Warrior Bride

Warrior Bride

Don’t just be “pro-life” on a picket sign. Be pro-life in every phase and in every way. Foster care and adoption is our yes to life. 

Last week our fost-adopt journey turned the corner for a new chapter.

As is usually the case with social services*, slow and sparring information is the only information, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when my wife got a call from the county saying, ‘birth mom is out of prison earlier than expected and she has a visit due this week… can you make it up town tomorrow?’

Classic.

So it is that we were faced with the last-minute audible to gear up and get going.

And so we did.

But not before having a bit of a spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out.

You see up to this point in our fost-adopt journey (on baby number 2; Selah adopted last year, we’ve been licensed for about 3 years), we haven’t had what I would call the typical foster family experience…

We haven’t had to give kids back after years of bonding and attachment; we haven’t had to travel 30 miles twice a week for biological family visits (as some of our dear friends have-mind you with their other kids and family life moving ahead at normal pace/scheduling); we haven’t had to deal with multiple family members and the ups and downs of them making progress, back sliding, court mandating chaos that can be the very essence of foster care.

As I explained it to a friend recently, when you become licensed for fost-adopt your technical title is a “resource family.”

This means that you are like an expendable tool to be used at the disposal of the system, the kids and the biological families needs. This is the lens that you are trained to assume as a foster mom or dad.

Suffice to say, easier said than done.

Herein lies the essence of our spiritual-psycho-emotional freak out: you’ve held, carried, nourished, kissed, swaddled, midnight fed-in short loved the crap out of a being that-in this case-we’ve had since he was 2-days old.

All of this largely “uninterrupted” (meaning: most days, no ones come knocking to pick him up, take him away or even call to check in!). And when it’s like that-very few bio family visits and very few calls/court dates-you begin to really live the illusion that this child is yours.

And then one day you get a call with a stark reminder that, at least legally, that is not the case.

And so we have a  mental shock to the system and the mind begins to reel… ‘what if he is taken away… worse still, what if he is taken away and given to birth mom where he is abused or neglected.’

Stop for a second, imagine if you will that one of your biological kids was dropped off one day and handed to someone you barely know and definitely do not trust (and also has a history of abuse/neglect). Well biological or fostered, we do not know the difference-that is what it feels like.

So doubt, crisis, fear creeps in…

Insert the mental/biblical picture that God gave my wife…

It’s the picture of Abraham laying his son Issac on the altar. It comes from Genesis 22.

You remember the picture

IMG_0148

22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

It’s gnarly.

So many questions here-I get it… what’s God thinking about? What’s God’s deal? Just flat-out: why? Well besides the fact that I’m not here to talk about all that today, I do think the answer is 4 words into the first verse… God tested Abraham’s faith.

Ironic how that was essentially the title of a sermon I shared just 1 week prior. The one point was essentially this: God is using all things as a manner of testing and preparing us for what comes next. (And prayer, by the way, is our gift for having eyes to see this.)

It’s no different right here, right now with our little 7-month old baby boy.

A second truth paralleled in our lives with this passage is this: our kids are not our own.

Whether our kids are biological or fostered or adopted-not anymore than our past, present or future-do they belong to us.

I allude to the concept of time because that is the dual thing that God is asserting ownership over by the way, in this passage.

You see he’s not only testing Abraham’s faith, he’s not only reminding Abraham that he owns his son, but he owns what his son represents.

And what Issac represented was the hope of another son-Jacob, who was the hope of Israel, whose hope was Jesus, who is the hope of the world.

I digress, except to say this: he holds the people and he holds the plans.

Same is true for us right here, right now.

So hand him over…

That was the bright idea my wife got.. AND the reality we get the chance to live.

Starting today, in the new normal, of driving up to the group home to visit birth mom, making sure that she gets an audience with her son.

And the prayer that helps us navigate this all?

It is prayer no longer for 1 life, but for 2.

That’s the call after all isn’t it? To find whoever we may be diametrically opposed to and love that person, pray for that person?

