Tag Archives: stories

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 – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

I had an Aha moment recently when I discovered something had shifted in this season of my life. Social capital. To be honest, I didn’t even know what that was until a couple of weeks ago. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it and how to develop it…not for what it would benefit me personally but for what matters to me out there.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

There is a significant difference between social capital and human capital. The Difference Between article below gives an excellent contrast. Simply put, human capital is the skillset I bring to a team or organization. Social capital involves networks or groups of people resourcing one another to achieve something they all want.

Difference Between Human Capital and Social Capital

I could be a part of a team that has enormous human capital – brilliant, gifted, visionary people – but our potential for making remarkable change would be hampered if we ignored the social capital we could bring to bear. This is the silo effect in organizations. It’s also the inner circle handicap in other parts of our lives – where we focus on our own benefit and not that of a larger society. I referred to Jeremy Writebol’s article on this here.

My experience throughout life with social capital (before even knowing what it was) has been rich and fruitful. Just a couple of examples follow:

  • Years ago when I worked in a cancer center in East Tennessee, we wanted a vehicle for patient and family support that would endure throughout the experience with cancer (either to cure or death). There were several on our team who brought immense human capital to the table. Fortunately we also brought the resources of many networks alongside – the patients and families themselves, a nearby university, the cancer center’s foundation, the local American Cancer Society, churches and other private benefactors, and volunteer groups. It was an amazing collaborative experience and that support program continues to this day.
  • When we were living in North Africa, and our children were in high school, I was struck by the number of musically gifted young people with no avenue to share their art. In fact, at their school as wonderful as it was, there was no parent group, no booster club of any sort, to drive projects that would benefit neither the school nor the community. This small observation grew into a much larger idea and then, with surprisingly wide-reaching social capital of parents, staff, and the students themselves, a group called Better Together was formed. Out of this group was birthed an annual visual and performing arts festival which continues today. Also out of this group, our group was able to use our social capital (our various social networks) to benefit some of the local charities as well as the overall offerings of the school itself.

Social capital can be a solid foundation for developing a service or product or opportunity that benefits many. However, it can be squandered or diminished if not nurtured over time. Social capital depends on trusting relationships.

Photo Credit: NBS

Because of several factors in my own life – relocating geographically, job changes, and a series of other personal hurdles – I have let some of my social capital go cold. This happened in a season when I’m probably most aware of the enormous potential for deep, broad-reaching networking opportunities.

I just haven’t focused there lately…

Until now.

Recently I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. To be honest, the title did not draw me in, but the content did. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on.

It’s not a fluffy challenge, I can assure you. In fact, it is supposed to be finished in a month, and I’m still stuck on Week 1. However, be assured, I WILL PREVAIL.

The first challenge is settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly). Here my personal struggle is deciding which of the many areas of benefiting others I’d like to land. If you are part of my now smaller social networks, you’ll hear more about this in the coming days. I’m going to need your social capital at play…and I’m confident we can accomplish more and Better Together.

What are your experiences with social capital? Your stories? Your thoughts on developing social capital? I would love to hear, in the Comments section below.

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Social Capital – IResearchNet

Measuring Social Capital – A Systematic Review – Prepared by Moses Acquaah, Kwasi Amoako-Gyampah and Nceku Q. Nyathi 

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Photo Credit: Amazon

Lost Things Found – A Story and a Parable

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My husband and I love coffee. We also love to serve coffee to friends who love coffee. Over the years, we’ve collected favorite mugs – pottery mugs from Petra, Jordan; mugs with encouraging verses; favorite cartoon mugs; pretty flowery mugs for moms; mugs with whimsical animals tucked in the bottom, hiding for the coffee-with-cream drinkers. We have other every-day, minimalist mugs but these are the mugs that make us smile.

Then we lost them.

At Christmas, we bring out a box of Christmas mugs for the month of December. Our favorite mugs are then packed in the Christmas mug box until the New Year. Four Christmases ago, that box got misplaced. We looked and looked for it, after Christmas that year – scoured the shed and other less likely storage spots. We never found it.

Over time, we replaced those mugs…but still from time to time, wondered aloud about them.

