Keeping Track

How do we track what our people do from the beginning of the year through the end of it? Many organizations use some form of performance tracking or performance appraisal tool do it. There are a number of strategies to accomplish the goal of measuring performance against an employee’s job description, their core competencies or assigned goals. What ever tool you choose to use, there are a couple of common threads to consider. Performance assessments are continuous through the rating period. A common pitfall is only rating the employee on what has recently happened or what you recently remember. We all (leaders too) ebb and flow in our work intensity and all aspects of our performance should be measured, not just the highs or lows. In order to make these appraisals of value to the employee, you will need to create a tool that assists you with documenting their work all year long. Don’t rely on your memory; it will let you down in almost every case. A reliable system will provide you with good documentation of their work and not take up too much of your time to do it. While generally referred to as an annual performance review, you can easily fall into the trap of it becoming the “most recent memory” review. Good documentation is the key.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to end.”

“This is taking an eternity to finish!” A phrase uttered by all of us at some point. We have no concept of what “eternity” really is. God works on His own timeline and not one that we can understand. Stop for a moment and look back over your life, do you see how God has worked His plan in your life? The seemingly unrelated appear now to be connected to form an experience or opportunity. God is at work in and through us every day to bring us closer to Him for eternity. Fortunately for us, God doesn’t need a reliable system to document our “job performance”. If He did, none of us would pass an annual review. He sent us His Son to die for us, take the punishment for our sins, so that we can live with Him and God in eternity. The only measure is our faith in Jesus as our Savior, something that we cannot fathom from the beginning to the end.

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Renewing the way we think

Times are certainly changing. There was a recent article on NBC.com about a new segment of the workforce called “slashers”. These are the new freelancers, people who are a chef/writer/blogger; people with multiple small jobs to make one annual income. As a “slasher” myself, it made perfect sense to me. Some will say a “jack of all trades and a master of none” but this new workforce is real and truly a sign of the times. I also believe that the patterns of the past will not stand up to the demands of the future. Do we need office buildings filled with cubicles of people entering information into their computers or can these people do this work from home? Can we combine positions or functions and share the talents of our workforce? There are still millions of people unemployed; the pattern of the world will need to be transformed for the world economy to recover.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2

Paul is reminding the Romans and now us, that we should not be living to glory of this world but to the glory of God. He also gives us the answer to the question:  how do we do it? It is so easy to get caught up in the desires of this world – bigger houses, newer cars, better clothes, jewelry and so on. We’ll never miss our favorite TV show now because of the DVR and we’ll make time to squeeze in church before kickoff. These are clearly the patterns of this world. Paul is telling us to be transformed by renewing our minds – change the way we think about things. As long as you have the DVR, spend some of that time learning about God’s word. Pick up a daily devotional and spend 15 minutes renewing your mind. Try to find understanding in what the Bible is telling us, don’t just read the “stories” but search for the meaning behind them. Take the renewal of your mind in a new direction.

Serving the Customer

Whether we are in customer service, accounting, marketing or leadership positions, we are always serving a customer of some sort. Sometimes they are internal customers and sometimes they are the paying customers; either way, they can be demanding. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a great reminder of how we should act toward each other. The old adage of the “customer is always right” seems to have gone away with the full-service gas station. People in the customer service business these days seem to be bothered with us “customers” and our needs. As a leader, have you turned this way also? Do you think that people are there to serve you? How do you react when they need something or some help? Leaders must learn to deal with all types of people who have all types of needs. The management theory of situational leadership applies today more than any other time. The principle is that every situation (or person) requires a different approach than you used the last time or perhaps will use the next time. It requires patience, humility and gentleness.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

This verse is one of God’s directions for us. He teaches us, through St. Paul, how we should treat and live with each other. I haven’t found a person who enjoys the company of someone who isn’t humble and treats people poorly. We tend to tolerate these people in our lives because we have to, not because we want to. We are taught to love all of God’s creatures but some people make that very hard! Remain patient and tolerant, God is teaching you something. How do you act toward others? Are you the person that people merely tolerate? Are you gentle and humble with those who serve you? Take time to examine yourself and apply the direction that God is giving us.

Be Positive

A positive attitude can get you through just about anything. My daughter recently told her class that the most difficult thing that she has had to overcome in her life was her recovery from Gall Bladder surgery. She remembers the pain and feeling sick for days after the operation. She told her classmates what I told her to recite during her recovery, “today will be a great day” and it worked for her. Her recovery moved out of first gear and she was on her way. How do we create positive attitudes when our work is just getting us down?  We are in control of our attitude; we just have to want to be positive. It is easy to focus on the inconsiderate co-workers, the boss who won’t let up, the long commute or whatever is affecting your attitude at work. Turn it around. What can you learn from these circumstances? If you are a leader or manager, you must ensure that you are not the cause of distress for others. Today, workers need specialized attention, not a one for all fix. The bottom line is, your attitude is yours – own it.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider; God has made the one as well as the other…” Ecclesiastes 7:14

It is important for us to remember that God made both the good and the bad times. Why? We might not ever find out but we are reminded that God has a plan for us. He never promised a smooth path or guaranteed happiness along the way. He puts obstacles in our path and he opens doors to help us grow. The unexpected check that arrives in mail or the new diagnosis, we can grow from both experiences. How we deal with them is our choice. We can turn away and blame God or we can search harder for an understanding to His plan. The bible has been filled with gifts for us to use to “fix” our attitudes. Do you know where to find your next attitude adjustment?

Do me no wrong

“I’ll never forgive them for what they did to me!” Have you ever uttered these words? They say trust is hard to build and easy to lose. We have all experienced that. How easily all of our good work, extra hours and overtime are erased when we make one mistake. Our years of trust are wiped out – in both directions. We no longer trust those that lead and they have weakened trust in us. When does the erosion stop? We must have some faith and hope that our leaders will return to a sensible state and we move forward. We followed them for a reason or we wouldn’t care what they thought of us. If we are simply following them because they sign our paycheck, then our relationship is not affected when we disappoint them. However, being thankful for our job and working at our best is something we do for our families, or ourselves not for the leaderless boss. Take your “oops” and turn it into a learning experience. Find your mentor, confidant or peer who will help you learn. Sometimes these experiences are gifts from others, wrapped in ugly paper – yes, but a gift nonetheless. In all situations that go bad, we share the blame; so make the make the most of it.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you for your sins.” Mark 11:25

Forgiving someone is one of the hardest things we will do in our lives. It’s easy to do when the circumstances are minor, like not being able to go the movies. It is a little harder when someone we care about humiliates us, talks badly of us or commits a “wrong” in some way that affects us. We hear about family members forgiving a murderer or thief and most of us wonder, “How can they do that?” Our Father has forgiven us for the things that we do that humiliate Him or when we steal time from Him. He knew we needed help in learning about forgiveness, so he sent His Son to us not only as a savior for our sins but to give us an example to follow. Jesus showed us how to forgive; we just need to be reminded. Forgive and move on; life on earth is too short to carry around the weight of unforgiven issues.