What are you living for?

Kathy was browsing in a gift shop near our home last week and struck up a conversation with the lady clerk. This is not an uncommon thing for Kathy. She has a gift of being able to connect quickly with people. This lady was originally from Columbia (South America not South Carolina) and she has been in the United States long enough to really “get” our culture.

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We are so arrogant here. We are convinced that this is where everyone in the world wants to live. We have such great opportunities to make money and it is a safe place to raise a family. These things are important and special, but they are not everything. I believe we have sacrificed some really critical things along the way. We have made choices that have warped our culture. Unconsciously, in our pursuit to be the best, we have changed the way we live, our goals, and our priorities. And I am also guilty.

The lady began to share about her family and her life back in Columbia. She aligned with Kathy’s experiences from Costa Rica. Emphasis on family, friends, relaxation, community.

She shared, “In the U.S., you live to work and back home we work to live.”

Whether intentional or not, we have placed WAY too much emphasis on work and making money. Our lives are wrapped around our work and our careers. Not the other way around. This may not be your choice. You may feel like you want to work less and live more, but can you really do it?  Can you really shift your focus away from making money?

Will you be able to pay your current bills?
Buy the things you want?
Can you really live with less?
Can you really do it?

Our culture has raised the bar on expectations so high that we run crazy hard just to try to keep up. Building bigger barns. In the meantime we have lost community. Lost our connection. Our ability to really LIVE together and enjoy life. We’ve lost our focus on taking care of each other.

Where are you?
Are you living to work or working to live?
Can we go back?  Do you know how we can get back to where we came from?
What needs to change?  What is messing us up?

Click on “Leave a Comment” and lets share ideas!

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Don’t Be A Pac-Man!

Are you getting swallowed up?

Do you remember the game Pac-Man? This is going back a bunch of years, but it was one of the first video/arcade games where the Pac-Man travelled the course swallowing up all the cookies as he goes along. Never stopping. Devouring the cookies.  The cookies just go away.

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I used to work for a developer who required weekly updates to the project schedule. They developed a spreadsheet where everything was connected so when we were actually ahead of schedule, the final completion date would just move up to coincide with our hard work in trying to get ahead. So much for being ahead of schedule!  All of our hard work disappeared. The Pac-Man just swallowed it up!

I’ve seen the Pac-Man emerge in other places. There are times when we have an employee or team member that excels or works extremely hard in tough situations. They are just good at what they do. Dedicated and a hard worker.  These are your best employees.

They consistently STEP UP and take care of business.

They work HARDER and FASTER.

They carry MORE weight than the others.

And what happens next? The Pac-Man comes in and eats it all up.

All of the extra effort and skill actually becomes expected. It’s no longer seen as extra or exceptional. The bar just gets raised up under your feet. They move the goal posts!

Do you have a team member or employee that just knows how to get it done? Have you forgotten how much they really contribute to your business? These are your go-to people. Have you REALLY thought about what would happen if they left? Decided that enough was enough?

LEADERS: Don’t be a Pac-Man! Recognize what you have. If you continually move up the bar and deem this performance as normal you will WASTE your best workers.

Don’t get used to exceptional. If it’s exceptional then recognize it and reward it. Continually. Non-stop.

You will not explode if you say “good job” over and over again.  I promise!

Stars are stars. If they don’t shine with you, they will shine with someone else. Keep your eyes open! LOOK at what you have. Don’t be a Pac-Man or it may be GAME OVER for you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen the Pac-Man at your workplace?  Click “Like” to tell me you agree.  Or , click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me your story!  I ALWAYS appreciate your comments and insight!

Photo Friday: The Little Things

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Photo Credit:  Snapwire Amarpreet Knur- CC Public Domain

I’m traveling again on business. At the TSA check today, I pulled out my toiletries out of my bag and spotted a little note card that my wife put in my bag about five years ago. I was leaving for a men’s retreat and she snuck the note in my bag along with some other stuff. The note is now yellowed and showing the wear of thousands of air miles

I looked at the note and smiled. The smile came at the right time. I was tired, just out of gas and getting on another airplane. Heading out again. But there was that note…again. Reminding me that I have someone who is supporting me. Someone who is on my side. Someone who I can count on no matter what happens.