Until yesterday.

I was out in a different shed (we had since moved from the house where we lost the mugs)…organizing and preparing to use or get rid of the contents of old boxes. When I got to this box that wasn’t labeled (very odd for me because I’m a great packer and inventory-maker after so many years of traveling).

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This box – this Avery label box – was one of many my mom used when she would pack up treasures at her house and store them to be given to us or shared with others at a later date. In her shed, she had stacks of these Avery boxes. When we closed down our parents’ home, many of these Avery boxes came to our houses. I still have a wave of emotion when I see them, even though we’ve also re-used them for storage of our own things.

Opening this particular box, I began unwrapping…it was a mug, just like one of my favorites. I didn’t remember Mom having this mug!?! By the third “favorite” mug unwrapped, I realized this was the lost box. The box that ended up in a corner with Mom’s treasures that we hadn’t yet begun using. This lost box…found!img_9886

It was so much fun unwrapping each mug…remembering the stories and people related to them. So much joy in re-discovery. img_9888

We have all lost things…my mom used to regularly lose her glasses and we kids would search everywhere until one of us proudly recovered them – from her sewing machine table, or on the Bible by her bed, or in the bathroom… Even though the losing would make us late somewhere, the joy of finding changed “mourning into dancing“.

blog-finding-lost-things-lost-sheep-gregory-dickow-ministriesPhoto Credit: Gregory Dickow

Finding our mugs, and the pleasure in finding them, reminded me of a series of parables Jesus once told his disciples. In Luke 15, he tells about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Jesus first tells about a shepherd with a hundred sheep. When he discovered one of the sheep was gone, he left the ninety-nine out in the open, while he searched for the one. On finding it, he called his neighbors and friends together to rejoice with him over the sheep found and restored to the herd. Then Jesus tells about a woman who lost a coin in her house and turned the house upside down until she found it. She was so thrilled by recovering the coin, she threw a party for her friends and neighbors (her joy was so great).

In both parables, Jesus compares this joy to that of the angels in Heaven over the sinner who repents and is restored to Father God.

Finally Jesus relates a parable of a lost son. This young son was reckless with his life and his inheritance, ending up in a miserable state, in a far country. He finally came to his senses and returned home. His father saw him coming and ran down the road to meet him. That same joyful father ordered a feast for this wayward son who had found his way home. blog-finding-lost-things-son-choosing-todayPhoto Credit: Molly Flinkman

This same joy, throughout these three parables, was that great joy of finding a treasure lost…the same as having a relationship restored.

There are a couple of troubling elements in the last parable. The older brother, the only other brother, was angry at his younger brother’s return. No rejoicing there. It doesn’t seem to fit in these parables of joy.

Also…the coin once lost was searched for. The sheep once lost was searched for…but not the son…not that younger brother.

My husband, Dave, loves these parables. He has often used them in his teaching, when appropriate. His conclusions about these two remarkable elements follow.

This older brother that was not joyful at his brother’s return. Why not? Why was the wayward brother not searched for?

Is it possible that the brother who stayed home, faithfully working beside his father…all those years, in the absence of that other brother…was the one missing from the searching?

Think about it. When my mom lost the glasses she needed…it wasn’t like losing a son; it was just glasses. Yet, because we loved her, we all scattered to find those glasses. That father whose foolish young son left him must have grieved terribly. More than farming beside him, that older son was meant to go after that younger one…that foolish one…and bring him home.

It might have been a struggle…but can you imagine, the immense joy of both the father, and the brothers, if the two came walking toward the house together…the lost one found…by his own brother?

I’m glad we have our mugs back. Rejoicing in that.

In thinking also of these parables of Jesus, my hope is that I won’t give up when there is something of much greater value to be found…recovered…restored. What joy!

Coffee, anyone?

What Finding Things Taught Me About Lost Things – Molly Flinkman

Story Vs. Parable – What’s the Difference?

Worship Wednesday – How Firm a Foundation – Illustrated

Blog - How Firm a Foundation - blueletterbible.orgPhoto Credit: BlueLetterBible.org

Many years ago, I spent the summer doing construction on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. A group of older American teens and five adults comprised a team who would build a structure over the course of that summer. The building would house a church (and the pastor family would live in the loft). Only one of us had any construction experience but we all had received a couple of weeks training prior to leaving the States.