I fear it is a lost or dying 1st century art form. But in truth, we just so seldom get the chance to meet our “enemy.” Besides the person in the car riding my tailgate, I fear I have never really met the enemy Christ spoke of… until now.

And please understand how I’m using the word enemy. It is not to make biological mom bad, rather it is to explain exactly what I meant when I say diametrically opposed, and the person who has the potential to claim back what we love like it is our own feels like no subtle opposition.

In the end, this post was meant to be an affirmation of my wonderful and amazing warrior bride-Rylee. After all it was the biblical-word-image that God gave her, that she in turn shared with the world via social media, which in turn appears to have been an incredible encouragement for the faith and struggles of others.

When I saw her post I was uplifted and inspired by her… after all she is at the home front with these precious babes logging far more hours than I.
She is the frontline soldier of love-mending wounds, wiping tears (and bottoms!), channeling screams and demands, listening, waiting, loving patiently and graciously.

So in a way it is her baby even perhaps a little more than my baby that is being asked to the altar now.
And so it is her courage and faith and boldness and prayers that emboldens us both now to keep taking one step after the next in faith and preparation for whatever it is that God has next…


*And not to disparage the many incredibly hard-working social workers out there-I am constantly floored by the amazing volumes of work and case loads they carry-and enormously gut-wrenching at times too. These workers match any ministry or church hustle I have ever seen-those who really are devoted and focused that is.

 

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Have you ever had something in your head that you needed to get out? Some vision, idea, program, talk, training, “how-to” guide… some thing you needed to move from abstract constellation of thought into a clearly outlined, usable thing?

When I was transitioning from my last church job my supervisor-a man whose analytical genius is always bent toward better execution-suggested that I write down a general who, what, when, where, why for my successor. 

When we would check in for our weekly 1:1s, a greater and greater percentage of our time was devoted to passing the baton (of information and how-tos) well.

During our time together he would drive me deeper and deeper into cataloging the most important standard operating procedures held under the 2 or 3 major hats that I wore. 

I will never forget what he said one day toward that end. He said very simply, “we need to get what’s in your head out.”

As basic as that might sound it triggered something in me…

For starters it made me think: what are the hundreds of little things I do each day that no one knows about, that’s not in writing somewhere, that no one told me to do, but it effectively gets my job done. 

And while, at the end of my transition time, I did not produce a list with every one of those hundred items, I was able to produce the broader strokes of my past deliverables. 

The second thing my supervisor’s comment triggered was a an affirmation of this blog actually. 

The whole point behind this writing discipline was two-fold: 

1, as an external tool to inspire, influence and ignite something in others and;

2, as an internal tool of recapping all that I had learned in the past year-a sort of personal development journal for the sake of never forgetting all the amazing takeaways.  

Herein lies the first principle of what I will call Standard Mental Operating Procedure Extraction or SMOPE for short:

(1) SMOPE requires a pause in our daily mental activity so that we may become more conscious of what’s behind our daily decisions and actions. 

The answer to my rhetorical question above (have you ever had something in your head that you wanted to get out?) is: of course you have. Everyone has…

I just think that most people sell themselves short on this level of thought life and ideation.

Most people will go about their work and leadership never having given a second thought to why it is they do a certain thing the way they do!

And that is a fundamental component of principle #1: it’s not pausing to think about what you just decided or did, it’s pausing to reflect how or why you did it that way. 

I should back up and give some definition 

SMOPE is the standard operating procedure of your mind. You do it, almost unconsciously, every single day… you plan, you act, you execute.

And there is most certainly a very particular mental model or procedure you use that you could go your whole life never thinking about distilling or bottling that very good thing in order for your very good “way” to ever go beyond yourself.

This brings me to point number two…

(2) SMOPE is all about extending your legacy beyond yourself. 

Whether it’s in the example I listed above about a simple job transition or it’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company working through a major succession, the difference between good and great is extension beyond yourself. 

