Category: saltJournal

Bob’s daily blog of leadership points.

Can You Hear Me? Part 1

Communicating is mechanically defined, but far more complicated. Let me explain. For years I have heard there are six messages that take place every time someone speaks. There is what we think we say and what we actually say. Then, there is what the other person hears us say and what they think they heard us say. In addition, there is what they say back about what we have said and, finally, what we hear them say about what we said in the first place.

Communication also involves the actual words spoken, body language and tone of voice. When we consider these factors it does not take long to see how complicated communication can be, regardless of the language.

In some ways, trying to communicate is like golf. Consider the difficulty of having the perfect swing. The perfect golf swing involves the position of the feet, squaring of the hips, arms straight, hand grip, and oh yes, keeping your head down and eye on the ball. If you feel comfortable, you probably are not doing it right. Golf is a good analogy of the difficulty in communication.

Yet, effective communication is vital to leadership. The key to this statement is “effective.” There are several steps needed to communicate effectively as a leader. The first to consider is listening. Wait a minute, I thought communication was about an ability to speak? The ability of leaders to listen is one of the building blocks to effective communication. Here are a few of the many ideas suggested in developing the skill of listening.

1)  Listening is not passive. In his article on 7 Keys to Listening, Dr. Mort Orman addresses the active nature of listening. A passive approach to listening easily results in distraction and a failure to understand the message being communicated.

2)  Do not think about what to say next. Few areas are more difficult than learning how to listen without waiting for the person to take a breath so we can jump in and give our two cents worth. Michael Webb describes the problem as “Knowing the answer.”

3)  Listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. Dr. Larry Alan Nadig says, “it is as if we were standing in the other person’s shoes, seeing through his/her eyes and listening through the person’s ears.” Listening this way requires time and practice to develop properly.

4) Learn to repeat what is heard. While a wealth of information is available, in order to build better relationships with others, one of the key exercises recommended is learning to repeat the information shared. Here is where effective communication is realized.

Can I Get An Amen Here?

We have all known a Negative Nancy, Gloomy Glen, and Defeatist Dan. The power of such pessimism changes the course of life and destroys hope for the future. Leadership cannot survive under such influence. There must be something better for men and women who are seeking for someone to provide guidance.

The difficulty of obtaining and maintaining a positive attitude is the misconception of how a positive attitude is developed. Too often, the tendency is to believe external circumstances control our mental faculties. If I only had more money, I would have a great attitude. If my family would just get along, my attitude would be fine. If I only had better health, looked younger, etc., etc., etc. Do such external circumstances really determine our attitude?

The answer to this question is simple, only if we allow it! Attitude is a choice. Leaders cannot allow circumstances to dictate their attitude, but rather they must choose the kind of attitude that dictates the circumstances. In reality, it will anyway. So why not choose a positive attitude?

Attitude determines our actions; how we treat our family, our friends, co-workers, and, yes, even the people we do not know. We will also find that our attitude affects the attitude of others. How then do we obtain and maintain a positive attitude? Here are four suggestions.

1. Eat the right food. No, I am not talking about the substance we stick in our mouths, although it does help. More can be read here. However, I am talking about what we put into our minds. Read Philippians 4:8 and truly “think on these things.”

2. Set and achieve a goal everyday. Few areas in life help develop a positive attitude better than achievement. When we set and achieve daily goals there is a constant and consistent sense of accomplishment. Do not let the big picture become so overwhelming it hinders the development of a positive attitude.

3. Get some exercise. I am not talking about running a marathon, but get out and move the body. Go for a walk, jog, ride a bike, or lift weights. Do something to get the endorphins and heart pumping. Exercise does a great deal for one’s mental attitude. A sedentary lifestyle leads to being lethargic and ultimately a negative or depressed attitude.

4. Write it down. This is just the basic reinforcement. We need to see it everyday. I have a picture in the office that says, “be the most positive, enthusiastic person you know.” Write it on a post-a-note and place it on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car dash, and work station. We all need a constant reminder of the positive attitude we should display and writing it down will help.

What Will We Give?

Sacrifice is often used to describe the event of the crucifixion, and quite accurately.

