Tag Archives: work

Monday Morning Moment – Stewarding Your Current Situation, Whether Favorable Or Not So Much


Vancouver OlympicsPhoto Credit: Matt Jones

[Adapted from the Archives]

Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings…Proverbs 22:29

Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.Daniel 6:3

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

The snooze-alarm doesn’t hold back the work-week, nor should it. Monday morning comes. Full of possibilities. Those of us who are Christ-followers can function as logistical agents for God. We avail ourselves of whatever our situation and allow our lives to point to God, in all His love and goodness. He will display His glory and draw people to Himself all over the world today.

Why not in our workplace?

A very wise friend of mine said once, “All of life is stewardship”. Many people have said that, but when I heard it from him, the message resonated with the vibrancy of his life. In positions of great authority and influence, his life is full of responsibility and time pressures I will never know. Yet, he stops to speak to all along his path. Encouraging, affirming, inspiring. In his travels, he is ever ready – stewarding brief encounters with strangers to share the love of Jesus with them, in word and deed. Even as I write this, I’m reminded of where that stewardship of his life originates – waking early, plunging into God’s Word, entrusting his prayers to the Lord…every single day. Out of this springs a life God can use to bring glory to Himself and to draw people to Himself.

On my worst days, I struggle with doubt and insecurity. The dark cloud of imposter syndrome hangs over my head and heart. Having known great favor in most of my career, those successes almost haunt me and disturb the joy of life that is meant to be ours…today…no matter our situation.

Like a plane careening out of control to the ground, I am urged to “pull up”. God is faithful to His children – reminding us of what is true and then giving us the grace to pursue Him in truth.

It’s not about my favor in a situation – at work or in the community. It’s about stewarding what we know God brings to any situation…if we allow Him. Being in the Word early, praying, and staying alert to Him ever in our circumstances together form a strong foundation for stewardship.

Be encouraged by the example of Daniel in the Bible. He lived for God in a pagan kingdom. We never know what God will do in our workplaces, if we bring our Sunday devotion to Him straight through to Monday. Let Him thrill you with the joy of infusing your work with His faithfulness.

Photo Credit: BPNews

See you there.

Monday Morning Moment – Stewardship – Stewarding My Part Well in Today’s Workplace

Whole-Life Stewardship: The Call to Greatness

Four Principles of Biblical Stewardship

Developing a Vision for Vocational Discipleship at Your Church

If I’m not a Preacher, Can God Use Me?

Leadership is Stewardship (3-part series)

David’s Mighty Men – Stewardship in Action

Monday Morning Moment – Extreme Ownership – the Greater Good of Both Taking Responsibility and Letting Go of Control

Photo Credit: Echelon Front, Facebook

When we see individuals in the military with some form of Special Forces training and experience, we are captivated and sorely aware of how different they are from most of us. That level of discipline, courage, expertise and physicality is uncommon. Nothing I ever imagined for myself. Still what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply to life and work?

Although the book Extreme Ownership was published in 2015, it was unknown to me until this weekend. Thanks to my Twitter feed and then reading some reviews, I ordered my own personal copy. The authors, and former Navy SEAL team commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are heroes and the stuff of legend.

[OK…I haven’t read the book yet…pre-ordered the latest edition coming out November 21, 2017. however, the reviews and summaries (listed in the links below) have already been so informative, I will gush away even before reading the book. So sink your teeth into these bits below until we have both read the book…or have you already read it?]

The phrase extreme ownership really tantalized because it spoke to my own leader heart. It resonates with servant leadership which is hard to fathom as a norm in military structure and authority. The idea of everyone on a team, in an organization, owning their part of a vision or operation is thrilling to me. It makes sense that this would, of course, lead to highest performance…provided…and this is imperative: the leadership, up and down the organization, is equipping each team member, communicating thoroughly, and sharing decision-making as appropriate.

Leadership coach Brian Dodd was the one who first guided me to the book Extreme Leadership through his blog: 25 Lessons on Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN. Some of his points from the book are:

  1. “Without a team – a group of individuals working to accomplish a mission – there can be no leadership.  The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”
  2. “For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success.  The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas.  They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”
  3. “Leaders must own everything in their world.  There is no one else to blame.”
  4. “There are only two types of leaders: effective and ineffective.  Effective leaders that lead successful, high-performance teams exhibit Extreme Ownership.  Anything else is simply ineffective.  Anything else is bad leadership.”
  5. “Leadership isn’t one person leading a team.  It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”
  6. “Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism.  It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation.  Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.”
  7. “As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy.  If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed.  You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”
  8. “Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.”
  9. “Trust is not blindly given.  It must be built over time.  Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently.”

