As we close 2012, many of you are considering New Year’s Resolutions. We make these year after year but many are not followed through on. I’m suggesting something different for 2013: set specific goals with a specific vision in mind. What are you trying to do? Do you want to loose weight? What is your vision of that? For some, it’s a new dress one size smaller or attending a school reunion 10 pounds less. Can you see what that looks like? Set milestones along the way so you have stages along the way to meet. Celebrate arriving at each milestone and then keep moving forward. If you are leading people, push them to set goals. If you are leading a division or a larger business component, set the vision for everyone to see, layout the course and get to work. Have faith in yourself and your organization: 2013 will be a great year!
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Have faith or keep the faith are two phrases we hear often. The Internet story about a little who talks about God in school is a perfect fit here. When asked about what she’d like to see if she were to go into space, little Suzy said confidently “I’d like to see God”. The teacher said “Oh Suzy, there is no such thing as God”, to which Suzy replied, “Yes there is”. The teacher asked her “Have you ever seen God Suzy? If you can’t see it, it’s not real”. Suzy thought for a moment and then asked “Teacher, have you ever seen a billion dollars?” The teacher shook her head no. Suzy said “But you believe it exists don’t you?” There is a lot of debate about Darwinism, Creationism, Big Bang Theories, etc. I’d like to suggest that we might not be able to determine with scientific certainty what the human truth is. We can however, be certain of this: God’s truth is eternal. We need faith going forward into a new year, being sure of what we hope for. Faith in the triune God will lead to eternal life and while we can’t see it; we know it in our hearts – right where God put it.
Most people who rise to a leadership position are considered “stars”. Even in politics they talk about the “rising stars of the party”. I’ve said here before that leadership is an honor and a privilege that when accepted, comes with great responsibility. The biggest mistake new leaders make is thinking that they are done learning. To remain wise, all good leaders need to remain current on trends and remain inspired to lead others. We all find inspiration in different forms, so it is important to know how you are inspired. When a leader is inspired, they will inspire those around them. Even the brightest stars will eventually burn out. Leading is about inspiring others to greatness. Many professionals are required to seek “continuing education” in order to remain current. A leader should do it because they want to not because they have to.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3
Leading others to righteousness sounds like a big task, let alone lead many to righteousness. In typical human fashion, we can’t see ourselves doing that. God gave the world, in a single star shining in the darkness of the North, THE light of the world. Jesus spread the word of God with only 12 disciples. Out of a single man – a single star – came the salvation for all mankind. The analogies are plentiful here – a single flashlight can lead to safety, a single decision, etc. God gave us freedom from sin and everlasting life through His son, one man, Jesus Christ. When you ask yourself – “what can I do?” you should think of yourself as that single light. This is the time of year people will be open to hearing about Christ. Take the opportunity to lead one to righteousness. Like stars that fill the night sky, you’ll never know what you might be the start of.
I just read a chapter from and old classic management book “Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers”. The chapter on sacred time reminded me that when you work too fast or on too many things, they aren’t really getting done right or on time. The authors suggest three – “10 minute time outs” a day just for you. Most people say that their best ideas come to them in the shower or in the bathroom. Do you know why? They are alone without interruptions – no phone, no e-mail, no people. Google Inc. has shown us all how taking a break fuels greater productivity and creativity by putting video games and ping pong tables in their offices. We have so many things vying for our attention that we are becoming a scatter-brained society with no attention span. If you complain that a movie is too long because it’s two hours, you are already on your way. Be merciful to yourself. Build in free time on your calendar. Look at your to do list and see what really needs to be done by you and what can be done by someone else. If you reduce your stress, you will extend not only your attention span but your life span as well.
“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36
Mercy has a lot of definitions. If we look at our own sin and inability to follow God’s commands, we deserve the punishment of death. Our Father however, showing mercy and love, says “believe in Me and My Son and you will be set free”. If He can forgive us for all that we do, how can we not show mercy to those around us? “I forgive you”, three powerful words that are an opening to mercy. Christ taught us about compassion and love but it was the Father that taught us about mercy. Jesus took upon himself all of our sins and bought for us eternal life by rising to heaven to sit with the Father. “God so loved the world…” the ultimate show of mercy. No one asked for your son but Luke suggests we be merciful to each other like our Father is toward us.
Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. In fact, I have a book on the subject of Listening; a huge part of communicating. On the scene of a fire, due to its high level of danger, we have an “order model” to prescribe how we are to communicate. It essentially says that the receiver of the message will acknowledge the message by repeating it back to the sender. “Command to Engine 1. Take a hose line to the second floor. Engine will call back: “Engine 1 copies, take a hose line to the second floor.” There is no room for misunderstandings when lives are on the line. Yet, how many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? Leaders need to keep communications open with their people too. Some call it “touching base” and others call it “checking in”. Today, change is constant and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be communicating with them in other ways. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true. Keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders.
“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If you are still not sure, close your Face Book page or Twitter account for 15 minutes and look up witnessing tips. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!
Mentoring, coaching, succession planning and employee development are all buzz words for today’s organizations. The baby boomer’s are starting to leave the workforce and there is concern that the generations to follow are not prepared for the future challenges. Leaders have a responsibility to develop their staff regardless of what the retirement picture looks like in their organization. Several years ago I was tasked with developing a program to build “management perspective” for our staff. We had several young supervisors and several more to promote. We created a series of supervisory programs that exposed these young leaders to a variety of “business” and leadership topics. A mentoring program was started that allowed employees to function in supervisory positions under the guidance of their existing supervisor then on their own. These employees endured 120 hours of classroom training and countless hours of field training from the time they started the program until they completed their probationary year as supervisors. The bottom line is that with or without a formal program, leaders have an obligation to develop people to achieve all that they are capable of.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
As Disciples of Christ, more than the word of God is mentoring us in our lives. The trials and tribulations of this life are making us stronger for what lies ahead in eternity. Our troubles are momentary but they sometimes seem to pile up. It’s not what is happening to us that matter, it is how we react that counts. St. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us, that our troubles are light and momentary. For those that believe we know that no matter what is happening, we will have eternal life in Heaven. We all struggle with “momentary” as if we are applying it to our understanding of time. Open the bible and find peace for what troubles are burdening you. Stop looking for the meaning in “why” and start looking at how you can react, with God at your side, to the trouble you are facing. Giving up your control and letting God work in your life is very hard. We have been promised eternal life through Jesus Christ not an easy life here on earth. Celebrate the gift and live to His glory – the glass is half full.