appreciate.

Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Technologies

Good leaders are others-focused. They have fought off the natural tendency of being self-focused and self-promoting. They are self-aware (they know themselves and know how they may be perceived by others). They have trained themselves in the habit of putting others first. This discipline is the cut of the fabric of excellence in leadership.

Now, I didn’t go into the other critical parts of a leader’s responsibility – that of keeping the business of the organization running well. This was all about what goes into the kind of leader we are glad to work for. When it comes to bottom-line and performance, Carucci in his article shows research that demonstrates the profitability of keeping priorities (like those above) and focusing positively on personnel. Photo Credit: Assad Schuitema, Care and Growth

“If a video camera captured your leadership team in action for a full day, how would you feel about that video being used as training for the rest of the organization? Serving on a leadership team should be viewed as a privilege. And along with that privilege comes a responsibility to behave in ways you would be proud to have the rest of the organization emulate.” – Ron Carucci

What do you think about what makes for a good leader? Please comment below. Whether you comment or not, take a moment to consider those leaders in your life that have made a tremendous positive impact on your worklife…and through that, your personal life as well. Maybe you’re a good leader because of the influence of those who mentored you.

Have a great Monday!

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

Want to Be a Better leader? – 5 Powerful Ways Kindness Can Help – Peter Economy

What Is the Essence of Leadership? – Quora

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Chuck Lawless on Executing Positive Change

Photo Credit: Maxpixel

A conference room table is much more winsome than rows of chairs facing the front of the room. At least for me. Chairs facing each other give the impression that all those at the table have a voice. Enlarge that to an organizational level. Especially related to change. When employees understand some sort of change is necessary for the growth of the organization, then having the opportunity to speak into that change has tremendous value.

Not just for embracing the change but for the execution of the best change possible.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be on a board of directors of a private international school in another country. Also a parent of students in that school, it was easy and satisfying to engage in the various problems and challenges the board faced for the sake of the school. Initiating change was always a part of that. Early on during my tenure on the board, I saw how difficult it was for the average parent to get the ear of the board. This was grievous to me that I had more influence than most of the parents on decisions affecting all our children’s school situation.

Out of this personal pressure point, a parents’ organization was birthed. It was a difficult labor, but worth all the effort in terms of trust-building and overall outcomes. Photo Credit: Better Together, Balcony People, Deb Mills Writer

Theologian Chuck Lawless has written an article on executing change. His focus is the church but his succinct 10 thoughts are relevant to any organization. See what you think:

  1. The healthiest organizations are always in a state of change.
  2. All generations can be opposed to change.
  3. People want to know the “why” behind the change.
  4. Their opposition to change isn’t always a personal attack on the leader.
  5. They might oppose change (in the church, on their team or subset of their organization) simply because that’s the only place they have a voice about change.
  6. Some aren’t opposed to the change; they’re opposed to the process.
  7. The best change agents take their time to secure support.
  8. Our assessment of opposition could be overly optimistic.
  9. A vote for change is not a guarantee of support for that change.
  10. Often, any immediate chaos caused by a change settles down after that change is done.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Thinking back on the formation of that parents’ organization, we learned the wisdom of securing feedback early from those most affected by the change. Feedback well before the roll-out of the change. We also gained an understanding of how “knowledge is power”.  Parents who had access to the knowledge of looming change as well as an avenue to speak into that change became advocates and influencers for the change.

Who are your critical thinkers? Those folks on your team who think deeply about work and the processes at work that affect personnel. Not all of them are the greatest cheerleaders and definitely not just the isolated inner circle of leadership.

Are we willing to value and seek out the critics, skeptics, naysayers, contrarians? If our ideas are so fragile that we can’t bear the input of these folks, how can we press these ideas on a whole organization? If we only take the input of those consummately agreeable with our ideas, then do we avoid, even lack, the feedback that could launch our ideas toward the most favorable change?

Business writer Oliver Staley gives organizational psychologist Adam Grant‘s take on the positive impact of the disagreeable giver – in regards to change:

Cheerful and helpful workers are beloved by their bosses, and just about everyone else, really. Enthusiastic optimists make for great colleagues, rarely cause problems, and can always be counted on.

But they may not necessarily make the best employees, says Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist and Wharton professor.

The agreeable giver may seem like the ideal employee, but Grant says their sunny disposition can make them averse to conflict and too eager to agree. Disagreeable givers, on the other hand, can be a pain…, but valuable to an organization, Grant says.

They’re more likely to fight for what they believe in, challenge the status quo, and push the organization to make painful but necessary changes, he says. And because they’re stingy with praise, when it’s offered, it generally can be trusted.

Disagreeable givers “can get more joy out of an argument than a friendly conversation” and be tough to work with, Grant says. But for organizations eager to avoid complacency and determined to improve, they also can be invaluable. – Oliver Staley

In Chuck Lawless’ 10 Thoughts, he doesn’t speak outright about disagreeable givers, but they are present and valued. One of Lawless’ readers, Jerry Watts, commented with this insight: “One time, in a culture far-far away, I heard a pastor say, ‘People aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of loss.’ – I thought those were good words to remember. After 40+ years, I have discovered that change is okay as LONG AS you don’t mess with me.

Change does mix loss with gains. When personnel have the opportunity to grieve ahead of time, their problem-solving acumen is sparked to help drive a better change, not just for themselves but for the organization as a whole. Is it messy including more people in the decision-making? Of course…but the process for everyone yields far more meaning and understanding.

The Best Employees Are Not the Agreeable Ones, According to Adam GrantOliver Staley

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate – Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule

Negotiating Change – the Key to Survival in the 21st Century – Grande Lum

4 Ways to Face the Challenge of Disruptive Change – Ron Carucci

YouTube Video – Adam Grant and Beth Comstock – How Non-Conformists Change the World – Change Makers Book Club

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We” – Deb Mills

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

Photo Credit: Career Addict

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

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

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

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

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

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

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

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

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