Business leader Tom Niesen also lists his takeaways from the book, and they align nicely with the other summaries I read:

  1. Mission (Commander’s Intent and Effectiveness)
  2. It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
  3. Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why”, and then pursues the “what”. Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all”.
  4. Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, under-performer [this should be a rare necessity in extreme ownership but it can happen].
  5. Get very good at information sharing.
  6. Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
  7. Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
  8. Prioritize and execute. – [Tom Niesen’s summary of Extreme Ownership]

I hope these two summaries (and others in the links below) will whet your appetite to consider reading Willink’s and Babin’s book. Especially  consider taking steps toward extreme ownership in your business or organization.

Sometimes, we struggle in leadership to trust those around us to speak into decisions or even to carry out their assignments without us hovering. Worse is when we just don’t trust others and, as a result, take too much responsibility on ourselves or just a few trusted members of the team. I’ve learned through my life to take joy in the many…even with all its messiness.

I’m reminded of a proverb along these lines:

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.  Proverbs 14:4Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If we want processes neat and tidy, we must hold tight to control and keep our trust to a very few colleagues.

Extreme ownership requires a great deal from leaders. We must operate with wisdom and excellence to fully equip our teams and then to give them the freedom to execute. Clear and full communication, up and down the command chain, greases the tracks for this kind of operation. Shouldering personal responsibility at all levels is also crucial, but the key is ultimately the executive leader takes full responsibility in the end…especially if something goes wrong.

I love this concept of extreme ownership. Who’s with me? Fortunately we can apply these principles without having to go through the grueling process of being a Navy SEAL. Thanks, Gentlemen, for your incredible service.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

25 Lessons on Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN – Brian Dodd

United States Navy SEAL Teams

Here are my 8 Lessons and Takeaways from Extreme Ownership by former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership – Leadership Lessons From the SEAL Team – Gerardo A. Dada

Extreme Leadership Training

YouTube Video – Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink – TEDx University of Nevada

New Release (November 21, 2017) – Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Leadership – Leading Blog @LeadershipNow – Michael McKinney

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink – Book Summary & PDF – Paul Minors

15 Minute Business Books – First Friday Book Synopsis

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – the Power of Reflection and Journaling

Photo Credit: JimileeK, Flickr

My mom was an intuitively reflective person. All of life was full of meaning for her. People mattered – what they said, what they did…what they didn’t say or do. She noticed how things played out, and she made decisions based on outcomes. Her decision-making was tempered by her faith and her understanding of the constancy of God. She was intentional in all she did.[a magnet always on Mom’s refrigerator]

She wasn’t perfect, of course. Reflection can spiral down to worry or fretting, and Mom struggled with that. Reflection can also err in over-thinking or over-analyzing. Mom could fall into “meddling”, giving instructions, or offering advice not asked for, but this was a most rare occasion. Even when she did it, I knew and appreciated her heart. She was right on the mark much of the time.

My whole life I have strived to learn from her and to be like her.

Reflection as a life habit is difficult for me. I like to fill time…even if it’s only with purposeless activity. Screens are my nemesis, be they computer, phone, or TV. Also over-committing or over-scheduling also hamper reflection. There seems a perverse and mythical work ethic that requires our days be full of meetings. If we don’t have our weekends similarly filled, we vigorously look for ways to fill them.

To our peril.

Reflection is to look back – over our day, or an event, or a conversation – and to pause and think deeply about it. What did we learn? How do we adapt our thinking and actions related to what we experienced? How do we go forward?

Photo Credit: Loppear, Flickr

We can have reflective practices in our work and personal lives, even built into our days. These include alone thinking time, “sharing thoughts” conversations, and journaling/writing. My husband comes home from work and, in good weather, changes clothes and heads to work in his garden. After awhile, he settles into a lawn chair and just sits, watching and thinking. At some point in those moments, reflection blossoms.

[I benefit because he shares those reflections with me…and others later sometimes.]

Benjamin P. Hardy, my favorite writer on productivity right now,  doesn’t talk about reflection so much, but he preaches it without saying the word. He recommends the deep work that happens outside of work. He also strongly promotes journaling as a “keystone habit”. In his article Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life, he is so thorough in his support of journaling that I can’t imagine anyone NOT journaling after hearing him list out the many life benefits.