It was a marvel that we had such confidence (faith, really) to do such a thing.

After flying halfway around the world to Manila, we boarded a ship for an overnight journey south to Mindanao. On our arrival, we were greeted at port by a small group of very enthusiastic Filipinos. They carried us, by bus, straight to the construction site for a look-see.

We must have been the sight.

Eagerly tumbling out of the bus, we were struck speechless at building lot where we would erect a church. It was obvious where we were to build because it was the only open space surrounded by several houses on stilts. It was also obvious why no homes had been built there before.

Covering most of the building site was a tidal pool, and it must have been high tide. We blinked and stared at the deep salt-water pool, complete with small fish popping the surface of the water.

How could we build in such a place?

Blog - Stand Firm - CouragePhoto Credit: NourishtheDream.com

Amazingly, we found that we could build there. A lot of engineering, which I don’t remember now, went into making the site dry (somehow rerouting the tidal water, pumping out the standing water, and filling in the area with dirt and rock).

Our project leader told us our most important job was to build a strong foundation. In this rural area, with more hands than construction companies available to us, we worked shoulder to shoulder with our new Filipino friends. Steel reinforcing bars were tied, and cement was mixed for days as we began pouring concrete footers. We poured a thick foundation and built up with cinder blocks.

I wish I had easily retrievable pictures from those hot summer days in Mindanao. The building went up and finally the sharply pitched roof was laid on.

On our last full day there, we celebrated our work together with those dear friends in that community. They would finish the last details of the building without us as we flew back to the US the next day.

I will never forget that first day, and the laying of the foundation, in particular. Such hard work…not to be short-changed. A year later, a violent typhoon hit that village, and we were sure the church must have been destroyed.

It stood through the storm.

How thankful I am for the sure foundation we have in God’s Word and His work in us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

A great old hymn, How Firm a Foundation, speaks powerfully about this strong support we have through the storms of our lives. Published in 1787, many have written hymn stories about it, but I refer you to the one written by Tim Challies. He also introduces the arrangement done of the hymn by the trio Ordinary Time.

Worship with me:

How firm a foundation, you Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who, for shelter, to Jesus has fled?

(In every condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.)

Fear not, I am with you; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid.
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

(E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovreign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.)

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.*

I love the imagery of this great old hymn, and thinking about how saints of God for more than 200 years have worshipped Him through these lyrics. Artist Laura Kranz applied her own powerful imagery to this hymn. One image is featured below; the rest you can find at the Overview Bible Project.Blog - How Firm a Foundation - buff.ly - Laura KranzPhoto Credit: Laura A. Kranz

Have a worshipful Wednesday. I pray you stand on such a foundation as God offers us. When we stood, that first day, on the building site…staring at a seemingly impossible task, a group of the church youth, sang a song of dedication. It was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less. The chorus was perfect for that day:  – “On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

It was beautifully ironic as our eyes were riveted to the sight of that tidal pool – at the same time, listening to these precious young people sing about faith, not sight. How firm a foundation we have in Christ!

*How Firm a Foundation – Lyrics and Illustrations by Laura Kranz

Hymn Stories: How Firm a Foundation (+ Free Download) – Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Ordinary Time – How Firm a Foundation

Ordinary Music Website

YouTube Video – Sink My Feet by Jillian Edwards

Carpentry and Building Construction – a Do-It-Yourself Guide

Blog - How Firm - biblevisuals.org

Photo Credit: Biblevisuals.org

Monday Morning Moment – Honoring Retirees – Workplace Culture & 5 Languages of Appreciation

Blog - Retirement - Gratitude at Work - Thank YouPhoto Credit: Harvard Business Review

It’s Monday morning. Who’s retiring from your team this week? Who retired last week? Who do you see around you at work today? Do they know they matter to you? To your organization? How has their value been reflected back to them? What can you do today to show your appreciation, especially to that one who is retiring? Sorry for all the questions. They’re bouncing in my head. Let’s talk about it.

