Punched in the Face!

You won’t really get away with it- they are watching you!

Kathy and I have been spending Saturday mornings serving at an inner city ministry giving out surplus bread and produce to the homeless and needy.  This has been our Saturday morning routine for the past seven years or so.  We completely enjoy serving and have helped to build a vibrant community that has taken the ministry far past the goal of just providing food.  This is a rough area.  An area of high crime and drug activity.  Shooting and violence are common in this neighborhood.

When we get set up, there is often a group of ladies who take cuts at the front of the line.  The men will often plead with us to do something about it.  These ladies are a tough bunch and have been fighting for their families for a very long time.  I get it.  Yet it is frustrating that they can get away with taking cuts. It causes unrest. Even when we speak up, they continue to do what they want and often ignore our requests.

After observing this activity and the reactions, I have figured out how they can get away it. If they were men, the other guys would take care of things. Right or wrong.

They would likely get punched in the face!

Respect and special treatment for women or other groups are not uncommon.  And there is nothing wrong with special privileges.

Unless you take advantage of the situation. 

Leadership often comes with some special privileges.  You may have the opportunity to be in the front.  First in line.  You may be able to avoid some unpleasant tasks or duties as a result of your position.  You are likely to be treated differently than the average person.

The key is how you decide to handle these privileges.  If you are a servant leader, you can’t differentiate yourself from your team.  The truth, in terms of servant leadership, is this:  You are part of the team and you just happen to be the leader.  You must stay in the trenches with your team.  You have to be willing to get dirty and do the work along side your people.  If you exalt yourself above your team and take advantage of your position, you have violated one of the key components of being a servant leader.

Special privileges with leadership must be used with caution.  You cannot hide.  They see everything you do.  Your heart is exposed by your actions.  Be careful.  Always.  They are watching you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen examples of folks taking advantage of special privileges in leadership positions?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Photo Friday: A Mere Speck

Last weekend my son invited me to go off shore fishing with him and two of his friends.  We left early in an effort to try to beat the heat.  It’s been brutally hot this year in North Florida so getting out early really helps.  While riding out as the sun was coming up and riding out past the point where you can no longer see the shore, I was struck with the size of the ocean and the relative small size of the boat.  Really just a mere speck in the vastness of the ocean.

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I think we sometimes give ourselves more credit that we deserve.  We are all just a speck on the earth.  You might think you are a bid deal, but the truth is the world’s a big place and your really not all that extraordinary.  So how can we make an impact when we are just this speck on the ocean?  I spent some time catching up with my son and his friends.  I found out what’s going on in their lives.  We laughed a lot.  But sometimes it was just quiet and we enjoyed each others company without even saying a word.

The way you make the little speck big is by making your world smaller.  Reach out to the ones that are closest to you.  Connect on a deeper level.  Offer yourself to them.  You will make a bigger impact when you discover how to put others needs above yours.  This is how you will actually become the big deal.  In a small way and backwards to our thinking and reasoning.  One connection at a time in a great big world.  Just a speck in the middle of the ocean!

Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

Searching for Home

Kathy and I had the privilege to serve in a refugee camp on the Panamanian border. The camp has several hundred Africans and some Pakistanis who are stuck in the camp due to issues with the Nicaraguan government letting them pass through their country. We spent time hearing the stories of their journey through the Amazon rainforest and being robbed by the mafia in Columbia. These were men looking for a safe place for their families. They risked it all to find a place that is safe and secure. Some told us stories of walking through the jungle with a compass simply pointing them north. They spent days walking through swamps with water up to their chests.

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An incredibly dangerous journey.

They shared the struggles back home and the reasons why they left on this journey. Stories of killings and brutality. Corruption and political struggles.

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As I sat and listened I realized that the conditions back home were so bad and dangerous that it was actually better for them to risk traveling through the jungle with the hope of finding home. This is not a story about money. This is about safety for their families. Searching for a place where they can live without fear. They were searching for home.

They are risking their lives to help provide a safe place for their families.
There is no guarantee that they will make it.
Yet, they will put it all on the line for a chance to make it to the U.S.

How about you?

The U.S. certainly has its problems, but we have justice and peace. The Pakistanis knew it. They knew that the U.S. was a good place. A place with good and caring people. A safe place with opportunity.

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So as we as a country discuss “walling off” our country in I can’t forget about the faces of these people. They are risking their lives to find something better for their families. They will continue to point their compass north. They will continue to struggle to find safety. Something we take for granted. A place where they can sleep at night without worry. A place of peace and security.

