My ways are not your ways

“If I want a job done right, I better just do it myself”, is an old phrase that you still hear today. People are impatient and less tolerant of change these days. Perhaps it’s the instability in world. The Internet allows people to work anywhere in the world. There are virtual workplaces and virtual jobs – I’m intentionally leaving the puns alone. So many things change, year in and year out, so it isn’t too surprising that people want to hang on to some control over a process or project. As humans, we learn best by trial and error. We make mistakes and learn a great deal from them. As parents we try to tell our kids what to do and how to do it so they avoid making the same mistakes we did, even the small ones. Sooner or later they will rebel and do it anyway. I’ve taught firefighters and officers to avoid repeating my mistakes and I’ve watched them make their own mistakes (safely) so they too could learn.

As leaders or parents, we have to let people do things the way that is best for them. We’ve added our extra step or done something just a little different and we have to let others do the same; this is how great things are made. I’ve said it before, Velcro and post-it notes were mistakes that turned out awesome. Today’s workforce is more innovative, more experimental, more adventurous and less risk adverse than we were. We need to embrace the change, support them and watch what happens. Your way is not the only way to get something done; it’s a way to do it. Imagine what you would have missed if someone you worked for said that there is only one way to do your job. The irony of the statement that started this is that the person who said it first was really saying, “If I want a job done my way, I’d better do it myself”. Unless you intend to do all of the work around you, give people a desired outcome or goal and let them work.

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Can you imagine God saying “If I want a job done right, I better do it myself.” As  I started to write that sentence, I said to myself He’d never say that, however it is exactly what He did. God tried to give signs, miracles, prophets and even 10 Commandments as a guide for us to follow and we still failed. God did it Himself and sent His Son to save the world from itself. We couldn’t get it right, so God did it for us.

In these verses, we are reminded that our thoughts and our ways are not God’s. He gave us the desired goal or outcome – Believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you will receive the eternal life. God tells us that we are not like Him and we could never be. His ways and thoughts are higher than the heavens. We focus on earthly things and earthly desires and He is telling us in the New Testament of the Good News found in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what our deeds are or what our thoughts are or anything else; what matters is our faith in Jesus Christ. We need to stop worrying about doing things perfectly and focus on our faith in Jesus. We should be focused on growing our faith and understanding of God’s word not to become superior but to express our love to God for not treating us like we treat those don’t do it our way.

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Purpose

I’ve written before that I believe most people function in “orbits” when it comes to their attitude, motivation, drive or simple ability to get along. If the peak of our performance were to be the center, our attitude can be found somewhere in an oval shaped orbit. Sometimes we are very close, while other times we are far away. When we are far away from our peak, things get a little troubling. We are crabby or we don’t feel like doing anything. Our motivation and drive are really hard to find. When we love what we’re doing, we are in close orbit and when we loathe what we do, we are farther out. Sometimes our orbit even grows in size and we are pushed to an even farther away.

No matter what your position in life is: supervisor, employee, executive, line staff, mom. dad, brother or sister; you have to know what keeps you going, what makes you peak? Lisa finds her center point every day at the gym. It’s what gets her up at 4am, everyday. Some people find it in their work because it gives them satisfaction while others find it in their friends. The important thing is to know what “does it” for you. It’s when people lose their focus or their drive that trouble begins. Find your focus and ask yourself where you are in your personal orbit, and then get close to the peak. Smiles and satisfaction await you.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and gooddeeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Some people live near their focus point all of the time. These are the people that ALWAYS have a smile and kind word. They are the ones who can inspire. Do you have people in your life that inspire you and do you inspire others? It’s harder to know if you inspire others but I would guess that everyone does and they simply don’t realize it. Our human nature is to be social; we were not intended to be solitary creatures, God gave Eve to Adam to keep him company.