[This might be a little awkward if you’re the one retiring, especially with reluctance…or if you’re not retiring but question your own relevance or value at work lately. You may not be able to fix much of what your experience has been, but you can set your own “finishing well”…whether it’s official in a few days, or in several years.]

From the sidelines, I am watching a very strange phenomenon this week. On Friday, hundreds of employees in one local company will retire. It relates to a measured downsizing necessary to keep the company operational financially. The downsizing is a much kinder and more valuing option than layoffs. Still, there are huge ramifications for those leaving as well as for those who remain, in the months/years ahead…without them.

How does an organization go about honoring hundreds of retirees? Well…apart from the numbers, it’s in the same way you would honor one. Bill Peel offers a really helpful array of articles on appreciation in his Make Mondays Meaningful, quoting from C.S. Lewis and the Harvard Business Review. This is a good place to start.

As I was thinking of the challenge for a company’s leadership and the human resources department to honor so many retirees, a little book came to mind. It’s The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Then I discovered he and Paul White wrote a follow-up book entitled The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Blog - 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Chapman and White describe five languages of appreciation (see in next paragraph). How we receive meaningful appreciation varies from person-to-person. Therefore we must attempt to personalize our expressions of gratitude to be effective. In a situation where a large number of folks are retiring, or in plan to build a workplace culture of appreciation, a comprehensive “shot-gun” approach may be warranted. If your aim is authentic honoring of your personnel, the extra work and creativity will be well-applied.

Maria Elena Duron, in her US News piece on workplace appreciation describes Chapman’s & White’s 5 Languages:

  1. Words of affirmation. Reassuring words (“thank you for your input,” or “great job on the presentation”) that serve to motivate and show gratitude to team members.
  2. Quality time. Going out of your way to spend a little more time with team members, discussing the topics that are relevant and important to them.
  3. Acts of service. Your words of gratitude could land on the deaf ears of team members who would rather receive help finishing a project or assignment. Going out of your way to lend a hand means more to such people than mere praise.
  4. Tangible gifts. Lots of people appreciate tangible gifts. The important thing here is to make sure the tangible gift is something the person values in their life outside of work, like a jersey of their favorite college football team or a coffee mug with their favorite cartoon character on it.
  5. Appropriate physical touch. Some members respond well to appropriate physical touch, like high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps and pats on the back. You’ll see this in sports, but it also translates well to the work environment.

Delbert Terry (speaking on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace) gives this charge to both supervisors and colleagues:

“In order to appreciate, you MUST initiate.”

  1. For appreciation to be effective, it must be individualized and delivered personally.
  2. Appreciation needs to be viewed as valuable to the recipient.
  3. Employees are more likely to “burn out” when they do not feel appreciated or emotionally supported by their supervisors.
  4. When leaders actively pursue communicating appreciation to their team members, the whole culture improves.

Dr. Terry acknowledges: “There are challenges that get in the way of effectively expressing gratitude to our colleagues. Some are internal issues attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. Other challenges are external and relate to corporate structures and procedures. These challenges need to be faced realistically, but they can be overcome.”

Challenge #1: Busyness

 Challenge #2: Communicating appreciation is not important for you organization

 Challenge #3: Feeling overwhelmed with existing responsibilities

 Challenge #4: Logistical issues that interfere with the process of sharing appreciation for others. Varying schedules, working on different projects…often make it difficult to express appreciation to certain coworkers.

 Challenge #5: Personal discomfort with appreciation *

*The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace – presented by Delbert Terry (pdf)

In honoring retirees and setting a workplace culture of appreciation, it is never too early and [hopefully] never too late.

As I think of the mammoth task of trying to honor hundreds of retirees in one fell swoop, I am both overwhelmed by and grateful for those who undertake such a task. How do you orchestrate such a celebration of so much human history and accomplishment? You do your best with gracious words, team parties, a speech from a charismatic leader, a slideshow of faces we love, and maybe shrimp and petits fours. I wouldn’t miss it, for sure.