The march will continue.  Heading north. Searching for home.

Photo Friday: Service and Sacrifice

Deer Point

This picture was taken on the rear patio of the old Officer’s Club at Deer Point (Now called the Bayview Restaurant) at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  As I looked over the bay at the sunset and snapped this photo, I realized that thousands of servicemen and women have stood at this same exact spot looking over the bay and thinking about there loved ones who were far, far away.  There are few places that you could be that are more isolating than Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

My visit to the base was a real eye opener for me.  I was overcome with the realities of what it must be like to be a military family.  These great Americans sacrifice a portion of themselves and share their families interests, to serve our country.  I think we tend to focus on the danger of loosing their lives and miss that fact that they are really giving up their lives as they live and serve the country.  They are far away from home and stuck on a base isolated from the people and the things that they love and cherish.  I was reawakened to this sacrifice made by millions of men and women during the history of the United States.

These men and women who sacrifice to serve our country are truly the greatest Americans!

So what do your think?  Are you from a military family?  Have you experienced the sacrifice first hand?  Have you stood in this same spot before?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! Click on “like” if your agree with me!

The Mad Scientist

I used to work for a boss who liked to do experiments. He wasn’t a scientist and the field that he was experimenting in was management. He would actually conduct experiments with people. He would do things without their knowledge and then see how they reacted to it. One of his self proclaimed tests was to load up an employee with work until they said “uncle”. Keep piling it on until they came back frustrated or beaten. The experiment was designed to see how much they could handle and determine their breaking point. All the while the unsuspecting employee was killing themselves to keep up with the workload in order to try to measure up.

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Little did they know that the ultimate goal was to overload them.

The effort was designed to frustrate them.

They could never measure up because he would just add more work.

I couldn’t do it. I thought that this strategy was cruel and stupid. I thought that it was not fair for the employee. I knew that by putting that much pressure on the person they could make a big mistake. They could also get really angry or they could burn out and quit. Why would anyone do this?

Through the years, I have seen others do these experiments. Let’s see if they can figure it out. Let’s give them less resources and see if they can get through it. Let’s push and see what happens. Let’s double things up and see if they crumble.  This just seems crazy to me.

I believe that honest communication is a better way. Rather than experiment, ask them what they think. Ask them how much can they handle? Ask them if they can work through the problem. Ask them if they are ready to come up with a strategy to do more with less resources? Give them more work when they want it. Give them a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Give them the help they need to be successful.

Experiment with things, not with people. Don’t play games with their heads. Don’t be the mad scientist.  Ask them for help. Ask them what they can handle. It’s better that way.

So what do your think?  Should we experiment with people?  Have you experienced this before? Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!

Serving Others…Without the Exchange

One of the keys to being a servant leader is serving others by putting their needs ahead of yours.  A great example of this is being a parent.  When you raise a family, you learn that the needs of your children naturally come before yours.  Children do not have the ability to take care of themselves.  They do not have the experience to make good decisions.  They are yours- so you love and nurture them and make sure they have the things needed to stay healthy and to grow and prosper.

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This is an easy one.  What about another tougher example.  What if the person that needs help is not your child?  What if they are not your relative?  What if they are an adult?  What if this person lives in another country?  What if they don’t speak your language?

Shouldn’t matter.  You were made to serve others.  Unconditionally.  Without strings.  Everyone.  Period.

This is tough stuff for someone who is used to the exchange.  I give something and then get something back.  This exchange can be very subtle.  Often when we lead others- we still get something back, right?  Is this really giving?  Serving your children benefits you by benefiting your children and your family.  Serving your workmates helps you while helping them.  You get something back for your hard work.

Can we give without getting back?  Giving in it’s purest form should be one sided- right?  Give and don’t get back.  If you skip the exchange, what is the great equalizer?

Kathy and I are leading a missions team to Costa Rica  May 21-June 1 to minister to the poor and support the local church. We will be staying Alajuelita which is in the central valley of Costa Rica near the capital city of San Jose.  This is a poor area of Costa Rica and we will be ministering in the poorest barrios (neighborhoods)- tin shacks with dirt floors.  These areas are full of families and children are everywhere.  We will be helping to feed the children and will spend time with the moms and the elderly.  We will also be ministering at a woman’s rehab center.  Drug abuse and prostitution (legal in Costa Rica), is a big problem in Costa Rica.  Many women are often forced to sell themselves just to feed their families.