This verse asks us how we can help each other live Godly lives of love and goodness. It is meant to be a question whose answer lies in being social. If you accept the orbits concept, you will know when you are at your peak, which is when you should be helping those around you. When you are in deep orbit, you should seek those who will bring you back through positive encouragement, love and good deeds. When people are in deep orbit, they can become lost and that is when the devil steps in to lead them astray. If you are losing sight of your center point, surround yourself with those that can spur you on toward love. The bible should be a place of inspiration and is filled with examples of God’s love. If you are at your center point, share your joy with others and become a source of positive influence.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership can be a number of different things to different people. Some seek leadership while others simply provide it. Leadership can be hard to define too. The United States Army defines leadership as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” I agree whole-heartedly with this definition, being a leader is about being able to influence people. Some will view the idea of “influence others” as a negative thing but in this definition, the goal is to get people to do things that they didn’t know that they could do.

Leaders need to work with every employee to help them achieve their highest potential. When employees feel supported at work, they tend to work harder and as a result, the organization becomes stronger. There are “leaders” who believe that they are leading because their people check with them on all decisions. They think that they are supporting their people because they answer their phone calls. In these cases, they are simply holding their employees back by not letting them make decisions, think critically and be independent. How are they supposed to learn if they never get a chance to make a decision?

If you are a leader, look out for your people and care for them. This doesn’t mean do their work or become protective over them. It means that you care about their future, their growth and work-related wellbeing. Leading is like teaching a child to ride a bike. You give them the lessons, you guide them by holding the seat and running along side them and then you let go. If they fall, you help them back up and reassure them before doing it again. When they ride on their own, you celebrate what they’ve done.

“For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…” Psalm 91:11

This Psalm sounds like it is describing a great leader doesn’t it? God will guard you in everything: how great would that be? The interesting thing with this verse is that it doesn’t say “He will command His angels to do things for you” which is what most people want out of God. Most people want Him to provide for everything they desire and to protect them from everything bad. And when God doesn’t do all of that, they start to turn away.

C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Screwtape Letters”, describes what a letter between two demons might sound like and how simple it is to turn us against God. We are quick to turn on Him and begin relying on ourselves, which is really our sinful nature at work.

“He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways”. God is with you every day in everything you do. He is there to guard you and protect you, not from things on earth but to protect you for all eternity. God’s worry isn’t about this life; it’s about your eternal life. Re-read the Army definition of a leader and then apply it to what God does for you. His mission is to have us join Him in heaven and the organization is all of mankind. He wants to influence us so we can influence others. Be assured that God is there to guard you. He will not test or forsake you but has promised to love and care for you. Sounds like a great leader.

Influence

There’s an old saying that warns us all about the company that we keep. We see the impact that people have on each other a lot in the fire service with fire crews. Each crew is usually made up of a leader, a driver and two firefighters. You can take four separate people, put them together and they will eventually become one central personality. The hope of every fire chief is that they will become a personality that is closer to the leader’s than anyone else’s. This same concept is what creates cliques and coffee clutches, as we get older. It seems that every social group develops its own personality that draws people toward it or pushed them away. How is the company that you keep?

“When he gets around his college buddies, my husband turns into a different person”. “My wife has such a positive attitude after she hangs out with the ladies group”. What do you adapt to when you hang around with the various groups of people in your life. Many of us were told when we were kids that “so and so was a bad influence”; our parents were probably right. Give a thought to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the things you read and, the company you keep. These things all influence how you act, what you say and what you believe. One of the main principles in Change Management is providing a vision for the workforce. The key concept of visioning is part of influencing thoughts and beliefs by keeping the distractions down and focusing on the positives. Stay focused on the good things in your life and the people who make them that way. By avoiding the negative thoughts and people, you will become the central personality for others. We need more positive influences in our lives!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Just as others influence how we act, we are also influenced in what we believe by the company we keep. For years, studies have shown that college students fall away from their religious beliefs in large numbers. Many experience the freedoms of college and choose to explore “life” while others are simply influenced to go in a different direction. We have to be on guard to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us as adults.

Too many people believe the lie that they are in control and that a higher power may exist but won’t acknowledge that it is God. Humans are unable to comprehend the power of God and won’t submit to the idea that they are not controlling everything in their lives. “I don’t need God to do_____” or “The myth of God is just a crutch for the weak minded” are phrases that these people use. Hearing this over and over can start to influence even the strong willed. St. Paul warns us to “see to it that no one takes us captive”. This life is short when you compare it to eternal life. The feeling of belonging or the friends that influence you are not important if it means losing your focus on Christ. Stay Strong!