These little things are big. They have weight- at least to me. I also have come to realize that some folks go through life kinda clueless. They don’t have any idea what is going on around them. They are rushing through everything. They are missing so much of what is going on around them.

But I see the little things. And they brighten up my day. And that makes all the difference!

Dancing with the King!

I recently lost a friend named Pete to cancer. He fought very hard against the disease and we prayed very hard that the Lord would heal him. Yet, the Lord had other plans. He chose to take Peter home.

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Pete was known to get up during worship at church and dance a bit as an act of worship to the Father. Not a big flashy dance, but a little two step that was all his own. I loved to watch him dance.  You could see the laser focus on the Lord as he worshiped though his special dance.

Pete understood that worship was about giving and not getting. He chose to leave his seat and dance in his delight to worship the King. Leaving your seat at church is not easy. You may get a bit of an eye roll from the purists and your flesh is telling you to keep your butt in the seat. And I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for Pete who was suffering with strength and pain from the disease. Yet he chose to dance. He couldn’t stay in his seat. He had to give back to the Father. Too many Christians focus on what they get at church instead of what they give.

Was the message or music good for me?

Was I able to catch up with my buddy about the game yesterday?

Did I get the information on all the upcoming church events?

I need to sign up the kids for camp?

We are turning our “worship service” into an intellectually stimulating social hour. Where is the worship part? The worship seems to focus on worldly things like “doing church” with all the events, theology, groups, and pageantry. Have you ever left a church because you weren’t “getting anything out of the service”? Emphasis on getting.  Didn’t agree with the theology or offended by the message? Where is the focus on the King who made heaven and earth?

The glimpse of heaven we get in the Word illustrates a constant adoration and worship to the King. Can you see yourself worshiping 24/7? For me, I get it. I enjoy worship. I love the way it changes me and transports me to a different place. I love the way it can change my attitude and realign my focus. Every Sunday. Without fail.

I am so thankful for Pete and his dance. The dance has caused me to reflect on how I see Sunday mornings. On how I often want to get instead of give. Worship has a way of making you small so he can make Him big. Pete understood this. Pete chose to dance. He chose to give. And now, right now, Pete is dancing with the King!

The Love Affair

Oh, how I love you… 

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The way you make me feel good when I feel like I’m all alone. 

You tell me little things that build me up.

The way you always warm my heart.

You are so charming, so witty, so amazing!

Sometimes you bring three people in, all at the same time.

With all of them at once telling me, in their own way, just how special I am.

I take you wherever I go.  I feel naked when you are not there.

Anytime I can steal a minute, I go for you. I can be very sneaky, because you make me feel so good. 

I find myself staring at you, waiting for the reply.  The reply that makes my heart jump.

You go wherever I go.  You never fail to keep me locked in our love affair.

I even take you to bed with me.  My spouse lying next to me, but my focus is on you.

When I hear you call me, I always respond.  You are on top even when I’m busy doing something else.

All day long, morning to night I go for you, even when I’m driving.

I can’t stay away.  I’ve tried many times to break way, but I always come back to you. 

You have a hold on me.

I don’t know what I would do if you were gone.  I would be such a mess.

You touch me like no one else.  You fill my insecurity.  You make me feel needed and loved.

I will always love you…

OK- so who is the object of the love affair here?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and give me your answer!

Can Your Weakness Be Your Strength?

This past year we engaged a behavioral consultant (Dr. Charles Coker- link to his website HERE) at our office to develop personality profiles to help us understand each other better.  This process has been a real eye opener and has resulted in significant self-realization for our team and has helped us to really know each other and how we are wired differently.  I have been amazed at how this process has helped unify our group.  It’s like advancing the clock ahead several years!  What I’ve realized is that we often misread each other.  The reality is that we all see the world through a different lens.  It’s really fascinating stuff!