Missions is very important to me.  I know that we are blessed beyond measure in this country and I have a burning desire to give back and serve the poor and needy.  The greatest gift that we can provide those in need is the reassurance that there is a God in heaven that loves them unconditionally.  Love makes all the difference.  This is often all we can hold onto when we are in the toughest situation.  This truth has helped me during tough times in my life.  And I have seen with my own eyes what this truth can bring to a Costs Rican who feels hopeless.  This is the power of the Gospel.  This is what we will share on our trip to Costs Rica.

Will you please partner with me on my trip?  We are trying to raise all of the funds through donations so that your money, prayers and love will actually travel with us and make a tangible impact in Costa Rica.  Without leaving your house, you can be part of the work that we are doing in Central America!  Any amount would be greatly appreciated.  This donation is also tax deductible- the church will send you a receipt for tax purposes.  You can send a check to me or you can donate on line by credit card (secure connection through Pay Pal). Below is a link to the online donation to our church- River City Church:

http://www.rccjax.com/give

Please click on “one time donation” and fill out the information.  This only takes a few minutes.  Do it now or you will forget! (I only say this because this is what I do!).  If you donate on- line please contact me  (Click on “Contact” tab on this website) and tell me that you donated.  I have to alert the church about your donation or your donation will NOT be appropriated to our mission trip.

I am so excited to be going to Costa Rica to spread God’s love to the poor and needy. Please give to help us fund this trip so you can be with us as we work to make a difference in the lives of those we reach.  Giving them our time and our love.  Taking your love to others far away.  Giving unconditionally.

God bless you and your family!

So what do you think?  Do you give without the exchange?  Is love the great equalizer?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 

 

Chicken Leader

I used to work for a boss who believed that the best way to find an employee’s capacity was to continue to pile on the work until they said “uncle”.  I thought that it was pretty cruel and also not very smart as the overloaded employee was likely to make some mistakes that would need to be cleaned up later.  And most likely, I would end up fixing the mess!

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Yet this kind of management theory is not uncommon.  The manager tells everyone that there is an “open door policy”, so if there is too much work then all you need to do is say so.  if you have any problems- just see me.  They are convinced that they are very approachable.  They have fooled themselves into thinking that they are just “one of the team”.

The fact is- these kind of leaders are just hiding.  The open door policy, and approachability is just an excuse.  They are afraid to ask because they don’t want to hear the answer.  Then they would have to deal with it.  They hide behind the intimidation.  They are chicken leaders!

Most employees will not walk through that “open door”.  Walking through that door is inherently dangerous.  They have no idea how things will be received. They may be viewed as weak employee or a complainer.  The walk through that “open door” can lead to an argument.  The bad thing that could happen far outweighs the good that could result.  The walk through the door could be a disaster.  The open door, you can always come see me, I’m just like you, I want to hear your problems, want to help you, won’t get angry with you…simply does not work.

So how do you get feedback and suggestions?  How can you find out how your employees are doing?  Well- you have to ask. But before you ask, you have to be trusted.  So how do you build that trust?  Here are a few ways to help get there.

Lower Your guard. If you want your employees to share and go to a risky place, then you need to go there too. If you want to be a leader you have to model the behavior that you want to see- right? If you have a guarded and formal posture, you can expect that your team will have that same hard shell.  Be authentic.  Share your struggles.  Be yourself.

Develop A Real Relationship. Work to develop a relationship with your teammates. Share what is going on in your life in order to encourage them to open up. Let’s face it- work is a very large portion of our life.  We spend a great deal of time doing life at work.  Don’t compartmentalize your time at work.  Develop real relationships with content that extends beyond your work.

Serve Others.  There is no better way to build trust than to be a servant leader.  When you put the needs of others first, you are sending the message that you place real value in them.  They have worth.  Without a servant leader mindset, you are placing the value on the hierarchy.  You are emphasizing the distance between them and you.

Be Observant.  Keep you eyes open and watch what is going on in your workgroup.  If you see someone that is struggling or is upset, address the issue.  Waiting for the problem to fully mature will only allow things to fester. The result will be a bigger mess.

Get Dirty.  If you want to relate to your group you have to get in the trenches with them.  You have to get involved and learn the struggle first hand.  If you stay in your ivory tower you will not fully understand what they are going through.  You also have to be prepared to hear personal struggles outside of work.  Family issues, sickness, conflicts, marital problems.  If you have a real relationship you can expect that you will also have to carry with them some of the weight of the personal struggles.  You would for a friend.  Why are they not your friends?