A Noble Task

It has been a while since I’ve written about leadership or being a leader. I have found myself “all over the board” by writing on various topics – for good or bad. Last week I had an encounter with someone who questioned my trustworthiness; I was accused of not being forthcoming with information. In my life’s various roles, I am entrusted with very confidential information that I cannot always disclose. Other times, I have to “play my cards close to the vest” until I know who I’m dealing with. I am often a very trusting individual and have had that trust taken advantage of, so I tend to be cautious. When you are in a leadership position, the stakes are often much higher when it comes to establishing and maintaining trust.

In this encounter, I chose to share a little extra information with this person and this individual became confused by my openness. “Why would you share that if you were concerned about confidentiality?” He asked. I explained that sometimes you have to show trust to earn trust. It was a leadership principle that I learned early in my career. Whether you are leading people or organizations, trust will never follow you if people believe you and they will not trust you unless you trust them. The subject of leadership has been written about for decades and there are a number of personal characteristics that impact a leader’s effectiveness; trustworthiness is just one characteristic. No matter what role you serve at work or at home, you are leading someone – formally or not. Keep in mind that you are either being a positive or negative example for others because someone is always watching what you do and say.

 “Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1

It takes a lot of courage to step into a leadership role. The whole debate about “are leaders born or are they created” fails to recognize the courage component. If someone steps into a leadership position without a little fear, they are stepping on thin ice. I’ve said before that leading is a privilege and an honor that we should not take lightly. People are putting their faith in that person and in some professions, their lives. Leading is more than telling others what to do or having a rank/title. Leaders are accepting the faith that others are placing in them. It is a noble task.

Timothy is describing those who wish to lead the church and is reminding them that it isn’t about the power and prestige that comes with it but the honor and responsibility that does. Jesus knew His role as the leader of the disciples. He knew what God was asking of Him and gladly accepted His fate. He charged us to be “fishers of men” by teaching us how to live better lives, be examples for others to follow but most importantly, to rely on God for the wisdom and strength to carry out our daily lives. Leadership is a noble task and it is not to be taken lightly. People are putting faith in you. Rely on God for your wisdom and strength and you will always have their faith.

We All Want to be Served

I just finished a huge project of consolidating all of the reference materials that I’ve accumulated over the past 20 years or so. I carefully grouped subjects together and even packaged up some text books to enhance “my collection”. When I was going through the HUGE stack of leadership materials, I found a large section of materials on Servant Leadership, a leadership style developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1977. Since that time a number of researchers have tried to define the attributes of what a Servant Leader “looks like”. For me, the answer was simple – Jesus Christ. However, the business world needed more. Skip Prichard (2013) posted a unique summary of many of the scholarly attributes that he believes summarizes the leaders using Servant Leadership:

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps people with life issues
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells
  • Thinks you, not me
  • Thinks long-term
  • Acts with humility

The attributes of the Servant Leadership model focus the leader on the needs of the employee. When the organization’s goals are aligned with the employee’s and each individual understands his/her role and the expectations placed on them, the organization is set-up for success. It made me think about how we treat each other and how leaders influence other people. Throughout my 30 plus years in government, I’ve seen and heard about some pretty wild working environments. Today’s workforce expects a Servant Leadership type of leader and no matter where you sit in your career – leader or follower, after seeing this list I hope you agree. As I filed away this little bit of research on the subject, I wanted to share how we all could apply the principles of servant leadership to our lives.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

When I’m asked about Jesus as a servant, my first thought always goes to the night of the last supper when He washed the feet of His disciples; nothing says servant like washing feet. We’ve all heard the story about Jesus feeding of the thousands at a wedding. What we often fail to remember about this “story” was that as that event ended, the people were asking Jesus to be their King. He wanted nothing to do with it and left immediately.

Jesus did not come into this world to be served. Everything we read about Jesus is how he served others – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, turning water to wine at the wedding and teaching everyone the true meaning of the words His Father had written in the scriptures. The most important part of this verse is this: He came to “give His life as ransom for many.” He understood that and continued to serve others until His work was done. No matter what our place in life is, we can be comforted in the fact that Jesus died for us – a final act of Servant Leadership. We are forgiven through him.

