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.

Know How and Why you are Following?

Why do people follow those in Leadership positions? Is it because they HAVE to or is it because they are inspired to? We have many people whom we choose to follow and for a number of other reasons besides being inspired or being forced to because of their position. Some we follow because they are fighting the cause that we believe in (shared ideology) or some because they represent the same group that we associate with. What happens when our ideology or group association no longer line up with “norms” of the leader(s)? How do we lead others in our own lives; through coercion or inspiration? How/what are we following?

In our lives, we are all leaders or followers depending on the situation. At home, you may be the leader and other times, you are the follower – just ask a long-married man what role he has most often. Good followers, however, do not follow the leader blindly; they first understand the mission of the leader and follow them to make things better. What kind of a follower are you? Generally speaking, followers inspire others and in turn become leaders.

Even designated leaders must learn to be good followers. Unfortunately, we often see people in leadership positions who demand allegiance from their followers but they fail to act in the same way to those they follow. What kind of follower are you? Do you demand from those you lead something you won’t give as a follower yourself or do you leave your followers in the dark about where you are headed? Leadership is advanced ten-fold when we lead by setting a good example. The bottom line is that we all need to work toward common goals for the betterment of the greater good. Effective leadership and followership foster an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce better results and make the changes that are needed.

“Come, follow me,“Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets, flawlessly obeyed the Ten Commandments and never wavered in His ideology through and with His Father’s will. We will never be perfect, but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men” we know it was his way of saying: I will give you the tools, the strength, the time, the understanding, the guidance and an example to follow so that you, my disciples, will lead people to me.

Despite His followers set backs, Jesus was always there to pick them up, help them understand and lead another day. He gave them opportunities to serve and circumstances to teach the Word of God. Are you a fisher of men? The Lord has blessed you by putting you in a unique position as both a leader and a follower. Remember what Jesus did, how he led, and put that to good work. The work of a follower is important to. Understand the mission and do your best. Reading the bible, daily devotions and deliberate Christian living are keys to being a good follower and you will attract those that need a leader. In the end, you are already a fisher of men.

Temptation

I want to take a break from the real issues of today and get back to why I started writing these in the first place; let’s talk about leadership. We see changing profiles in leadership that guide those “in charge”. In the early 20th Century it was the autocrat and today we’re seeing a workforce drawn to those with “personality and charisma”. Some today even believe that businesses should have a bigger impact on society. We are witnessing that in many of the commercials we see in this time of social distancing. The workforce today values employee growth, making a positive contribution to society and their own well being.

One thing that has not changed: Leaders have a responsibility to challenge their people to grow. Employee growth, personally and professionally, help improve their creativity and morale. It is possible to push people too far or into a direction that they are not interested in or prepared to perform. A good leader will determine their people’s limits and their personal desires through employee coaching. Good coaches will listen to an employee more than they talk, paraphrasing the employee’s desires to ensure that they understand what the employee wants and will set goals with (not for) the employee. This ensures that they are part of their own destiny. Once an employee knows what they want to achieve, a leader can help them reach and achieve more.

 “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…”        1 Corinthians 10:13

God also is concerned about our personal growth and as a good coach, He will be faithful to us; God keeps His promises to be faithful. The struggle between God and Satan remains strong and the old Adam in us can be tempted quite easily. We know God loves us and that despite our free will to choose, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Our sin and our inability to follow the Ten Commandments is why God had to send His only Son to be our savior; with Jesus Christ we are free from the bondage of our sin.

God is active in our lives, providing options for us to choose from in how we live. He is working His plan in our lives despite our free will choices. God wants us close to Him and, through the bible, has given us the best plan to live this life. Our faith in Jesus and in God’s grace, is what allows us to be tempted and fail at times but to still have forgiveness of our sins. God is faithful! He kept His promise of salvation for us all by sending His Son to die for our sins. We all sin and may at times feel unworthy; God’s grace and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross makes us all worthy regardless of our own actions.

Leading by Example

“Walk the Talk” is just another way of saying, “Lead by Example”. People often equate leading with leadership positions – supervisors, directors, Governors, CEOs, Presidents, or some other given title that is supposed to lead people. Regardless of your title, do you think of yourself as a leader? Every one of us holds a leadership position at some point during our day. Mothers and Fathers who lead their families by providing guidance and leadership to navigate the world we live in, business professionals who set the example for others to follow (good or bad), Pastors leading their churches, housekeepers setting the standard in hotels and so on. Walking the talk every minute of every day and not letting down even for a moment is actually easier than it sounds.

Regardless of your position, be aware that people are watching you. When we don’t do as we say, those around us will start asking, “Why should I trust this person? The military has a very good model for us to consider following when leading the way. The Generals running operations in the Middle East could certainly receive their reports and briefings from field units from the comfort of their offices in the Pentagon just as easily as they do from a forward command post in Afghanistan. They are in country just like the men and women they lead because setting the right example is important. They wear the same uniform, follow the same protocols and lead by example all of the time, not just when someone is looking. You may not always know it but someone is looking up to you every day. It might be the very customer that you are serving; they are looking to you as an example of good customer service. We are always being watched, let’s set the best example possible. 

