September 20th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

You takin’ to me?

Seriously! Who are you talking to?

In our hectic, dog-eat-dog, workaday world, where so much rests on productivity, meeting deadlines, and getting things done, we cannot forget that the people we deal with everyday are people. Frequently people walk into my office, or I see them at my daughter’s school, or around town and behave as if people are means to an end.

No, “Hi.” No, “Good Morning.”

Nothing.

They launch into business – usually something they want someone else to know or do. A flippant and dismissive air of , I don’t care about you, I only care about my agenda is all too clear.

It comes across as rude. And you don’t want to be rude.

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July 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

A Needed And Important Repost:

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Sooner or later every leader will have to deal with someone – or a group of someone’s – who are reflexively oppositional. Most of us know what to look for, but if you don’t, here are a few profiles.

  • The person who is against every idea, sometimes even their own.
  • The person who when presented with a any idea, first tells you all the obstacles or hurdles involved.
  • The person who during the implementation phase of anything new determines, at the first glitch, that the entire program is unworkable.

I could give you more, but you get the idea. There are some folks, that no matter what, will react negatively to any and ever idea, proposal or change. In a certain way, these folks can be helpful. We all need people who can look down the road and help us avoid some of the pitfalls. But mostly, without redirection, the reflexively oppositional are a drain our emotions, progress, and morale. As a leader, you need to know that the reflexively oppositional exist; they will curtail and undercut any opportunities for growth and development and then ultimately blame the leader when things don’t get better. If one thing is true about the reflexively oppositional, it’s that nothing is ever their fault. Now that you know that, what should you do? Here are a few ideas:

 

  1. Teach! Believe it or not, many of the reflexively oppositional have never been taught to brainstorm and develop ideas. Find a conference or teacher that can help Negative Nellies how to brainstorm. In the short term, at your next meeting, ask your team to bring $20 in $1 bills and you bring a large bowl. During the brainstorming session, whenever someone says, “we can’t…” or “that won’t…” they have to put $1 into the bowl. After about 6-months use the money to do something fun with your staff or buy gifts.
  2. Redirect! I did this just this week. When a new idea or initiative is proposed, make sure that positive comments are shared. As my wife says, “Any dumb dog can tell you why something won’t work.” Ask your team to give you 5 positive and possibilities before they can say anything negative. When someone complains, stop them, and say, “Now tell me something positive about __________.” People aren’t wired to think this way, so we have to be constantly redirected. The people on your team that can’t ever be positive will learn that you’re not a worthwhile destination for the negative.
  3. Project. As a leader, you must focus on projecting the positive. Sit down with a journal or notebook and map out all the successes you and your team have had, then remind people of them. This past week, I sat down and listed the successes we’ve had in my brief at Redwood Church – building renovation, incredible small group launch, Men’s Fraternity, reconnection with our mission point in Haiti, relaunched Women’s ministry, increased mid-week attendance, Sunday morning message discipline,  etc…. These efforts required prayer, time and hard work. Don’t lose them to the archives of memory. Keep them close to inspire you and your team.
  4. Give it Over. Many of the reflexively oppositional are so because they feel they are never listened to or don’t have enough influence in the organization. Give it to them. Give them a large responsibility and the freedom to run with it. Many an oppositional worker has been humbled by the experience of having to lead and produce something from beginning to end. Handing over responsibility allows them to unleash their full potential. And you never know, they may be a lion of a leader who just needed an opportunity. For this to work though, they have to be responsible for all aspects of a project. It’s easier to gripe when you’re only responsible for 6% of a project. Give it over.
  5. Hire Differently. The simple truth is that you don’t want to work with everyone, regardless of their competence or lack thereof. If you’re in an industry that requires innovation or if you’re a possibility thinker, you MUST surround yourself with the same kind of people. You’re looking for “What if…” people, not “We can’t people.” We can’t people have never innovated an industry, grown a market-share or otherwise changed the world. You don’t want them! During the hiring process ask outlandish questions and see what responses you get.

The Reflexively Oppositional will always be with us, it’s our challenge to manage them well. Many Debbie Downers are critical-thinkers that organizations need, but their comments and affect need to be harnesses. Hopefully, leaders can help one another out.

How do you handle the reflexively oppositional in your organization? If, like me, you have been oppositional in your past, how did you break free?

 

February 5th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

“The Holy Spirit orchestrates the events of our lives with the single aim of making us disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives in subtle ways, ways we cannot often discern. But the Spirit is at work nonetheless.” – James Bryan Smith, The Good & Beautiful God

 

 

September 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Every successful person you know or have known is a nerd. By nerd, I don’t mean the Lewis and Gilbert, Revenge of the Nerds kind, but rather true nerds. A true nerd is someone who has a disproportionate interest in something. They read all the books, they make special trips, they tweet endlessly, they comb the interweb to experience, know and engage their pet subject as much as possible. It can be Star Trek, baseball cards, or fantasy sports; but it can also include athletics, cars, acting, or just about anything else. Nerds love the minutia and intricacies of their guild and there’s no limit to what they’ll spend, where they’ll go, or what they’ll do. Just imagine: Many of you readers are church attenders, but how many of you would pay money to attend the Festival of Homiletics? I would!

All that to say this: If you want to be successful, embrace your inner nerd!

