No “I” in Team

I worked on an assignment for the Army recently, and I witnessed a variety of teamwork examples; both positive and negative. According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, a group is defined as “a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship” and a team is defined as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of teamwork and leadership and I once found an interesting quote by teamwork author, Sharon Feltham: “Calling a collection of people a team and rallying them to the cause does not make them a team. A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to: a common purpose, a set of performance goals and a common approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. 

A group however, contains people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a leader’s goal. She goes on to state, “A group supports the leader’s goals and the leader-dominated approach to goal attainment. Leadership is predominantly held by one person rather than the shared, fluid leadership of a team.” What this tells us is that in a group, the dominant viewpoint is represented; in a team, multiple, diverse viewpoints are represented. Decisions in a group are made by voting or implied agreement; decisions on a team are typically made by consensus. I believe this illustrates that people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Next time you join a work “team” make sure you understand who’s goals you are working to achieve.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 

Remain in Jesus as He remains in you. Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the strength to move through our lives here on earth. God loves us and has charted a course in our lives but we cannot do it alone! As the branch, we cannot bear fruit on our own; we must remain in the vine that is Jesus. 

It sounds simple enough but the fact is that we need help to remain in the Word of God and strengthen our faith and understanding of the salvation given to us through God’s grace. The vine – Jesus, instructed us to worship with each other and to grow in our faith. He suggested that we form groups focused on a dominant viewpoint and not a team and its multiple viewpoints. We gather in a group to worship God, hear His word and receive the forgiveness of our sins through Christ our Lord and Savior. At times, we will support another branch when they need it and that branch will support us when we need it. No matter the situation, we must remain in the vine.

Mother’s Day

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day; the day that Hallmark made. Before anyone takes offense, I feel the same about Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. While my wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, we do recognize the other two days for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time they are old enough to really know better and shop for themselves. Lisa and I were blessed with two awesome mothers of our own. They not only liked each other but they also liked their “in-law kids” too. Lisa’s mom likes to joke that she’s my favorite mother-in-law; she is. While my mother passed a few years ago, I know that she felt like she gained another daughter while Lisa’s mom gained another son. I don’t know that I could have dreamed of a better relationship. 

The quote from James reminded me of what a mother is, not only to her kids but to her spouse as well. As you read this, compare the actions of a good parent to those of a good leader and you will see, they are one in the same. A mother’s wisdom is pure and genuine, honest and full of love. No matter what happens, a child (regardless of age) will always seek a mother’s advice. A mother is peace-loving and considerate. She’s the one who always broke up the fights between brothers and sisters while seeking a solution that worked for everyone. Mothers taught us to share and taught us how to take care of someone who was hurt. A mother is submissive to the needs of the family, full of mercy and kind words (good fruit). 

Mothers showed us how to sacrifice and put others needs before our own. They deflected blame when we messed up and led the cheering crowd when we did well. Mothers never picked favorites (even though I know I was my mom’s favorite) and when they held your hand and looked into your eyes, you knew they meant everything they said. Great leaders, like all mothers, know how to do these things too. Mothers have earned a day just for themselves but they deserve it throughout the year, not just in May. 

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

The irony of this message is that its about Mother’s Day but it is based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is a great reminder of how we are to act toward everyone. The wisdom from heaven was given to us through the writings of the bible. As you read/study the bible, you will see in the New Testament that each lesson shows us God’s pure way in the life of His Son, Jesus. 

Jesus then showed us His peace-making ability, how he was considerate to others; even those that opposed Him, submissive to the law of the land, demonstrated His mercy, goodness, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Use these principles to live your life in all situations, which will please God. And your mom too.

Scattering Seeds

I almost have to wonder if writing about leadership matters any more. Our world seems to be completely devoid of anyone showing leadership these days. I’ll keep sprinkling in some leadership references in hopes of bringing back some good “old fashion” traits. Having said all that, leading by example is sometimes easier said than done. “Do as I say not as I do” is far easier to proclaim than watch my every move and see how I do it. As I read about today’s workforce, especially during the past year, no one wants that either. I don’t know that any of us ever did but for those of us who learned from an autocratic leader, this was commonplace. Today, we’re seeing people getting promoted into leadership positions and then change everything about who they are in order to get the job done. 

All too often we’ve seen the guy who comes in late to meetings or is not always prepared get promoted and then suddenly they expect people to “tow the line” when they are in charge. How are you in your day-to-day actions? We all falter but are you more disruptive than you are helpful at work? Leaders have the responsibility to watch everything they do because they’ll never really know the impact of their actions for some time. This is where being significant is more important than being successful. Significance is what you are to others, successful is what you are to yourself. 