The one thing I hope happens and it’s the hardest thing to make happen is that we capture the story of these lives. History, experience, a personal witness are so valuable and should be preserved somehow. Storycorps is an organization that gives us opportunities to record stories of people’s lives who have made a difference in ours. What a great way to honor those who have gone before us, so that we and future generations can continue learning from them.

Finally, we know something of the importance of authentic appreciation because of the character of God Himself. “Well done, good and faithful servant” are words any of us as Christ-followers hope to hear one day…from God, who knows us best. We reflect that deeply personal “divine compliment” when we truly honor one another.Blog - RetirementPhoto Credit: carp.ca

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

Applying Appreciation Language in the Workplace – Maria Elena Duron, U.S. News & World Report

Why Appreciation Matters So Much by Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review

How to Give a Meaningful “Thank You” – the Power Thank You by Mark Goulston, Harvard Business Review

StoryCorps.org – “We Believe Every Story Counts”

Appreciation at Work

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Charles, Dave, KevinThese friends are not retiring…transitions and send-offs are also opportunities to say (and show) “You matter.” #SaveOurHistory

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull’s Story of Pixar, Working with Creatives, & Steve Jobs

untitledIMG_0223Photo Credit: Amazon.com (l) & Deb Mills (r)

Dave, the husband in my story, has always pointed me in the direction of transformative books and learning experiences. That path converged with this year’s Global Leadership Summit and Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.

Bill Hybels interviewed Ed Catmull about his role in co-founding Pixar Animation Studios and pioneering the field of computer animation. Now President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, he has an extraordinary story to tell of leading creatives in innovative film-making. Mr. Catmull’s wisdom and humility can be well-applied in any workplace situation.Blog - GLobal Leadership Summit - Ed Catmull by brainpickings.orgPhoto Credit: brainpickings.org

“Science and art are not incongruous. Art isn’t about drawing; it’s about learning to see. Which business or professions do you not want to have enhanced ability to see?”

During this interview at GLS15, he talked about the business processes he uses in film-making. We can relate this level and quality of  accountability in any organization or company:

  1. Teams working together (using a Brain Trust – a group of colleagues all acting as peers, with vested interest, giving feedback;
  2. When failures happen in production – embracing [failure] but at the same time dealing with it with both total candor and kindness; and
  3. Operating within constraints (a budget) – actually pushes creativity higher and delivers better outcomes.

“Stories influence the world. We want to use story-telling for good.”

Listening to Ed Catmull talk about leading at Pixar and Disney whetted our appetites to read his book Creativity, Inc.

Originally, Mr. Catmull worked in the computer graphics department of Lucasfilm, in the beginning years of computer animation. In his book, he tells about his incredible journey in those early years right through to today. It was a wildly bumpy road at first and the work was almost sidelined had it not been for Steve Jobs buying Pixar from Lucasfilm.

Toward the end of the book, Catmull writes about Steve Jobs. They worked together for over 25 years, and the Jobs he knew was a much more complex and lovely man than who we knew through other media. A tribute full of “candor and kindness” – as much about how Ed Catmull sees people as about the amazing leader that was Steve Jobs.

Whatever your work, you want to read this book. Catmull describes how he modeled openness, confidence in, and care for his employees. There are trust builders and wide gates for innovation woven into Pixar’s business processes. Whatever our sphere of influence is, we can all learn to be more effective leaders as we think through how Catmull leads.

At the end of Creativity, Inc., there are 5 pages of bulleted principles that Mr. Catmull encourages as starting points for critical thinking. Here are just a few:

  • If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.
  • It’s isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
  • Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

Creativity, Inc. is not just a book for whom we now consider “creatives”. It’s a book for any of us who want to employ and empower people to grow personally and in community and to produce in ways that yield great products/services.

We all have stories that can influence the world for good…if we grow a work culture where those stories matter and can be freely explored.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

YouTube Video – Steve Jobs Remembered by Larry Ellison and Pixar’s Ed Catmull

YouTube Video – Ed Catmull: Keep Your Crises Small

5 Friday Faves – Workplace Friendship, a Book on Opposites, All Things Pumpkin, Story-telling, and a Chamber Choir

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! We’re expecting a rainy weekend here. With Fall weather upon us, the pull to be outdoors is even more heightened. If the rain keeps you in, here are five favorites to enjoy.