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My personality profile was no a big surprise for me.  I have a strong desire to be organized, orderly, successful, follow the rules, and put others first.  I have very strong empathy for others.  Dr. Coker called it a servant leader profile (again no real surprise to me).  However, Dr. Coker cautioned me that my profile makes me susceptible to being taken advantage of, and not holding others accountable.

I think the classic leader profile is a driver.  A leader is perceived as “strong” when they push hard and take no prisoners.  They know what they want and they figure out a way to get it.  They focus only on results.  They may leave wreckage in the road, but they get there.  The ends justify the means.

I also believe that the typical servant leader profile may be viewed as weak leader.  A person who cares about others first and may take an entirely different route to get to the finish line.  A person who may motivate and finesse instead of confront and order.  A person who is concerned about collateral damage.  A person who knows that life continues after the goal is reached.  Is this really a weak leader?

How can you put others first and still be an effective leader?  Is this leading from behind?  Are you weak when you care about others?  Can your perceived weakness actually be your strength?

I think it can.  Remember, life is not a single battle or accomplishment.  You may make it to the finish line using the whip, but they will remember how they were treated, and next time they may not respond.  Eventually, the horse may throw you off!  If your team trusts you and you can help them visualize the goal, they will march with you to the ends of the earth.  They will accomplish the extraordinary.  I’ve experienced this first hand!

So if I’m seen as weak or soft, I am OK with it.  I still believe in myself, but I truly believe in my team.  I care for each of them.  They will always come first.  I cannot separate the goal from the team.  They will always be my focus.  They will always be my strength!

So what do you think?  Do you believe that caring about others is a weakness?  Can it hinder your progress?  Click on “comments” and let me know what you think!

Ambushed!

Last week I met with a woman on our team at work.  This meeting was long overdue.  We have been very busy lately dealing with problems and putting out fires.  This was a meeting to discuss process improvement, which seems to take a back seat when you are busy doing “the work”.  I had several items that I knew that we needed to work on.  None of my stuff was really dramatic.  Mainly just tweaking what we were doing now.

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I reviewed my items and she also shared some things that were helpful in refining our processes.  After we completed our review, she turned to me and said, “I have a couple more things that are not on the list”.  Then she started to share how she felt that our on-boarding process has been poorly executed.  She also shared that she felt a disconnect between the field staff and the office staff.  She shared that the office didn’t have the feeling of family that we had before the recession.

Ouch!  This caught me a bit off guard.  I was ambushed!  Yet, after considering her observations, I was in complete agreement.  And, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Things are different, and not necessarily in a good way.  And most disturbing- I have always championed team building.  My boss calls me the cheerleader.  This is what I do.  And I have been seriously neglecting this role.

Isn’t it funny how we will often overlook something that is one of our strengths? Like it will just take care of itself? 

We wrapped up our meeting and I realized that the process improvement stuff was really minor compared to the things she shared.  I was very grateful that she had the courage to call me out on these items.  It was exactly what I needed.  A wake up call.  A reminder to refocus.  Get back to what I do that really matters.  Get back to serving and quit worrying about “feeding the beast”.

The reality is that problems will come and go.  They rarely make a lasting impression in your life.  What really matters is the story that you are writing as you touch the lives of others.  It’s so easy to let the activities of life cloud your focus.  Every so often it’s good to stop and assess where your at and where you are focussing your efforts.  If you ignore what is good, healthy, and lasting-  be prepared.  You are likely to get ambushed!

What do you think?  Have you been “ambushed” before?  Click on “Leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

4 Cures For Acute I Disease

I read a post on Twitter from Jim Kouzes where new research indicates a 42% rise in the use of “I” and a 10% decline in “we” in American books.  Jim pointed to a potential drop in teamwork as a consequence, but I think the rise in the “I” is really about something else.

Theodore Roosevelt.

We have become a nation of people who are obsessively self-centered.