Deuteronomy 5:33 – “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days…”

Jesus left us a great example to follow and that’s exactly what God wants from us. God knows we’ll struggle, only Jesus was perfect; that’s why it’s called following and not duplicating. God wants us to walk in the way, do as Jesus did by loving each other, being compassionate and caring for others, forgiving others and ourselves and learning the word of God. God’s grace has given us eternal life – to live, prosper and prolong our days.

He asks that we follow the example provided by His son Jesus. Spend time learning the examples given to us in the bible and then put those examples in front of you everyday. Practice daily what you learn and imagine Jesus saying to you “do as I do”. Whether you are a designated leader or dedicated employee, people are watching you every day. Learning the lessons given to us by Jesus, we will not only lead people in our businesses but we will provide everyone around us with a great Christian example to follow. Walking in the way of the Lord will be easier than you think.

Leadership through Humility

Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance and is a very rare trait to find in people these days. An entire generation of people have been raised in an era in which “everyone gets a trophy” and they never learned about being humble because everyone was equal. Being humble is something that we all can use a little more of and put into practice a little more often. We should strive to care more about others than we do ourselves. During this time of worldwide crisis, coming together to help one another is more important than ever.

Just once, I’d love to hear a politician praise the work of our healthcare providers or anyone else who is sacrificing their own health in service to others. We are seeing people volunteering to shop for the senior citizens in their neighborhoods, or people sharing supplies that are not readily available anymore or just simply staying connected to those that are in isolation. Whatever the case, people are rising up in a number of amazing ways. Stay healthy and strong during this time in our lives and maybe, just maybe, we will emerge a better mankind.

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:4

Being humble isn’t limited to those in leadership positions; it applies to all of us. When we start thinking that we are better than our neighbors or our co-workers, we have veered off track. Matthew is, of course, quoting Jesus here who is speaking to His disciples and then follows this verse with, 5“Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” Jesus is telling us not to take ourselves too seriously and to be humble. Small children have not developed the “skill” of being boastful or full of themselves until later in development. Children are compassionate, listen to their parents, don’t think or speak poorly of others and often don’t knowingly sin. We can learn a lot from them.

Jesus is telling us that we are not the most important thing in this world – to stop being so full of ourselves that we think we are the center of attention. We should humble ourselves, set our focus on God and accept more people rather than judge them. When we receive the most humble, we receive Jesus. It isn’t a competition for things and accomplishments; it’s about being good children of God. Humility doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of what you’ve done but it does mean that it doesn’t define you. No one will care what you did here on earth if all you did was serve your own needs.

Shepherds

This verse is generally perfect when discussing accountability at work or as a bridge to a “take care of your people” writing. Given today’s emotional climate, I’d like to simply focus on shepherding. Looking after the flock is an essential function of leadership, no matter what position we’re talking about. The real issue is how you do it; as a herder you can walk behind them as they walk along the path and keep the strays in line or you can walk in front leading the way knowing that you’ll still have them when you turn around as a Shepherd does. We’re seeing various forms of the shepherd concept of leadership in these trying times, crisis leadership is crucial in getting people to follow. Sheep herders use dogs to chase around the edges to keep the herd moving forward; if you see someone using others to “chase around the edges”, check the leadership style of the one you’re following.

We need leaders who are looking after us and our needs and who aren’t sending others or themselves out to chase the edges. In a time of crisis, we are ALL leaders and can shepherd people toward calm by being reassuring, direct, honest and accountable. As a greater society, we owe each other a little bit of personal accountability – stay home if you are sick and commit to helping those in need. When we return to a state of equilibrium, the world around us will look much different. Everyone will need to work together so that we can all rise up from the new normal. You could be the next shepherd; will you lead from the back or boldly from the front?

Ezekiel 34:12 “As a Shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all places where they were scattered…”

We are God’s sheep and it is great to have a Shepherd that cares about us as much as He does. He gave up His son for our salvation and ever lasting life. God is always present in our lives and will come to our rescue, even when we’ve put distance between us. God’s “rescue” does not mean that we will get what we want, it may mean that we get just enough because the real rescue happened on Easter Sunday. We need to do our best and prevent the need for a rescue in the first place. We should be spending time with God, praying, reading the word and spreading the good news.

Today, more than ever, we need a strong leader. God gave us the perfect one, Jesus. He is patient with us as we make mistakes, He’d hold us accountable as He did with the disciples but, in the end, no matter how many mistakes we make, Jesus will rescue us (usually from ourselves) as the Shepherd does with His flock. On Easter, we were given the grace of God in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While you are focusing on being a good Shepherd in your daily life or in your vocation, focus also on being a good sheep (follower). Rejoice that your Father cares so deeply that He will risk a lot to rescue you from all of the places that you can scatter to or from all the trials that this world can throw at you.