Here’s why nerds are leading you:

  1. Nerds Don’t Care About Balance. As a matter of fact, balance is a ridiculous notion. When it comes to things that matter — your family, your personal success and happiness, etc… — why would you want balance? Those who achieve in their field pursue the depths of it well after others have given into balance. Michael Jordan and Bill Gates didn’t achieve their dreams because they were equally interested in their fields as they were something else. They worked hard and cared more than most people, so they got the edge. Forget about balance!
  2. Nerds Are Passionate: Each time Apple rolls out new products, thousands tune in to watch Steve Jobs’ Keynote. These are commercials, in essence. In fact, Jobs shows little commercials while he’s presenting his big commercial, and people love it. Why? Because he brings tremendous passion to new products, and passion is contagious. No one with a passing interest in something is passionate. Only nerds are. Nerds can tell anyone the complete in and outs of a subject with missionary zeal. Because they can, they lead.
  3. Nerd Don’t Care What Others Think: Believe it or not, people who are nerdish about a subject don’t care if you think they’re nerds. Their thing is more important than you. For this reason, while you’re making fun of them, they are learning and developing new skills and techniques, and one day they will own you. If you want to shift the leverage in your favor, regardless of what field you’re in, becoming a nerd about it is the best way to go.

The world belongs to nerds. They are the innovators, leaders, developers and thinkers that are paving the future. If you want to join them then it’s time to embrace your inner nerd.

September 16th, 2009 | No Comments »

I love winning. I grew up in Mississippi loving to play both soccer and baseball, but mostly loving to win when I played soccer and baseball. From an early age, the question, “Did you have fun?” never mattered. I wanted to win! And couldn’t understand those kids on my teams that were there to “have fun.”

It was fun to win; it was not fun to lose.

At the same time I was winning and losing, my family and my coaches – which were often the same people – taught me that good sportsmanship was part and parcel of playing sports well. Even when I lost, or while the game was hanging in the balance, I understood that my opponent wasn’t my enemy. At the end of games both teams would shake hands and leave our striving against one another on the field. My father taught me that winning was a good thing, but it wasn’t everything. But sadly, in our world more and more of us are finding winning to be the only thing. If you haven’t noticed, American culture, perhaps more than anything else now, is about winning.

This summer as opposition arose the President Obama’s healthcare goals, undecided on the subject myself, I asked my friend, Kraig, a series of questions about the uproar and the anger (town-halls, birthers, etc…). Kraig and I e-mailed back and forth our thoughts on the subject. Kraig articulated hosts of reasons why some people were so angry. A staunch conservative, Kraig has issues with “Obamacare,” as do many people I know, trust and love. Yet in our exchange, he said, “Some of these people have come to see politics as a kind of sport, and it’s not necessarily about the issues so much as it’s about winning.” That was a new take on politics to me – as naïve as that sounds. For some, there is an opposition and when there is an opposition, the most fundamental thing that can be done is defeat them. In fact, if you’re able to convince yourself that the opposition is inherently evil then you must defeat them – even if that means degrading one’s own self to do so. Don’t mistake me, though naïve, I know there are people of all political persuasions, left and right, who see their primary political motivator not as advocacy of a position, bi-partisanship, or statesmanship, but the elimination of the opponent.

Our political blood-lust for winning bubbled up and spilled over into the President’s address to the nation last week as we saw Joe Wilson embarrass all of us with his ill-advised shout at the President. Shouting in Congress does not produce a useful bill, it’s done in order to hurt the President’s cause. In turn those opposed to Wilson have and are calling for endless apologies, not because the apology will do anything besides weaken Wilson and his chances for reelection. The issue is long past and never really mattered much anyway, now it’s about winning.

Obviously, this kind of behavior isn’t limited to politics. As we’ve seen through Serena Williams’ U.S. Open profanity laced tirade, the winning edge within sports itself can be taken too far. Here a talented athlete, frustrated by the prospect of losing, demeaned herself, her opponent and a lineswoman in view of millions – some of kids. Why? Because winning was the most important thing. Worse than that, even, has been the treatment of South African runner, Caster Semanya. This poor woman has been made to undergo a public testing of her gender. There is very little else that strikes so closely to who we are than our gender. And why has she faced this wholly embarrassing testing? She was winning and other runners weren’t. As a father of two daughters, I can’t imagine the pain, hurt, discomfort and mortification Caster’s family must feel.

I have to ask: How much are we willing to lose for the sake of winning?

Too many of us have forgotten that Jesus calls not for the defeat of our enemies but for us to love them. And Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that love for our enemies entails, “refusing to defeat them.” Of course, on the ball field, someone has to win or lose, but there is a way, both on and off the field of play to treat others in ways where everyone wins, or at least is not about defeating. In the end, Christ followers believe that love wins, and because it does all words and actions should be done in love.

What would our world look like if all of us held deeply to the truth that loving our enemies, rather than defeating them, was the ONLY way to win? Hopefully the millions of us who darken the doors of churches every Sunday would be the last people to shout out in anger, regardless of the venue, and the first to know why and how to speak out about the heinous behavior that places winning above all else in sports, politics and the workplace.

At root, we should live as though the most significant victory in the world has already been won, and indeed, with Christ’s salvific act on the cross, it has.

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