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!

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.

Fight The Urge!

I was invited to join a group of friends, just men, for a cookout tomorrow.  I have decided to go.  This sounds like an easy decision on the surface.  But really it’s not that easy.

My inclination would be to stay home and relax.  See, I’ve had a difficult few weeks at work.  Traveling, problem solving, frustrations.  It’s been a real basket full of junk.  I have plenty of really good excuses to skip out on this one.

But I know that I really need to be there.  Not because they need me to be there.  There will be plenty of guys that will attend.  No, the reason I need to be there is me.

My flesh is telling me that I deserve to stay home and relax.  But I know that I need to stay in community.  I need to stay connected.  I need to fight the urge to isolate.

Men are generally experts at isolation and coming up with excuses to be alone.  But this is unhealthy and dangerous.  The enemy loves a man in isolation.  He knows he’s got us right where he wants us.  A wise lady told me “Oh that devil, he’s been around for a long time.  He’s got a big bag of tricks.  He’s knows exactly what works on you.” I think we forget that fact.  We think we will be fine by ourselves.  Independent.  Self-reliant.  American individualism.

So off I will go.  I know I will enjoy the company.  I know that I will be glad that I went.  It will be good for me.  Better than sitting on the couch with a book which would be my first choice.

Sometimes you need to fight the urge.  The urge telling you that you deserve something.  The urge that tells you that you come first.  The urge that tells you that you it’s ok to be alone.

Deep down we know what we need.  What is pure.  What is good.  What will build up.

Relationships take work so fight the urge to isolate.  Reach out and connect.  Someone has to make the effort.  Why not you?

Do you struggle some times staying connected?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!

The Jewish Wedding: Families and Tradition

Kathy and I had the pleasure of attending a wedding a couple of weeks ago.  The wedding was stunningly beautiful and dripping with the sweetness of tradition and family.  See this was a Jewish wedding and there is no wedding ceremony and celebration that I have experienced that is like a Jewish wedding.  Every part of the ceremony and celebration is rich in tradition and symbolism.  The Jewish wedding celebration is truly a family event that brings in relatives from all over the country providing:

An opportunity to reconnect with family.

An opportunity to strengthen the bonds to each other.

An opportunity to be in community together.

An opportunity to have fun as a family.

Frankfort Lighthouse- Wikipedia

Frankfort Lighthouse- Wikipedia

There is an incredible amount of power in the Jewish traditions that is harnessed in the strong bonds of family.  Although there is certainly exclusivity, the Jews have managed to stay bonded together even in the face of the mixing bowl of the United States.  This bond of ethnicity is a powerful propellant.  To be Jewish means to take care of your own.  Provide opportunities for the youngsters and offer deep respect for your elders.  This power, I believe, we loose in our hunger to assimilate here in the U.S.

How can we reconnect with this power?

Take every opportunity to celebrate your ethnic roots.  As a family, we sing a Polish birthday song called Sto Lat.  I learned it from my father and we have continued to sing Sto Lat at all of our family birthday celebrations after the traditional American happy birthday song.  We continue singing after everyone else has stopped- in Polish- as a tribute to our family heritage.  I feel like its our way of saying- this is our family and this is our tradition. There is also some exclusivity here.  Our family, our heritage, and our tradition.  We have sung Sto Lat loud and proud in restaurants and housefuls of friends outside of our family.  I suspect my children will continue this with their children, and so on it goes.

As I write this, I am sitting in a bed and breakfast enjoying some R&R in Frankfort, Michigan.  Every year at the 4th of July we would travel as a family and vacation here for the 4th holiday.  So many great memories here.  They flood back as we have visited the places we went years ago.  Another sweet tradition for our family.  Traditions and family are powerful.  If you don’t leverage these two forces you are missing a great opportunity to bind your family together and harness the power of the family unit.  As a group you can do much more good than on your own.  A family can be unstoppable. Tap into this power.

Happy Father’s Day and….Mazel tov!

What are some of your family traditions?  Do you celebrate your culture or do you hide it?  Click on comments and tell us your story!

Wake Up Sleeper!

Last week a friend of mine had a headache and vision problems, so he went to the emergency room. A little more than a day latter, he passed away. A stroke they say. He was in good health. No signs of any problems. He left an amazing family and a beautiful wife behind and alone. You just can’t make sense of this stuff.

"The best way to make dreams come true is...

