I am an idea thief. I am very good at taking someone else’s bright idea and applying it to my own business, my parenting practices, or even my hobbies. There are many ways I do this, but one of the main ways is simply finding those who are successful and mimicking their practices. Obtaining godly counsel from others who have proven track records is a skill that all leaders need to learn.
I have written often about seeking God’s wisdom before taking action. I am a strong believer in going first to God in getting our marching orders, regardless of the circumstances. However, I think there are some situations in which it makes no sense at all to ask God for guidance. In these cases, I believe we are on our own.
In my last post, I talked about how God wants all of us on a great adventure with Him. He is not looking for us to play it safe (2 Chronicles 16:9). I made the case that He wants us fully committed to Him, willing to risk it all for whatever unknown adventure He has in store for us. If that is the case, why would anyone NOT experience this great adventure?
I recently wrote an article that was structured as if my future self was writing a letter back in time to my present self. Just going through the exercise of writing that article was extremely helpful (and convicting!) to me and caused me to make some significant changes in my priorities and routines. In an effort to help others in a similar way, I thought I would write another letter of advice. This one is from the present me and I am writing to my younger self!
I was raised to believe in free will. I was taught that God gives us complete and total choice in our actions and behavior – therefore no sin is unavoidable, right? Well, evidently this is not completely true. It appears that there is unavoidable sin.
According to Proverbs 10:19, this unavoidable sin comes into play when we talk too much. Take a look at the verse and see what you think:
When there are many words, sin is unavoidable,
but the one who controls his lips is wise.
The way I read this verse, some sin is unavoidable. At the same time, I think this is really more about timing. If you think about it, the author is saying sin becomes unavoidable WHEN there are many words.
Warning: when anyone tells you something is simple, don’t assume it is easy! There is a big difference! I have 9 “simple” (not easy) hacks for anyone that is committed to seeing themselves more clearly for the purpose of being a better leader. Gaining perspective in these ways is not complicated, but neither is it easy. You are warned!
In his devotional book, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge, former professional football coach Tony Dungy describes how coaches watch a lot of game films to critique past execution and develop future strategy. In doing so, he always made sure he was watching the game film that had been recorded by two different cameras – one set at a mid point on the sidelines of the field and the other between the goalposts at the end of the field.
He described how the goalpost camera had some advantages, but would not allow him to see yardage gained or lost like the sideline camera would. The sideline camera also had advantages, but would not give perspective on the spacing of his players like the goal post camera would. With only one perspective or the other, too much information is missing. True performance assessment is impossible and good decisions cannot be made without both perspectives.
The same is true about you and me as leaders. Quite simply, we must not trust our own perspective as our only gauge of our performance or effectiveness. There is just too much missing from our perspective to rely on it as our only source. Instead, we must seek out other perspectives if we want a clear, honest picture.
Below, I have listed nine different ways that you and I can gain perspective on how well we are (or are not) doing as leaders in our homes, businesses, and communities. None of these “hacks” are fool-proof. None give the entire picture. None can be relied upon by themselves.
Just like the multi-camera game films, we need a minimum of two or three of these views if we want any semblance of the truth! Take a look at each and determine which will work best for you.
Simple, Not Easy
Keep in mind, you may not like what you hear from some of them. In some cases, you will need to face feedback that is difficult to hear. In other cases, you may need to exclude feedback that may be contaminated with less-than-pure motives. You have to be the judge of which is which…or you could get some help with that as well!
#1 – Coach or Mentor
A coach or mentor is someone likely older than you that has more experience and wisdom than you in certain areas. You meet regularly with them on certain topics and pick their brain, learning from their wisdom.
If set up correctly, this relationship will bring to the surface some areas where you need to improve. If you are willing to be open to this person, you can get great perspective and advice from them. Finding the right person(s) for this relationship can be tough. Accepting what they say might be tougher!
#2 – Accountability partner
This person is likely closer in age (though its not necessary) and might be in a similar stage of life as you are. Meeting on a regular basis, you share victories and struggles. You hold each other accountable to commitments you have made together.
Again, openness and transparency with this person is the key. If you give them permission to call you out on anything they see, you gain the most perspective. This is the only way you max your odds of growing as a result of this relationship!
#3 – Peer Group
These groups are usually centered around a common theme. Some are based on age of children. Others are business-based. Small Bible study groups also fall into this category.
