A couple of weeks ago I did a funeral for a 95 year old woman. The family gave me her Bible to look through as I prepared for the service. I’d like to share one of the things that I found.
She wrote this on a piece of paper:
My Daily Creed:
I love that I and I now have that hanging in my office. So what do you believe?
As we approach the end of another year I can’t help but reflect on this past year. It was filled with good times, bad times, positive emotions and negative emotions. I cried and I laughed. I opened up and I shut down. I made some good decisions and I made some bad decisions. I got angry and had a negative attitude and I was filled with joy and had a positive attitude. I also learned a lot this past year about leadership, my relationship with God and the baggage that I still tend to carry.
If you’re like me this can describe almost every year. However every year I like to ask myself if I have grown in my faith, character and leadership in this past year. For me it’s a big yes this year. Probably more than many other years because of the amount of change I experienced at work. Here are some of the lessons I learned or went deeper in understanding.
Keep growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.
I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships. Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic. Much of this post is based on her research.
One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame. Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement. However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow. So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others. Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.
In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it. This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own. It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them. It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up. It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.
Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental. Most of us are judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame. We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves. We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.
Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally. Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.
When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation. It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole. Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened. When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. There is a big difference.
When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage. To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions. It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.
However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable. When we are vulnerable we are our true self. We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy. The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all of that and the person loves you even more.
So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective. Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together. Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life. Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame. When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.
Today I spoke at a workshop about leadership development and mentoring. It was a great experience because I was talking about something that I am passionate about. about 15 years ago I went through a time of searching for meaning in my life. I turned to God and went deeper in my faith. At the time I started asking myself what kind of person do I want to be remembered for. I started praying and questioning myself. After a long process I came up with a personal mission statement for my life: Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership. Those three areas of my life have been the main focus for me over the last 15 years. It has helped to keep me focused on the right things and to say no to the things that distract me from those three areas of my life.
Here are the things I shared with the group today at the Equip2Serve conference in Canton Ohio at Malone University.
Leading yourself is always the hardest thing to do. We spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, yet most of us don’t take the time to be intentional about our own development. Here are some practical things you can do to work on yourself.
Leading yourself is not easy and will be something you have to do the rest of your life. We never arrive and get it all figured out. Once we make one break through in life there is always another obstacle and other opportunities that will come up. Make sure your carving out time to lead and develop yourself. The more time you spend on yourself, the more you can pour into others.
Leadership is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do. Whether your leading your children, your family, your department, your company or your team, leadership can be challenging.
Leadership is hard because if you want to lead well it takes time, energy, intentionality and confidence. To lead well a person has to constantly be thinking ahead and also dealing with the present reality. The ability to influence others in a positive way starts with the way a person leads themselves.
Leading yourself is probably the most challenging part of leadership. You know yourself better than anyone and so you tend to be harder on yourself than on others. You can also talk yourself into things that are not good for you and justify bad behavior. Unless you have some accountability in your life leading yourself can be a loosing battle.
So here are some tips on how to lead yourself better, so that you can lead others better:
Leadership is hard and rewarding. It’s either increasing or decreasing and you decide which direction it’s going.
Recently I ran races on back to back weekends. First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race. I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way. Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course. Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.
You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races. I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day. I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition. I ran better times and felt better after the races. The preparation I put in made a difference on race day. I was both mentally and physically ready. That was not the case with these last two races.
It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life. It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference. Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy. When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.
So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.
I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life. If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.
EVERY church struggles with the tension of reaching new people and taking care of the ones already there. Churches and the people in them can drift and lose sight of the important things. There is no perfect church or perfect way of doing church. But every church can drift and become isolated from the world around us and lose it’s effectiveness.
When you are drifting you don’t even notice. You just wake up one day and you are in a different place
So here are 3 things that we as a church need to fight against drifting toward:
o We know our favorite songs and complain when they aren’t played – My preferences instead of what is effective in reaching other people.
o These are our people, we take care of our own at the expense of reaching out and caring for others.
o I have been in the same small group for 10 years instead of thinking about how to include some others in building close community and stretching myself by starting a new group.
o We complain that we don’t know everyone anymore when the church grows, instead of celebrating that more people are connecting with God.
o We focus on the people who are here and don’t have a passion for the people not yet here.
o We focus on church programs or activities and not people.
o We try to please the insiders and turn off outsiders.
o We think we have the best children’s programs, the Best student program, the Best preaching and we stop trying to improve or innovate.
o We stop learning and improving or changing.
