Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

Leaders Are Connectors

November 18, 2016

It’s a weird thing. I attend many conferences. Sometimes they are single-company conferences. It seems as if I’m always introducing people–even within the same company. I just connect people.

Recently I went to the wake of a leader. Listening to the stories about him, it was clear that he was a connector. Aside from also being humble and ethical, his connections and how he connected people stood out as his legacy.

Then I thought about the Apostle Paul. We usually study his writings in order to compile a list of rules for churches (or sometimes countries depending upon your political bent).

What if we looked at them from the point-of-view of leadership? Think of all the times he was “commending” people to other people.

Then there was the slave (a little bit different meaning than our slaves in the South pre-Civil War, but still…). His name was Onesimus. He belonged to a little fellowship of Jesus-followers. He ran away. Wound up serving Paul in a distant city.

Paul writes to his owner. Philemon, he writes, please welcome Onesimus back. “He’s a beloved brother,” he writes. Look at the situation from the point-of-view of love rather than the harsh view of the law.

Always connecting people. And that in an era when mail delivery was slow and uncertain. It took days or weeks to travel to some of these places where we could drive in a day or two. Or fly in a couple of hours.

Somehow he kept track of people and introduced them to each other, encouraged them, tried to get them to get along with each other.

America is not the only country in the world that is crying out for more connectors right now. But we could really use some leaders, and not exclusively political ones, who connect rather than sever relations.

And we have to ask, what is our role in that effort? Do we divide or connect?

No One Wants To Be A Racist

November 1, 2016

The phrase “locker room talk” suddenly hit the public news media recently. It was used to explain or justify talking crudely about women or people of other races.

Ever wonder what locker room talk is?

Me, too. The only sport I played was tennis. We didn’t have a locker room. 

Pro athletes spoke up and said their locker room conversations were nothing like that.

In my life I’ve been around “man talk”, of course. Almost never have I been part of “girl talk”, of course. So my experience is somewhat limited. Outside of three long months I spent in a fraternity in college, I’ve never been around conversations describing women and sexual exploits and the like. Those were probably post-adolescent boy fantasies. 

Racial comments are frequent in many places. Mostly white-guy “jokes” or comments about another race being lazy, worthless, criminal. Sometimes not another race but another culture of the same race. “Hillbilly” used to be a term of derision. Now maybe it’s redneck?

Shane Claiborne in the book I cited yesterday, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Meant What He Said?, commented, “No one wants to be a racist, except for maybe some really mean people.”

I think he’s right. I’ve heard people make the meanest comments about people of another race. Then later when the term racist was brought up, they would remark, “I hope you aren’t calling me a racist.”

We don’t hear what we ourselves say.

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, said it centuries ago, “O wad a giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” 

How often do we reflect on what we say and do? And feel embarrassed? I have those flashbacks every once in a while.

Jesus did show us the way. And typically for him, he set the bar so high that we can never feel complacent. His culture was very racially defined. The Jews (like many other tribes) tried mightily to keep themselves separate from people of other races. 

Yet, Jesus healed the child of the woman “who was Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.” He led a Samaritan woman to a deeper spiritual understanding of God. These were doubly groundbreaking. Not only were they not his race, they were women.

Like in everything, Jesus shows us the way. If only we can get our hearts right so that we can follow. No says I want to grow up and be a racist (well, with a few psychopathic exceptions). But we do. It’s hard loving people who are different. But as followers of Jesus, we need to follow him there, too.

Recognize And Reverse Corrosion of Relationships

October 17, 2016

The things that break all at once aren’t really a problem. You note that they’ve broken, and then you fix them.

The challenge is corrosion. Things that slowly fade, that eventually become a hassle–it takes effort and judgment to decide when it’s time to refurbish them.

And yes, the same thing is true for relationships, customer service and all the ‘soft’ stuff that matters so much. — Seth Godin, marketing and business guru

Some things just deteriorate over time. An important sensor has been developed for pipelines measures corrosion in the pipe. Over a thousand miles of a pipeline, that insidious deterioration in the wall of the pipe. Rather than an unexpected hole bursting the pipe and spilling valuable product while polluting the environment, the problem can be solved early on.

Unfortunately, there is no corrosion sensor for churches, organizations, or relationships.

Things happen so gradually. A little less passion. Slightly less energy. No one notices for a long time. Then you look around and wonder what happened.

What can we do?

We must maintain awareness. Not let our attention drift. Check key metrics and pay attention. Some people see these things developing and either don’t believe their senses or choose to ignore them in a false sense of optimism.

Don’t let corrosion sneak up on you. Be alert for signs.

Connecting With Other People

June 23, 2016

I’m finishing up some thoughts on Henry Cloud’s latest book, The Power of the Other.

In some ways I think that we keep trying to figure out what Jesus meant when he said to love each other and that you’ll know his followers by that love.

One obvious problem of course is the lack of good, specific words in English to describe the great variety of meanings that the word love connotes.

