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Monday, August 30, 2010

It's about the people

We had a full weekend. It was my wife's birthday, I had a leadership retreat at church, and then there was the regular stuff you do when you're not working.

Then, there was an extra event at church on Sunday night. It was called "Just Duet" where people who did't usually perform together, collaborated and provided entertainment for the gathering (there was ice cream).

It's not my cup of tea. I'm not one who typically sits around and watches others perform musical arrangements. I had a good excuse. I asked Lisa if she would be upset if I didn't go with her (she likes sitting and listening to music like this). She said, "no, of course not". Instead, I was going to hang out with our son, who was over for the weekend.

Then, at some point before the program, it hit me. The point of the program wasn't the music. The point (including these 2 sub-points) were 1) get people, who didn't know each other very well, to work together and make something pretty and 2) to get people together to spend time and a nutshell, the point was about building relationships.

That's when I changed my mind and decided to attend. The music was great, but that's not why I was there.

It was about the people.

Checking in

It's been a long time since I've written -- about 5 months. I posted pretty much every day for the 9 months before that. At first, I wrote because I had things I wanted to say and it was therapeutic for me, especially when I was between jobs. Then, I wrote because I'd made a commitment to do so. Finally, I was writing more posts than I had ideas to write about.

Really, how many times can you say the same thing about leadership and service? Sure, you can come at ideas from different directions, but at some point you run out of angles. There were other blogs I read pretty regularly, blogs by people much more talented and prolific than me. I even saw them struggling to write worthwhile pieces that would speak to others.

I think if I'd ever had any regular kind of following, I might have continued to write. If people had come to me for advice (and a few did), I might have kept it up.

No, I just ran out of steam.

Even though my blog never took off, there are some pretty good posts in these pages. I'm proud of them. Maybe, some day, someone who hasn't heard all these ideas from my perspective, will find a few useful.

At any rate, there's never a shortage of need for good leaders or servants. We can never study or practice enough in these areas. That's where I'm trying to go with my life...and I'm finding opportunities.

Hopefully, you will, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Heart of Giving

What do our hearts have to do with giving? Don't we decide when we'll give of ourselves, of our possessions? Don't we also decide where and to whom we will give? Don't we decide with our brains or does this question have more to do with decisions made with emotion versus reason?

I once heard a speaker say that we decide with our hearts -- our emotions -- and then we rationalize those decisions with our brains. I think he was saying that most of our decisions are emotional ones. I don't know if that's true or not.

Could examining the heart of giving relate more to being active rather than passive with our giving? Could the heart of giving be more about looking for opportunities to give rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves?

There are plenty of opportunities to help others and to give. Should we wait for those opportunities to fall in our laps or should we seek out those in need?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reasoning: Listen to Abe

Abraham Lincoln said, "When I'm getting ready to reason with a man, I spend 1/3 of my time thinking about myself and what I'm going to say, and 2/3 thinking about him and what he's going to say."

On the surface, he could have been referring merely to active listening. You know, to get the most out of a conversation, you need to set your ideas aside, keep your mouth shut and let the other person talk.

That answer is a fine one. I wonder, too, if we should focus on the word, "reasoning" to capitalize on President Lincoln's deeper point. I think he means "reasoning" in the sense of talking with or persuading another person logically and persuasively.

One might conclude that, in order to be the most successful in reasoning with another individual, we need to understand the ideas that the other person holds true. We need to endeavor to glean the point of view and be open to discussing it.

The way we can best do this is to actively listen and try to exhibit an empathetic spirit, even if (especially if) we don't agree with the point or points the other person is embracing.

How can we expect to persuade another to our point of view if we're not willing to be open to discussion and understanding? How can we be effective with our ideas if we don't understand the background and contexts? It can be extremely uncomfortable, yet very effective.

What do you think?

The worst evils

"The worst evils in the world aren't done by evil people. They're done by good people who don't know they're not doing good." ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Let's think about that. There are countless examples of good people who've caused great damage to other human beings, to themselves, and to the world. Wars fit into this category. Things now thought of as "crazy" in the medical or scientific worlds, have done great damage. So much of the damage is caused by ignorant, good people.

Now, let's think about it again, but after filtering out people:

1. who we know of today, but who aren't close to us.
2. who lived before us and who we know about through history.

Who does that leave? It leaves us.

Now, since we're fallible humans, there's no way to ever rid ourselves of committing "the worst evils." They're going to happen.

What we can do is always try to think. We've got to think about our actions -- with our families, with our friends, with those at work (especially when we're leaders) -- and do our best to make thoughtful, instead of thoughtless decisions.

I think we can all agree that we don't want to commit one more of those worst evils if there's any way we can avoid it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


What do you tolerate from yourself and those on your team?

So many leaders talk about how busy they are and how much work they have to do. They don't seem to be able to get ahead, working in crisis mode all the time.

Is it that there's too much to do? That's possible. Companies are asking bosses to do more with fewer bodies almost as a matter of course these days.

On the other hand, the problem could be that leaders are not effectively managing.

How about you, as the leader? Do you communicate well? Do those on your team know what's expected of them? Are each of your team members pulling their own weight? Is the work equitably distributed?

Are there some "weak sisters" on the team? If so, why are you tolerating less from them?

Why is that? Why do you tolerate some or all of your people getting by instead of fully contributing? Is it that:
  1. She's the owner's sister or daughter?
  2. He's scary and intimidating either physically or verbally?
  3. She "has something" on you that you don't want known?
  4. He is your friend...someone you grew up with or maybe even owe a favor to?
  5. You feel sorry for her because she has had a rough life and you just can't stand to be "mean"?
  6. No one else knows how to do what he does? Is it that he has successfully undermined your efforts to have anyone else learn how to perform his critical tasks?

Regardless, if you don't stand up and act like a leader, any of these situations can cripple your tenure as the boss and definitely keep you from being effective. Other than #1, above, where the owner may tell you the problem person is a friend or relative and consequently untouchable, you have a choice.

Do you tolerate poor performance like this from your people? MORE IMPORTANTLY, do you tolerate this poor leadership performance from yourself?

Think about it...and then act.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Passion for your work

I have a friend who once told me that she looked forward to going to work every day.

What?!? I thought she was crazy or just plain lying to me...

I had never felt anything like that. It's not that I haven't liked many of my jobs. I've had some pretty good ones over the years. Still, I can't ever remember looking forward to going to work.

I started a new job on March 1. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. I feel so strongly aligned to that position and what it is designed to accomplish, that I feel really passionate about work for the first time in my life.

This is very strange for me. I was once an Army officer. I was very proud of what I did and extremely proud of serving with some really great people. I felt we were true public servants. Later in my careers, I had a job that provided the opportunity to help improve the physical quality of peoples' lives and that was very rewarding. I was happy to be a part of these organizations.

I didn't love going to work. I didn't look forward to it...even when I liked what I did.

Let me return to the idea of passion. From my current position, looking back, what I think has been missing is the sheer passion I now feel for what I'm doing and where I am.

I was speaking to a young man today who told me what he was passionate about and then said he wasn't sure he was going to follow that passion. I cautioned him to not end up like me, just finding my passion at the age of 50. I tried not to do that...I tried to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. I just couldn't. I hope he didn't mind too much.

If you know what you're truly passionate about, don't let it pass you by. Don't waste years messing around. Grab on to your passion and make the most of it that you can.