How do we fight this drift?
Let’s focus more on who we want to reach, rather than who we are trying to keep. That does not mean we don’t care about the people already here, it’s important to help everyone grow. It’s about the main focus always being to reach more people that do not know Christ.
How do we fight this Drift?
We always err on the side of Grace
o Jesus spent time with Sinners and called the religious people hypocrites.
o Matthew was a tax collector, which was a despised position, cheating people and taking their money. Jesus asking him to follow me, he didn’t ask him to clean up his act first.
o Jesus said in Mark 2:17, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
o Churches are the same way
o In the beginning we had nothing but a vision, but then as we grew there is more to lose and so we become more conservative and fearful of losing what we have.
o Jews: “we have to PRESERVE the law!”
How do we fight this drift?
Let’s remain openhanded in our attempts to advance the message of Jesus Christ
Open handed means giving freely and generously
o Attend, volunteer, give, connect, pray and take responsibility for all your relationships. Find a place where your challenged, and encouraged to grow and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Find a place where your children love going and are learning and growing and connecting with God and helping you as a parent to teach them about faith.
o Commit to be both deep by doing what God tells us to do, loving well and wide by investing in people.
If your in any kind of leadership position, whether leading your family or a major corporation, you want to be productive and get results. You want to see your family communicate and grow closer together and for your children and spouse to develop and grow. You want your company to be profitable and your employees to succeed. You want to deliver on what you promise.
There is always resistance to getting results or productivity. Every day we wake up and that resistance is there to greet us. Here are some of things we must face everyday and overcome in order to be productive and get results.
So what can we do to overcome these forms of resistance and be productive on a consistence basis?
Everyone can improve in this area of productivity and getting results. Think about one thing that if you finished it would bring great results or move you further along as an individual, family or organization. Now go do it.
This time of the year is an exciting time as new life springs up with the warmer weather, at least in Ohio. Easter is also an exciting time for Christians as we celebrate Jesus Christ. As we prepare for Easter 2014 I thought I would share some thoughts on the significance of what Jesus did that causes us to be celebrating over 2,000 years later.
So there you have it, that is what Jesus Christ did for us. That is why we celebrate so big during Easter, because all of this is amazing, unbelievable, undeserved and completely free. Salvation is not by works but by grace, it’s not initiated by us but by God and its not an afterthought with God, it is his eternal plan.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. Building trust with the people around you is one of the most important things you can do. Building trust raises your level of influence and leads to more productivity and closer relationships. When trust is broken, relationships shatter and it takes time to mend and rebuild that trust.
One of the greatest assets a person can have is the trust of the people around them. That only happens if you work at it and develop it and don’t do things to lose it. This is where character comes into play in leadership. It may sound simple, but to build trust you must be trustworthy.
Building Trust takes intentional work and skill, here are some things you can do to build trust at work, at home, or anywhere you have influence:
• Listen and ask questions in order to understand the other person’s interests, needs and concerns. Even repeating back what they just said.
• Make and meet commitments consistently. Do what you say you will do.
• Identify and communicate shared interests and goals. Find out what dreams and goals the other person has.
• Identify and clearly communicate differences as appropriate. Explain the why behind your decisions.
• Honestly acknowledge when you have made a mistake or hurt someone, clarify intentions, and find a suitable remedy that affirms the value of the relationship. Basically you work to resolve conflict and seek and give forgiveness.
• Use a win-win approach to resolving conflicts or conducting negotiations.
• Develop, maintain, and strengthen relationships by spending adequate time with people getting to know them better and allowing them to get to know you better. Taking a risk and being transparent with the other person opens the door to trust.
• Demonstrate honesty, keep commitments and behave in a consistent manner.
• Think about how to clearly communicate thoughts, feelings and rationale so that others understand your personal positions.
• Remain open to others’ ideas and opinions even when they conflict with your own.
Openness and honesty always lend substance and credibility to our character, which leads to greater trust. When trust is present, the relationship is closer and healthier.
It’s important to note that building trust also means telling people the truth even if it hurts. It takes courage to speak the truth to people you care about. That initial hurt often leads to healing and a healthier relationship. Telling someone the truth can also help them grow and avoid making mistakes.
If you need to work at building trust, you must first lay all the cards on the table and admit your past mistakes. Then you need to start the hard work or rebuilding by doing the things mentioned above. Building trust takes time and energy while losing trust can happen instantly. Everything we say and do is either building trust or losing trust.