A Vision of the Future

I’ve recently been doing some work for an organization that has lost its bearings. Most organizations or should I say, most employees want to know what direction they are headed in. This is becoming increasingly important for manages to understand about Millennial Generation employees. They believe in the higher purpose of an organization and tend to turn away from “because I said so” leadership styles. Creating a vision is the single most effective way to get people to buy into 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 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 set 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.

Advertisements

Where is your Heart?

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.

Always a Leader

Diligent is defined as “Characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks”. How can we live diligently? We can start by paying attention. Pay attention to the details of our work; generally don’t let things fall through the cracks. All kinds of people are looking up to us in our lives for guidance, information, instruction, and for friendship. 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”. 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 straight forward commandments like not stealing or killing but what about the “details” of the others 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 roles 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.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

During these times of uncertainty and frequent change, we need to get as many perspectives on an issue that we can. It’s easy to forget that our employees often have a very keen perspective of what’s happening in the organization that the leaders may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further up the ladder you go. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or statements that are made. Leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said. Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin say anything. These conversations are usually the time we simply justify why we are doing something or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer. If you want honest feedback and assessment of a situation from your employees, keep your emotions in check. The employees are giving you a gift, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance.

 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

Follow the Leader

Do people follow you because they have to or because they are inspired by you? In our lives, we are all leaders and followers depending on the situation. Sometimes at home, you are the leader and other times you are the follower. Good followers do not go blindly, they understand the mission of the leader and follow 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 them in the dark about where you are headed? We should always try to 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 fosters an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce efficiencies or new products.

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

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets and, followed the commandments and His Father’s will with perfection. We will never be perfect but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men”, it really means: 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 lead, 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.

Direction and Need

I read an article this morning about the leadership needs of the Millennial Generation. The styles of leadership that worked well in the past will not work today or at least in the near future. Millennials view leadership in a new way, believe that a leader’s personality is important and they believe that businesses should have a bigger impact on society. They are not concerned about the hierarchy that comes with traditional leadership but value a leader who uses more collaboration and cross-functional teams. They desire employee/personal 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 find people’s limits and their desires through employee coaching. Good coaches will listen to the employee more than they talk, paraphrasing their 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.

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

God also is concerned about our personal growth and as a good coach, He will be faithful to us; God keeps His promises. 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. God 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 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 through Jesus. 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.

Imitation is the greatest form…

We usually do not associate the words “love” and “workplace” without thinking of someone’s poor judgment. I’d like to suggest that we bring Christ’s example of love into our workplace. Among other things, we know Jesus as compassionate, caring, understanding, patient and overflowing with love. Leaders and followers need to be all of these as well. We all need to show compassion for our co-workers and our staff and we should care for them by looking out for their best interests. Sometimes that means having to deliver constructive criticism. It takes a lot of courage for someone to offer that type of criticism.

Oftentimes we are faced with having to be the one to tell someone else that their actions are having a negative effect on us or on our team. When giving someone constructive criticism, it should be delivered with compassion and care. If it’s done properly, constructive criticism can and should be received as a gift because it is being delivered as a present – genuinely given with thoughtful consideration of the person receiving it. We need to show understanding and patience to co-workers and staff. Making mistakes is okay, remember they cause learning to take place but making the same mistake over and over is the sign of a problem. Be patient with those around you especially if they are learning new systems, products or programs. Be slow to anger and disappointment, it shows that you care. All of these things combined show your love towards others, just as Christ loves us.

 Ephesians 5:1,2 – “Be imitators of God… as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us…”

We are so blessed that God loves us. When God handed down the Law contained in the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were afraid because they had seen God’s wrath first hand. As they continued to live according to their own ways, God spoke to them through the prophets giving the promise of a Savior. God wanted to be close to His children but sin was preventing that. God sent His only Son into this world to take upon the cross all of our sins.

Jesus suffered for us because of our sin, but He knew that it would bring reconciliation with God. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The ultimate sign of love just for us – even if we didn’t deserve it. God knows what we need. We cannot live without sin as Christ did but we can live a life of love as Christ showed us to. Be an imitator, show others your love and when they ask you why or how you can do it, don’t hesitate to tell them where your strength comes from.

 

Crystal Clear

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. Now that would be utopia! We have to provide clear direction to our team so that they can function within set boundaries but we also need to provide them enough freedom to make decisions within those boundaries without the need to “check in” with us.

Weekly team meetings can help bring everyone together and are a great place to review the boundaries. 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 find ways to help those that are 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 the answers to the cause 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 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!

Ask for What You Need

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 than the later and honestly, the ones who don’t know how to show it are most prevalent in the workplace these days. As the Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace and Gen Xer’s are now supervising people, today’s workplace can become a little frustrating. This type of working environment puts the responsibility on us if we want to make “work” a little more enjoyable. We’ll need to create a little window of opportunity to tell our boss what we want to accomplish, how they can help or what we think we will need to be successful.

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 that we’re here. 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, just as the cobbler’s kids have no shoes. 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 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 the DVR we get television on our schedule 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 promised not to leave you. He gave us His only Son in order to keep you close and we should never forget that. Pray and have patience, He will open the door for you.

 

Consistent to a Fault

I will keep mentioning the presidential campaign season in the United States every few weeks only because it brings out the worst in people. The candidates get ruder or more deceitful as the process grinds on. People in America start to believe the things that are being said with more passion as their favorite candidate rises in the polls. It isn’t a pretty reflection of us as an American people but it does highlight one of the most important aspects of freedom – the democratic process of free speech. The problem with the campaigns and free speech is that people can say and do pretty much anything they want during an election.

When a candidate goes around in February telling everyone they believe in topic or position now, usually because it will get votes, but have a voting record of supporting a different position; they are usually labeled a “flip-flopper”. Often times, being inconsistent like that is a bad thing. No one likes it when their boss is inconsistent or applies the rules in a haphazard manner. Kids don’t like it when their parents say something is okay one day and then it’s not the next. We really don’t like it when our friends are like that. We want to be able to count on them – always. If they are inconsistent with their loyalty or follow through on doing what they said they’d do, we get very frustrated. As a leader, I often said that I would be consistent to a fault. I would treat the worst employee the same as the best employee. I would hear their frustration from time to time but being predictable made people comfortable and that allowed me to help them achieve what they wanted to; they could count on me. Take a moment to examine yourself and your actions to see if you are consistent and reliable. If you find yourself saying, “I am but…” then you’ve got work to do. As human beings, we need a certain level of consistency to feel safe and assured. It’s in the wild that things are never consistent and the animals are living in fear of the next predator; is that how you want people to feel around you?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Like a good friend, Jesus is consistent in our lives. He never changed His perspective no matter what group He was speaking to or who was challenging Him. He treated the Pharisees the same as He did those that came to hear Him teach. He taught love and compassion everywhere He went. Jesus was the same, everyday, no matter what. I imagine myself getting frustrated by the people “always wanting something from me” if I could do what Jesus did. I could see myself wanting to lay low for just a few days before getting back out on the road. But I’m not Jesus – thankfully.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; the Son of God, was the same every day. His consistency teaches us today about how to live good Christian lives. We should be generous with those in need and provide help to those in trouble. We are not to judge others based on our own beliefs or understanding. Jesus also teaches us to rely on Him in all we do. Jesus is consistent in His care of our needs. He is consistent with His distribution of salvation. Jesus does not say, “I don’t want to take the sins of that one but I will for this one”. He took everyone’s sin away so that we all can live eternal lives with God regardless of what they are – no but’s or exceptions.