Why is this so critical-the ability to pass your excellent mental methods of success and growth? Here’s an example from both the church and marketplace context. 

Take the multi-level marketing example. Say what you will about them, the bottom line is this: you have a product or service that, assuming authentic quality, you can spread like wildfire through multiple tiers of people leading others and multiplying their methods. 

In other words they train and equip those below them to achieve similar results.

Now whether it’s multi-level marketing or just any scalable business where you include the large-scale training of people, there was someone along the way who distilled and bottled what was in their head.

The companies and organizations who have the best ability to do this will also continue a proven legacy that goes beyond any founder or CEO.

The church belief and process of discipleship is no different. This example is one of the most deeply held beliefs of our organization.

Jesus did it; Jesus commanded it and it is essentially the one central model, method, vehicle-whatever you want to call it-way to spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and grow the church. 

Now, even though there may be no two churches alike in what they will call their discipleship process or system, the point remains the same: Jesus took what was in his head, heart, spirit he spoke about it, he lived it and he invited 12 other men along to see, do and multiply. 

The churches and faith-based organizations that create a plan for discipleship (and actually work their plan!) will also experience a proven legacy that extends across the generations. 

There’s another thing you should know about SMOPE.

(3) SMOPE is the ability to move from unknown, unformalized, unstandardized (however, not random) thought life to a clearly outlined and action-oriented system of organization.

This is the crux of the issue. It’s one thing to pause and intentionally think about the why and how behind your decisions and actions. It’s another thing entirely to distill and bottle that product into a clear and scalable tool.

This third principle and step is really where you will live. While it is truly an ongoing discipline to begin holding every thought captive (and training your people to do the same!), the main gear and life-cycle of this process is slowly and intentionally taking the mental operating procedure and putting it into tangible malleable material. 


Closing Thoughts:

As 1 of the top 5 fastest growing restaurant chains in America, Chic-fil-A just opened it’s 2000th restaurant… that is not a typo. That is not an extra 0. TWO THOUSANDTH location. 

I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me (and I know there are chains with more locations in the world), but I sat amazed when I read this in a Business Insider article weeks ago! And I’m still talking about it so there! 

I mean how many reference points can you have for thinking about a scaled, legacy-oriented thing like that. 

And it’s not like someone said one day, ‘well this whole selling chicken thing is going well, how about we open another store and go on ahead and let the managers of that place just do whatever they see fit in their own eyes’

NOOOOO they said, ‘here’s what makes us great now go and do the same… cause we took the time to distill and bottle that sucker!’

Consider a more personal example: maybe you’re a high level leader or maybe you know a high level leader (that’s all of you!) we have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that the following conundrums recieve an excellent response…

What was that marketing method he or she used in a down market?

How was it that he/she filed that year during tax season?

What did he/she always do with that one difficult customer?

How did he/she deal with litigation in this one case?

That high level leader and, who knows, maybe the executive team who worked with that leader for years-they know the how and why behind their standard operating procedures but shoot, does anybody else outside their own brain space?!

Action:

Regardless of your position in the organization, take a step today and catalog, record, WRITE DOWN the why or how behind a few things (just 1 thing even!) that you do well within your scope of responsibilities… you have no idea; it could just be the thing that gets distilled and bottled to over 24,000 locations in 74 countries (Starbucks)…

 

The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

I’m a new part of a church organization that is in the midst of finding itself. It is what a mentor called an identity discovery phase.

Another way of describing this unique place and process is leading change. Though I have not read John Kotter’s preeminent 1995 book by the same name, I have read the executive summaries and I have participated in models that mirror his principles and prescriptions.

The ethos, and indeed mandate, of leading change is critical for all leaders and organizations (who are striving for any degree of health or impact in the world, that is.)

A strong leader once told me that great organizations should experience change every 8 months (just to keep up with culture, technology, economy, etc etc) and that made sense to me.

The problem, of course, is that many of us don’t like change and then for the rest of us who are open to change it’s a painfully slow and difficult process.