We just can’t get over ourselves.

We have a real problem.

We have the “I” disease.

When you interact with a person with this affliction, all they really want to talk about is themselves.  Their problems.  Their successes.  What they need.   How they are being mistreated.  The focus is always about them and their issues.  This continuous inward focus is often all consuming.  It can dominate your thoughts and your actions. I bet you know a friend who is infected.  Or maybe you have these tendencies yourself.

To properly diagnose, I dare you to go ahead and count the amount of times that you hear the word “I” in a conversation?  We have done this before and it can be startling.  See how the person afflicted dominates the conversation by continually telling you about their problems, issues or triumphs.   They are skilled at consistently turning the conversation back to them.  They really show little interest in what is happening in your life.

If you are constantly obsessing about the injustices of your world you are void of the power to change it!  (Tweet this) (Facebook post)

Now I understand that there is a time and place for telling your story, tooting your horn and counseling a friend in a bad situation.   We need to share what is going on in our lives and talking it out is a path to healing and regaining self-worth.  Yet, there seems to be an epidemic right now of people that are stuck inside of themselves.

You must turn your focus outside.  See what is going on outside of your own little world.  Quit the pity party or selfish promotion and see the big picture.  What are some practical ways to do this?

  1. Serve Others!  As you begin to help others in need, you will see that your condition may not be as bad as you think.  Serving others gives a fresh view of things and provides a way to use your gifts and talents to help others- maybe even someone who is suffering in a condition like you!  By serving others, you are changing your focus to others.  We all have something to give.  Find a way to use your talents to serve others.  The opportunities are endless!
  2. Be Thankful!   Take an objective look at what you have.  This is not a comparison exercise.  We can all find someone who appears to have a better situation than we have.  I think that most of us, when we are completely honest, would say that we are incredibly blessed and have much more than we deserve.
  3. Ask Questions!   Instead of dwelling on your story as you interact, ask the other person some questions about what is happening in their lives.  Have a genuine interest in being an active part of their lives.  Begin to learn how to put yourself in their story and add balance to your conversations.
  4. Have Fun!  Lighten up!  If you are consistently sharing your struggles, you are likely a bit of a downer with your friends.  Find some common activities and get out and have some fun.  By focusing on fun activities, you will be removing the inward focus and giving your relationship some much needed nourishment.

I’m sure there are other strategies that work.  Anything that adjusts your focus will do.  We are certainly a spoiled and selfish lot.  The cure for the I disease may difficult, but I guarantee that you will be rewarded and gratified as you begin to reestablish your priorities where they need to be!

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Can you relate to this?  Do you have some insights on how to help the afflicted?  Press “comments” below and tell your story!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Multi-Tasking Danger Zone

One of the characteristics of a gifted servant leader is putting others in front of you.  You may be thinking- check that box- I do that!  I am humble.  I always put others ahead of myself.  I have a servants heart.  I’m all over this!

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Let me give you an area in putting others first that is real struggle for me.  This is giving others my attention.  Yes I may look, respond, nod, and give them some affirmation that I am with them- but I have the tendency to give them only part of my attention.  I multi-task, I focus on what I think is important and I only want to give away a part of me.  Horribly selfish!

The message that they receive is that they are not important enough for all of my attention.  They are really a nuisance to me.  They are simply interrupting me.

I know this is terribly disrespectful, yet I still struggle getting a hold of this issue.  Leaders need to realize the power that is available here.  By focusing and giving others your undivided attention, you are delivering them a message of their value to you. Here are some tips in this area.

Stop!  The first step is to stop what you are doing.  Put down whatever you are working on or enjoying.  Yes, you are being interrupted, yet you can go back to it and continue later.  Guard you reaction.  Put them first and stop!

Turn!  After you stop and put down your task, turn away from what you were doing and turn toward them.  This provides them with reassurance that you value them more than your task or activity.  This will provide them with confidence to continue to address you.  If you simply look up you can appear to have one foot in each activity.