Good People Doing Bad Things

When I taught supervisory development classes, I always included a section on ethics. It is quite predictable that the topic of good people doing bad things comes up when you discuss supervising people. The situation always starts out with something innocent, like deciding who will do the dishes in a fire station but ends up on the front page. I know it seems like a big leap but imagine that the determining factor in doing dishes was bouncing a ball at a hanging plant; last one to hit it, did them. Soon enough, that was no longer challenging, so the loser had to hold the ball between their knees. This gradual progression eventually ended with the loser holding the ball between their cheeks (yes, those cheeks) with their pants down. Grown men, life saving professionals had degraded themselves into that – good people doing bad things. As a result, one person lost their job, one was demoted and two were suspended.

Temptation is all around us in this life whether at work, at play, on-line or simply hanging out with friends. We don’t realize it is happening until it’s too late. So ask yourself, what am I being tempted to do? Am I involved in something that is progressing slowly that appears innocent but could lead to something more serious? Sometimes we justify our actions if we believe that no one is being hurt by our action or if “everyone is doing it”. There is an expression in NASCAR “if you’re not cheat’n you’re not try’n”. Stop yourself from getting so comfortable that you end up with your proverbial pants down.

8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:8-10

Good people doing bad things can be found all around us. We often ask how or why they could do it but Peter knew the answer long ago – your enemy prowls around looking for someone to devour. We don’t just wake up in the morning and decide to do something bad; we’ve been lulled into it over time. People all around the world are suffering the same internal turmoil. Fortunately, we are better off as a society because the number of people resisting is greater than the number falling. God told us that we would be tempted but He also promised to be with us as Peter reminds us of in verse 10.

Whether you have been tempted and successfully resisted or you failed; God’s glory will restore you. Jesus died for our sins and stands with us before God to be declared “not guilty” no matter what bad thing we’ve done. It is our faith in Jesus Christ and God’s grace that we are saved. Through the writings of Peter, God tells us that He will make us strong again. He also tells us that the best way to resist it is to stand firm in our faith. This is more than firmly believing and attending church; it is also regular devotional reading and study of God’s word. Putting God first in your life will prepare you for the fight with the devil and will help you be on alert for the temptations while having the strength to be self-controlled.

God’s Light in the world

I just finished reading a couple of leadership articles from different sources. One was about Servant Leadership – leading others to greatness through service to them. I have been a long-time believer in Servant Leadership and believe that it is just as important a concept today as it was when I heard about it 30 years ago. When you serve others, you become a light to them. The old, autocratic leader is a life crushing way to be led.  The Autocrat believes that employees lacks motivation, don’t understand their job well and need to be constantly watched over. Its roots are in the military when orders were given and followed without question. The result today is a dark workplace filled with uninspired employees.

Servant Leadership switches the focus to the employee through empowerment, trust and faith in them. When an employee under performs, they are coached back to success. Leaders in this type of environment are not served by their employees; instead they serve the employees. Southwest Airlines has been operating under this philosophy for 40 years and they have been pretty successful. If you are not in a leadership position, you can still be a servant leader to your coworkers. Think about parenting for minute, you are serving your children constantly (driving to practice, helping with homework, teaching life skills, etc.) and providing a living example of being there for them. How do you relate to the other people in your life? Are you a giver or a taker? This world is exhausting and having someone take care of you may sound peaceful, but I believe that you will be more satisfied helping others achieve their goals than you will be if you are being catered to.

5 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7

I urge you to let verse 5 sweep peace over your mind – “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” The world events over the past month are about all that a normal person can handle. Chemical attacks in Syria, nerve agents used in a public pub in England, school shootings, random and targeted attacks on innocent people are just a few of the stresses that we have faced. Most of us have personal issues to deal with at the same time as everything else. Perhaps it’s a medical diagnosis, a job loss, financial problems, relationship issues; the list can go on and on. From the sound of things, there is no light anywhere in this world. The world is a dark place and we need God to provide us light.