“He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mark 4:26-27. 

Spread the word! I’ve often heard that said but these verses from Mark really add new meaning. We scatter seed every day in our lives as Christians. We come into contact with people and can affect them simply through verbal and non-verbal communication. Do we say we care about those less fortunate but turn our backs when it comes time to make a difference? Our attitude tells a lot about what lies deep within us, but our actions tell the rest of the story. 

We can scatter seeds that flourish or we can scatter seeds that result in weeds but no mistake, we are always scattering seeds. No matter what we do or say, the seeds that we scatter will grow. Jesus told us to spread the word. God has given us the instruction manual through His word in the bible, to “go and make disciples of all men”. The message is clear, scatter the seeds and they will sprout and grow. While we won’t always know how they’ll grow but we can be assured that they will. Following Easter and the good news of salvation, we should have no trouble scattering the seeds of eternal life. 

Perfect Gifts

Humans are funny creatures by nature. We thrive when we have our routines, doing the same things, the same way, everyday, while simultaneously complaining about the “rut” we’re in. As employees, we will complain about “not knowing where the boss is coming from” at any given time. The inconsistency kills our work routine and our morale. Employees become disenfranchised when workplace discipline is handled differently depending on who is involved or what special circumstances are being considered. You know things are bad when employees are complaining about not enough discipline or issues related to how it is being handled. 

As much as employees want a flexible workplace, they also want consistency in how it is managed. Parenting is no different, our kids want to know the rules and then have them evenly applied. If it was okay to leave dirty dishes yesterday and again today, don’t be surprised that the same dirty dishes will be there on the third day. Consistency is the key to setting expectations and avoiding the “do as I say, not as I do” life. Friends, family, coworkers and subordinates will always appreciate knowing where you stand no matter what the circumstance. 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

This verse tells us that God is at work in our lives everyday – all day. Our problem is that we don’t view all of God’s “gifts” as good and perfect. We have no trouble celebrating the $5 lottery win or when the police officer decides to give us a warning instead of the ticket we deserve. Do we view the “hardships” the same way? 

We have a hard time seeing the good in a “new diagnosis” or yet another surgery. We don’t stop to think that these “gifts” may be for someone else that we are going to be an example for. Despite our desire to know everything and understand what God’s plan is, we simply do not contain the capacity to. The abilities of the “Father of the heavenly lights” and what He seeks to give us is beyond our comprehension. While we think we could love everyone on earth, we could never pull it off, but our Father does. The greatest part about His love is that it is available for everyone; consistently and not changing “like shifting shadows.” God’s love and guidance is with us always, day and night; He simply asks for our faith in Him and His son, our savior, Jesus Christ. Who is our good and perfect gift, the one who gives us eternal life and freedom from all of our sins. 

Mentor vs Coach

Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably. There have been a number of articles written about companies choosing not to perform annual performance appraisals and replacing them with regular “check-in sessions” – basically coaching. Mentoring programs are often viewed by the workforce as special grooming for those fortunate enough to have been chosen to move up the career ladder; an unfortunate take a way. By definition, 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 and Gen Z, this means finding a new job. Employees can be coached even without a formal system. If supervisors aren’t proactively providing guidance, the employee can ask questions of their supervisor to extract some 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? Personally, I’ve 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 don’t need to imagine because, 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! He 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 that God 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.

Obedient to Authority

WOW! This verse has a very wide range of possible topics to cover. I almost want to write about it for a couple of weeks in a row. The easy way out would be to write about political party’s, but I have tried very hard to remain topical and not political. So let’s go to one of my favorite topics – followership.  Being a good follower is an important characteristic of being a good leader. We must learn to follow before we lead. The notion of us following someone often depends upon whom we are following. If we don’t respect our supervisor or the company owner, it is hard to follow them. Conversely, if we believe in the person then we have little trouble following them. However, following does not mean that we do it blindly. We have to obey the rules established by our employer, the city or town we live in and those of our federal government. While we don’t always agree, we are obedient for no other reason than to maintain order within our society.

Being a follower has responsibilities too. We shouldn’t accept someone because they are in a position of authority or because someone else has elevated them to a leadership position. The proof is often in their words and actions. Look carefully at whom you choose to follow. The bottom-line is that we are all followers at some point in our careers or lives but it is more of a role rather than a position we hold. Those who are better followers are generally tapped to become the next leader when the opportunity arises. Google the word “followership” and you will find thousands of resources; look for one that sings to your heart. Today, it is easy to fall blindly behind someone because they are popular or because they represent a group that you belong to. Ensure that you are following them because they represent the values and beliefs that you hold.

