6 Ways to Build a Culture of Hard Work

I was picking up mulch that was on sale at Home Depot last weekend and a gray haired man approached my truck for my order.  I told him forty bags and I asked him, “So where are the youngsters?”  He was obviously older and generally they have a cadre of young men who load mulch during these sale events.  He responded, “They don’t know how to work.  They are around here somewhere.  You get me instead.”  I got out of my truck and helped him load my truck.

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As I considered his comments, I thought about our current societal view of work.  Unfortunately, I truly believe we no longer honor hard work.

We celebrate the folks who game the system.

We most admire those who work less and get paid more.

We look at those who work hard as weak or stupid.

My work experience started on the construction site.  It was hard work- hot, dirty, and physically demanding.  I worked around other guys that were much older than me and had been in the trades for many years.  There were always personalities and characters on the crews.  Lots of laughter, stories and practical jokes.  These guys knew how to do a tough job and still have fun.  And the fun made the time go quickly.  They also cared about me.  They took me under their wing and taught me how to do the work with quality and efficiency.

As years went by I began to supervise the new generation of workers.  Much of the laughter went away.  They questioned everything.  They did not want to learn or share their experience.  They saw the work as temporary.  They were on their way to something more important, this was just for now.  Clock watchers were everywhere, counting down the time to go home.  Work was not really fun working with these guys.

So how do we bring the fun back?  How can we bring honor back for hard work?  Here are some ideas:

Teach your kids how to work!  The worst thing you can do for your kids is to do everything for them.  Teach them to work.  My father taught me about work at a very young age.  I am so grateful for this lesson.  I learned how to push my body and how to accomplish something that looks impossible.  The worst thing you can do for your kids is to put them on a pedestal.  Make them work.  Give them responsibilities.  Hold them accountable.  If you model laziness for them, whining, and complaining, well, you know what you will get!

Recognize hard work!  When you see someone who is working exceptionally hard and doing a great job, make sure that you thank them for their efforts.  Nothing is more deflating then to bust your butt and not feel appreciated.  Take the time to thank or recognition someone for doing a quality job. Send them note of appreciation.  Comment about their hard work in front of their friends, family or coworkers.

Reward the extra effort!  Give the person who works hard an extra reward.  This is crucial in creating an environment that promotes hard work.  Give them a bonus, special privileges, award, or extra status.  Unfortunately, we often fail to provide incentives, which, has the effect of lowering output to the minimum requirement.  What you are doing is racing downward to the lowest common denominator.  Don’t be afraid to single someone out as a superior worker.  We have become a society that is obsessed with fairness.  I welcome the opportunity to tell anyone why I singled out a particularly great worker.  Don’t fear the conflict.  Celebrate the extra effort!

Compensate based on production!  Base pay on output whenever it is possible.  Any time you can get away from basing payment on time you will benefit.  Clearly making time the measure for compensation, automatically, creates a clock watcher.  Add incentives for production.  Let top producers leave early or have added flexibility so they rewarded for extra effort.

Dump the dead wood!  If you have workers who are skating along, have a bad attitude and putting forth a poor effort, send them home.  They are a cancer to a hard working crew.  They will pull everyone down.  You may be fooling yourself thinking that they will get better.  You cannot risk damaging your entire group due to one person’s lack of work ethic.

Have fun!  Work does not have to be a bad thing.  Seek out creative ways to have fun at work or ways to bind your team closer together.  Small things can have a big impact.  I get reminded of fun, team building  things that we have done at work years later that I have long since forgotten.  Foster an environment of fun at work.  We get too serious sometimes.  Break up the monotony with fun activities.

We need to honor hard work and model it for those around us.  Hard work is what  built this country and will continue to elevate our standard of living.  Celebrate the hard workers and the craftsmen that make things made in this country the best in the world.

Coming home dirty and tired is not being stupid.  You are honoring your work.  You are a producer and contributor.  You are my hero!

So what do you think?  Are you fostering an environment of hard work or just struggling with minimum standards.  Are you honoring hard work?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men- Really?

Is the Christmas message really relevant?  How can we truly believe the angels who made this declaration upon the birth of Jesus with all of the turmoil that we saw this past year?

Continued terrorism, violence and beheadings.

Demonstrations and violence over police actions and racial strife.

Sluggish economic conditions and unemployment.

The struggle for fairness and equity.

Immigration rights and yielding to the law and authority.

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I’m sure you can come up with many more.  This year has been a poster child for the struggle of life.  The  struggle to provide for our families.  The struggle for justice and fairness.  The struggle to be heard.  So why don’t we have the peace that the Christmas story seems to promise?