Jesus willingly laid down His life as payment for a debt we owed and could not pay. He did not deserve the cruelty He received. He had no sin. He committed no crime. He never acted inappropriately or spoke deceitfully. His was the ultimate sacrifice.

What will we give in repayment? Would we die for Him? Before answering too quickly, perhaps a better question is will we live for Him? If we are not willing to live for Him, we would never be willing to die for Him. No sacrifice.

In order for one to follow Jesus, there will be sacrifice, Lk. 9:23.

Therefore, as a disciple or a leader, there is sacrifice. Leadership requires sacrifice. Motivation is often determined by financial gain, power, personal achievement, or maybe changing the world. Regardless of the motivation, good or bad, leading others will require sacrifice. John Maxwell describes it as “giving up to go up.”

As a disciple or a leader, we give up the right to think about self. Sacrifice: what will we give?

What would we be willing to do if we knew we could not fail? Will we make the sacrifice?

Take a few minutes and write down a list of priorities. What are we willing to sacrifice to accomplish our priorities? To save the world Jesus gave His life. To change it will take ours. Think about it.

Principle of the Hand

There is a risk. Rarely is anything more difficult. However, the payoff brings multiplied growth as a leader.

The principle of the hand.

Paul’s concluding words to Timothy encouraged this young preacher to guard it. Paul had confidence in Christ to guard it. His second letter urged Timothy to give it to the faithful.

The principle of the hand.

Leaders recognize the abilities in others.

Achievement requires believing in others.

Success results when it is placed into the hand of others.

The principle of the hand is about entrusting others with responsibility. To entrust means “to place into the hand of another.” Timothy was instructed to guard the gospel placed into his hands. Jesus was able to guard what Paul had placed into His hands. Timothy was responsible to take the message placed into his hand and place it into the hands of the faithful.

God has entrusted us with the gospel. He carefully placed it into our hands. Are we worthy of His trust??

We have the responsibility to place it into the hands of someone else. Find one person this week and assist them in a specific task: pump the gas for someone, help carry or unload someone’s groceries, allow someone to step ahead of you at the post office, or whatever opportunity presents itself. Speak to them, and tell them what God has been doing in your life. Before you finish, remember to ask them for an e-mail address to send them personalized information about the church. Allow God to open the door, step through it, and watch God provide the blessing.

I Get No Respect…

Rodney Dangerfield’s classic line launched a career in comedy. Tiger Woods’ indiscretion revealed major cracks in character, costing him greatly. Shamsiddi Abdur-Raheem’s decision in anger destroyed the life of an infant. Scandal, deceit, immorality, unethical tactics, murder, along with hundreds of inappropriate activities result in a loss of respect.

What can take a life time to earn can be lost in a moment of poor decision. Respect is vital to leadership. Clearly, people follow leaders they respect.

While many reasons can be stated costing someone respect, the question every leader must consider is, how do I gain respect? Consider a few possibilities.

1)  Show respect. Jim Selman applied a connection between leadership and respect by pointing out “a culture of respect begins with a commitment to seeing everyone as worthy of respect.” Every individual being created in the image of God establishes the basis for this respect. Joe Torre, former head coach of the New York Yankees, would identify respect as a two way street. If respect is desired, respect must be given.

2)  Make wise decisions. Wisdom is gained through one’s own personal experience and knowledge or the personal experience and knowledge of others. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Making wise decisions begins with recognizing consequences. Making the right choices in our personal life helps others see wisdom at work. Fox News published 10 steps to wise decision making worth the read. One of the best ways to gain respect is to make wise decisions.

3)  Follow through. Planning takes follow through. Wise decisions require follow through. Bad decisions are the result of bad follow through? When we tell someone we are going to do something, then do it. Commitment does not change with a better offer, nor when obstacles arise. David spoke of the integrity demonstrated by the one who “swears to his own hurt, and does not change.” Follow through speaks volumes regarding respect.

4)  Admit mistakes. As difficult as it can be to admit, we are not perfect. We are going to make mistakes, and guess what? Everyone else knows we make mistakes. Phil Holberton shows how respect is earned in leadership by admitting mistakes. Admitting mistakes, learning from them, and striving to never make them again moves mountains in gaining respect.