In the regular meetings, everyone shares what they are learning and how they are struggling. Through this process, members get to know each other well and are able to give each other perspective that can’t be found elsewhere.
#4 – Employee survey
Unlike the first three hacks, an employee survey is more likely something you would do once every 6-12 months, depending on the need at the time. Spend time on the questions and make sure you include some that get to the heart of the perspective you are seeking.
Sure, some of the results might not be dead-on, but you should gain perspective from the overall results and the trends over several iterations of the survey. Tip: don’t completely ignore the outlier results. Dig to determine whether or not there is something in your leadership that is helping to create the feelings represented.
To Be Continued!
Once again, I have run out of room in this post! Rather than making it one that you stop reading due to its length, I have broken it into two posts. In my next post, I will go over the remaining five hacks for better leadership perspective. I hope you are eager to see what they are!
Are you currently using some of these hacks?
Do you value the additional perspective you gain from them?
Do you lack the perspective you need? How will you change this?
I get many opportunities to talk to other Christians that own or operate a business. When I try to explain to them why they should be using their business to impact people for eternity, I sometimes get a blank stare. They often ask me questions that indicate they have significant misconceptions about Christian business. Today, I want to dispel 5 of the most common myths I have encountered regarding Christian business.
The problem is that many people, even Christians, misunderstand what the Bible says about being a Christian. This is even more true when it comes to being a Christian in the business world.
As a result, they often associate Christianity with weakness, laziness, and blind faith. If you have been in business for any length of time, you know these qualities don’t add up to business success. So when I explain my efforts to run a Christian business, the response is not always very positive!
Let’s take a look at the 5 most common myths you might encounter or even believe yourself. Once we dispel these, I think you might have a much better picture of what your business should look like (and what it shouldn’t look like!).
Myth #1 – Christian Businesses should hire anyone!
This is a very common myth and it is rooted in the desire to be kind and fair to everyone. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, right? While that last statement is true, it does not equate to a wide open hiring policy!
First of all, it is not fair to the applicant to hire them if they are not a good fit for the job. They will never get fulfillment from a job that does not fit them. By not hiring this applicant, you will “help” them move on to find the job that IS a fit for them. You may even choose to assist them in this search if you see enough potential in them.
Not only is it not fair to the applicant, it is not fair to the other current employees to make them work with someone that does not fit the job. This will only increase their load and cause other issues. Of course, the final damage is to the business itself. It is tough enough to run an efficient business without having to work around those not fit or qualified for their jobs.
Myth #2 – Christian businesses should say yes to any request!
I cannot specifically say where this myth originates, but it certainly exists. Sometimes you get a local sports team looking for a sponsorship. In other cases it is a customer looking for an excessive amount of free products or services. You will even have employees ask for difficult exceptions to company policies.
I certainly believe we should try to accommodate requests to the extent that we can and when it makes good business sense. Sometimes, we might do it even when it does not make business sense (but we know it is the right thing to do at the time)! However, for us to say yes to (virtually) every request is impossible.
There are times when the only wise answer is, “No.” A Christian business owner must accept this and not let guilt take over. Jesus did not say yes to every request. Neither should we. Do the best you can, but don’t fall prey to this myth!
To Be Continued!
I have run out of room for today, but will finish with the last three myths about Christian business in my next post. I hope these have been helpful to you.
Have you believed either of these myths?
Do you see how accepting these myths as truth can limit (or destroy) your business?
What are some other myths you have encountered?
We recently hired some new employees in the sales department. As part of their orientation, I spent a couple of hours talking with them about the history and philosophy of our business. Of course, I went into detail about our Mission Statement, Core Values, and Vision Statement. In doing so, I tried to give them a clear picture of the vital part we believe we play in our community.
Community Is Crucial
I don’t know about other companies, but we see our community as a crucial part of the answer to the question, “Why does this business exist?” You probably already know this, but this question is the one you are answering when you create your company’s mission statement. For us, this question also influences our core values and our vision statement as well.
See, we believe we are simply stewards of this business and that God is the actual owner. As a result of this belief, we see our roles as running the business in a way that brings honor to Him and impacts others for eternity, pointing them to Him. For our family, that is why our business exists.
When looking at the purpose of the business through this lens, it becomes clear that our community is a huge part of our mission. No, we are not a church and could not fill that role if we wanted to. However, we still feel our business practices and our involvement in the community can impact everyone around us in a way that leads them to Him.