Cloud doesn’t talk specifically about this, but reflecting on his list of what makes for a Corner Four connection fleshes out just what we’d like to be and to experience in our relationships.

  • Connection that fuels.
  • Connection that gives freedom.
  • Connection that requires responsibility.
  • Connection that defangs failure and learning.
  • Connection that challenges and pushes.
  • Connection that builds structure.
  • Connection that unites instead of divides.
  • Connection that is trustworthy.

Standing back and trying to absorb this list, I think that if I could live out all of these then I’d be a long way along the journey of love that Jesus talked about.

The idea isn’t to follow a list. It’s to make the list part of us reflected in the quality of relationships. Then by referring back from time to time during quiet time, we can remind ourselves where we’ve fallen short and need to improve.

I’ve always thought that faith is in the living out toward others not in talking at others. This reminder is an aid.

Give Feedback Immediately

June 22, 2016

Just wait until your father gets home! — Old parenting joke

When your child does something out of bounds, when is the best time to give corrective feedback?

No, this is not a trick question. And I know that for some (many?) of you, it’s a shock to discover that your 14-year-old (or 2-year-old) can do something wrong.

Right! You provide the feedback at the time. If you wait, the feedback loses immediacy and impact.

Henry Cloud uses the example in his latest book The Power of the Other of a pair of mountain climbers. When is the best time to give feedback on a faulty foot placement? Before or after the slip and fall?

“Get behind me Satan.” Jesus to Peter

When Peter gave a wrong answer to Jesus, he received immediate feedback. In the course of three years, Peter received a lot of immediate corrective feedback. And he developed into a great leader.

Cloud uses the picture of a rectangle with four corners. He defines four types of relationships. Three are dysfunctional. The Corner Four relationships build you up, provide energy, and also sometimes corrective feedback when necessary. A true friend will give you the metaphorical kick in the butt when you need it.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

When I was editor-in-chief of a magazine, I routinely asked of people during my travels how I and the magazine could improve. What might be lacking? Where could we be going? Mostly I heard, “You’re doing a great job.” We like positive remarks, of course, but if you are looking for continuous improvement, then you need some corrective feedback. Maybe gentle, maybe a little harder to wake us up.  But it’s important.

One point–when you are looking for feedback beware the “skeptic” as defined in Proverbs. They are always critical of everything. They may or may not be helpful. Look for your Corner Four relationship, a friend or someone who cares about you. They know you and have a feel for what feedback is useful for your growth.

Oh, go buy the book, read it, digest it. Cloud will help you add depth to your relationships.

Power Others Have Over Us

June 20, 2016

Charles Shultz’s Peanuts cast of characters includes Pigpen. Pigpen is a boy who always has a cloud of dust around him.

Have you ever met someone who is similar except that the clouds are dark clouds of impending storm of negativity, criticism? They just seem to suck the energy right out of you.

I’ve been on a reading binge. Finished four books in two weeks (plus three murder mysteries). The books all took a look at personal productivity and leadership.

Henry Cloud is one of my favorite writers. He blends study, experience, and deep thinking and produces helpful books of good prose that are easy to read.

The Power of the Other contains the usual blend of research and insight from his practice of executive coaching.

Looking at my example, we all have people in our lives that suck our energy reserves. However, have you considered the people who seem to energize you?

Research confirms that relationships with the right kind of people actually boost our energy.

Relationship, the connections between people, not only enhances our mental functioning, but actually works to impart it, to provide it. Capacity is built through energy and intelligence.– Daniel Siegel, Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind.

Cloud explains the quote, “I love the definition Siegel uses borrowing a phrase from physicists. [Energy is] the capacity to do something.”

Can you believe it? People–the right relationships–not only give us more energy, they also enhance our mental functioning. That reminded me of engineering school. The best score I received on a chemistry exam followed a couple of days of studying with a small group.

Recently I was working at a coffee shop near a table of young women. The energy around that table actually helped mine, and I didn’t even know who they were or what they were studying. Turns out they were Registered Nursing graduates studying for their State Boards. I think they all did well.

The same principle applies to Bible study.

Surround yourself with people who have positive outlooks and impart energy. As Cloud said in an earlier book, Necessary Endings, find a way to end dysfunctional relationships. Get out. Run.

Respect For People

June 1, 2016

If there is a foundation principle for this blog, it could be respect for people. Even if you are dealing with difficult people or people who have failed at something, the principle means that you deal with them openly yet respectfully.

I’m on a bit of a vacation, which means I brought along books to read. I am just finishing The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen, by Kevin L. Meyer. Don’t get worried by the terms Lean and Zen. Lean is a way of life in manufacturing, but it can also be applied to personal life. There is a non-religious component of Zen, which, if you knew that, you’d realize you see some if it in my writing. I studied it many years ago.

There are two foundation principles to Lean: reduce waste and respect for people (or could be translated humanity). There’s not room to include the Zen part today, but the essential parts are mindfulness and simplicity.