5)  Express gratitude. Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “thank you.” The expression of gratitude begins with God, “from whom all blessings flow.” Expressing gratitude flows from the whole of life, not just a one time act. Improving our ability to express true gratitude begins in a few simple steps. Learning to send a card, make a phone call, or a personal expression of gratitude goes far in gaining respect.

Can I Trust You?

The question of trust is one of far reaching magnitude. Trust is a cornerstone of leadership. The moment followers cannot trust you, they will look for another leader. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”

History records men who failed to find success in leadership because they lost trust. The Watergate scandal is a prime example of the consequences when trust is lost. Richard Nixon’s resignation speech indicated the results in congress.

While it is true, followers must be able to trust their leader, a greater spiritual application exists. We know the necessity of trusting God. We have all heard sermons, listened to prayers, and read passages emphasizing trust.  Scripture teaches us to “trust in the Lord with all our heart” Pro. 3:5-7.

However, there is another angle we must consider. Can God trust us? The question penetrates the heart of every child of God and it should be an arrow into the heart of every leader. Can God trust us to lead His people in the direction of truth? Can He trust us to establish a foundation for people to reach heaven?

Trust is vital, but how do we build trust?

1)  Demonstrate reliability. One of the greatest ways to build trust is to be trustworthy, reliable. The old adage “my word is my bond” is critical for leadership trust. Jesus said, “let your statement be, ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no.'” Trust results when others observe the genuine nature of following through on our word.

2)  Be ready and willing to sacrifice. People know we love them by the sacrifices we make in leading them. Years ago I heard a phrase deserving of thought, “love is not so much what you give, its what you give up.” Leadership requires sacrifice. What are you and I willing to give up to lead God’s people? Will we give up our own comforts for the comfort of others? Will we put others above self?

3)  Avoid hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is destructive to leadership at every level. The 80’s seemed to be a time when many of the spiritual leaders in America fell prey to immorality and unethical practices, i.e. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Trust was lost. The same occurs today when a leader’s life is not consistent with their message.  Kouzes and Posner say “the video needs to match the audio.”

4)  Seek and follow wise counsel. Wisdom is gained through experience and listening to others. Good leaders will counsel others who have walked the path and experienced similar struggles. Solomon wrote, “a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” However, it does little good to seek wise counsel and not put it in practice. Mistakes can be avoided in leadership through the wise counsel of others.

5) Trust God. The plaguing question is “how do I trust God.” Noah demonstrated trust in God by being obedient in all things. Abraham demonstrated trust in his willingness to sacrifice is son, Isaac. Hezekiah demonstrated trust through prayer, not relying on his own power, but God’s. Perhaps the answer to trusting in God is found in the need for us to obey Him in all areas, be willing to do whatever it takes, and stop trying to do it by our own power and rely upon God.

Preparation

Proper preparation prevents poor performance.  I have heard of the 5 P’s for years.  Preparation is one of the fundamentals worthy of a leaders investment.  More specifically, leaders must invest in “proper preparation.”

Preparation is usually an activity stimulated by a need ahead.  When the need is evident, preparation begins.

Spiritually speaking, the Bible is filled with an emphasis on preparation.  Jesus used a parable to teach the urgency of preparation in Matthew 25:1-13.  Why? We do not know the day nor hour of His return. Are we prepared?

With regards to leadership, proper preparation is vital to be a successful leader. Preparation involves learning from past mistakes, counseling with others, and counting the cost before committing.  The following suggestions will also provide assistance in making proper preparation.

1)  Know the destination…in advance. The old adage “flying by the seat of your pants” requires no preparation, but can be destructive to leadership. Leaders need to know where they want to go.  This involves setting goals and it has application in every area of life, especially in preparing lessons.

2)  Establish priorities. Establishing priorities involves organizing what must be done first. Leaders need to develop the ability to determine the right priorities, personally, professionally, and spiritually.

3)  Find a balance between impulsive and procrastination. Patience is a virtue. Look before you leap. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These quotes speak of the need to prepare.  Procrastination will destroy leadership, but being impulsive will also. Finding a balance between the two will aid leadership in preparing to know the right time to act.