We know from these verses and many more that with God there is no darkness. Sure, there is a lot of shade but there is no darkness. When we are in the dark, we are often afraid, confused and uncertain. Our senses change as we adjust to the dark but we remain uncertain and afraid because we are not in control of our physical space. We never know when we will trip on something, bump into a wall or fall down. God is our light! We walk in it all the time. We have comfort and peace in God’s light that we have through our fellowship with each other and with Him. This “cleansing from all sin” comes through our faith in Jesus Christ, who’s blood was shed for us. Go boldly into the world with the light of God shining all around you.

Playing a Fool

Once in a great while, I’ll share something about a project that I’ve worked on. Most of what I do in management consulting is pretty straightforward and not very glamorous but I meet great people and love working with municipal governments. So far this year, I have spent most of my time working with the US Military; I’ve spent the better part of the past six weeks working on military assignments in Washington, Texas and Georgia. I’m considered a subject matter expert (SME) but I really just share the experiences and knowledge that I’ve gained over the years; there is nothing magical about what I do.

As an “expert”, some people may consider me wise. What I do may not be magical but it is important for the military that I share what I know. Our municipal clients genuinely appreciate the work we do and take the suggestions that we offer very seriously. In contrast, a poser is someone living by the adage “fake it until you make it”. We see these types of people often our lives; some talk politics as though they are an expert while others share their “expert” opinions on the outcomes of the games played the past weekend. Listen to how these people start their sentences – “I would”, “If I were”, “In my opinion” or my favorite one is; “What should have happened, was”. These phrases are all focused on them or their own point of view. Leading and guiding are not selfish acts but ones in which you share your power and position. Beware of the fool who does not share as a part of the team in search of a solution.

 “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”  Ecclesiastes 10:12

I never started this website to share my opinion; I started it to share leadership principles and God’s word. Over time it has moved from sharing leadership of the workplace ideas to discussing leadership of one’s life. Some say that I am wise but all I do is share what is already available and try to help my fellow disciples. A fool is consumed by his lips when he is just spewing opinion of which he has no real experience or education. A wise man however, is one who is experienced, educated and gracious. What kind of a disciple are you – a fool or a wise man?

When we read the Word and live by the word, we are both educated and experienced. We all make mistakes along the way but do we always learn from them? If we do, we remain wise. This time leading up to Easter that we call lent, is a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is also a time for us to reflect on the grace of God who sent us a Savior so that we could spend eternal life with our Father in heaven. This is a great time to become wise and help the fools to see that their focus is misplaced.

Serving Others

“Service Before Self”, is one of the core values of the US Air Force. I see this posted in just about every military installation that I’m on, regardless of the branch. We all serve someone at some point in our day and usually throughout our lives. As parents, we serve our kids, as spouses we serve our mate and as employees we serve customers – either internal or external to the company. Even leaders have people that they serve. A leader should be someone who is serving those that follow them; the concept of servant leadership. By making their followers stronger, servant leaders build up their staff and work to make them successful. There are people in leadership positions who wrongfully believe that since they are in this place of “power” that people should be serving them. A true leader is more concerned about how they can support and help those that follow them.

Ken Blanchard has written extensively about servant leadership and his research on leadership. Unfortunately, we see people every day who are simply serving themselves. The millennium generation grew up watching the greed of Wall Street and “leaders” serving their own interests. If anyone else benefited, well, that was just extra. So, who are you serving? I would suggest putting your focus on others and see what comes of it. I have benefited from a number of mentors in my life and I have also played that role for others. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to help others when there is nothing to be gained.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

St. Paul wrote a lot about serving others in his letters, focusing much of his attention on humility. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds them to be humble proclaiming “I came to you in weakness and fear”, he was asking them to serve others with humility too. Using Jesus as our example, ask yourself, how did He show humility for us? The first thing that comes to my mind is the washing of His disciple’s feet at the last supper. The leader of the group, the leader of the heavens washed feet. Jesus was serving us!

The Son of God and God Himself was serving us so that we would have eternal life. God has prepared the good works for us. He has set the course, put people in our lives and us in the lives of others so that we could execute the plan He has for us. God has prepared these good works for us in advance; they aren’t chance but these opportunities are given to us to do God’s work. We are not put here to do our works or to be boastful. My apologies to the Air Force but “Service Before Self” really came from God. It was demonstrated to us by Jesus and now we must humble ourselves to serve others, just as God planned.