I have journaled all my life, but it hasn’t always been as focused as it could be. My journals have sometimes just been reporting tools, emotion-processing devices, rant writing, and the like.

However, like my Mom, I discovered that writing is a way to bring reason to my irrationality and resolution to conflict. After writing awhile, I can come back to life, refreshed and better equipped to do what’s next…whatever that might be.

Forbes writer and executive coach, Henna Inam (author of Wired for Authenticity) counsels leaders to keep a journal.

The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Inam provides a kickstart to journaling with these questions and writing prompts:

  • What’s present for me now?
  • What’s going well? What’s creating that?
  • What’s challenging? What’s creating that?
  • What needs my attention?
  • What’s meaningful? What am I grateful for?
  • What strengths do I notice in myself?
  • What strengths and contributions do I notice in others?
  • What am I learning?
  • What is an action I’m committing to?

Inam’s questions are helpful. They can bring focus to our ramblings. You might choose a different approach to how you use journaling in your reflections. Please share in Comments. Also, journaling may not be your preferred vehicle for reflection. I love, for instance, when workplace leaders encourage reflection over the course of a work day. Isn’t it lovely when a training or conference has reflection time built into the program…so it’s not just an “information dump” with no time to process. If you have experiences, either negative or positive, about your own use of reflection in the workplace, please share with us. We’re not just talking about productivity here, but personal growth and community building.

Talk a few minutes and reflect on the possibilities.

To Be an Effective Leader Keep a Leadership Journal – Henna Inam

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

Reflecting On Work Improves Job Performance – Carmen Nobel

YouTube Video – The Power of Reflection at Work – HEC Paris Professor Giada Di Stefano

Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind – Learning Through Reflection – Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick

Teaching/Learning Critical Thinking Using Reflective Journaling – Dr. Mara Kaufmann – Slideshare

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Wisdom – From the Shallows Back Out Into the Rapids – 5 Resources

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The river of work is often a fast current – the movers and shakers are in the rushing waters. If you find yourself in the shallows how did that happen? Illness (yours or someone in your family), underemployment, qualifications issue, somehow just not the “flavor of the month”? Any or all of these situations could have prompted a detour out of the faster waters of your work.

Some of us thrive in the shallows. I want to learn how, now that I’m semi-retired. Still, the rapids call me  back…for many reasons.

If you, like me, are in the shallows and you are bewildered rather than refreshed by them, think why that might be.

The rushing waters are where the action is. They’re here and gone, but they carry along whatever is happening in the river.

Occasionally something interesting and important will pop out for you from the current – and you tackle it with excitement – and when you finish it, then it’s gone. Taken back up by the river as if it never visited the shallows, as if you never touched it.

The shallows are a lovely place to visit…especially when you’re exhausted from the rapids. Especially when you need a new vantage point…a new view of your work. The shallows provide that. Being long in the shallows is a strange experience…if you’re used to the rapids.

How does one push back out into the current?

OK…enough metaphor. Here are 5 super useful resources to help us push back into the running river of work…if that’s where we want to be. Choose which fits the most right now, and dig into the article:

1) Achieving Stadium Status – Why not have a colossal goal, right? Leadership consultant Skip Prichard posted a piece recently on How to Achieve Stadium Status. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He gives a hardy review of John Brubaker‘s book Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time. From the book, Prichard covers such topics as how to use affirmations, dealing with critics, rising above the noise, leaving our comfort zones, avoiding comparing, and not repeating others’ mistakes. Until you can read the book, catch Prichard’s article to get started toward the main stage.

Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time – John Brubaker

2) Bouncing Forward After a Big Fail – One of my favorite writers on leadership and the workplace is  Adam Grant . He takes a very different view of failure at work in his article When You Get Fired Or Fail Big, This Is How You Bounce Forward. Photo Credit: Pexels

Quoting Grant here:

“Most of the time, when someone fails, it’s not because there’s a bad apple spoiling the barrel. It’s because the barrel is a bad relationship.

In other words: It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

That doesn’t mean shirking responsibility or failing to hold others accountable. It means realizing that in many of our struggles, the biggest problem lies not in individuals but in relationships.

