Thursday, May 27, 2010

What are you REALLY doing?

Don't you hate getting "called out"?  You know what I mean... you're making excuses that you think everyone will accept, and someone asks you a question that gets right to the heart of the matter.  Sometimes it's a relief to be able to get a struggle out in the open and get help.  Sometimes it's a reality self-check that isn't always pretty.  Have you been untruthful with yourself?  Hiding from responsibilities?  Strangled by fear?  Just plain lazy?  Take a moment to examine yourself and re-focus your energies.  You can save energy when you use your time productively, instead of using your time to hide or make excuses.  Make it a priority - it's much harder to hear it from someone else.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dead plants

I have never had a lot of luck with house plants.  I'm usually lucky if I can keep just one alive at any time.  I know the problem- house plants need to be watered regularly.  I have found 2 plants that I can do pretty well with- Christmas cactus & peace lilies.  Why do these work when everything else dies?  They each have characteristics that help keep them alive.  The Christmas cactus takes very little water or attention.  By the time I think about watering, it's still alive.  The peace lily actually lays down when it needs water- a sign even I can't miss.  Now, I know if I were motivated to have a house full of plants, I could set a schedule to make sure that all the plants are fed and nurtured the way they need to be to thrive.
Picture your team, family, employees or congregation as house plants.  How much are they growing?  Are they lush and happy? or wilting and sad?  Are you filling their needs and nurturing them?  Or, are only the strong surviving?  Do you only do well with those that require very little attention? or those that "lay down" to let you know they need you?  If you're motivated, you can be diligent to nurture all of your "plants" so that they grow and flourish.  If you ignore them, even the strong, low maintenance ones will die.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Last night on the Celebrity Apprentice (a guilty pleasure) I watched as Bret Michaels (another guilty pleasure) stated "the more I worked, the luckier I got".  Although this adage is originally credited to Samuel Goldwyn (a well-known Hollywood motion picture producer and founding contributor of several motion picture studios), it still rings true.  Another way to say this is "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" (Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD).  Luck is not a new idea.  It's a perspective.  You have to recognize it and be prepared for it.  Luck can happen on its own - just like a lightning strike.  But how many more strikes would you get if you put up a lightning rod?  What about 10 lightning rods?  Be prepared.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Corn & bean fields

Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realize you have no idea where you are?  Now I'm not talking about a black out or a fugue, just not knowing precisely where you are.  Since I moved, I travel I-80 between Des Moines and the Quad Cities a lot.  When I can't find anything interesting on the radio, I tend to call my mom to keep me entertained.  Occasionally she'll ask "so, where are you?" and I just don't know.  I know approximately - on I-80, corn & bean fields to my left and right, and maybe I remember what city I recently passed, but I really don't know where I'm currently at.
Sometimes our goals are like that.  We're on the same road to the same goals so often, that we go into auto-pilot.  We're not connected or excited.  We're doing the same old thing, time after time and we're bored.
Maybe it's time to take a different road or at least stop off at a different exit.  Maybe we need to remember why we're on the road, where it's taking us, and what we'll do when we're there.  Get out of the same rut!  Sometimes a "wrong turn" is a good thing!  It gives a different perspective, sometimes appreciation, and we still get where we're going.  Is it time to take the "road less traveled"?

Monday, May 10, 2010

If you build it

In the movie "Field of Dreams", Kevin Costner's character famously quotes "If you build it, they will come."  That may have worked in the movie (there were also baseball players coming out of the corn fields), but not so much in real life.  You need to get the word out about what you are passionate about, whether that is a cause, a product, an idea, a service or a theology.  Everyone is assaulted every day by ads to "buy this", "do this", "join this", so what makes you stand out?  You!  Your passion, your personality, but mostly, your personal relationship with your audience is what brings your message to the forefront.  So often, we spend so much time "building" that we forget to invite others to join in.  It's like planning a great party and not calling anyone to come and join the fun!  Then you're stuck sitting at the party alone.  Talk to people - personally.  E-mail blasts, form letters and generic Facebook invites don't count.  Be sincere.  Build it - but spend at least as much time inviting them to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Honor among thieves

In days gone by, there was a phrase "honor among thieves".  The concept being that even those who stole from people, had a code of honor among themselves.  There was a code for those in the mafia that they never "whacked" someone in front of their family.  There was even a code in prison that those that had hurt children, were tortured the worst.  In this day and age, we see very little honor.  CEO's stealing from retirement funds.  Public figures admitting publicly to infidelity.  Sports figures taking steroids.  Children teasing each other to the point of suicide.  You can't even get everyone to take turns when they merge in traffic.  This has become the day of "as long as I get mine...".  Now I totally get that most everyone wants to "win" or "be the best".  But how you get there should matter, too.  Did you win following the rules?  Or did you cheat, or at least bend, the rules?  Is that truly a victory?  Are you winning at the expense of others?  Good leaders excel by bringing up everyone around them - not by climbing over them.  Is your leadership code honorable?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Run your strengths

How many times have you looked at your strengths and weaknesses and became determined to improve your weaknesses?  You compare your weaknesses to others who are better in those areas and strive to beat them?  Does this ever cause you to beat yourself up because you keep coming up short?
What about your strengths?  Those are usually the areas where you have some natural talent or a passion for what you're doing.  Your strengths are where you excel and find enjoyment.  Why not do more of that?  You like it.  You enjoy it.  Take what you're good at, and do it more!
Are there weaknesses that you still need to work on?  Probably.  But your greatest growth will be in running your strengths.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Leadership can be exhausting

Sometimes leadership is exhausting - but in a good way.  Whenever you have many people around you looking to you for direction (whether a team, employees, congregation or children) there is a lot to manage.  The bigger the group, the more to handle.  You've probably heard that as any group grows, you can (and need to) delegate more and more tasks.  That is true.  This helps the group be more connected as they take on additional responsibility.  This lightens your load, right?  Yes and no.  Yes, some tasks are now being performed by others, but now you have more people that are accountable to you.  You now have the additional task of overseeing, mentoring, training, guiding and sometimes picking up the slack.  All this in addition to growing and mentoring new additions to your group and developing new ways to engage and encourage the original group.  Your load changes, but doesn't get smaller.  When you choose to lead, the only time your total load is lightened, is when it gets smaller... and smaller...