The reality is that the Christmas promises are personal.  The peace that Jesus offers is for you.  If Jesus was truly looking to fix things here on earth he certainly would have freed Israel from Rome’s brutality.  He would have ended the inequities of the rich and poor.  He would have taken away hunger and disease.

What Jesus offers is simply love.  See, love is more powerful than all of these things.  Love will cure all problems.

Jesus knew the struggle first hand.  That’s why he had to live amongst us.  So we would  know that he knows the struggle first hand.  Jesus did not promise to take evil away from the world.  At least not until the final victory.

So how does the promise of Christmas provide me with peace?

I don’t need to worry about fairness.  I know that the Lord will take care of me.  The fixation on fairness and equity can be disguised pride.  That making things equal fixes things.  I know that things will not be completely fair this side of heaven.  I will be taken advantage of.  I am OK with this.  He will take care of me.

I don’t need to worry about provision.  I know that the Lord will provide for me.  He always does.  I have been continually blessed.  He will take care of me and my family.

I don’t need to worry about controlling everything.  I know that the Lord is in control and he will take care of things.  I can take my hands off the wheel and let him steer.

I know that he loves me and love drives out fear and worry.  So how do I know this?  I have seen with my own eyes the power of this love first hand.

I have witnessed changes in my life and others.

I have watched connections made and provisions that cannot be explained.

I have watched his peace invade lives, change hearts and restore what is broken.

I have witnessed his power, his truth and his promises.

The promise of peace this Christmas season is your peace.  Are you at peace ?  Can you relax knowing that he’s going to take care of you?  Do you know that he loves you and wants the very best for you?  If you struggle- his offer stands.  Just reach out to him.  He’s waiting for you!

Blessings to you and yours!  May your Christmas be filled with wonder, joy and peace!

Opposites Day

When my kids were young they would often play a game called Opposites Day.  During this particular day, whatever they said was actually the opposite of what is true.  This was really just a way of trying to catch the other sibling- kind of a trap.  Really just a kid’s game.  But I think that in actuality, it is more than just a game.

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This past Saturday I headed downtown to a ministry where Kathy and I have been serving for the past five or so years.  We get up early each Saturday and pick up surplus baked goods and head downtown to distribute food to the needy.  I can attest that it is tough some Saturdays to head downtown.  Yes, sleep and comfort are issues, but the work can be frustrating and unnerving.  We see some moments that make the whole thing question what you are doing.  The need is overwhelming and you can’t be unaffected by palpable feeling of hopelessness that hangs in the air.   We have also seen some pretty ugly situations.  Tension from actions viewed as unfair.  Deep neighborhood wounds.  Indescribable family dysfunction.  Crazy stories of pain that you struggle to untangle in your mind.  One thing is for sure.  You can’t keep score here.  It will drive you crazy.  You simply give and let God take care of the rest.

Amidst all of this, is the heart.  We have made great friends and have had the privilege of living our lives with them.  Each week we share and get updates.  Victories and failures.  We have seen it all.  Stories of success and stories of death.  Sometimes the reality is just too much to carry.  We try to help but we are not in it.  No matter how we try to step into their shoes we are not really with them.  We try to get there, but cultures and lives are so different that the gap really can’t be crossed.  So we meet in the middle each Saturday.  A circle between two circles and we do what we can.  Anything more is just cultural arrogance.  The two crazy assumptions are that we can truly understand what is going in the tough areas of the city while they can understand what it’s like to have a servant’s heart in suburban America.

This Saturday, I was leading a walk that we take each week through the neighborhood.  We carry bags of groceries and hand them out as the Lord leads us and we pray for the families and the neighborhood.  The groceries have always been the minor item.  When we approach folks in the neighborhood and start conversation and ask if they would like prayer, they will open up and share what’s going on in their lives.  This has lead to relationships as we return each week and visit with the same folks regularly.  This Saturday, I suggested that we visit a lady named Vera who lives on the outskirts of our walk, yet is always a treat.  Vera is a grandmother and takes care of her family although she has very modest means.  We knocked on her door and waited.  After a few minutes, she came out and her face lit up in delight.  We hadn’t made it to her house in a while, probably several months.  She quickly caught us up on what was happening with her and her family.  She pains for her family and their struggles.  You can feel her pain as she describes her family update.  Yet, she refuses to stay there.  She immediately turns the story to the day- this day.  She thanks the Lord for the blessing that this day brings.  She is thankful that we have visited her.  She radiates real love.  It makes you tingle.  Not the polite kind of stuff.  The deep love of the Father.