  1. Workplace Friendships – Adam Grant writes for New York Times about how friendship culture has changed in the workplace. I have life-long friendships which originated at work. Same passions, same seasons of life. Read his piece here. What is your experience?Blog - Friends at work - Friday FavesPhoto Credit: NYTimes.com

2. Book of Opposites – Jennifer Kahnweiler has written a fascinating book on Introversion-Extroversion. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. My  husband is a  introvert  and I am an extrovert. We have been married over 30 years and have worked together many of those years. We have learned a lot of Kahnweiler’s wisdom on our own…and after many years of struggle. This book is very helpful and empowering for any partnership between introverts and extroverts.

Blog - Friday Faves - Genius of Opposites

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Skip Pritchard wrote a great review here.Genius-card-front-1Photo Credit: SkipPritchard.com

3) All Things Pumpkin – O.K. I’m not wild about Pumpkin Spice Latte, but as soon as September comes, I’m in love again with all things pumpkin. My favorites are pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. When we lived overseas, pumpkin was solely treated as a vegetable. It is amazing in 7-vegetable couscous. What is your favorite pumpkin recipe? Please share in comments.2015 September Flowers & Fall Pumpkin Spice Blog 014Photo Credit: Weather.com

Fall Pumpkins by Carol Davis2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (147)Photo Credit: Pumpkins by Carol Davis

4. Story-Telling – Chase Neinken wrote a piece for NewsCred.com on what is critical to story-telling – Conflict, Authenticity, and the Audience. Read 3 Crucial Principles Of Storytelling You Can Learn From Kevin Spacey + House Of Cards, and watch Kevin Spacey talk about story-telling.

5) A Chamber Choir – Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers were recently on tour in Italy. On Facebook, I came across a video of them singing “Give Me Jesus” by Larry Fleming at the prison where the Apostle Paul was kept. Wow!Blog - Friday Faves - APU Chamber_Singers

Photo Credit: apu.edu

That video hasn’t made it to YouTube yet, but here they are singing at a concert in Italy.

Do you have a favorite group? Please share. Enjoy your weekend…and your pumpkin of choice.

“I’m the Boss” – Dad and Alzheimer’s – A Strange Companionship

2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 004After I punched in the security code (to keep residents in rather than us out), the heavy door released its lock allowing entrance to the memory care unit, First thing, I could hear Dad before even seeing him. He was sitting on the sofa, holding the toy he loves most – a dinosaur given to him by his daughter-in-law. [He thinks it’s a kangaroo, and, in fairness, it sort of looks like one]. He was staring off, repeating over and over, “I’m the boss. I’m the boss.”

The staff and other residents around this common room seemed completely unscathed by his declaration. A “stranger” entering the room broke the normalcy of the atmosphere. I’m sure they knew it made me uncomfortable to see my dad “lost” in some other consciousness.  He has Alzheimer’s.

I’ve written about Dad’s life with Alzheimer’s before (here). He was admitted into an assisted living facility only four-and-a-half months ago. He continues to do very well, despite life-threatening situations (blocked carotid arteries, metastatic colon cancer, and now Alzheimer’s). He amazes me, really. It is obvious, from visit to visit, that his disease is taking its toll. Yet there’s so much of Dad there still, and we are all so grateful.

A couple of months ago, Dad could still have conversations with us. He needed prodding, but the stories would come – fascinating, detailed stories of his growing up years and ours. I have always loved his stories. And the funniest jokes. Even when they weren’t funny, he enjoyed them so much, it made them funny.

Dad talking to Dwane April 2015

In recent weeks, conversations are becoming shorter, more of a chore. He still has great, comforting memories but the fire of remembering has to be stoked considerably. As far as short-term memory goes, he may not remember what he had for supper an hour ago, but he remembers so many other things. – that Dave loves strawberries, and that he still loves the Atlanta Braves, and exactly how to tease each of his grandchildren. When one of them visited recently and called his dinosaur a cat, he got all “offended”. Dad has fussed about it since, at each mention of grandson Jeremy’s name. He will forget eventually, but for now, it stirs an affectionate pot in his mind.2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 056

2015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 0572015 June Trip to Georgia to See Dad & Family 058[None of us could ever beat him in arm-wrestling, and as frail as he is, he hasn’t forgotten how to wear us out and eventually draw down our arms.]