It helps to remember that in most failures, relationships are a major factor. We just have to make sure we don’t pull the wool over our own eyes.” – Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

3) Addressing Team Alignment – Leadership trainer Jesse Lyn Stoner looked at how team alignment influences team performance. In her piece, Team Alignment is for the Birds, she had this to say:

 

Team alignment is often “leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.

Team members [in this scenario]. . .

. . . should not act independently.

. . . have little need to communicate with each other.

. . . are following the leader, with no idea where they are going.

We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.

A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way of unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.

When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together.” – Jesse Lyn Stoner

6 Benchmarks of High Performance Teams – Jesse Lyn Stoner

4) Excellence in Execution – Strategy thinker Robin Speculand writes on what it takes to effectively implement change. In his blog (guest post on Skip Prichard’s website), Speculand talks about the role of the leader in driving strategy forward. To effectively execute change, leaders must demonstrate their own commitment to the strategy. How visible they are to the rest of the company’s employees attests to how valuable the execution of that change is to them personally. Speculand talks about how to carve out time and energy from a busy schedule in order to be fully available to those most impacted by the strategy change. Photo Credit: All Hands

Intriguing ideas, especially for any of you in the shallows. To be a person who executes well is a valuable employee. Don’t lose sight of that.

A Leader’s Role in Achieving Excellence in Execution – Robin Speculand

Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy – Robin Speculand

Robin Speculand Presentations – Slideshares

5) Becoming More Likable – Work is not a popularity contest. However, likable people are just a whole lot more fun to work with than folks who insist on being controlling or contrarian. Marcel Schwantes lays out 6 qualities of folks we would all like on our teams…

  • Be curious and ask interesting questions.
  • Describe other people in the positive.
  • Make an immediate good first impression with your face.
  • Listen. Really listen.
  • Choose every opportunity to experience joy.
  • Don’t pass judgment.Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Qualities of Extremely Likable People, According to Science – Marcel Schwantes

Bonus: a Critical People Skill with Kate Nasser

A Critical People Skills Moment to Handle With Ease – Kate Nasser

When others ask you to change a behavior that rubs them the wrong way, what is your response? They will remember how you reply to this critical people skills moment.

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Ask them to explain why it bothers them?
  3. Suggest that they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  4. Take offense and avoid these people whenever possible?
  5. Stop doing it?

Check out Kate Nasser‘s lightning fast read on looking seriously at the 5th response above. We want our preferences…we want things done our way. We want “me” to win, not “we” to win. Something to think about.

Let’s push out into the fast water of our workplace…we’ve had enough time in the shallows.

Monday Morning Moment – Community in the Workplace – We Need It

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Working on teams made for some of the highest performance years of my career. I used to think it was a weakness of mine that I didn’t thrive professionally if I wasn’t on a team. Looking back at seasons of life where my work required solitary focus as well as the times when collaborative effort was the expectation, the difference in quality of life and product was astounding.

We need each other. Author C. S. Lewis even observed that we are all “one vast need”. This thinking goes counter to our culture’s bias toward self-sufficiency and independence. In the workplace, our brilliance does not have to be defined as always being the lone ranger or the self-starter. How we work with others, and what we draw out of each other, in terms of value, creativity, and resource could be the difference in both performance and morale.

“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable,” wrote Basil (an early Church father). When we live our lives independently, other people are poorer because they cannot benefit from our gifts: “what we have is unavailable.” Also, when we isolate ourselves, we are poorer because the benefits of others’ gifts are lost to us, so what we lack, we cannot get. There are good things in others that are “unprocurable” unless we interact with them…You are “one vast need” and must avoid the extremes of saying, “I am not needed,” or, “I don’t need you.”Art Lindsley

Community – and Why We Need It – Art Lindsley, C. S. Lewis Institute

Early in my career, people invested in my professional development and in me as a person. I had rich opportunities to work alongside both leaders and practitioners who shaped what I had to offer in the workplace. You have read about some of the teams I’ve had the privilege to be a part (here and here)… The work of those teams continues to thrive.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What we do together far surpasses what we can do individually.

Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development—but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community”—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good. Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring. Tellingly, some of the companies we admire most—Toyota, Semco (Brazil), Mondragon (a Basque federation of cooperatives), Pixar, and so on—typically have this strong sense of community…Somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. – Henry Mintzberg

I agree with these authors and many others on the importance of community in the workplace. Right now my work is done in a very solitary environment. Thankfully, I have friends and colleagues who fill some of the void where I miss team. In times when our workplace lacks community, we shouldn’t wait on outside forces to alter our situation. We must take steps to create community. Brook Manville has written an excellent step-by-step process to embolden us in this effort. Missing community at work is just wrong, especially because we can do something about it.

