Author Archive

Self-Awareness

January 22, 2020

Fools laugh at others. Wisdom laughs at itself.

When we lack self-awareness, we focus on others. Our conversations are solely about other people–usually how they are silly or stupid or foolish.

Unaware of how that reflects back on us.

When we realize our own strengths, but more importantly, our own foibles and weaknesses, we laugh at ourselves. We laugh, not derisively, but with the joy of understanding that we are human.

Leadership As Getting Outside Yourself

January 21, 2020

I once wrote on leadership every Friday. Then I felt as if I’d run out of anything meaningful to say. In my day job, publicists offer me books to read in order to review. I’ll share one I just received Friday–Formula X: How to Reach Extreme Acceleration in Your Organization by Jurriaan Kamer and Rini van Solingen. It was published in Dutch last June; the English edition will be available Jan. 28.

It is European, so the protagonist is known as a Managing Director rather than General Manager or COO. And the conceit regards Formula 1 racing.

I say protagonist because while the book is about leadership and organizational change, it is written as a story or “fable”. In that regard it reminds me of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.

The protagonist is bright, yet clueless. The story weaves business and personal problems. And it is through learning from how a Formula 1 racing team operates that he learns how to organize the company, build teams, and achieve goals. It is only out of despair that he finally wakes up, gets a clue, and builds a winning team.

Whereas Goldratt was building a Theory of Constraints for optimizing production (it’s a 1980’s book, but still valid), Formula X steps back and looks at organizing the company and all its silos and disfunctions. It’s a blend of Lean and SCRUM (from programming) and Holacracy and other newer ideas.

The model is FASTER (as in racing cars must become…).

  • Focus and clarity
  • Accelerate decisions
  • Simplify
  • Team engagement
  • Elementary physics (Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, but don’t worry about that)
  • Rhythmic learning

The authors use such Lean principles as Respect for People, daily stand ups (quick meetings), a form of 5S, using the people to find root causes of problems along with experimenting to find solutions.

Good stuff.

I Have a Dream

January 20, 2020

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I bought into that dream. Actually, before the speech, I bought into justice as a core value. And I took some grief (as we say in farm country) for being a civil rights advocate–but nothing near the grief of the marchers in the South.

Once churches were at the forefront of the struggle for justice. Now they mutter platitudes about being inclusive while in reality being more known for anti-abortion, anti-gay, even still mostly segregated.

Once you could go to a political party to fight for justice. Now–either platitudes or buying your vote or both. Just stirring up hate.

If you’d have asked me 55 years ago if by 2020 racism would still be rampant, that women were still trying to be accepted in business and politics as equal to white guys, that the Christian church would be more interested in what happens in your bedroom than in the condition of your heart–I would not have believed it.

Even though my hometown nickname in the late sixties was “The Protester”, my personality has always been quieter rather than the bearded guy with a sign.

And still, yes Martin, I still have the dream that we judge people by the content of their character–and as Jesus-followers, we help all of us who fall short.

We remember, and even celebrate, the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. today in the US. But this blog is read around the world. And wherever you are, justice issues remain. There is racism and hatred. It takes just one person at a time to change things.

When Deeds Match Words

January 17, 2020
I’ve been made blue, I’ve been lied to 
When will I be loved
I’ve been turned down, I’ve been pushed ’round
When will I be loved
When I meet a new girl that I want for mine
She always breaks my heart in two, it happens every time
I’ve been cheated, been mistreated
When will I be loved

— Phil Everly, recorded by the Everly Brothers and also Linda Ronstadt

The surest way for a leader to corrupt an organization is to establish a culture of distrust through lying, cheating, and otherwise saying one thing then doing the opposite.

It’s something I’ve observed and experienced throughout my career. Presidents and other company leaders promise things–bonuses, promotions, new projects, continued employment, support–and then do none of them.

Even in churches. I just talked with a guy the other day who recounted several instances of pastors he has known leaving their wife and running off with the wife of someone else in the congregation.

If you wish to be a good and trusted leader, try not to break Linda Ronstadt’s heart (metaphorically). Don’t lie, cheat, mistreat…

Finding Your Heart

January 16, 2020

Henri Nouwen wrote, “True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”

It is as true in America as almost everywhere you read about–this lack of hospitality. This urge to separate into those who are like me versus those who are not.

When we worry more about outward things–ours and those we meet and those whom we merely read about–then we have lost the heart.

Jesus always cared more about the heart of those he met than he did about ethnic identity, gender identity, social diseases.