4)  Be aware of possible barriers. Fear impacts many efforts to leadership.  People often fear change, uncertainty of the future, the unknown, and an endless list of phobias. Leaders need to prepare for obstacles arising out of fear. Recognizing fear allows a good leader an opportunity to prepare a way out of fear to freedom. Jesus did the same.

5) Acknowledge “every” success. Victory / success helps to develop confidence and strength to move forward. Success is not only important to achieve overall, it is also vital to recognize the small victories along the way. At every opportunity, leaders work to build up followers, encourage and instill confidence.

6)  Set regular times for evaluation. The discussion on goals in the Essentials of Leadership, lays a foundation for the necessity of evaluation. Preparation to meet goals includes a time to examine progress and make necessary adjustments.

Influence

The power of influence is underestimated more than any area associated with leadership. The tendency is to believe only a few who live or are placed in the “public eye” have influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. The words of Charles Barkley still echo concerning the power of influence, “I am not a role model.” What causes men in the public eye, such as Tiger Woods and Mark McGwire, to deny, ignore, excuse, or seek to justify inappropriate behavior in spite of their influence?

Consider the influence of leaders throughout history, such as Hitler or Stalin. From a more positive perspective, maybe consideration would be given to the influence of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. A range of Biblical examples also stand out, such as Moses, Joshua, Jezebel, Manasseh, Paul or Peter. The influence of Jesus continues to impact millions of people around the world.

Few people realize the power of their influence and even fewer invest in their influence.  John Maxwell has published a number of resources dealing with influence. He claims we individually influence at least four people everyday. This fact alone should move us to learn more about leadership. Every spoken or written word influences others. Every action demonstrated influences others.

Remembering several facts about influence should help us see the need to invest in our leadership influence.

1.  Someone is always watching. Children watch their parents. Employees watch their employers. In general, we all watch our peers. No matter who we are or where we live, someone is always watching. As Christians, this statement takes on even greater application. People watch to make sure our lives are consistent with our message.

2.  People often imitate what is seen in others. Even though every person has influence, the majority of the world is looking for someone to follow. Since this is true, it should make us think. If we want people to do better, they need to see a better way of life. The way you and I live can provide this kind of influence. The very life of Jesus was lived and recorded in light of this purpose.

3.  Teaching right is easier than doing right. Application of truth is the most difficult of tasks. Mark Twain once said, “to be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler–and less trouble.” Generally speaking, most folks know exactly what everyone else should be doing, but rarely make the same application personally. Influence is based on living an example of the teaching.

4.  We can only change ourselves. In reality, we attempt to change others first. We want others to accept the plan, but not the man. “Do what I say and not what I do” is far too often the unspoken law of hypocritical influence. Imagine how different our world would be if we were all busy working to first improve our own influence.

5.  No better gift can be given than a good example. Paul instructed Timothy to be an example of those who believe in five areas, “speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” If all parents gave their children an example in these five areas, we could be one generation away from changing the entire “world view.” This is the power of influence!

Potential

The spoken or written word has powerful potential.  The mass media strives to utilize this potential with every post.

Goals and plans have incredible potential when researched, thought out, written down, verbalized and maintained through implementation.

Leadership involves potential.  Recognizing potential relates back to the discussion of character.  When character consists of qualities such as integrity, honesty, decisiveness, and strong work ethic there is a strong foundation for the greatest potential.

Everyone has potential!  However, we must work to develop our abilities to reach our greatest potential.  As leaders, we must also determine a plan by which we can help others reach their greatest potential, utilizing the qualities and skills of each person to achieve the common goal.

Within the realm of spiritual leadership, recognizing potential is a necessity.  Too often potential is hindered by the limitations placed upon self, others, and ultimately God.  How can someone reach their greatest potential?  How can leaders help others reach their greatest potential?

Consider the following:

1)            Do not limit God!!!! Leaders must not allow themselves to think God cannot do it because “I” cannot do it.