Can major transformation really begin…almost spontaneously, with small acts by people who are not part of the senior leadership?…In his recent book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block, an authority on workplace learning and performance, wrote, “Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when citizens stop waiting for professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.”Henry Mintzberg

Rebuilding Companies as Communities – Henry Mintzberg, Harvard Business Review

Can we have community on every work team? Maybe not. Can we have community at work? Absolutely. Whether it is a core value of a company or not, we can create and cultivate community whatever our role is and wherever we find ourselves in the workplace.

Let’s get after it!Photo Credit: Vimeo, Belbin

Wisdom for the Teaming Masses – Brook Manville, Forbes

Saturday Short – a Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills

Belbin Improving Teams 2017 – Vimeo

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my  creative doldrums.

Here’s what happened.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).

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. Simple English Wikipedia

I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.

  1. The right book landed in my hands. Literally.

It was Jeff Goins‘ latest book that was just released. His 5th book and already a best-seller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age came in the mail.

I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins

Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From My Latest Launch) – Jeff Goins

2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger  writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills,   was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.

Significant conversations all.

3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.

4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.

5) I took the Social Capital Challenge.  A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

Until today…

Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.

I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.

“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Jess_the_VA

I’m taking a deep breath…and we’ll see where this all lands. Whatever lies ahead, I’m so grateful for good counsel, courageous and creative friends and family, and clarity. It’s a very good Monday.

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request – Deb Mills Writer

6 Things You Need to recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

6 Things You Need to Recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Monday Morning Moment – Leading When You’re In Over Your Head – Cultivating a Thick Skin and Tender Heart

Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

First, a leader has to recognize he/she is in over their heads. This often doesn’t happen because it’s incredibly threatening to a person’s ego as well as the ability to execute responsibilities. If a leader can wrestle with the actuality that her/his job is beyond her ability today, then there is great hope both for the leader and those under their authority.

Carey Nieuwhof and Eric Geiger are two leaders I follow on Twitter. They write extensively on leadership and have that platform because they are life-long learners and savvy watchers of life. They have “skin in the game” and have learned how to lead and continue to do so. No finished product here which gives them even more credibility to be heard.

I want to briefly summarize a couple of their articles and then point you to read the rest. If you are the leader in over your head, you will find help here. The same goes for those under the lead of a struggling leader.

Some time ago, I bookmarked Carey Nieuwhof’s piece How To Lead When You’re In Over Your Head. He lists out 5 steps to dealing with that reality and I have posted them below. If they seem simplistic to you, they are simple but not easy.

  1. Stay humble.
  2. Get a great team around you who are smarter than you.
  3. Become an avid learner.
  4. Grow comfortable saying “I don’t know”.
  5. Trust God.

There is no shame in finding yourself in over your head if you face it and push through it. No shame.

We often default to focusing on our strengths, and lead out of them instead of dealing with the weaknesses taking us down…to our detriment and that of the organization. You know that adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, the leader in over her head can flip that on its head by breaking what’s not broken.

Read Nieuwhof’s coaching on his 5 steps. What will help any of us to be successful in dealing with a situation where we’re in over our heads is to do heart and skin checks. I say this after reading Eric Geiger’s article Thick Skin, Tender Hearts, and Four Types of Leaders.

Photo Credit: Eric Geiger

Every one of us in leadership can work through Geiger’s diagnostic and check the tenderness of our hearts and the thickness of our skin.

For those dealing with the ripple effect of the leader reeking unchecked havoc in the workplace – either because she seemingly doesn’t really care or cares more about her own ego, identity, or position than she does her employees or customers. This is a sometime reality in the workplace. Don’t be pulled down or disqualified yourself by this. It could change at any time.

You may think there’s nothing you can do about such a situation and you may be right, to a degree. However, you are completely empowered to check your own heart and skin. Has your heart grown calloused in a difficult work situation? Has your skin grown thin where you take things too personally?

Geiger, as with Nieuwhof, gives great counsel on how to cultivate that tender heart and thick skin. You may not agree with all of what both writers say (they speak from a Christian worldview). However, they have wisdom for anyone who wants to grow professionally and lead well in whatever situation you find yourself.

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning