Unfortunately, there are times in our work lives that we will be supervised by someone who doesn’t do a good job of showing how much they care about us or worse, they literally just don’t care. The first type of person is far easier to work for that the later and honestly, the ones who don’t know how to show it are more prevalent in the workplace today. As the Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace, Gen Xer’s are now supervising people making today’s workplace a little frustrating. This type of working environment puts the responsibility back on us if we want to make “work” a little more enjoyable.
The higher up the “ladder” a supervisor goes, the less they pay attention to the things that their people need, and we need to remind them what we’d like to accomplish. Author John Maxwell describes 360º Leadership in his book with the same title; we can use this as a tool to help us achieve goals that we have set for ourselves. Being forward with our own supervisor is not something that feels natural but when we are dealing with our own future and needs, sometimes we need to push a little. If you are a leader, don’t forget to take care of your own needs but don’t do it at the expense of your people. God put you in this place and at this time for a reason, ask questions and seek opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Luke 11:9 – “So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
We are taught here to ask the Lord for what we need. We need to learn to put our trust in God so that He can deliver us what we need. The real truth of the matter is that what God delivers is not always what we want or plan for but it is what we need. Sometimes God gives us pain or suffering for our growth, other times he gives us joy and peace. Despite our belief in our own greatness, God knows what we need.
Another thing that frustrates us is that God will not do it on our timeline but on His. Today, with the microwave we cook faster, with streaming services, we get tv shows when we want them, and the Internet gives us information in an instant. This verse reminds us to ask, seek and knock on the doors that God provides. Behind some doors are scary opportunities in which we feel alone in our thoughts and in our decision. God has promised not to leave you. He gave us His only Son in order to keep us close and we should never forget that. Pray and have patience, He will open the door for you.
There is an old management saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What is in your heart will reflect on your leadership style. If you are caring for your people, deflecting stress from all angles, sincerely working with them so they can: achieve more, learn more and, reach their goals; then your heart is in the right place. Do you say, “I want to develop my team so that they can take my place” but you find that you are too busy to spend time with them in one on one career coaching?
I’ve been studying the subject of performance management for years. There has been a recent push to eliminate the annual performance review and replace it with regularly scheduled coaching sessions so that employees know how they are doing on a more frequent basis. As the workforce changes, so do the supervisors and leaders. The challenge this puts on a leader is that if they are required to interact with their people more frequently, it might just expose what is truly on their heart. If a leader really only cares about his numbers, his department’s goals or his promotion, it will all be revealed in these regular interactions. So, if you genuinely want people to be successful, you must ensure that your words and actions match. It takes far more time to recruit, train and develop new employees than it does to coach them and help them be successful. In the end, these efforts will reflect positively on everyone.
“As water reflects our face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19
This verse is about our hearts as Christians. What is on your heart? Do you attend church weekly and sing the songs but go out on Monday and terrorize your workplace by showing no compassion for others or “steal time” by putting in less than a full day so that you can “get what is coming to you”? God knows what is your heart! Putting God in His rightful place on your heart may take time and it won’t be easy, but God is understanding and has compassion as you work toward it.
For many of us, putting God first is a hard transition. As humans, tend to be so self-centered or consumed by the needs of this world that we often consider God’s word as an afterthought. Perhaps it is one of those things that you’ll squeeze in if there is time. Try to introduce God into your decision-making at work or when you reflect on a decision that you made. It may feel uncomfortable at first but that will go away. Remember the love that God has shown us and be extra forgiving when someone really disappoints you. Daily devotional reading will help you understand the depth of God’s grace and love for you. As God fills your heart, that will be reflected outward in how you treat others. You’ll be more understanding, have compassion and show forgiveness. Think about what your reflection looks like today and ask, is this what I really want to show to others?
A key component of the job for every supervisor is to develop the people around you. Today, coaching and mentoring have taken on a greater importance for the workforce. The current generation of employees want to be challenged and seem to have a short attention span at times. This generation is the “everyone gets a trophy” generation and this need for feedback has been brought into the work place. They require regular feedback (coaching) and seek rewards (rises/promotions) at a much higher rate. I’m not saying anything is wrong with their wants/needs; I’m saying it is different. I’ve been passionate about developing people since my first days in the fire service.
