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Planting a Strategy

Planting a Strategy

I have helped a few non-profit organizations develop plans over the years. The ones that minister to homeless people, Gospel Rescue Missions, have been my favorites for over a decade. In December 2020, I  was asked to write an article about strategic planning for a national association of these missions, who rescue people to recover from addictions to find a new life in Christ. Over time,  I adapted my traditional planning approach to fit the needs of these purpose-driven places, which deal with more uncertainties,  struggle with more complex “friendly” competitors, and have fewer resources than any real business out there.

I haven’t written much about my approach to non-profit planning, but that needs to change. Non-profits have learned some lessons we all need to know. Nowadays, almost every business is struggling with unyielding insecurity, vague new entrants, and fewer resources; I thought this might be a good time to share a  few ideas from the article with you.      

Strategic Planning is called the art of the general. The premise is to set up a sequence of moves that capitalizes on your strengths and exploit your competitor’s weaknesses so that you win, and they lose in a competitive marketplace. Building a numbers-driven pressuring to win accountability culture is the goal. For decades, this blood-on-the-field military mindset has been the language in organizational strategy development, but with limited success. 

A McKinsey Quarterly survey of nearly 800 executives reported that only 45% of respondents were satisfied with the strategic-planning process. Only 23% indicated that major strategic decisions were made within its confines.

Strategic Planting™, which I call “the art of the gardener,” is grounded in the assumption that an organization’s only competition is itself. The goal is to grow a culture that educates and empowers staff to take informed risks and invent a new future by looking inside and capitalize on their unique internal factors.    

Strategic Planters focus 100% of their energy and resources on culture building. They ignore “competition,” except to learn from competitors’ mistakes. Creating a healthy life-giving culture with emotionally engaged responsibility is the aim. When a CEO  and their team purposefully invest in a growing environment where people know “for sure” that they have the freedom to take risks. When also resourced to invent a future that has never existed, employees gladly take responsibility. Performance improves intrinsically – instead of being manipulated to meet some accountable number. Doing Strategic Planting takes time and hard work, but it is a mind-shift worth considering.

The goal of strategic planning is to improve performance and win. The Goal of Strategic Planting™ is to grow a culture that inspires people to improve Performance and have fun doing it. Winning is a by-product.  

Journal Entry: If these ideas intrigues you, here are three conversation points to have with your team as you to contemplate the benefits of planting a strategy:

  1. Talk about what makes a healthy organization healthy.
  2. Discuss how your organization’s purpose serves humanity
  3. Brainstorm the characteristics of a life-giving culture.

If you would like to see a copy of my article “Planting a Strategy, An organic approach to growing a healthy organization,” just send an email, and we will be happy to forward the article link when it is published. 

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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Christmas Light

Christmas Light

With a past life filled with fear, depression and loneliness, the Grinch sat with his dog in a cave for years and years – a victim of circumstances. He believed there was no light at the end of his tunnel. Then one day he had a vision and decided to take a bold action, a horribly mean action, to get back at those who he believed had destroyed his life. In the dark of night, he stole all the Christmas gifts, gadgets and groceries in Whoville and piled them in his cave. Then that next morning, the Grinch stood on his mountaintop in defiant expectation of hearing sobs of “Christmas lost” from the village below. Instead he heard songs of “Christmas found.”    

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”*

2020

This year has been full of fear, depression and loneliness. We were instructed to sit at home, with our pets, in quarantine. We are victims of circumstances, and it looks like Christmas will be much the same. People are asking, “When will we get back to normal? Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?”

Tunnel

Folks, this is normal. This is the tunnel. It will be here for a while. We can wait on others to change our circumstance or we can claim a new vision (not a mean one) and take a bold step to bring light into our tunnel. An action step is something each of us needs to take, but as you have probably discovered, actions cannot be sustained for long through sheer determination or self-discipline alone. They require a change of heart. 

“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” *

Journal Entry:  Keeping your tunnel light bright is not easy during times of constant change. Fortunately, there is a source of light that doesn’t change. It  isn’t affected by COVID spread, the economic upheaval or political discord or found in having more packages, boxes or bags. It’s the light that appeared when God spoke four words, and the world was born. This same light  appeared over 2000 years ago, in a star above a manger. It was there to announce the offer of gift of a purposeful and peaceful life to anyone who truly  believes in the authentic reason for this season. Where do you find the heart of Christmas and how will you light up the tunnel for others in your leadership and life?