With Alzheimer’s, the world of those affected seems to get smaller and smaller. We used to have long, meandering conversations. I miss the dad of those conversations. We’ve been fortunate in that he is still much like himself, with less words. He loves to eat and loves to laugh. I treasure that laugh of his. He still loves people and having visits from his pastor, friends and family, and his hospice nurses.2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 2472015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 2432015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 3612015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 332Especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dad has gotten less interested in going out of his assisted living facility. It feels safe to him. Comfortable. Once we’re out though, he is engaged – talking to the other drivers, telling me how to drive, looking for coins on the road (like we’re going to stop and pick them up). Alzheimer’s took away his freedom to drive but it also took away his desire to drive – a strange companionship, this disease and those who contend with it.

2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 3932015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 403One afternoon, we joined other residents in listening to and singing with a church choir in the great room of the facility – outside of the memory care unit. The world feels much larger there. The choir led in some old Gospel songs – “Victory in Jesus”, “Take It to the Lord in Prayer”, “I’ll Fly Away”. At first Dad seemed to really enjoy the singing, and then, he “went away”. Lost in his thoughts and memories.  I left him there…somewhere apart, following a scene I could not see.

After the choir finished, we walked back to the memory care unit, and he joined others for supper. Each has his or her own incredible life. Each now with different companions than they might have chosen – both at the table with them, and inside their own thoughts.2015 June Trip to Georgia, Blog, Family, Friends, Flowers 322

In watching Dad through his diminishing memory, and seeing those around him struggle, I’m struck by the dignity of life that we must battle to preserve. This quieter, mind-wandering, lovely old gentleman is still our Dad.

His repetitive “I’m the boss. I’m the boss.” is not surprising. With little education afforded to him as a farmer’s son during the Great Depression, he was rarely anyone’s boss. However, he has lived his life (for all the time I’ve known him) with such a confidence and determination, with autonomy and authority. With so much dignity that not even dementia can steal, hopefully.

Now, with Alzheimer’s, he won’t be easily convinced that he’s NOT the boss.

Maybe, it’s his turn…for a season.

Blog - I'm the boss - Alzheimer's[Big Dogs t-shirt with message (on the back) “I Am the Boss” – Happy Father’s Day present from that same daughter-in-law with a knack for great gifts – as in the dinosaur/kangaroo/cat toy Dad loves]

Repetition and Alzheimer’s

A Different Season of Life – Dad & Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, the Brain, and the Soul

Alzheimer’s Reading Room – to Educate and Empower Alzheimer’s caregivers, their families, and the entire Alzheimer’s Community 

Alzheimer’s Speaks Blog – Giving Voice to Those Affected by Alzheimer’s

Memories From My Life Blog – Memory Posters

The Best Alzheimer’s Blogs of the Year (2015)

12 Behaviors that Trouble Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alzheimer’s: 25 Signs Never to Ignore

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim Denison“An evil spirit of this kind is only driven out by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church became any sort of meaningful in my life. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a better life of meager means and lavish love. It was then that we responded to an invitation of neighbors, and a weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would only be about Christianity.

My first experience with Lent was seeing my best friend on a Wednesday long ago, after she had disappeared from our usual routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking is changing. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God and my own need for Him more clearly, then I want to integrate Lenten practice into my life.

That said, Jim Denison has written a beautiful 40-day devotional for this year’s Lenten season. It’s entitled Transformed – How Stories of the Cross Are Changing the World*. A dear friend gave me the paper copy, but I encourage you to take advantage to the free download and start reading, praying, and fasting (as God leads) today.2015 Blog on Easter Lenten Devotional & American Idol 004

Corporate month-long fasting has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail for me. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of my Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

For the past several years, during Lent, I read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was also a gift from a good friend. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle, from our side, with prayer and fasting. This is a strength in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading Transformed; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

Denison Forum

*pdf 2015 Lenten Devotional Transformed – How Stories of the Cross are Changing the World by Jim Denison

Why is Lent Relevant for Evangelicals? by Jim Denison

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Lenten Observances – Eastern & Western Traditions

The Coptic Church and Worship

A Catholic Homily for this Ash Wednesday in memory of the Coptic Christians killed last week [Beautiful blog – I do not believe in praying to anyone except God; still I appreciate the call to all of us to remember others caught in the cross-fire of evil in this world. Praying for their families and for those who are unfortunately enemies of the church.]