Vera loves to pray.  We generally pray as we make our way through the neighborhood but at Vera’s house we want her to pray.  So she offers and we smile and nod yes.  Vera breaks into a powerful prayer- thankful and a prayer of a grateful heart and worship.  None of this is the I want- I need kind of prayer.  This was a celebration of life.  Then she shares something new.  Vera breaks into song and sings a portion of her prayer to her Father.  The Spirit is thick.  He is here.  She finishes her prayer and a bird begins to sing.  Vera shares that God loves music.   I agree with her, sharing that even the birds sing to Him.

So what happened?  It was Opposites Day!  We set out to help bless others and instead we were blessed.  We left Vera and we all were visibly uplifted.  This is what we needed.  A refill.  A reminder that He is always there and He is always faithful.  The Bible says that he sings over us.  He knows every hair on your head.

Thank you for the song of our lives.  Thank you for the birds singing each morning.  Thank you for Vera and her heart for her Father and her family.

Remember to sing today.  No matter how hard it is.  It’s Opposites Day!

Have you ever had an Opposites Day?  Please click on comments and tell your story!              

Living the Adventure

Last Sunday night, my wife and I went to a party at a friends house.  It was a cool night, at least by North Florida standards.  The house had a great outdoor patio with brick walls and garden areas.  In one corner of the patio was a firepit that turned out to be a very popular spot.  I settled into a comfortable couch next to the fire- I knew I wasn’t moving.  The only distraction was that the fire was a bit smoky.  I knew my jacket would need a wash when I got home.  I was comfortable and drifted away in conversations about books, travel and the restaurant business.

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After about an hour, my friend Ron joined us.  Ron was just beaming.  Ron is generally a positive and upbeat guy but today he was particularly aglow. 

“Ron you look great”, I commented.  He proceeded to update me on what he was up to.  He told me that he was painting (artist) again and that he was really enjoying it.  Ron told me that he has been waking up each morning and having coffee with Jesus before he starts his day.  He also told me that he was feeling good physically.  Ron and I often trade bad back stories as we both suffer from back pain from time to time.  Normal type chit-chat until he made this statement: 

“Joe, everyday I wake up and I look for an adventure each day.” 

He proceeded to tell me about a clerk that he friended who has children and is struggling to make ends meet and how he has been helping her and encouraging her.  He shared stories of how he has been buying the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff and giving away copies to friends and folks that he meets along the way during his adventures.  All along, I couldn’t help but see the delight in his face. 

Ron could easily stay secluded in his world.  Ron is semi-retired and lives by himself.  He could be lonely and bored.  But Ron chooses the adventure.  Ron knows that the world is built on relationships and service.  Ron is not afraid to make the introductions- he has seen how it works!  Ron is not satisfied to stay inside of himself.  He seeks the adventure.  And it has made all the difference.

So how can you live the adventure life?  Here are a few ideas:

Dump the Routine:  Look at ways that you can do things differently.  We are such creatures of habit and efficiency.  Yet, do you want to live an efficient life or a life of fullness and adventure?  Mess with your schedule a bit.  Leave early for work and relax a bit when you get there.  Try new restaurants, new music, new places.  Get out of the rut!  When you change things up you will see opportunities for new relationships, skills and service.

Slow Down:  When you are always in a hurry the world is travelling at the same speed.  Slow down and give yourself time to really see what is going on around you.  I guarantee you will be surprised.  I am often the worst offender of this.  I am so tuned in to speed and efficiency that it really hurts to slow down sometimes.  Yet, I know I have to.  When I am operating at warp speed, I am missing- not gaining.  Tunnel vision will not allow you to see the opportunities to enjoy life and serve others that are all around you.

Be Observant:  By learning to be observant, you will also begin to see opportunities for fun and learning.  You must learn to really look deeper.  Additionally, there are often clues that identify the need for service to others.  It could be a simple frown or some tattered clothing that gives you a glimpse of the trouble that exists.  These clues can be subtle and the ability to see within someone often takes some practice.  You will not always get it right and you may be rejected.  As you hone your skills, you will get better and you will begin to see the impact of careful observation on your life.

Take a Risk:  Adventure and risk go hand in hand, right?  We understand risk in terms of jumping out of a plane, yet we generally don’t get the connection between adventure, risk and relationships.  In order to be allowed into a persons life, someone has take the first step which involves risk.  Simple small talk will provide only the superficial- to get deeper you need to be prepared to ask the risky questions.  Yes, you may get rejected.  However, when the time is right, they will let you in.  And when they do it is beautiful– even if the story is messy.  Now you can serve.  Now you can make a difference.  Now your day has adventure!