Quotes Worth Noting

Four Words: “ And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” The Bible, Genesis 1:3 KJV

Christ’s Birth: “So, they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Luke 2: 16-19

*From – How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Suess

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It’s how you look at it

This week I drove to The Tutwiler Barber Shop, where I get a monthly cut with my barber Mimi, is located in the historic Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. When I walked into the shop, I could see that Mimi had blade in hand and was just about the finish another client’s hot shave. Since I had a few minutes, I walked through the back door and down the hall to get a cup of coffee. That quick detour took me past the hotel janitors’ storage area and locker room. The door was wide open, so I peeked in.

Across the room, past the cleaning supplies, brooms and vacuum cleaners, I  saw a pink poster board (shown on the left) taped on the side of an olive-green locker, which was tattooed with a lifetime of dents and scrapes. The heartfelt words hand-printed by three members of the hotel janitorial staff stopped me in my tracks. If you can’t make out the words on your screen, it reads:   

“It has been awesome to watch all of us adapt to our new changes and the entire housekeeping team sparked this whole new world. I’m forever grateful and just thank you so much. Please enjoy your ‘Fuel the Clean!’”

I have no idea what “Fuel the Clean!” means, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that three $12 an hour laborers, who clock in daily to do a thankless job, took time out of their paycheck-to-paycheck life to reflect on the bigger picture of 2020. They then stepped up to publicly show appreciation for their fellow workers who adapted to meet this change head on. Writing technique aside, we can all sense the heartfelt message intended to remind workers of a group of exhausted folks, “who sparked this whole new world,” that they too are essential workers.  

On November 8, 2020, Alex Trebek, the legendary host of the TV gameshow Jeopardy, died after a long battle with cancer. Before he died, he recorded this message which was shown on Thanksgiving Day. “In spite of what America and the rest of the world is experiencing right now, there are many reasons to be thankful,” he told viewers. “There are more and more people extending helpful hands to do a kindness to their neighbors, and that’s a good thing.” He concluded with: “Keep the faith; we’re going to get through all of this, and we will be a better society because of it.”

I hope Alex is right. I guess it all depends on how you look at it.  

Journal Entry: I have a new ground rule now. When I meet with or talk with clients and other people I know well, no one is allowed is begin a sentence with “In this time of unprecedented change… , When this is over, we will… , The light at the end of the tunnel… , or any related victim-like “we can’t until” statements. From three housekeeping leaders who clean the presidential  suites and the a famous TV star who spent many nights in them, the message is the same:  it depends on how you look at what you can’t control in your leadership and life.    

QUOTES

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” – George Carlin

“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?” – Shannon L. Alder

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – the Book of Matthew 17:20 (New International Version)

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Thanking Who

Today many of us will sit around a food-filled table with a few friends or family.  Some of us will stop before the meal and acknowledge people and other things we are thankful for in our life.  We also can be grateful to Who made us and continues to faithfully bless those who honor Him in their Leadership and Life.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations

Psalm 100 NIV

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and not we ourselves [a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Have a joyful day!  

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Lost and Found

He swooped into Dodge City driving a six-horse wagon and totin’ a full pocket of cash. His aim, and only aim,  was to win Miss Kitty’s heart. He worked all days and nights with all his might and with all his money, but to no avail. The more he pushed, the more she pulled away. Her heart was and always would be in the Long Branch Saloon and with her man, Marshall Matt Dillon.

Finally, fully exhausted and broke, this once-rich man leaves town walking alongside an old donkey with a half-empty knapsack thrown over his sagging shoulder.

This episode of Gunsmoke ended showing Matt, Doc and Kitty all leaning against a hitching post.  Together they watch the man saunter into the sunset. Matt said, “He looks awfully lonely.” Kitty looked up, fluttered her dark lashes and replied, “There is nothing as lonely as a man who’s lost his dream.” 

The year 2020 has been a time of loneliness and lost dreams for far too many people. Recent national surveys report that over 50% of employees say they are burned out. Now, I could list signs of burnout you can look for in people , but if you care enough to pay attention, you will notice that tired and alone look in a person’s  eyes, even on Zoom. I believe that some of this personal exhaustion is self-imposed, but some of it is not.

These days some organizations and senior leaders try to improve productivity by demanding more — pushing people to do more with less — more hours, more projects, more email, and more output. This is truer now than ever, given the global pandemic and economic fallout since. But always focusing on “more” may be a mistake as it can lead to overwork and burnout. As you know, after a certain point, additional hours spent working don’t necessarily translate into additional productivity.

The reason behind the diminishing productivity can be explained by what social scientists call the effort-recovery model. This model emphasizes that recovery is essential after a period of extended effort to prevent burnout. Insufficient recovery can result in diminished performance. Rest provides the fuel necessary for hard work and can help prevent  burnout.