I started in 1982 and was taught by a great man who was also passionate. My first Captain was a commanding man, a former Marine, who was very authoritarian yet compassionate. He wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs and could do them well. My first training officer passed along everything he knew and encouraged constant learning. He yelled at you when you deserved it and praised you when you earned it. He always left us knowing what was important. We need more of those people today, ones that aren’t afraid to share their knowledge because you might end up becoming smarter than they are. Pass on what you know, you will be making an impact all around you.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3
Here is another example of a single verse that tells the whole story of the Bible – Christ died for our sins. Paul is teaching the people of Corinth through his letters. There were no lecture halls, no handouts, no power point slides or videos, just Paul’s letters. He never stopped teaching. He wrote to the Thessalonians, the Philippians and the Romans too. He never lost his passion for teaching God’s promises and word to everyone he could reach.
Obviously, St. Paul’s mentor was a little more than a salty old Marine but he understood that keeping the knowledge and wisdom that was bestowed upon him was not an option. He could have kept it to himself and had people coming to him but God was with him and he understood that his role in this life was to share the good news. God uses us in many different ways to do the same. We need to pass on what is the first importance: Christ died for our sins. Make an impact in all that you do, teaching, witnessing, living Godly lives, helping others or sharing the Good news. We can all make a difference if we remember that we are doing God’s work and not our own.
Constructive criticism. Just the name makes me think “what an oxy moron”; what can be constructive about criticism? Having given out my fair share of it, I’m sure that it was an oxy moron to the person receiving it. I had always believed that it should be given as gift and received as one too. It takes courage to tell someone how they might improve or try something differently. It was when I started studying the concept of employee coaching that it really made sense. In coaching, the supervisor is not criticizing the employee but they are offering constructive observations about behaviors, seeking to understand the goals of the employee and attempting to align those goals with those of the organization. Effective employee coaching can go along way toward building up an employee, not criticizing them.
What does the word “praise” mean to you when you hear it? For many, it’s only something you do at church. Our society has become so negative that all we seem to hear is criticism and negativity. We should be throwing around a little more praise for people and the things they do. Think about the last time you told a server at a restaurant that they did a good job. You may have tipped well, but saying something will make it mean much more. I’m not suggesting that you walk around all day telling everyone “good job” but more often than not, they never really know unless someone says something. The next time the chance presents itself; tell someone how much you appreciated their work or advice. Not only will you make someone’s day but also you will be surprised how good you will feel about yourself.
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8
I often reflect on a verse from Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians that essentially says – we cannot understand the wisdom or the timelines of God. We don’t understand why things happen and we become frustrated when our prayers are not answered right a way. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bad things happening to good people and how we simply cannot understand His ways. I also suggested that we seek to understand why these things happen.
We should not criticize what is happening but give praise and thanks for all that He has done. The person who is sick has been given another day to experience; the person who is financially struggling is being prepared for something greater or perhaps being drawn to God. We need to give more thanks and praise. In prayer, God can handle our requests and our questioning of His wisdom but He can also handle our moments of praise and thanksgiving. Our praise should not remain silent in prayers but they should be shared with the “nations”. Spread the good news about what God has done, He deserves it.
Reliability. I’ll bet that when you hear that word, the first thing that will pop into your mind is a product of some sort. It is either a car or an appliance that we generally associate with the word reliability. What about people, do we consider them reliable? We might use dependable but reliable? People will let us down and are flawed from conception; I’ve even heard others quip that “you can depend on people to let you down.” The difference is very subtle, being reliable means that you will be able to get the same result over and over and dependable means worthy of reliance or trust. How reliable are you? Do people seek you out for help or advice? If you are in a leadership position, you need to be both reliable and dependable. Being reliable can take a toll on your time management. You will find that when people seek you out for help, you spend a lot of time with them and your own “work” takes second place yet it still needs to get done.
When people seek you out, you are actually functioning as a coach for them. Good coaching can turn into mentorship, which is a great professional development tool for both parties not mention a huge source of personal satisfaction. Whom do you rely on? Do you have someone reliable in your work life? We are sometimes too proud to ask for someone to help us or give us advice. Finding someone who is reliable enough to be a coach is rare; be sure that they are willing to help at this level. If you are fortunate enough to be someone whom people consider reliable, consider sharing your gifts with them at this higher level.