Execution Will Be Different
The execution of this kind of mission will be different for one business than it will for another. A business with 10 or fewer employees will carry out this mission differently than one with 100 employees. A service business may approach this from a completely opposite angle than a manufacturing business. The “How” is not as important.
What is important is that we strive as Christian business owners to make our businesses such a vital part of the community that we would be sorely missed if we were to disappear. Can you imagine what that would look like? Is your business already there? Even if so, can you now relax?
Pray For Wisdom
If this is new to you, then I encourage you to stop and pray about it. Ask God to show you how to start down this path. Ask Him to give you insights as to how you can leverage the influence of your business to bring Him honor. Pray for wisdom in starting down this path.
If this is not new to you, then I would suggest you stop and take an inventory of what your business is doing to accomplish this mission. Is there more you could do? Are there new and creative ways you could impact the community and earn customer loyalty at the same time? Have you asked your employees for ideas? How are they involved?
In my next post, I will describe for you an example of how our business attempts to do this in our community. We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but maybe our idea will spark something with you that will turn into a successful effort. Until then, take some time to brainstorm this.
What are some ways your business impacts your community?
Does your community recognize your business as one involved in the community?
What would your community miss the most if your business were to disappear?
I love how the Bible is so deep and applicable in various situations. If we will just take the time to read and study it, we will certainly be able to apply it to our lives, regardless of our circumstances. An example is Proverbs 31 [Read HERE] which is normally taught to wives and mothers as the pattern to follow. We will apply it to husbands and fathers today!
Proverbs 31 Advice
In my last post, I pointed out two pieces of advice we can pull from Proverbs 31. First, we looked at how verse 11 guides us to trust in our wives rather than withholding that trust to maintain control. We also noted how this advice can serve us well in the workplace.
In verse 23, we see that it is our responsibility as husbands and fathers to act in such a way as to earn the respect of those in our community over time. Our wives need to know that they can rely on this kind of behavior from us. Our employees and co-workers want the same consistency from us!
For today, I want to look at two more verses from Proverbs 31 that give us clear advice as husbands and fathers. In each case, we are able to apply this advice to our lives at home and at work. I pray you will do both!
Her husband also praises her:
“Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!”
Part of this advice to us husbands and fathers looks fairly obvious. We are to praise our wives. While it is simple, do you do it? Regularly? If so, give yourself a pat on the back! If not, why not?
Regardless of how close your wife comes to the pattern described in Proverbs 31, you must find those things she does well and you must praise her for those actions! Look for the good she does and recognize her for it. If you have children, then praise her in front of your children! they need to recognize all she does as well.
This same idea works for your employees or co-workers. Find the good they do and praise them for it. Don’t get stuck in the lie that praise will ruin them and spoil them. Praise them for their progress and watch that progress grow!
Subtle Aspect Of Praise
Don’t miss the part that is not so obvious. When the husband praises her in this verse, he says that she surpasses all of the other women. Do you think that is 100% accurate, that she is better than every other woman at all she does? I think it is unlikely.
However, his praise in this manner lets her know that in his eyes, the only ones that matter, she surpasses all the others. He lets her know that his eyes are only on her and that she is the only one he sees!
With employees, they need to hear something similar in that they need to know we still believe in them. They need to know that we are committed to them and that we are not looking elsewhere for their replacement every time they miss a target or make a mistake. Praise them in this way.
Give Her The Reward
Give her the reward of her labor,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Once again, part of this is obvious and part is a little more subtle. The obvious advice is that we are to reward our wives for the work they do. We are to reward them in ways that are specific to them. This is not a one size fits all kind of reward.
We need to get creative here and reward her in ways that communicate our appreciation for her commitment. This is not a once-a-year vase of flowers on Mother’s Day or her birthday. This kind of reward should be random, unexpected, and creative. It should reflect thought and planning, not just a last minute Hallmark card.
Our employees should get the very same treatment. They should be compensated in such a way that is equal to the work they do. But we should also work at rewarding them in other small ways in order to show them our appreciation for what they do. Again, these rewards are not the same for everyone, but they should happen in some way for everyone at one time or another.
Spread The Praise
The more subtle advice in this verse comes from the last part of the sentence…”let her works praise her at the city gates.” What in the world does that mean? I will say that I am not positive, but I do have an opinion. Until I hear a better explanation, I am sticking to my own!
Think about it this way. How do those at the city gates find out about her works? Some of her works may spread by word of mouth from the marketplace, but I think it should come from us! If we husbands and fathers are the ones at the city gates, then we should be talking about how great our wives are. We should be praising them behind their backs!
