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Month: August 2020

A Question and A Prayer

Unlike most calls I get these days from executives, this guy’s team was not struggling; as a matter of fact, his division had led the company in production and profits for many years. Everything was still on track even in this current world of uncertainty. When I asked him how he had accomplished this, without the slightest hesitation or posturing, he gave a little credit to “the luck of the draw” on his part, but the lion’s share of the success he attributed to the great work of the people on his team.

I asked him what was on his mind. In a few bullet points, he had clarified his vision for the future of the team and the organization – no questions about it. But the next words out of his mouth made it clear that he was also very much at home with the need for asking important questions. “Over the last few months,” he said, “I have been asking myself, what is it about me that is keeping this team from moving to the next level?”

While many executives these days are looking outside themselves asking what is wrong with the organization or their team from a place of pride, this guy was looking inside for a better answer grounded in humility.

What is it about me? This may be the best question of all questions. Put forward, in different words from different angles, by philosophers, poets, and prophets, found in prayers, speeches, and books since civilization began, it is perhaps the one crucial question necessary for growth and  advancement of an organization and society.

In many ancient tribal cultures, the warriors (the leaders of the tribe) are said to have strived to walk as if every step were a prayer. I have yet to learn what those prayers might have actually been or if this only figuratively represented a posture of humility and gratitude. But I believe if there were such a prayer, “a walking prayer,” and that there was a warrior who did indeed pray this prayer on his road to leadership, it might have gone something like the following—a  modern reworking of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it is me.

Journal Entry: What is your first question and what is your prayer when things get way off track in your leadership in life?

3 Questions Good Leaders Ask Themselves:   

  1. “When people walk away from me, is their potential activated or constrained?
  2. “Who will replace me, and is he or she ready?”
  3. “Do I spend enough time with my team?”

These questions were adapted from an article in The Muse by Jo Miller. Read more from Jo at www.beleaderly.com.

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” – Corrie ten Boom

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  The Bible, 2 Chronicles 7:14

    The Work Will Teach You

    The Work Will Teach You

    Last year I met with a young man in his mid ’30s who want to be a business consultant similar to what I do. I was happy to help him and asked him what he’d been doing to become a consultant. He said that he has been working on his business financial plan, as well as a business name and card. He had completed several courses to be certified to do the work.  He was now focused on a website, brochure,  and wanted me to help him with proposal writing because if he had all this done,  he felt he might be ready to go. So I  ask “ so besides proposal writing ideas, what questions to do you have for me? He said,” How do I learn how to consult?” I said, “ Find one client and start working with them, and the work will teach you.” He seemed disappointed with my answer. I added , “Let me know when you get a client, and I’ll be happy to help you make your work successful .” I have not heard back from him.   

    In my consulting work these days, I talk with too many top-level managers who are mentally pacing the aisles and counting the days, hoping for the answer on how to make it through this stress filled time. “ When things get back to normal or something close to it –  then we’ll do something,” they say.  They are clinging to a vision of a safe station where  “ the pressure is off, and we can think again” and hoping that somebody, smarter or more certified than they are,  will give them the answer they need.

    On the other hand,  there have been some leaders and their teams who have decided that this shelter-in-place environment is their norm, and it most probably will be the norm for a good long while. But they didn’t just accept this reality; they took this reality as a challenge. A challenge that they believe they are called to figure it out. They have decided  to  just jump in, have fun, and let the work of trying something new teach them their answers.  A few examples are of things theses types of teams have experimented with are:

    • Holding highly interactive team events online with everyone setting in a room together 6 feet apart
    • Bringing in socially distanced ice cream truck each week in their parking lot
    • Walking around as a masked team and applauding employees being essential
    • Asking everyone to master a new skill by year-end and share their goal with a co-worker and
    • One group asked everyone in the organization to read this poem:   

    The Station, by Robert Hastings – a reminder that the joy of life is the journey and not the destination.

    Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

    But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled, and so many pieces of our lives will finally be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

    However, sooner or later, we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

    “When we reach the station that will be it!” we cry. Translated, it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it!( When Covid 19 is cured)  I shall live happily ever after!”

    Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

    “Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

    So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

    Journal Entry: What decision do you need to make about how you look at this current situation?  What will you do to make the most of this one station journey in your leadership and life?


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