Are you tired and bored?  You don’t need an expensive vacation to add adventure in your life.  The world is happening all around you.  Are you going to slow down, change things up, and look for opportunities to make a difference?  Living the adventure.  It’s waiting for you!  

What are some ways that you have found that have added excitement into your life?  Are you ready for some new excitement?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

4 Tips To Avoid A Freeze-Up

It’s funny how you can look back at decisions and be amazed at your choices.  When you look back it always seems crystal clear.  You think to yourself- “How could I have made such a bad decision?”  It can be downright frightening.  You realize that at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.  You had reasonably good information.  You are not really much smarter now, than when you made the decision.   You think- “How could my judgment be so clouded?”      

 

English: Silver snowflake

 Bad decisions generally require added work and risk.  If you make a bad decision you are often thrust into the clean-up mode.  You must straighten it out and make it right.  This is usually painful- at least on some level. I’ve made some bad decisions and paid the consequences and picked up the mess.   It’s not fun and it can shake your confidence.  You have a difficult time finalizing a decision and you freeze-up!  You just can’t decide.  Here are some tips to avoid the freeze-up in decision making:

  1. Learn from your mistakes!  Have you ever watched a dog with one of those invisible fences in the yard?  They first will get a shock when they reach the barrier and generally that is enough.  They will learn the exact location of the fence and stop abruptly before hitting the mark.  Sometimes we just think it will be different this time and we charge straight for the fence!  Why do we do it?  Even a dog is smart enough to learn.  Somehow we think it will be difference this time.  Don’t kid yourself.  Learn and avoid the pain!
  2. Do your homework!  You must be ready when you are confronted with a similar decision.  If you take the time to really think through the dynamics and results you will likely make a quality decision next time.  Often in the heat of the battle you will not have time to think objectively.  Your vision gets clouded.  Analyze what went wrong and what you could have done differently.  Next time you will be prepared and ready!
  3. Get advice!  I have shared some of my failures with friends and have received amazing advice.  We are all prone to a particular viewpoint and this perspective is not easy to change.  When you share your story you are also inviting someone in to help you unload your burden and help you heal from the damage of a bad decision.  Find a trusted friend and talk it out.  Don’t argue with them even if you do not fully agree.  Take some time and ponder the advice.  It may not be exactly on target, but I can guarantee that there will be nuggets of truth that will lead to reconciliation and healing.
  4. Jump!  Eventually you will confronted with a similar situation and you must be ready to risk again.  Regardless of how much preparation and learning that has occurred, there will still be an element of risk in moving forward.  However, you must move forward.  Avoiding, postponing or failing to act will only hurt you.  Risk is part of life.  You must be ready. 

We all freeze-up sometimes.  It’s a built in defense system to keep us safe.  The key is to recognize the freeze-up and to deal with it.  If you find yourself hesitating, you are likely to be confronting something that you have not completely dealt with.  Being cautious is good- but getting stuck is no good.  You must move forward and get back in the game.  You are needed.  There are folks that are counting on you!   

Do you have any hints to help in decision making?  Click on comment and tell us your story!    

The Key

When I was a very young man I was convinced that knowledge was the key to success.  I was sure that it was “what you know” that was really important.  So, I worked very hard in school.  I really felt like learning was the key.  If I could just learn as much as possible and gain experience along the way, I would surely be very successful.  I was very driven and serious about school and also soaked in as much practical knowledge as possible.  I was absolutely sure that this was the key.  Learn and gain experience and this will be the pathway to success.

Skelton Key – Wikipedia

Once I finished college and had my initial experiences in the career world, I changed my viewpoint.  I could see the value in networking and knowing the right people.  I was sure that it was “who you know” that was really the key.  In order to excel in this area I worked hard to network and get to know as many people as possible.  I would join associations, meet and greet, and collect and organize business cards.  I watched as some of my friend’s careers skyrocketed because they simply knew the “right” people.  I was convinced that if I could just meet more people that this would be the catalyst for my pursuit of success.  Not “what you know” but “who you know” was the important component to success.

As I have matured, I have once again changed my view on this subject.  I don’t believe that the key is either of my earlier conclusions.  Although knowledge and networking are valuable and necessary at least on some level, I feel like there is one key that is even more important.  Much more important.  I now believe it is “how you know” someone.