This is the third friend that I have lost recently. All around my age and all very sudden. I think we all get the fact that we don’t get to choose when we will die. And many of us will die suddenly. The thing we can control is how we will live.

Wake up sleeper…the days are evil!

On Sunday, our pastor shared a message about this choice. We must learn to live our lives with a sense of urgency. Our plan for greatness usually goes something like this: I plan on starting my dream once I get finished with… Leaders are great planners. We think through the details and methodically move each piece in place. We are convinced that this is the best way, but really, its just the safe way. To reach greatness takes risk. To accelerate the process you probably will need to jump early. Waiting until everything is perfect just chews up time- you may never find just the right time.

Fear is a great motivator.
Fear is a clarifier.
Fear is an accelerator.

Safe and Sound

We are programmed to prepare for the impending disaster. We are convinced that no one will be there for you. American individualism. We must store up and save. Seek safety and all it brings. But are we really ever safe? There are countless events that could occur that will make all of your wealth and comfort useless. Safety is really an illusion. You can store your entire life and loose it all in an instant.  Struggle your whole life for nothing instead of enjoying the ride! Are you seeking security or seeking life to the full?

Check the Box

In the midst of trying to get to where we want to go we spend our time trying to check off the items we have completed. Trying to get done. Happy that something is over. I just need to get through this. What is that? We live as though the goal is to be done. Just survival. Is this all there is? Don’t you want to live, not just survive?

The Megaphone

The thing we try hardest to avoid is actually the thing that can wake us up. CS Lewis said that pain is a megaphone.  It wakes us up and brings us back to reality. When everything is going smoothly, we live in a kind of slumber of ease and security and we loose touch…

With what is really important.
With how fragile our lives really are.
With our dreams and what we were uniquely created to do.

Pain is the wake up call. It’s a way to bring you back. I hate it, yet it is like a slap on the face. You remember why you are here. What is really important. What you are doing now and what you want to get done.

Loosing these friends has awakened me. The world seems different. My priorities have changed.

Wake up sleeper-there is much to do!

Can you relate to this?  Why do we dwell on safety and security?  Do you find yourself living just to “get done”?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

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.

Morning 003

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!              

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

The Why Theory

When I first starting working in the building trades, the guys that I worked around were a real cast of characters.  I was a youngster so most, if not all, of the guys were older than me.  The one thing that I noticed was that the majority of the guys really had fun at work.  There were plenty of practical jokes, laughter and comic relief so the day went by quickly.  This wasn’t because the work was easy.  Construction work is hot, dirty, sweaty and tiring. There is nothing easy about it.  Yet, surrounded with the right cast of characters, the day went by pretty quickly and we really had fun.

Under construction

The other remarkable thing I noticed was the way the older guys would take the time to teach the younger guys how to properly do the work.  There were no hidden secrets or protecting of territories.  The older guys would openly share their knowledge and take the new recruits under their wings.  They taught, nurtured and celebrated when the youngsters began to excel in the work.  They took the time away from their work and actually showed them how to do it.  And most importantly they explained why you must do the work in a particular way.

Sadly, I think we are losing ground in both of these areas.  I see tradesmen today who are addicted clock watchers who are simply counting down the minutes to the end of the day.  There is less laughter and more tension on the jobsite.  Many of the most skilled tradesmen are reluctant to share their knowledge of the trade because it takes additional effort or they have the warped fear that they may be training their replacement.  It gives me great pain watching this occur when I know how it can be.  How it was. They don’t realize that you can actually have fun at work.   And most importantly, they have lost touch with the satisfaction that comes from training up the next generation.

I have a new recruit at work.  He is young and bright and has an excellent future in front of him.  He is learning and is very inquisitive.  We are extremely busy so I have been confronted with the tension of just giving him the “What” and not the “Why” because it simply takes more time. 

See- the “What” is easy.  Do this, do that.  Don’t ask why just do it! 

I know there are managers who feel like the “What” is enough.  They will figure it out.  I don’t have time to explain everything.

They are so wrong!

You must do the why!  You must take the time to explain the why!

This is the way I see it.  Life is a puzzle.  All the pieces need to fit together.  If you fail to give the why, it is like trying to shove a puzzle piece in a spot where it doesn’t belong.  You fail to see why something is important and how it fits in the overall system.   You are simply following directions.  Yet when you do the why- it’s similar to reaching the end of the puzzle- when you can quickly put many pieces in place very quickly. 