Photo Credit – Ash Wednesday – Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

East to Home – the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware

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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one scary, long, breathtakingly beautiful ride (scary, that is, if you’re not so keen about heights or deep water)…but it is the way home for us… The Eastern Shore of Maryland was my husband’s childhood home, and for the past 30 years, it has become another home to me. There’s nowhere else across the USA, quite like the Eastern Shore.

After the up and over bridge experience, we find ourselves cradled on both sides of the road by sprawling farms teeming with life.Blog - Eastern Shore FarmI always want to stop and have a closer look, but our need to push on to get home keeps me in the car, pressed against the glass, watching the grain fields look a blur, as we pass quickly by. I wonder, looking out at each passing farm, what’s going on in that house; what the farmer is doing right then; what’s ready to be harvested or what crop will be sown next.

The land is flat, and you can see far and away the various crops planted and growing alongside the Bay and other wetlands. There are also more inland stretches, where the acres of grain, corn, and truck crops are watered, during dry times, by irrigation systems that stand as tall sentinels across the fields.WP_20140614_006

The seasons are marked by what is happening in the field. It’s mid-June now, and “Locally Grown” signs pepper the side of the highway. The strawberry season is over, and pumpkins will be planted in some of those fields soon. Right now, we can look forward to asparagus, sweet peas, early melons and tomatoes…maybe even the first peaches of the season.

PeachMine was delicious.

The pace of life slowed considerably for us, after arriving at Dave’s parents’ home. It seems like all we do, on the Eastern Shore is eat, nap, and catch up on family stories. Yet, it is not so for the farmers in this rural part of the country.

The fields are always turning over from one crop to the next. I can’t tell the difference, but it’s not all wheat growing golden in the fields. Rye, barley, and wheat are all sown at various times on the Eastern Shore. Soybeans, too. Then there’s the corn. It is in its own special category of goodness. Right now, the dark-green leafy stalks are only knee- to waist-high, but in a few more weeks of warm summer sun, you can almost hear it grow. And I have never eaten sweeter corn than that pulled fresh from the fields of the Eastern Shore.

My husband’s family, for generations, has made their home east of the Chesapeake Bay, either in Maryland or Delaware. Our children have deep and enduring memories of vacations there – on the fishing docks of the Chesapeake or the sands of Ocean City, riding inner tubes on the river behind their uncle’s boat, picking out steamed crabs on newspaper on hot summer nights, playing hard in the winter snow or at games on the long dining room table, falling asleep on the living room floor at MomMom’s & PopPop’s, with cousins all around.  And cooking out altogether, the dads tending the grill and the rest of us talking and laughing in the kitchen. If it’s possible to eat our way through the seasons on the Eastern Shore, we have.

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As we returned home to Richmond, Virginia, today, I was struck at how much life we experience at home on the Eastern Shore. Family, work, play, stories…life. Farms are never still. There are always different crops to plant and bring in. Animals to feed, and young ones to nurture along. Families are also changing with the seasons. Our parents turn into grandparents and great-grands. Our children grow up and don’t get to make the trip as often to the Eastern Shore as they did as youngsters in the backseat of our car. Between schooling, work, and blending families in marriage, it’s hard to get everything in, and I see the challenge for them.

My hope is that in the crazy pull of daily life, we never forget our way home…us or our children, whether it’s to their parents’ home in Richmond, to my family’s home in Georgia, or to the Eastern Shore…in time for the summer corn.

2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 163

A Panorama View of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Harvest Time on the Farm – Eastern Shore, MD – Youtube Video

Farm Fresh on the Eastern Shore

Eastern Shore of Virginia – “If You Throw Seeds on the Ground, They Will Grow”