“Remind the people to be subject to rules and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good…” Titus 3:1

The verse today should sing to your heart as well. The Ten Commandments tell us to be obedient to our government leaders. Jesus even told the Pharisees to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. He was teaching us to be obedient. Titus then reminds us to be subject to rules and authorities and then be ready to do what is good. God is reminding us to be good followers; be a living example of Christian living. Are you ready to do whatever is good?

I’m sure that if someone asks us for help, we’ll be there. Unfortunately, most of us rarely look for ways to help; it is easier to react to a call for help then it is to generate support for one. There are a lot of people who need our help, especially at this point in history. Whether you lead or follow, be ready to do good. When the true financial impacts of the pandemics begin to reveal themselves and after tens of thousands of people are permanently laid off from their jobs, consider becoming a leader, this might be your opportunity. Martin Luther was credited with saying, “God doesn’t need your good works but your neighbor does”. As the U.S. enters the final eight weeks of our Presidential Election season, we must remain focused on being ready to do whatever is good and focus less on blind obedience.

Where Did Humility Go?

When I read the verse for today, I immediately thought about how people treat those in the service industry. Our son always goes over the top when he encounters someone who is taking care of him. I’ve remarked before that it isn’t hard to be nice. Unfortunately, in today’s pandemic world fueled by politics, it seems that people hard a hard time simply being nice to each other. Before this year, we could ignore the politicians and go about our lives. We’d complain about how we missed the customer service of the past, but we’d still be civil to each other. It seems that a week can’t go by without another viral video of someone losing their mind about wearing a face mask.

Ask yourself, how have I been treating people lately? Do I treat people in the service industry like indentured servants or fellow human beings? We all encounter a variety of people each day and each one needs something a little different from us. Today more than ever, we need patience, humility and gentleness. It is important to remember that at work, there are four different generations in the workplace today and each needs its own approach whether we are leading them or working with them. One thing that doesn’t change with the generations is that patience, gentleness and humility will go a long way toward maintaining harmony both at work and in this crazy time we are living through.

“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 yet 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 or work with you? Take time to examine yourself and apply the direction that God is giving us.

Jesus demonstrated these attributes in His life. When the Disciples couldn’t understand the lessons Jesus was teaching, He never gave up. When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with trick questions, He loved them anyway and was gentle with them. Even on the cross, Jesus asked for mercy on those that were crucifying Him. I often say that if people are going to quote from the Bible that they should be reading the whole book and not just a few selected verses that make their point. In order for us to live as St. Paul suggests, we need to be reminded of God’s patience with us and we can do that by reading God’s word.

 

The Future

I’ve recently been doing some research on leadership and team building. An organization losing its bearings is always the end result when either of these components are missing. Most organizations or should I say, most employees want to know what direction they are headed in. This is very important for employees today; more so now than in any other time. Today’s employees believe in the higher purpose of an organization and tend to resist “because I said so” leadership styles.  Creating a vision is the single most effective way to get people to support any proposed change or altered direction. Employees can lose sight of and will need to be reminded of, an organization’s core values and purpose.

Organizational leaders need to construct an envisioned future that describes what the organization stands for now, what the future looks like and how it will get there. The biggest key to successful visioning is sharing the plan with everyone in the organization. Setting goals and objectives that describe the milestones along the way will help turn a wish into a reality. Employees should participate in such a way to help re-define the benchmarks because they have a unique perspective within the organization. Communication throughout the entire process is the best way to keep the vision in front of everyone. If leaders tell people where they are headed and then get out of the way to let them work toward achieving that goal, amazing success can be achieved.

“…He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10

The Old Testament is the visioning process of the bible. God gave us a look into what He could do and what He wanted for us. God spoke through angels and in some cases; He spoke directly to ordinary people telling about His vision. God even went so far as to get out of the way and let us work. Of course, we know what we did along the way and failed to meet His expectations. If we were employees, God would have fired us! Like a great Father, He never quit or gave up on us.

God sent us a Son to save the world. Jesus continued to reinforce the vision of “everlasting life” and reminded us of the promises of God our Father. Some people have a hard time reading the Old Testament. When you read it now, read it like a vision of what was to come and as a description of the power that God possess. He was able to overcome armies, flood the earth and cast famines to ultimately overcome Satan. We have a simple responsibility now; stay connected to Him through faith in Jesus Christ as our one and only savior. The goal is simple – everlasting life. The vision is beautifully described throughout the bible, be sure to take the time to find where.