Journal Entry: What do you notice in the eyes of the people you work with and live with every day? Lost Dreams? Loneliness? I hope you don’t see either of these, but if you do and you would like to help this person, consider this: First ask these three questions below to yourself. After you do this, ask the same questions to that person who may be struggling.

  1. What goals did you hope to reach in 2020?
  2. How those have worked out or not worked out?  
  3. What have you learned about what you need to do more or less this year and next?

After you mention these questions, just listen to what he or he has to share without offering any advice. Let them decide what they have lost and found in their leadership or life.

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

CLICK HERE to read “How to Foster Resilience & Prevent Burnout”.

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This or That?

This or that?  

“It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality.” ― Og Mandino, author 

For the first few years their stage name was The Four Aims. That changed in 1956 when they became The Four Tops, a dancing group that sang. Over those beginning years, they waffled from singing to dancing but, even then, were leaning toward dance. They focused on choreographing their rhythm and swag stage presence and were very proud of it. In 1959, while performing as the warm-up act for a big headliner in a famous night club, they were still dancing and singing. This night club audience responded with loud applause at the close of each song and wanted more. The owner of the club was pleased. But when he met with them after the show he said, “You guys are good, but the only way you’re going to be great in this world of entertainment is to decide if you’re going to be either dancers or singers.” They decided to sing.

After over three decades with singing as their one thing, The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the group #79 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

It’s easy to move away from your one thing. Years ago, when I joined a national consulting firm, I spent my first years working with individuals and teams around clarity and planning. I loved my work. I was soon promoted, however, and paid quite a bit more money, to become a major client’s main contact while managing a group of consultants who were working with individuals and teams around clarity and planning.

I didn’t love my work anymore. I was told I was good at managing and marketing, but the work wasn’t in my area of giftedness. I had stepped outside my specialty for ego’s sake. Fortunately, I had a coach at that time. He noticed I had lost my zeal and asked me this question: “What makes you feel most alive? Consulting or managing? This or that?”  

I walked away from the security of a big organization back to my work of guiding teams and individuals in creating inspiring strategies for their leadership in life. I love my work again.

Journal Entry: We have all known: a confident employee who took a promotion way outside their area of competence; a business team that chased after a new profit center in a market they had no business being in; a husband and wife who bowed to the popular notion that a busy family is a happy family; or a financially successful person who believes that more leisure will bring purpose and fulfillment in life without considering that there might be loving God who put a life-giving  purpose inside of each of us. This or That? We will all be faced with make a choice at some point in time. Do you have a person who will pose the “this or that” question to you in your leadership and life?

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

The Bible in the book of Mark 8:36

Take a listen to The Four Tops HERE  

Leadership and Life JournalA new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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Unseen Battles

Unseen Battles

When I was in my mid-50s, I went through several unexpected life and work changes. They didn’t seem significant, but at some vague point afterward, I slowly disconnected from life and disengaged from my friends and my family. I sat alone, with no energy, feeling like I was walking in a fog. I even recall being so despondent that I hoped the phone would not ring because it might be a client, who was going to pay me to help, and I didn’t want to talk.

With my wife’s encouragement, I got some professional help to work through what I came to realize was unresolved grief. My breakthrough came when I was able to see and find meaning in those loss events through wise counsel, prayer and physical exercise. That was over 10 years ago in a “normal” world, as compared to the constant uncertain angst we are all living through today. 

Workplace Struggles    

In the September 2020 “McKinsey & Company Quarterly Report” there is an article about a silent struggle in today’s  workplace. The article begins with this line: The pandemic is fueling a wave of grief and loss that threatens to derail leaders and hurt organizations. Yet when addressed, grief can be a creative force that turns loss into inspiration. It goes on to say that a third of all leaders in organizations are slogging through their lives and work while being extremely unproductive due to unresolved grief in their life. I could summarize this article, but I think it is best if you read it, because it could be the most important article you will read this year.

Just click on the link shown below, but before you do, here are a few words of encouragement.

“Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind and speak truth.” From Roll Up Your Sleeves – Leading and Living in a World of Constant Change

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” The Bible in the book of Philippians 4:6-7

CLICK HERE TO READ McKinsey & Company Quarterly Report – Unresolved Grief in the Workplace.

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Performance or Purpose

Performance or Purpose

About a month ago, an organization in the utility industry experienced the accidental death of an employee, a young husband with two children. Attending the funeral of a team member amid the stress of the pandemic was about all the people in this organization could take. To make matters worse, a hurricane hit in the Gulf of Mexico. It did not hit them, but as a good neighbor of the company impacted by the storm, this organization was expected to and had always rallied their resources to assist in this type of emergency. But this time, the CEO said no, it was just too much. He felt the stress they were experiencing could distract workers even more, and another accident could quickly occur. He announced this to his team as they stood silent.