2)            Start thinking “BIG” Since God is able to do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” Eph. 3:20, then the question becomes, how big can we think?  Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  For someone who built an empire from the concept of an animated mouse, just what can God accomplish through us in a real way?

3)            Verbalize the possibilities Far more than merely thinking about it, leaders must verbalize the power of potential.

4)            Develop the plan into smaller sections (stages) Doug McNary, former president of Western Union, refers to it as “The Rule Of The Elephant.”  The idea is based upon the question, “how do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is simply, “one bite at a time.”  The analogy emphasizes the need to achieve goals and plans by breaking them down into smaller stages.

5)            Begin NOW! Procrastination must not be a part of the equation. An old African proverb claims “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  The application is true in reaching our potential.  The best time to start was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.

Essentials To Leadership #4

Essentials to life and leadership are the basis upon which we survive and succeed. Water is to life what character is to leadership. The sun brings to life what vision brings to leadership. Enzymes provide to life what passion supplies to leadership. To briefly summarize, the three essentials to leadership we have considered involve character, vision and passion.

The fourth essential to life is air. It is almost humorous to state the obvious, but how do we know air is essential to life? Well, just try to hold your breath for more than five minutes. Seems pretty obvious does it not?

I learned some powerful lessons in a scuba diving course several years ago. One of the exercises involved sitting on the bottom of the harbor. Each student held the hand of a buddy behind them while the oxygen tank was turned off. Once the student experienced what it felt like to run out of oxygen, they would squeeze the buddies hand and they would turn the valve on to release the flow of oxygen from the tank.

The word “interesting” would be an understatement to characterize the experience. I remember vividly when my buddy turned the valve off and for a few seconds I began thinking, “hey, I can breathe under water.” I guess I was convinced at some point I would take a deep breath and be able to hold it for a period of time before needing to squeeze my buddies hand. If you have ever participated in this type of exercise, you know exactly what happened next. While I was thinking I was aqua man, as I was about to take my next breath, all of a sudden there was nothing. It felt like someone had their hands around my throat. The ability to even try to take a breath was gone. I am sure my buddy must have thought I was about to die as I tried to crush their hand. All I wanted was to breathe and would do whatever I had to in order to get the life giving source of oxygen into my lungs.

The necessity of air provides a great foundation to understanding the fourth essential to leadership…goals. David Schwartz wrote, “goals are as essential to leadership as air is to life.” After a brief exercise on the ocean floor, I certainly had a better perspective of the analogy.

Narrowing down the significance of goals in leadership is an incredible task. Goals are more than a dream or wish. Goals are objectives stemming from leadership vision. Goals serve to provide purpose and direction. Goals establish priorities, unity, efficient use of time, and aid in charting the future. With this in mind, several factors need to be considered regarding goals.

The most common approach to goals is referred to as SMART goals. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Time bound. At another time, it will be important to look at each in detail. For now, the ideas must speak for themselves.

When considering goal setting and goal achieving, it is necessary to examine the plans for reaching goals through SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis looks at the goal(s) and examines the development of programs within the plan to reach the goal(s) by the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Realizing there are hundreds of ideas regarding how to set and achieve goals, a few important areas should be considered:

1)  Start at the finish line: In Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the second habit is to begin with the end in mind. What do you want people to say about you and your character at your funeral? Whatever it is, begin now to work on living it. The same principle is true with goals for any individual or organization.

2)  Understand where you begin: In the movie “Magnum Force,” Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) tells the mayor and his lieutenant,  “a good man’s gotta know his limitations.” What are your strengths and weaknesses? Without knowing personal and team strengths and/or weaknesses, obstacles are bound to occur that could and can be prevented.

3)  Manage your time well: Time management is vital to the success of achieving goals. However, developing time bound goals involves establishing priorities. Leaders must know what must be done first.

4)  WRITE IT DOWN: A study conducted at Dominican University has proven a substantial difference when students wrote down their goals versus students who did not. The results establish a precedence for anyone who leads…write down your goals.

5)  Sustain motivation: It is easy to build up morale and excitement to begin a project, but to sustain it is another issue all together. Determine from the beginning how and where points of evaluation will be needed and what will be done to sustain motivation toward the goal.