Not “what you know” or “who you know” but-  “how you know”.

This may sound strange and certainly deserves explanation.  I truly believe that the key to success in life is the depth of your relationships and your ability to really connect with someone.  Not volume of relationships, but depth.  This is tough for those of us who want big.  We want to make the huge numerical impact.  We want the big following, the big audience, the big appearances.  We are planners and producers.  We need numbers to think that we have made an impact.  We want the stage. 

But really, the important number is ONE.  You must learn to be satisfied to impact and connect with one person at a time, and, one-on-one is the best way.  You must value that one person the same way that God does.  What is the value of one soul?  Infinite value- can’t be measured.  Priceless- just like the credit card commercial.  The same is true when you deal with everyday people.  Take it down to the true reality.  No matter who they are- they are priceless. 

The homeless man, the President, the co-worker, the sibling, the mechanic, the boss, the grocery store clerk, the landscaper- the ungrateful, the arrogant, the depressed, the unlovely. 

So how will this make you successful?  I have watched people that understand the priceless value of a person in every walk and responsibility.  Successful sales people get it.  Great managers get it.  Good parents get it.  Great friends get it.  They give you their 100% attention.  They are not afraid to show their heart.  They will go above and beyond to help you- not to help the situation or themselves- but to help you personally.  They make you feel like you are worth a million bucks (make sense now?).  These folks get it.  And they are generally wildly successful.  They draw a following.  They are always in demand.  They use this skill daily and are masters of connection.  One person at a time!

So what are you going to do about it?  I am sharing this because I struggle in this area- I am a big net guy.  So, this has not been my strength, but I am working on it.  I have personally witnessed the power that is available to anyone willing to open up and take the chance.  Are you ready?  Will you take the time to deepen your relationships in order to unlock this power?  Go ahead, get started- because now you have the key!

Is there someone that you know that has the key?  How can you help those you lead to understand this concept?  Let me know what you think!

Top of the Order

I have been dreaming a lot lately.  This is pretty unusual for me.  I don’t typically dream much when I sleep.  Many of these dreams have been childhood visions and dreams of my Mom and Dad.  Several times, as I have awakened, I have been really struck with missing my parents.  I lost my Mom 23 years ago and my father passed away last October.  All of my grandparents are also gone.  I have been left with a feeling of being alone.  This is not your usual feeling of loneliness.  I have plenty of friends, lots of relatives, a wife and children.  However, this feeling is different- something that I have not experienced before.

Zambezi River- Zambia 2009

I guess I relied on my parents more than I had considered.  I always knew that I could phone my Dad to ask his opinion or just to share an experience.  I didn’t call him every day or even every week, but when I needed to talk he was there.  There was a comfort in knowing this.  There has been a bunch of times since his passing that I have had the urge to call him- actually reaching for my cellphone– then realizing that he won’t answer.

I am getting an understanding of what it feels like when an elderly person says “all my friends are gone”.  It’s lonely realizing that you are reaching the “top of the order”.  I have been considering this too.  I am now the senior male of our family- the oldest- the wisest?  Wow, really struggling with this too.  I’m supposed to have all the answers now?  Be the one with all the advice?  The sage of the family?  Just doesn’t feel right.

As I have been thinking about this new season, I have also been examining what it is like being at the top of an organization.  The pinnacle of an organization is also a lonely position.  As I have progressed in my career to an executive position, I have noticed that the gang no longer shares things with you- they treat you differently.  They don’t include you in their discussions.  Sometimes you walk in and thing get quiet.  They are now careful and guarded around you.   You are no longer part of the mainstream.  You are set apart.

Sometimes, leading is not really a question.  You realize that you have to lead- you really have no choice.  They need direction, guidance, and support.  They need someone that they can look up to.  Someone they can call on when they don’t know what to do.  You now have superior experience and wisdom.  Yet, the top can be a lonely place.  You don’t have a support system around you.  You may have others in similar positions that you can consult, but ultimately, you will have to make the final decision.

Leading is not easy.  I really enjoy helping others and serving, but it can be tiring.  I often think that it would be easier to take a lesser position, go backwards, and be part of the gang again.  But I can’t.  They need me.  And it’s my turn.

I wish my Dad was still here, but he’s gone.  So it’s my turn to be in front.  I suppose it will feel more natural as time goes on.  So I’ll strap on the pack and start marching.  That’s what you must do when you are at the top of the order.

Have you experienced the loneliness of being at the top of the order?  Have you ever felt isolated due to your position?  Click on comments and tell me your experience!