Let’s handle those 2 obstacles right off the bat:

1. For those who are change averse: you maintain an extreme sense of irony.

At a certain point you must admit that very world around you is constantly changing; and not just a macro level either.

So you can go on “not liking” change all day long and even keep screaming it from a mountain top if you like, but with that attitude and posture you will always being sitting in immediate juxtaposition with the natural world around you.

2. For those who believe it’s just too hard or too late to change: you have chosen the poorest excuse.

If people succumbed to “it’s too hard” mentality we would not have a single lick of innovation from the last century (let alone since the beginning of time). What if Lincoln would have said, ‘reconciliation is too hard’… if Ford had said, ‘building a “car” is just too complex’… if MLK had said, ‘this thing will never change.’ I think you get my point.

To cease tackling a thing because it is too hard is to cease doing the very central thing we are called to do: live well.


The fact of the matter is: all organizations and systems (even the family system!) are in need of change.

How do I know?

Because all organizations experience stuckness.

In their good intentioned pursuit to diversify, spread out the eggs, reach into new markets, industries or niches organizations get stuck for so many reasons-most of which we are not here to discuss today.

I think one of the most important reasons people and organizations get stuck is this:

a loss of focus.

On the why, the win, the action and execution.

You can imagine the snowball effect above, but lets take a closer look at the importance of each…

1. The why: the mission; the vision; the values…

If you don’t have them, if you don’t hold tightly to them, if you don’t have them at the top of your performance dashboard then what’s it really all for anyway-it’s anyone’s guess and it’s up for grabs and when its up for grabs people will create their own why.

2. The win: how we know what success looks like…

First of all have you defined it? Second of all, have you defined it BEFORE you execute (run the event, program, marketing campaign). Most people and organizations operate in the opposite order, ‘lets just do it and see what happens.’

3. The what: this constitutes the bulk of your working hours…

What kind of action are you taking? Is it the right action at the right time? And is it focused action? If you’ve set a target (the why and the win) then you should be able to filter every working hour through those first two things. When we fail to do this, we are now facing a stewardship (management) issue (i.e. How will we be judged by the way we invested every waking hour of our lives?)

4. The execution: the final delivery.

If you are a manager or leader of people and you can’t account for why your staff, team, people aren’t producing better results than you need to seriously evaluate the above three. Odds are: all this lack of focus in the why, the win and the what are leading to a high level of stuckness at the execution level.


Committing to Change…

We have only to first admit that we are stuck.

Therein lies the first principle from Kotter’s work: change will be most successful when the greater percentage of your leaders carry a mutual sense of urgency around change.

It was not an intentional plan of mine, I have to admins, coming into my new organization but I found myself saying the same thing over and over again to key staff and volunteers.

In my envisioning to people about this new season at the church, with just as many competing ideas, programs, initiatives as the marketplace, I found myself encouraging our team that it may be time to say a healthy “no” to the options and ideas out there.

…to forgo doing several things very half-heartedly and inefficiently and, in the end, poorly. And instead to focus on one thing, and here’s the mantra:

We are committing to do a very few things, very well…

As to what those things are-that’s our plan and our issues. You probably just need to work your plan. But make sure people understand the why, the win and the what. Whether its your family or your startup, hold fast to these things and you will not only bring about focus, you will have a great shot at bringing about change.

Doing What Matters Most (And the People Who Pull you Along)

Doing What Matters Most (And the People Who Pull you Along)

Ever feel scattered brain and divided in your work load? Lack of clarity in your job description? Or simply what you’re trying to accomplish in a given day?

Ever felt slow or stagnated in seeing movement toward your personal or corporate goals?

Today marks the end of my first month at our new church job.

Looking back I can see some instructive moments on these subjects already…

First, a few words on my job description and position. I’ve been hired on as an Associate Lead. At a smaller church with fewer resources and staff this means I wear many hats and fill a very generalist role.