It begins to make sense.  You can see the big picture.  Once you have the big picture you can also begin to see beyond the picture– you can expand your horizon.  This is how innovation occurs.  This is the why theory.

The why is the pathway to growth.  I tell my gang at work that I can’t think for everyone.  It’s just impossible.  They must think for themselves.  They must take ownership and be the author of both problemsolving and process improvement.  Yet, without answering the why questions, they are unable to comprehend the complete picture and ill equipped to make quality decisions.

So take the time to do the why.  Put away your agenda and pour into others.  They need the why.  We all need the why.  When I started out, the old guys understood this.  They knew they were making us all stronger by sharing their knowledge.   Don’t underestimate the importance of your role in this! 

Do you struggle with taking the time to give the why?  Let me know your story!  Click on comment below and let me know what you think!  If you like the post PLEASE press “Like” and post on Facebook or Twitter! 

Get Rich!

Ah- the American Dream!  Big house, fancy cars, fat retirement account, 2 kids, a dog and a white picket fence.  Is this really a dream or is it a curse?  For your typical overachiever (like me) the pursuit of wealth can be all consuming.  It can swallow you and ALL of your energy.  Is this what life is all about?  Is this really the DREAM?

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

If you ask any successful person about their life goals you will likely get a response that refers in some way to money.  While I understand that money brings a level of security and clarity to the future, I am convinced that we place far too great an emphasis on the need to have money and possessions to feel successful.

I remember telling the lady who took my high school senior pictures that my only goal in life was to be happy.  Have I really lived up to that statement? 

In my mission travels and service work, I have had the pleasure to meet the most remarkable people.  In many cases these folks have very little money or possessions, yet they live as though they are wealthy with an amazing attitude and a genuine zest for life.  I have other friends who have abundant resources and wealth and they are simply miserable.  This is an amazing paradox- Those with less are often happier than those with more.  As I have examined this phenomenon, I have begun to redefine my view of what it means to be rich.

How can the poorest folks in the world be so happy?  How can they have any feeling of security and peace not knowing where they will get their next meal?

Living the rich life is really about depth.  The truly rich people that I have met take the time and make the effort to cultivate deep relationships and love for their families, friends and communities.  This is so contrary to our modern lifestyle today.  We try so hard to be everywhere and everything at once.   We typically have nothing but “drive-by” relationships.  Even our relationships with our families can be weak and superficial.  And the worst part is that we model the behavior to our children and coworkers.   

We must take the time to value others. 

We must take the time to give back to our community. 

We must take time to see the beauty that is all around us.

We must take to time to pour into others.

What we all have to give is truly priceless- and it cannot be duplicated.  We must fight the urge to remain on the surface.  We must go deep.  

Yes- it is dangerous. 

Yes- it is complicated.

Yes- it can be painful.

However, the rewards far outweight the risks.  So here is your “get rich” plan:

Put Things In Perspective:  Carve out things in your life that are consuming you only for the purpose of making money.  Yes- We all need to eat.   Yet, what kind of life are you living if you are killing yourself to make a living?  You will not starve.  You will be fine.

Slow Down:  You do not need to be the fastest at everything.  You are missing the world- it is passing you by!  Slow down and really SEE what is going on around you.  If you have conditioned your boss, friends, or spouse to expect lightspeed this may be a tough transition- but this is your life!  Take control of your time and your life.  We all experience stressful times but your life should not be a constant race.

Go Deep:  Take your relationships deeper by asking questions and sharing your own personal struggles.  To “go deep” you must be transparent and vulnerable.   The root of superficiality is really self-centeredness.  You must be willing to get closer to friends, family and coworkers in order to enjoy the richness that results from the deep bond of great relationships.

Get Involved:  Get off of the sidelines and get involved!  Give back to your community and those in need.  My wife and I have been in dirt floor huts and been offered food from the poorest folks you can imagine.  They get it! They want to serve us!  Find a service project or get involved in your church.  Find a young person and pour into them.  Share your knowledge and your life experiences.  Take time to train up the next generation.  They want your help.  They NEED your help.   

The rich life is a choice.  You can choose to chase money, fame, or possessions or you can choose to go deeper.  You can break free of the bonds of superficiality and enter a world of true love focused on others instead of yourself.  Are you ready?  Would you like to be rich?

Are you ready to enter the life of the rich?  Will you get serious about making the tough choices to add depth to your life?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!   

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!

attention

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!