Diligence

The word diligent is defined as, “Characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks”. How can we live diligently? We can start by paying attention. The social movements that are occurring today are forcing people to pay attention; some for the first time. The racial issues that are being brought into focus are not new issues; we’ve simply ignored them for years (or forever). Many people are uncomfortable because the topic of racial inequality isn’t going away. They would rather focus on the physical damage rather than address the underlying cause. The issue will take perseverance to create change.

At work, we often pay attention to the details and generally try not to let things fall through the cracks; that’s diligence. The communities that we live in depend on all of us paying attention to the details: while driving, interacting with each other and maintaining an orderly society. Rules and laws provide the structure of a society that allows billions of people to live together.

Diligence also requires accountability; you must ensure you are meeting your obligations. We are responsible for each other and accountable to one another for our actions. Too often we see people going through life paying attention to only themselves and what they are doing. In the firehouse we used to call these types of people “one way’s”. They had only one way of thinking and it was all about their needs. We are all leaders in our lives no matter our position. As parents, we lead our families, as adults we lead children, as Christians we lead through our example. Regardless of your place of life you are a leader, so provide leadership diligently.

“If a man’s gift is … leadership, let him govern diligently…” Romans 12:6, 8

As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, if we are to lead, we must do it diligently. We must pay attention to the small things; the devil is in the details. It is easy to obey the straightforward commandments like not stealing or killing but what about the “details” of the other commandments; like not being jealous of what others have or putting other activities before worship with God, especially during football season.

Who is keeping you accountable for what is happening in your life? Confess your sin, give it to the Lord, repent and turn toward God. The good news is that Jesus took it all upon himself on the cross for us. Be diligent in your daily study and time with the Lord, it will make leading much easier. We often do not seek Christian leadership role models in our lives. Whether you have chosen it or not, God has chosen you to be an example for others. Do you carry out your Christian duties with care and perseverance? You don’t have to be the designated leader to have people follow you, but you do have to be aware that people will follow you, good and bad, so why not be better prepared?  You’ll be rewarded in many ways.

What is Right Anymore?

Famous business leader Peter Drucker once said, “The successful person places more attention on doing the right thing rather than doing things right.” We hear a lot these days from people who are quick to lecture about “doing what’s right” but they fail to define what “right” is. Honestly, “right” isn’t hard but we’re so determined that it be “our own version of right” that we’ve stopped considering that we might actually, be wrong. A large number of people have forgotten what “taking care of each” other means because they’re so focused on being right. There is a segment of the American public that wants to shut off welfare, suppress minimum wage and close up the borders to the “Land of the Free” who’s Statue of Liberty says, “give us your poor, your weak …” What is right anymore? Do we really understand the problems created by isolation and individualism? The discussions around the issue of wearing masks in public is a great example – required or voluntary, people have forgotten about the greater good.

I’ve written before about author Kent Keith, whose book “Anyway”, lists the ten paradoxical commandments of life. Paradoxical commandment number nine says “Give the world the best you have, and you’ll get kicked in the teeth; Give the world your best anyway”. You may have heard the phrase “No good dead will go unpunished”. We do good anyway because it is written on our hearts. It is certainly easier for us to do the things that: cause us less work, make us more money, won’t hurt anyone and won’t create a conflict or simply do something because everyone else is doing it. Being a member of a greater society isn’t easy. It is what separates us from the animal kingdom. All leaders have an obligation to do the right thing, all the time, and to continue to do it even if it isn’t popular or appreciated. Integrity can be described as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. We are however, never alone.

 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.” James 4:17

God is always with us, in thought, word and deed. He knows what is in our heart and see’s even the little things we say and do. So, when we know better and don’t do it or when we take the easy way out, we sin. There are a lot of things we do as a result of the old Adam in us; things that result in sin. There are no degrees of sin, they are all the same and we sin daily.

We are not perfect, and God knows that, which is why He gave us an example to follow – Jesus. Despite the examples of how to live a Holy life that Jesus gave us, we can’t help ourselves. Our gracious God knows this too and He sent Jesus to not only be our example but to reconcile us with Him. Jesus took upon himself, the punishment for all of ours sins so that we could have forgiveness and eternal life with our Father. Jesus demonstrated love and obtained the forgiveness for ALL of our sins. No matter what has happened, turn away from the sin in your life and turn toward God seeking forgiveness in Jesus Christ.