Knowing this would be the case before I began work, I had a few hopeful goals: get clarity around the most important hats to wear the majority of the time, which would dictate my highest priorities thus leading to more focused action.

Let me break that down once more:

major hats > highest priorities (which dicatates hours in the day by the way) > focused action (which leads to better execution by the way).

Whether it was the role or the task, the principled expectation I had coming in was: you just focus on what’s important now (or W.I.N. for short).

As a generalist I knew that I could not focus on 15 different things at once. I wanted to pick 3-4 things and do those well.

Two of those W.I.N. projects have been within the realm of mission/vision clarity and leadership development.

But before (or simultaneously) chipping away at these two great and worthy endeavors I knew that I would have to just sit with people. Sit with the paid staff, sit with volunteer staff and then sit with pretty much anyone who has influence at this organization.

Sit, hear their story, listen to their heart for this place, receive feedback and build trust.

Then at the end, give just the tiniest insight into how I would love for them to consider participating in our upcoming leadership initiative.

These meetings have been amazing, encouraging, clarifying and uniting. What I’ve learned from sitting with 15 different people (in as many work days) is:

That they are all hungry for something new;
That they all have a heart language for the needs of our communities and;
That they are all ready to play a part.

It’s a pretty neat thing to witness because as the “new guy” you bring very particular culture and DNA all to yourself. And the 500 pound gorilla in the room is whether what you have, are and bring will sync up with what’s in the place you are entering. 

I’m hopeful that through these meetings with people they are encouraged and together are spirits are being knit together.

And that’s one of the key and timeless principles that you have to remember:

It’s all about people; people matter most; people build things-especially highly invested and highly influential people.

Meet People. See People. Hear People.

It all begins and ends with people; human to human sync up and send! 

Actually this is so paramount that I would be willing to make the following bold statement:

The what and how don’t even matter yet; even the big WHY doesn’t matter yet. It’s all about the WHO that matters most (right now).

I could have the most compelling mission & vision (the big why) you’ve ever heard, but if you don’t even know me, if you haven’t met me, if we haven’t heard each other just eyeball to eyeball, it’s not gonna mean much. AND we’re not gonna go very far…

Who is a person within your organization or circle of influence that you could really use a reconnection with? *Hint: you may have some unresolved stuff with this person OR you might just be vital for each other in the joint pursuit of some grand mission or vision!

If this is impacting your life or leadership, please feel free to repost and share!

7 Things to Consider About the Beauty of Conflict

7 Things to Consider About the Beauty of Conflict

Ever been in a conflict?

Ever been asked how you handle conflict in a job interview?

It’s got a whole section devoted to it in our interview manual at the church.

The answer is obvious: we have all had to “manage” (side note: I had a professor in college who said we cannot even use the term “conflict resolution” because it doesn’t really exist) conflict at one point or another, more likely EVERY point AND another.

Where there are people (and words) there exists the great and infinite potential for conflict so we had better learn how to manage it.

In light of the ubiquitous nature of conflict, we had better get comfortable with its inextinguishable flame. Below I seek to give you some tools to do just that.

One of the things that inspired this week’s post was a recent church conflict down here in Southern California. Without going into too much detail, this church was a “satellite” campus, a “daughter” location of a central “parent” church location in a different city nearby.

The leadership team of the central campus had a sharp disagreement with the leader of the “satellite” campus which led to his subsequent termination (and re-hiring) and ultimately to the “satellite” campus breaking away from the “mothership” if you will.

In fact, this particular church, and their lead pastor (who is my age) had just come through the heart of the storm and decided to host a “town hall meeting”-the contents of which are on video.

When I heard they had filmed it, I scrambled to watch it. My main motivation-knowing that this pastor is my age and stage of life-was to see how he handled things, how he communicated, what questions the people asked, how he responded… the social scientist inside me abounding.

The truth is: he did a fantastic job. It seems apparent, not just from watching the film, but talking to members of the church, that this young man is a strong leader with a strong sense of identity, calling and vision. He stood by his guns while graciously and humbly “leaving well”-not slanting or bashing or breeding further damage in his departure (which by the way is far from an “overnight” process).