Why not? Just because it is the cultural norm for husbands to talk down about the “old ball and chain” or their “old lady” in ways that make the wives out to be tyrants, does that mean we should do the same? NO! We should be singing their praises to those around us. Just imagine the swelling of their hearts if they hear from someone else how we were praising them in a crowd, behind their back!
The same is still true for our employees and co-workers. Praising them to people outside of our workplace will only increase their commitment to our company when word gets back to them. Doing this same thing to their spouses or children even multiplies the effect! Just give it a try and see if I am right!
What other advice did you glean from Proverbs 31?
What changes do you need to make to heed this advice?
Do you see the value of Proverbs 31 advice, even in the workplace?
I want you to imagine for a moment that you are a fan of the Atlanta Falcons professional football team. You believe there is great hope in the upcoming season. You are intently following their offseason moves so you get a better idea of exactly HOW good the upcoming season will be. Then you see the following in the newspaper:
5 New Star Falcons!
Your first thoughts are full of excitement and you can’t wait to see the names of these new stars on the team. As you read through the article, your mood changes. In fact, it gets downright maddening as you see the details of the new players that have been signed.
Why are you frustrated? As it turns out, your favorite team has signed five of the best players in the league. While that SHOULD be a good thing, the truth is it is not. Unfortunately for you, all five of the “all-star” players that were signed are quarterbacks!
What Are They Thinking?
Granted, with a possible exception here or there, these are arguably the best five quarterbacks in the league right now. There is no question they are the best. The problem is that no team needs five quarterbacks! Of course, the Falcons’ ownership realizes this…
Which is why they are planning to play these new stars on the offensive line.
Seriously? You can’t believe your eyes! What are they thinking?
Diversity Is Necessary!
Obviously, this is fiction – don’t get too worked up! But clearly, there is a huge point here relating to business, churches, and any other organization. The point here is that diversity is a major benefit to an organization and the lack of it can be just as deadly.
Think about it. Too many people with the same skills and talents, the same perspectives and opinions, etc. can be a good thing if your only goal is harmony. You won’t likely have many arguments or confrontations this way, but do you really think you will be more effective this way?
The problem with this picture is that most organizations have a variety of jobs that need to be done. Each of these jobs require differing skill sets and talents. Just like a football team has different positions that require different body types, sizes, flexibility, and speed, your organization cannot be effective if everyone is just alike.
Good At One, Good At Another?
While the five quarterbacks mentioned above are likely among the best at the quarterback position, they are not nearly big enough or strong enough to play on the offensive line. Even if they are better at their position than the current offensive line is at theirs, that does not mean it is a good idea to put them in this position.
Yet, often we do this very thing in our businesses. We see someone that is good at sales and just assume she is also good at managing other people. So we promote her without considering that these two jobs require very different skills and abilities.
I am sure you can think of similar examples of this kind of behavior in your organization. I can promise you we have made this mistake more than once. In fact, I have been guilty of this myself – with my own job.
My Own Job!
For years, I have tried to do certain parts of my job even though I am not very skilled at these parts of the job. I did them because I knew they had to be done and felt I was the only one who could do them.
Fortunately, during a one-on-one coaching session, my C12 chairman told me that I was not at all good at these parts of my job! He did not mince words, but told me exactly what I needed to hear. I am so thankful for this kind of wisdom and accountability!
I Followed The Advice
As a result, I have been on a search for someone that IS skilled at these tasks. I am determined I am not going to continue making the same mistake because I know how much it is limiting the success of our company.
Sure, it is certainly humbling to realize that I am not able to do everything our organization needs out of my position. I would love nothing more than to be able to fill this role in a way that takes the company to new heights. At the same time, I realize that God did not wire me that way.
My gifts and talents are absolutely useful in our company, just not in the roles I have been playing. I am okay with that.
Example From Scripture
Just so we are sure these principles are true and not just my opinion, let’s take a look at Scripture that backs this up.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:17-20
Can you see how this works in a business? This same principle that Paul describes as the body of Christ works for a business, non-profit organization, or any other group of people with a common purpose.
I would encourage you to look around your business (and in the mirror!) to see if you have the diversity of skills, perspectives, gifts, etc. that you need. If not, make a conscious effort to begin the process of correcting this problem. In my next post, we will look at how diversity may not be enough.