The open door policy doesn’t work.  If you want real feedback and suggestions for improvement, you must build the relational bridge.  Many leaders are afraid to build the bridge.  The bridge will make you appear vulnerable.  The bridge will reveal your fears and struggles. Hiding behind your title and distancing yourself from your group is the strategy of the chicken leader.  Are you ready to unlock the potential in your group?  Do you want more but can’t seem to get there?  Build the bridge, lower your guard and unlock the potential!

So what do you think?  Have you worked for a chicken leader?  Do you think you can effectively lead a workgroup without the relationship?  Click on leave and comment and tell me what you think!

The Dangers of Meddling

“I can do whatever I want- I’m the boss!”

Have you heard this before?  This is a true statement for the most part.  If you are the boss you can do whatever you want.  But is it healthy?  Is it the right thing to do?  Will it do more harm than good?

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Meddle: 1. to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.  

               2.  to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful

When you think of meddling you probably think of a mother-in-law giving advice on child rearing or your father lecturing you about your personal finances.  Meddling is not a typical way to describe a management and leadership problem, but I believe that meddling is much more common in business than you might think.  And- I believe that it can be very damaging.

When I typically visit one of our construction sites I will call ahead and talk to the Project Superintendent and give him a heads up that I am on my way to the site.  This is a call out of courtesy and respect.  I am not really obligated to call them- I out rank them.  Others like to show up unannounced to do a “stealth” visit.  I really fail to see a good reason to come unannounced.

The reason I call is that I believe that I am going out on their project site.  Yes- I outrank them, but we have put them in charge of the site.  It’s their domain.  Their responsibility.  Even though I am a company executive, out of respect and to align with responsibilities, I feel that I need to notify them and ask to be out on “their site”.

I believe this theory holds true with most areas of management.  If you put someone in charge of a particular area, then you need to respect their authority and stay out of the day-to-day operation.  You hired this person for a reason and you have given them specific duties.  There is a chain of command for a reason.  If you fail to respect the responsibilities and you drift in and out of issues as the wind blows it can be very damaging.  Here are a few of the problems that can develop:

  1. Undermining Authority: By getting involved in the day-to-day activities, you are blurring the lines of authority.  This adds a layer of confusion to who is really in charge.  The employee will be able to take the path of least resistance.  If you are trying to discipline an employee or work out a particular strategy, your efforts can be completely destroyed by a meddler.
  2. Mixed Messages: By getting involved, you will invariably be sending a different message to the employee.  It is extremely unlikely that your message will be identical to the manager who is their direct report.  If you follow the chain of command, the employee will hear only one voice and this will eliminate confusion.
  3. If Dad Says No- Go Ask Mom: We all know this tactic used by children to get what they want.  This also occurs in management.  If you meddle, you are setting yourself or your manager up to be manipulated.  By getting involved, you have added an additional person to the equation and you may be used to wiggle out of a responsibility.
  4. Nice Guy: If you are the big boss and you want everyone to like you, it will be very difficult for your manager to keep the employee focused on areas of improvement.
  5. Turns Down The Volume: If you are meddling and constantly giving direction instead of following the chain of command then the voice of the manager becomes secondary.  Due to your position, the meddler’s message will always drown out the voice of the manager.  Their voice becomes secondary.
  6. Mr/Ms Everything: You have now set yourself up to be involved in everything.  You will now field questions and problems that you really don’t want to deal with.  You can’t get away.  You can’t take a vacation without anxiety.  You loose your trust in your managers.

These are just a few examples of the damage that can occur when you neglect to follow the lines of authority.

You believe that you are better.

You just can’t stay out of things.

You can’t trust anyone to get it right.

You have to get involved in everything.

You want everyone to rely on you.

You have no real confidence in your managers.

Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

You may be telling yourself that you are just “helping out”.  Well, if that’s the case, then ask them if they really want your help.  Remember, if you truly want to help and be productive, then you need to take complete control of the issue and follow it through to the end.  You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.  You can’t bail out when it’s not fun anymore.

Be very careful.  Being a meddler is addictive. When you are involved in everything and you drift in and out of things responsibility suffers.  Who really has the ball?  Should you really carry everything?  Push everything back through the chain of command.  It’s there for a reason.

Empower your managers.  Support them.  And, most importantly, stay out of their business!

So what do you think?  Have you witnessed this behavior before?  Do you believe that you are entitled to do whatever you want when you are the boss?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think! 

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!