He was branded by fire and the beauty of conflict-because of what it produces-was on display for all to see.

So here are the learnings from this case study for better management of conflict if we are to see the beauty on the other side.

Consider their side…

I’m not a very empathetic person, but I do believe that I can fairly easily read people’s interest, motivations, wants and needs especially in conflict which is primarily driven by people’s desired outcomes. If you can pause for a couple of hours; a couple of days and consider the other side’s desired outcomes, their potion and why they are passionate about staking a claim, it will move you far quicker to resolution and productivity again.

BEAUTY: when we acquiesce and accommodate we are working toward better collaboration which are major keys for leading successful teams.

Consider your sound…

This one is similar in that you must go outside yourself, but equally valuable in that we sometimes get caught up with no accurate, unbiased opinion of how we come across-how we look, sound, seem in our verbal AND non-verbal communication. You want to understand your part to play in the conflict? Then one of the early steps is to consider how you came across.

BEAUTY: when we exercise self-awareness and perspective in this way, we embody the honesty and integrity that all great leaders must carry.

Consider the end in mind

(This is the leave well part by the way). There are countless and when I say countless I mean COUNTLESS quotes I’ve heard on this principle, but I’m figuring that’s because of its timeless worth but they range from:
‘love is a revolving door’ to
‘don’t burn the bridge you may have to cross over again’
The truth is clear: even if you think you’re right-the most right and correct and innocent person of all time-you must still resist the urge to leave poorly.

BEAUTY: all strong leaders are visionary; in so many ways managing conflict is about the willingness to forfeit battles for the sake of winning the war.

Consider coming to the table

There is no such thing as long distance conflict management, remote conflict resolution or reconciliation by proxy. Every single instance of reconciliation begins with seeing someone. All restoration begins with: eye to eye; human to human, “the same grace that we require, they require” (the young man from the church conflict above actually said this).

I’ll never forget the embodiment of this principle from the movie Avatar… “I see you” it was about solidarity because of something shared at our very core; regardless of position, rank, race, gender or any other form of difference.

BEAUTY: this ones pretty personal for me, but I truly believe that one of the greatest marks of any leader is the ability to see the value of our common humanity in ALL PEOPLE.

Consider silence…

Don’t go to someone else’s table. In conflict we must resist the urge to talk about it with someone else other than the source! As much as we will desire to seek validation and support from our base, our friends, our typical “go-to” (who by the way you must know at some level this person has absolutely no spine or moral compass if they never offer you a tough pill to swallow, right?), at this time what we need is NOT reinforcement of “unhealth.” And that is what will happen if you stir the pot by spreading bad talk with others who are not directly involved.

BEAUTY: pretty basic here, but essentially its about self-control, patience and discipline these will breed better culture-because YOU led this way.

Consider counsel…

There’s a difference between going around and talking about it and going to 1 strategic person and seeking wisdom about it. But for your clear vision on the issue and for the sake of everyone involved-seek unbiased objective opinion.

BEAUTY: I’ll just quote proverbs 12:15 here: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Consider speed…

If you’re anything like 89% of people who are conflict avoidant then your first reaction will always be, “ah man I don’t want to have to circle back around with that person and have that conversation!” The longer you wait the more anxious you’ll be and worse-if you skip conflict management altogether-you lose, your relationship with that person loses and the shared objectives are certainly lost (with a culture that fails to ever deal!).

BEAUTY: Leaders understand that when they discover pain points in their organization, they will do all things in their power to mitigate them; this requires expediency!

Who is someone you know you need to initiate conversation with right now? Consider the end in mind: what are the share objectives and which objectives are you ready to die over? Most of all, have an honest assessment of yourself, your approach and your delivery… as leaders we can afford nothing less.