“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Acts 2:21
It’s ironic that when I hear the words reliable and dependable, I don’t immediately think of the Triune God. As I reflect on it, I have to assume that it’s because I never have to think twice about God’s reliability and just writing that, makes me smile. There are millions of people in this world that don’t see it that way. They will base their assessment of God’s reliability on the number of answered prayers they receive, the quality of their life or the types of works they perform – trying to gain God’s favor, so that He’ll be more reliable and dependable. Our LORD and Savior is Jesus Christ, He intervened on our behalf to gain God’s favor.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be Saved” (Acts 2:21) means eternal life for everyone calling, no strings attached. God is reliable and dependable. He keeps His promises to His people; we just have a hard time seeing them because His time and our time are not the same. God always listens and comforts us; we simply don’t always recognize it. It’s the unexpected coffee that a co-worker brings to you when you need it or the refund check that arrives the week that your rent is due. Turning your life over to God and trusting in Him means that you never have to think twice about whether He’s reliable or not. After all, He did send His one and only Son to suffer for us so that we can share eternal life Him. It certainly sounds like He’s in it for the long haul, how about you?
Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably. There have been plenty of articles written recently about companies choosing not to perform annual employee performance appraisals and replacing them with regular “check-in sessions” – basically coaching. The workforce can view “mentoring” as special grooming for those fortunate enough to have been chosen to move up the career ladder. Mentoring is a relationship in which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally. The key feature here is that the mentee wants to be guided – they ask for this type of personal attention.
Most employees expect help from their leadership in the form of guidance, inspiration, encouragement, advancement, discipline and approval for a job well done. If they don’t get these, frustration sets in and for the Millennials, this means finding a new job. Employees can be coached even without a formal system. If supervisors don’t do it themselves, the employee can ask questions of their supervisor to extract help. “What do I need to do to improve in [fill in the blank]? I’d like to start working on more complex projects; do you have anything coming up that might allow me to do that? I have been blessed to have great coaches and confidants throughout my career(s). Don’t wait for it to happen, go out and make it happen. Find a mentor, a coach or a confidant in your life and you will see that there is strength in numbers.
“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12
Can you even imagine what it would be like to physically speak to Jesus everyday and ask for His advice? You can! Your prayers are heard by the Triune God, which means Jesus hears them too. While you don’t hear Him respond back, you will get an answer. God sent us His Son to bring us closer to Him. Now that’s what I call a mentor! God provided His word to us through the scriptures and Jesus gave us examples of how to live our lives; someone to guide us both personally and professionally.
This verse tells us He will lead us along straight paths, not stumbling and without impede. Another example of God’s promise to be with us. We stumble in sin, we forget to nurture our relationship with God and yet He keeps His promises. Our faith in Jesus is all that He needs to keep us along the straight paths. We don’t deserve that kind of dedication but God’s love is so great that we can’t imagine how He can forgive us. Sin is always present but more importantly, so is God’s love. Let Him guide you.
Mentoring, coaching, succession planning and employee development are the latest challenges for today’s organizations. The baby boomers are leaving the workforce, new managers need additional skills to lead the Millennial Generation and Millennials have workplace needs like no other generation before them. Leaders have a responsibility to develop their staff regardless of what the retirement picture looks like in their organization. A number of 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 created which 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 matters, it is how we react to it that counts. St. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us, that our troubles are light and momentary.
For those that believe in Christ, we know that no matter what is happening, we will have eternal life in Heaven. We all struggle with the concept of “momentary” as if we are applying it to our understanding of time. A moment to God could be years for us. Open the bible and find peace for what the troubles that 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 troubles 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.
I have been reading a lot lately about companies who are eliminating their annual performance appraisal processes. This is making employees and supervisors happy as both dread this annual event. But it leaves us with the question, 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 to do it and if it goes away, what will replace it? There are a number of strategies to accomplish the goal of measuring performance against an employee’s job description, their core competencies or their assigned goals. Whichever one you choose to use, there are a couple of common threads to consider.
Performance assessments should be continuous throughout the rating period. A common pitfall is when a supervisor only rates the employee on what recently happened or what they recently remember. We all (leaders too) ebb and flow in our work intensity, which is why all aspects of our performance should be measured and not just the highs or lows. In order to make these appraisals valuable to an employee, supervisors need to create a tool to assist them with documenting their employee’s work all year long. Whether you are a supervisor or an employee, don’t rely on your memory; it will let you down in almost every case. A reliable system will provide you with good documentation and not take up too much of your time to do. 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.