Among the first conversion stories circulated among the followers were Phillip and a black man and Peter and a Roman. Already in the first years on their own, Jesus followers were breaking free of stereotype.

We can all do the same by finding our center in our hearts. It all begins with me, now, where I am, and with whom I interact. One person at a time around the globe.

What Are Spiritual Disciplines Doing For You?

January 15, 2020

A house plant grows toward its light source. Left alone, it will bend toward the light rather than growing straight and tall. Not having volition of its own, it will continue on its disabling path. However, a kindly hand turning it regularly, will assure light to all sides so that it may grow nicely.

We, however, need to bring together self-awareness and self-discipline to achieve that straight, strong spiritual growth that we need.

These together prevent us from fossilizing as merely creed-spouting organisms. Rather, we are infused with God bringing a new attitude to our lives.

We can put anger, greed, hate, fear behind us while basking in the light of love.

How We Speak About One Another

January 14, 2020

The week before my freshman year at the university officially began, I headed to Cincinnati to attend band camp. I had the “honor” of being assigned the cabin of the drum major. He was a pompous little guy and a bully. He picked on a freshman trumpeter. And the more the guy took it, the more the drum major piled on the vile comments.

I was just relieved that there was someone weaker than I to whom the bully decided to aim his aggressive tongue. It could have been me.

High in the news cycle these days is the saga of Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This couple who evidently were not introduced to the history of the English throne married for love rather than political expediency. The facts that Meghan was not only not from the aristocracy but she also had a black mother gave those inimitable English bullies–the tabloid “newspapers”–fodder for article after article. And the more Harry tried to defend, of course the louder the bullies got.

In America, the tone of discourse is not better. We had a presidential candidate leading cheers at political rallies of slogans like “lock her up”, but his opponents would pile vindictive comments right back.

Christians, who once wrote books using the Bible to explain how Africans were an inferior race and that slavery was therefore justified, now use the same thought pattern pointed to homosexual people. Who will be the next target? Could be you.

Freedom of speech has a necessary companion–responsibility. Lacking that, we have undercut the freedom and it will not long live.

Repentance means recognizing we’re on the wrong path and changing direction. We could use some of that around the globe.

Inclusive

January 13, 2020

Learning what childhood and youth experiences formed you seems a relentless revelation. I was brought up in the Methodist church (which became the United Methodist church and is now the dis-United Methodist church) where I was taught that the church was open to all. Teaching and learning inclusiveness in the late 1950s.

I “stole” this photo from outside of a church from a friend on Facebook. It says all I need to know about the situation:

“Jesus didn’t make exceptions [as to who our neighbor is]. We don’t either.”

  • Love thy homeless neighbor
  • Gay neighbor
  • Muslim neighbor
  • Black neighbor
  • Immigrant neighbor
  • Jewish neighbor
  • Addicted neighbor
  • Christian neighbor
  • Atheist neighbor
  • Disabled neighbor

I would bet that 10 am Sunday morning remains the most segregated time in America.

Lose The Attitude of Control

January 10, 2020

Don’t try to steer the river.

I found that thought nugget searching for a final quote for my Yoga class.

It sort of goes along with a Yoga attitude of going with the flow. Calmness.

I don’t think it means not to try to make changes in yourself, your organization, your business.

The picture is one of great futility. You have taken on an attitude of control. But wisdom lies in understanding that you cannot control everything. Some things just happen. And you are left determining your best response.

Don’t let the attitude of control consume you. Begin with just trying to control yourself. That in itself is a huge task–and one most worthwhile.

Humility-We Could Use Some

January 9, 2020

“I have turned over the new leaf. I will become humble. In fact, I will be the most humble person in the world.” –Agatha Christie’s dapper little detective, Hercule Poirot.

The actor played this sentence with a bit of a smile indicating some degree of self-awareness. That it is a little joke on himself. After all, earlier in the story when someone said, “Oh, you’re a detective,” he replied, “Not a, the detective.”

Scan your news sources. Observe people in your organizations or businesses.

There is no shortage of pride in the world. If pride were to be harnessed as energy, we would not need the entire petroleum infrastructure.

And not just today. Read ancient literature about as far back in history as we have recorded. Pride is everywhere.

And humans recorded at least 4,000 years ago and maybe longer the results of pride.

Pride without any self-awareness.

Humility simply means thinking about how we impact other people. And how maybe we should consider the needs of other people before even our own. The antidote to pride.

Here’s to a shot of humility around the globe–and a double for our leaders.

Santé. Prost. Sláinte. Cheers. Drink up!