7 Reasons Why This Could Be The Healthiest Thing You Do in 2017

7 Reasons Why This Could Be The Healthiest Thing You Do in 2017

This new year I tweeted the following…

Yes, I was trying to be funny, but I was also DEAD SERIOUS.

The principle (in case you didn’t catch it) is that we are CONSTANTLY giving into our kid’s wishes (begging, pleading, whining and threats rather) just to make them stop!

In the car this equates to handing them a snack while strapped in their seats and when all their little crumbs and morsels reach critical mass, we have no choice but to head to the industrial strength vacuum place to settle it!

But that is not the worst thing about giving into their demands.

You see the thing I’ve learned about parenting so far is that it appears to be a constant battle of training… training and conditioning. And every time and every way you respond to your child when they are attempting to illicit a certain response trains them… trains them for good or for bad.

That will, believe it or not, have an impact on the type of human they become one day… no pressure…

By us giving into their demands while driving around in the car we were cementing something in their minds and hence their development: ‘every time we scream loud enough, they WILL give in and throw us a snack.’

It’s the same in any other area of our lives… if a co-worker, significant other, family member “screams” loud enough, eventually we’ll say “yes” when it would have been far healthier for everyone involved if we had said, “no.”

Your healthy “no” could be pressing in on any one of these areas, for me and my wife-our leadership-we understand the value of “no” in our parenting and the gift that will ultimately be to our kids.

In case you were wondering, here is just 1 major value of a healthy “no” to our kids in this illustration: delayed gratification… which instills patience, self-control and determines a person’s ability to achieve greater success in life.

Most importantly of all, however, it gives them perspective; a more realistic view of the future world they will inhabit, that they will not just be handed what they want, when they want it. We are not an earthly slot machine, God is not a celestial slot machine and the people they surround themselves with one day won’t be either!


Here’s the problem as it extends to our work:

Most of us run around overbooked, overstretched, overextended and overstressed and we keep saying “yes” to things, so we keep losing… and we aren’t the only ones either. I would argue that the organization loses big time too.

I don’t know what the moment will be, for you, to finally calculate the opportunity cost of your yes/no answers, but there was a critical time for me when the leadership team at my work gathered for a two-day offsite nearly 6 months ago.

You see as a staff one of the things we realized is that we did not have enough trust to finally be honest with each other and call it like it is (hence pushing each other and the organization forward).

So our boss led us through an exercise where we went around listing people’s strengths and weaknesses and took turns reading them out loud to each other. There were about a dozen people in the room so lots of things were shared, but when it came around to me here are some of the common things I was hearing: “takes on too much…” “fails to execute…” “distracted and unfocused…”

Hhhmmm, dang… I got the memo…

Much of this, in my reflection, had to do with the inability to say a healthy “no.” Which is fundamentally about prioritizing my month, week, day around the absolute most vital values of my job and the organization I serve.

Let me give you 3 reasons and 5 tips:

1. Say “no” because it will restore health in areas you didn’t even realize were backwards

You see, for me, I had to wait for years before hearing those comments from my bold and loving teammates that I had a problem and it was affecting my work product AND my legacy-and THAT was not okay. Don’t wait to hear from someone else that you’re not disciplined in your work. Do the tough work of reflection and get healthy in your work flow again.

2. Say “no” because it leads to focused action and better quality in your work

One of my single greatest learnings this past year was the term my supervisor would drill all day long: “impact over effort… impact over effort… impact over effort.” His point was simple: ‘Ben, I don’t care if you work from home or if you work 4 hours today… if it gets the results, meets the targets, goals are green and we are seeing the outcomes then GREAT!” But you can’t see those types of outcomes if your work is unfocused and tossed by the wind.

3. Say “no” because the strength of a well-placed “no” is equal to a 100 wishy-washy “yes’s” 

Just think of my story above, that is what led to my reputation as the guy who “over-promises and under-delivers”… no one wants to be that guy. So stop letting your “yes” be watered down to the point of meaningless because you didn’t have a firm grip on your priorities and values.