Focus!  You must shift completely away and focus on them.  This can be very difficult.  Sometimes I am buried in numbers, spreadsheets or contract language and I don’t want to go backwards and give up my spot.  The rub here is that you must.  Focus on them.  Respond in complete sentences.  No head nods.  Ask questions.  Engage.  Give up your spot.  You can go back and pick up where you left off.  There is no other way to do it correctly.

I struggle so much with this.  I am a multi-tasker to the core so concentrating on one thing seems foreign to me.  Yet I know it is wrong and disrespectful to try to remain focused on my task.  I need to give the person my complete attention.  One strategy to counteract my tendency is to engage the person in conversation adding some elements outside of their current needs.  A personal question shows that you are really concentrating on them.  This is not just another “drive-by” interaction!

I know what I need to do and I am getting better, yet I have a ways to go.  Stop, turn and focus.  Quit the multi-tasking. Honor them with all of you!

Warm Bread: Irresistable!

Back in the early 90s,  Kathy and I particularily enjoyed a restaurant that had an appetizer specialty called teacup bread.  The bread would arrive warm and still nested inside of a teacup.  This was a really special treat.  The bread was light and soft and had a sweet flavor.  You really could eat this bread for dessert.  We loved the food at this place, but really, the bread always brought us back.  We would get several servings.  Warm, sweet bread.  I really want some right now!

Slices of French Bread

Warm bread is a great way to invite guests into your restaurant.  The smell, the taste- every sense gets bathed with great bread offered as an appetizer.  I remember several restaurant experiences where the most memorable part of the meal was the bread.  Warm and inviting.  Something really special that leaves a lasting memory.

I have also had the pleasure to meet people that I would say have the characteristics of warm bread.  Upon meeting them you are immediately enveloped in warmth.  You can feel the love ooze from them.  Like the bread, they leave a lasting memory.  You can’t help but think about them.  They are like the teacup bread- you want to go back for more.

What makes a person that you meet like warm bread?  What makes them irresistible?  Here are a few observations:

Focus:  They are completely focusing on you.  They look you straight in the eye as you begin to talk to them.  You are the only person in their world.  They have the skill to shut off everything else.

Smile:  They start with a smile and have a way to continue to smile throughout the conversation.  The smile is a powerful tool.  A smile disarms.  A smile invites you in.  A smile tells you that they are enjoying your company.

Genuine:  They are genuine in every way.  They want to know about you.  They are humble and authentic.  There is no agenda.  The focus is personal.

Listen:  They are skilled listeners.  The questions are based on getting to know you.  They do not lead you in a particular direction for their benefit.  They allow you to tell your story and let you enjoy doing it.

Connect:  They are skilled at connecting the wires between you and them.  They will seek out common characteristics and interests.  You will share ideas, struggles and experiences.  You will feel like you have known them for years.

Easy:  They have a way to navigate through a conversation that makes it fun and enjoyable.  No awkward quiet moments.  No challenges.  You will have the opportunity to share a little or a lot- your choice.  Time flies by as you talk and connect.

Have you been there before?  Can you think of someone you have met who is unusually warm and engaging?

OK- confession time.  I am not that person.  I would characterize myself as crusty rye bread- not tea cup bread!  I struggle with focus.  I tend to be serious, so I typically have to remember to smile.  I tend to talk only when I need something.  I am content to sit in silence.  This is my nature, however, I am aware of it now.  I have to make an effort to be the warm bread.  It doesn’t come natural to me, but I am learning and I recognize the power that warm bread has.  My typical nature is selfish and I know it.  However, I am getting better- much better!

We often overlook the effect that we have on others.  A smile goes a long way and it is such a simple gesture.  Are you a warm bread person? Do you focus on others instead of trying to get out your story?  Are there areas that you can work on as you interact with others to make yourself inviting?  Like the tea cup bread, once you master the skills of warm bread you will bring them back over and over again- a warm and sweet relationship!

Do you know someone with these skills?  Share your story by clicking on comment below!