“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.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
“This is taking an eternity to finish!” A phrase we all utter 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 in His plan of your life? The seemingly unrelated events and circumstances may now appear to be connected to form an experience or opportunity. God is at work in and through us every day; bringing us closer to Him for eternity.
People are often afraid of the things that they’ve done and become so discouraged that they give up pleasing God. He doesn’t use a system to document our “job performance”. If He did, none of us would pass an annual review. God has a record of everything that we’ve done from our beginning. It must be a pretty scary list if you think about it. Fortunately, God also has us “documented” as His children and as such, He sent us a Savior to wipe clean our sins. Faith in Jesus Christ, combined with God’s grace, cleanses us from all sin. We cannot fathom the extent of God’s love for us as He forgives ALL of our sins – from the beginning to the end. We are free from all of them. God works in His time. We can’t understand that so why do we think we can understand the depth of God’s love?
“Equip you with everything good”; sounds like a tall order to fill if you are in a leadership position. It can also be perceived as an insult if you are the employee. I’m suggesting that you view “equipping” as a means of employee development. As leaders, we have the obligation to develop our people and equip them for everything good. We can be so busy taking care of the business that we often let our responsibility for employee development fall away. We should make it a priority and work with each member of our staff to help them achieve more than they thought was possible. Set a regular meeting time and help the employee establish reasonable goals for their career or even for their personal lives.
Personal goal setting is hard for employees to do. People don’t often practice it in their lives so when they are asked to do so at work, they freeze. You might have to suggest some direction or offer options. Help them set short-term goals that are easily achieved so they know what success feels like. Once they see that the developmental goals are for them, they will start to bring their own needs to the meeting. Your success in “equipping” can be measured by increased productivity or job satisfaction by your staff or even if they advance into other positions of increased responsibility. Today’s Millennial workforce is hungry for this type of leadership and you can be the one to equip them for everything good.
“May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will…” Hebrews 13:20, 21
You should work in your vocation to the glory of God, doing His will. You have been blessed with the ability and the responsibility to lead others; God has equipped you with everything good for doing His will. How do you feel about the other areas of your life, are you equipped? Most of us took advantage of the opportunities that were put in front of us at some point in our lives.
We have to remember that God works in mysterious ways and sometimes we simply don’t always recognize what He’s doing in our lives. When was the last time you attended a bible study or read a book that contained a message from God? These are tools that God will use to equip you for doing His will. Take advantage of the equipping that He is doing and seize upon the opportunities to do His will and witness to others. You will never know when the words you choose or the actions that you take will make the difference in someone else’s life.
I figured that I needed to get back to focusing on leadership for a few posts. Last week, I touched on personal leadership and being a leader even when you never intended to be. As the formal leader at work, do people know how and where to find you? Do they refer to you as approachable and accessible? Many people in “leadership” positions have an open door policy but their door is often found closed or worse yet; the door is open but the mind is closed. There is an old management theory called the “Seagull Theory of Management”. It is when the leader flies in, leaves droppings everywhere and then flies out. I hope that this doesn’t describe you or at least not how your people do.
There are a lot distractions in today’s working environment: e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging and last minute demands. We work in what I call the microwave world – everything is ready in less than two minutes. Leaders need to take a few minutes to examine how these distractions are affecting their relationships with the people who count on them. The main purpose of leadership, as opposed to management, is to motivate and encourage others toward a common goal. In order to achieve this, we must spend time with our people, find out what their needs are and provide them a vision that they can see. We can’t do any of this if we aren’t accessible.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
God knows we are easily distracted; look how long it took for Eve to get distracted/tempted from the one rule they had “Don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden”? God set in our minds and hearts that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart. This isn’t a “microwave” solution: fast and when we want it. The lesson here is that we need to become immersed in God’s word, seek him with all of our heart; not just a minute or two and only when we need Him.
Spend time with God, everyday. If you are like everyone who receives e-mails, you’ll read 15 minutes of “funny” e-mails, check the stories on CNN.com or spend an hour looking at the feed on Facebook or Twitter. Are you devoting that much time to seeking the Lord with all your heart? God is always accessible to hear your prayers, accept your thanks, receive your praise and forgive your sins. God can be that old friend who you tell all of your secrets to but like your dearest of friends, it doesn’t happen overnight. God has done so much for us and He just asks for us get close to Him and to seek Him with all your heart.