Tips:

  1. Ask for more time when someone puts you on the spot and you need to make a decision.
  2. Every single employee on planet earth must have these 3 things in order to be successful in this life (in this order): vision (the why), goals (the what) and strategies (the how). These will HUGELY impact your ability to say yes/no and, ultimately, your outcomes.
  3. Schedule your values. When you’re done with #2 simply drop those values into your calendar on a monthly, weekly, daily and hourly basis.
  4. Tell someone, anyone, EVERYONE what you’re up to! That way you educate those around you, affecting what they would even approach you about in the first place! (And build in some accountability along the way.)
  5. Put in feedback loops and constantly reevaluate. Because anything worth doing is worth evaluating.

What is one thing you know you need to stop doing/say “no” to today? What are your top 3 values in your current job and how many hours are you devoting to those 3 things each week?

Mastering the Art of “The Ask”

Mastering the Art of “The Ask”

Every single day we contract with people and don’t know it. 

How many of you have said at one point or another: “I didn’t sign on for that…” or “they got me doing something different now then when I was hired…” or “I switched roles and thought we agreed to this, but I spend most of my time over here…”???

There is always a conversation going on beneath the surface of what we agree to in our relationships-family, professional, romantic-the question becomes: are these agreements… low context?
High context?
Spoken?
Unspoken?

Or how about: what are the terms and did we really ever agree?!

The following is what I have learned this past year about contracting, inviting or coming to agreement in a worthy and excellent manor. 

First, I want you to know that this principle applies regardless of the situational leadership position you are in.

Whether you’re leading down (someone you are hiring, recruiting, leading, are responsible for) or someone you’re leading up (your boss, supervisor, higher-up) or leading across (those equally positioned across from you in the relationship or organization.) 

Regardless of whether you’re the one doing the asking of if someone else is doing the asking of you: when a leader is requesting buy-in, opt-in, sign-on or commitment, there are at least two elements that should motivate the conversation:

  1. Passion
  2. Clarity

PASSION

I’ve spoken to this issue at least monthly, but see there’s no accident in that.

Many leaders are missing if they are not viewing the world through the lens of opportunity… challenge as opportunity, economic turmoil as opportunity, circumstantial change as opportunity…

Shoot, every stinking work day that you draw breath and are going to punch in for 8-hours is one great big opportunity for passionate pursuit of SOMETHING!

And if you’re going to invite someone into something, if you hope to create tremendous buy-in, if you’d like to contract with someone for the long haul on a worthy project or mission, you had better bring the passion like one thunderous drum of relentless enthusiasm.

Because if you don’t, I’ll find something else to be a part of. And so will your people. 

CLARITY

George Bernard Shaw once said:

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Unfortunately, I do not have this massive table of data that proves how often in our personal or professional relationships we ASSUME we’ve agreed to something and then the details turn up wanting, but I guarantee it happens a lot!

It happens because we lack the intentionality and care to honor people with a crystal clear ask!

So you’re either lazy or you don’t know how to do this. Fortunately, the solution is simple: begin by writing down a list of 5 or fewer, tangible, practical, time-based details of the ask. These are the core responsibilities that will drive the time spent together, these aspects will continually serve as anchors and laser-pointers to the whole original purpose.

And therein lies the importance and power of “the ask”… the bottom line is this: we have an opportunity every single day to contract with people all around us. You may not know it or see it in the moment, but it’s there.

Whether leaders, co-workers, spouses ask for it or even think they need it, they need to be envisioned and enrolled around a very clear ask.

From the most simple, “hey want to get together tomorrow at 10am for coffee?” all the way to, “hey would you be willing to mentor me?” and everything in between, we are facing opportunities to contract. And when we don’t, it’s a huge miss, people suffer and flail because of it. 

CHALLENGE: its time for a mid-year, 30-day, 90-day “review”… sit down with 1 person who you KNOW that you have some overdue contracting with… OR re-contract with someone who has been meandering about in the fog of apathy and aimlessness!

Don’t waste time… your shared mission is too important!