The next day, however, a member of the team came to see the CEO. He said he understood and appreciated his concern. Then he said, “But we need to do this. This is who we are. Please let us go.” The CEO thought for a while and then said OK.

The organization pulled together and rallied to see them off. The emergency rescue effort was a success. The workers all made it safely home. The CEO’s intentional step of refocusing on their purpose helped the organization begin to heal its wounds as each employee regained her or his purpose by doing their best work. Productivity is now at its highest peak in years, as together, they all are on purpose, serving others with their skills and talents. I call this Purpose Management.  

Go for purpose, and you get performance thrown in. Go for performance, and you get neither.

Performance Management System Paradox

Why would an organization continue to use a system that employees loathe, the majority of managers don’t see value in, and on average a manager spends about 210 hours—close to five weeks—doing each year? Add to that, this system seldom, if ever, has the intended result of forcing poor performers to become more accountable.

Why?

The answer involves control, fear, and avoidance. Many managers think that their job is to control people and make results happen rather than inspire people to want to make results happen. There is a fear of confronting a poor performer and speaking the truth to her or him or hurting someone’s feelings. So, we rate a person on a numerical scale, which typically helps avoid a time-consuming awkward conversation, and doing it annually lessens the frequency of this discomfort. Because once an employee sees their force-ranked number or grade, the exchange becomes either too optimistic, somewhat threatening, or mid-range apathetic.  

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Surprisingly, leaders in organizations keep doing force ranked Performance Management over and over again, in different variations or flavors, with the same disappointing outcome. Is there a better way?

“The ox you are searching for might be the one on which you are sitting.” Ancient proverb  

Pandemic Silver Lining

Over the past six months, most organizations have not held formal performance reviews, but in many places, teamwork, collaboration, and quality performance have reached the highest levels in years. The Mckinsey and Company Short List Report of September 2020 stated, “One silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis has been to show businesses how to manage better and achieve greater speed, quality, and cost control. A wartime mindset—defined by decisive crisis management, scenario planning, and a human reflex attuned to the economic and health shocks affecting employees—has been the hallmark of leaders in the crisis so far. Now, as the world feels its way toward recovery and the new opportunities of the next normal, another risk looms. It is that inertia will set in, along with a longing for a return to the performance management based operating style of the days before COVID-19.”

Not all leaders in organizations experienced notable increases in productivity. Still, it is clear that the leaders of the organizations who have excelled had one thing in common; they are consistently reminding employees of the purpose of their organization and are trusting employees to manage themselves. Either by design or default, they empower people to act independently without the business-as-usual management controls and get their job done. This was driven by each team member’s values and purpose that aligned with their organization’s vision, not by a micromanaging boss or a bad or good performance appraisal. The secret sauce was a steady and straightforward recipe of coaching, caring, and reminding people that we need each other to get through this. Could this discovery open up a conversation about the idea that Purpose Management may produce better outcomes than Performance Management?

Purpose Management System Proposition

Why would an organization not build a system that employees will enjoy? One where managers have seen the value in and can spend one hour or so every two weeks intentionally and systematically reminding people of shared goals, then helping them see and apply their gifts and talents or redesign how they do the work they do so they can capitalize on innate abilities, instead of the manager spending five weeks of working on a report that drains the life out of all involved? 

Why?

Because it is hard to do, and most people have never experienced intentional Purpose Management. It’s easier to shell out a mound of money to buy a benchmarked, peer-approved, complex Performance Management System. Seeing is believing, and most managers have never seen one. They read about this idea in the leadership book of the month but never observed this approach modeled by their manager or experienced a purpose-driven environment, or are equipped to facilitate Purpose Management conversation with their team members.

Journal Entry: Do you want to avoid the impulse to abandon the progress you’ve seen in your organization and team during the last six months ? If you’d like to hold on to your learning, here are 3 steps to consider:

 1) Assess: Have your team discuss and note what worked well and what did not so work well over the past few months. Then decide on your top 3 takeaways.

 2) Align: Based on your assessment in #1, identify what needs to stop, start or continue in your culture.

 3) Assign: Decide if you will focus on Performance Management or Purpose Management. Then choose a champion to set up a system to experiment with your decision for a certain timeframe and evaluate. 

If you desire a different outcome, try a different approach to get what you want in leadership and life.    

On point > On purpose

 

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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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