With all your heart

Why does work have to be so hard? The hint in this question is the word “work” and, another word for work is labor. The dictionary defines labor as hard physical work. I can’t speak to it with any level of experience but I’m sure that if you ask any mother whether labor was hard work, she can give you a unique perspective on “labor”. Sometimes what we do, day in and day out, isn’t what we’d like to be doing. It’s not that it’s too hard; it simply isn’t satisfying. When we lose our job satisfaction, we loose sight of our purpose and whom we’re serving.

At times, we struggle to remain positive, to work hard and meet the mission or vision that is before us; complacency takes over and the “I don’t care’s” start to fly. Leaders, no matter what they’re faced with, must keep their focus on the mission or the work before them. Are you are a front line leader whose actions will have a direct impact on your customers or are you a support team leader that works to serve those impacting the customers? Complacency is where customer service starts to break down and in some professions; it can become deadly. Think of the nurse who is treating you in the emergency room for a heart attack, do you want the one who doesn’t care? We all have a responsibility to keep complacency out of our workplace.

“What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

In the times when we’re locked in a battle against complacency, we can be comforted in knowing that when we do our best work, with all of our heart, it is pleasing to God. God is with us all of the time, even when we don’t feel like he’s there. When times get harder you should be focusing more on your relationship with God, not less.

Our human instinct is to focus everything on the work before us and let the rest of our life take the back seat for a while. Nothing can do more harm than putting God in the back seat! Bring God closer; he will help you through the struggles of work or overcoming complacency. You are serving Him, doing his work as a faithful disciple. God cares about the work that you do and how well you do it. When you are feeling down about work, imagine God smiling at you because He knows what is in your heart. Look to him to get you through, He’ll light the way.

 

Directions

Providing direction to our team members is one of the most difficult aspects of being a leader. We’d like to believe that people would see a need, understand what has to be done to meet that need and then execute it without us ever having to say anything to them about it; that would be utopia! We have to provide clear direction to our team so that they can function within set boundaries and then provide them enough freedom to make decisions within those boundaries without the need to “check in” with us on a constant basis.

Weekly team meetings can help bring everyone together and are a great place to review the boundaries that have been set. Each team member should share what they are working on and what they need help with so that other team members can assist them if necessary. Knowing that your team members need help can also provide you with insight as you look to distribute new workloads or it can inform you of team members who may be struggling. If you have several team members struggling, the problem may be in the way you distribute work or in how you give direction. Take a few minutes to find out the answers before you start pushing your team harder, the trouble spot could be you.

Psalm 19:8 – “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

The direction and commands we have received from the Lord our God are pretty clear, yet we try to interpret them to meet our own needs. Many people argue that the Bible can be vague and has room for interpretation. This, of course, is the work of the devil in our minds. We were conceived in sin and carry that burden with us from birth. We are assured that salvation is found in the life of Christ through the grace of God our Father.

There is an old expression that we are born twice but only die once. We are physically born on earth and then again born into the life of Christ through baptism but we will only die once from life on earth to enjoy eternal life with Christ and God our Father. The bible has provided us with these truths, over and over, in radiant words and images – giving light to our eyes. We are able to see eternal life through that light. Following the commands may be difficult and we will fail at keeping them – original sin is to blame for that. Despite those failings, God has given us His grace and we can be assured of eternal life through Christ – that is crystal clear!

His Love Endures Forever

I’m finding it harder these days to be positive about many things. Everywhere I look there is turmoil and chaos; some people are stoking it and others are embracing it. Everyone seems at odds with each other and if you have a different point of view or opinion, you are attacked or outcast. Television shows seem to base their stories around conflict between the characters, even the comedies aren’t funny anymore. In today’s world, no one wants to take responsibility for their actions, so they blame the observer. We’ve lost the “common” part of common sense and now we appear to be on the brink of losing our senses altogether.

Originally, I set out to write about being positive in the workplace as leaders but I found it hard to be positive. The moral of this negative post on positivity is that no matter your leadership position, people look to you for reassurance – always. No one wants to be “gaslighted”, as my mom used to say, but they also don’t want to hear from someone who never has a positive thing to say – a Debbie Downer (SNL) if you will. Leaders have to speak the harsh truths, but they also need to find the sunshine in those cloudy moments to maintain hope. Once we lose hope, we have lost it all. I was in need of few rays of sunshine and where did I find it? The bible of course! In a rare (for me) bible quote from the Old Testament.

30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’ 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 35 Cry out, ‘Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.’ 36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said ‘Amen’ and ‘Praise the LORD.’” 1 Chronicles 16:30-36

Comedian Tom Papa has a new Netflix special out called, “You’re Doing Great” and he talks about the good old days – bathing once a month and wearing a lot of leather goods. The times of the Old Testament are really the old days! Even my worst day is better than their best day. We are being encouraged here to rejoice in everything because, the “Lord reigns”. Seas, fields, and forests are encouraged to rejoice, why not us? “God’s love endures forever”.

If you break apart all of the troubles of this world, they are nothing that God’s love cannot overcome. In all things, let love abound. We only have each other and we only have today so let’s make the most of them both. There is nothing negative in love, only in the things that keep us from loving one another. Remove the obstacles to love and just as God’s love endures forever, keep love out in front and live your life loving each other.