While meditating this morning, two thoughts dominated my awareness. The first is that so much of what I write is based on a foundation (and a wish that I would perfectly embody it) of respecting others. That is how I can have friends from so many cultures and religions.

I see no conflict to being a follower of Jesus yet respecting someone who follows Muhammad, the Buddha, or Krishna, or whatever. There are human complexities that I just don’t understand. Who am I to judge?

The other thought is how I am so disappointed when I see people showing so little respect to much anyone. Skimming through my Facebook “news” stream shows plenty of that. Even worse is skimming newspapers or watching TV news.

One of the organizations developed by people that often shows the opposite side of respect unfortunately are our Christian churches. Begun by our early leaders to bring people together for instruction and worship, so many degenerate into an “us vs. them” mindset that I literally grieve. They have ruined so many lives–or rather people within them who fail to show respect have ruined so many lives.

Business, churches, personal life–all thrive with the foundation of respect for people.

Where Do They Find Those People

May 24, 2016

Where do they find those women?

This was yet another conversation about some guy, married, dissatisfied, “sleeping” with many other women.

I had to ask, where do they find those women? (Aside: we seem to always write about the guy, what’s the story about the women? I don’t know.)

She answered, “Bars.”

I guess that’s why I’ve never met one of those women so far as I know. I don’t hang out in those places. Even last night, alone, on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans.

I am in the middle of reading Henry Cloud’s latest book, The Power of the Other, about the power of relationships in your life.

It starts with a feeling of lacking. And you need something to make you feel better. Sex, drugs, alcohol–at first they fill that lack.

One little decision.

Then there is the spiral. Almost literally down the drain. Your life. Your career. Your family. Your relationships. Your money. The spiral of the first lie. Then it builds to continual deceit. Then a second life that is unsustainable.

Cloud described a very successful heart surgeon who found himself spiraling down. Until he hit the moment of truth when the second life was exposed to light.

That surgeon was only able to turn things around when he was led to realize that he had to surrender trying to control everything and honestly seek out help from other people.

The apostle John loved to put situations in the context of light and dark. Bad things relationally happen in the dark, in the late night. Exposing things to light helps correct the situation.

Our disciplines of study and prayer help. So does a healthy relationship with someone who can listen and then give us  strong words when it’s necessary. Sometimes people who say the hardest things are our friends who are trying to help us. That’s when we need to humble ourselves in the sense that we need to listen to what our friends are saying. And change.

Inappropriate Explosions of Emotion

April 19, 2016

I had a conversation with a coach yesterday describing an inappropriate explosion of emotion I experienced over the weekend. And no, it wasn’t me!

It dealt with a coach explosion on the sideline of a game and subsequent venting in public. The coach I was talking with said, “Hmm, I’d better learn from that. Take a deep breath. I can get carried away at times.”

There actually exists a time for anger. Sometimes you just have to show emotion. There is a referee I know who is very good. Her weakness? She is always too nice. Sometimes you have to have “the look” that tells players she’s unhappy with that action.

I bet she develops “the look” when she gets married…OK, we won’t go there.

The deep breath comment is worth digesting.

Most times our anger is not that of an honest response to a wrong. It rather springs from sources such as wounded pride or excess of ego. Some of the angriest people are also the most insecure.

Andy Stanly discusses “what have we got to fear” on his current Your Move series.

Security comes from a deep relationship with God. Usually that was modeled by secure parents. If you were not so fortunate, perhaps a spouse or other relationship. Perhaps you could be that model of relationship to help someone overcome the fear and anger that resides deeply within.

In normal life, the deep breath before shouting at the kids or referees will save both us and others injured feelings and discord.

I go to my model. Jesus dealt with all manner of interruptions and even hate with patience and even-temperedness. However, when he was unhappy with the way the religious leaders were ripping off pilgrims to the Temple, he did not hesitate to show his anger at the sacrilege.

Deep breath. Slow release. Ahhhh. Now go face the day.

A Teaching Moment or a Being There Moment

April 18, 2016

I am running a little late this morning getting this written. Recovering from a busy weekend.

Spent most of the weekend at a youth soccer tournament in Cincinnati. I was there to work with a group of young men (there was a woman in the group, but she was injured and left before I got there) improve as soccer referees and progress to higher levels of grade and games.

Isn’t it amazing how learning moments and growth moments occur sideways to a main topic?

We were talking techniques and observation skills to help them referee better.

There was one young man who was fit and enthusiastic. He showed all the potential toward becoming one of the elite referees in the state.

Oops, then he cramped. It was the first hot weekend of the year with temperatures into the 80s. Hydration was important. I even got mildly dehydrated and I wasn’t running. Just never realized I wasn’t drinking enough water even though I was standing and walking.

Well, this young man told me (after returning from the medical tent with a bottle of water and a bottle of sports drink with orders to drink them both, soon), “Well, I only had two beers last night.” Any water with the beer? “No, and I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.”

So we talk nutrition and taking care of our bodies.

I started thinking about being open to all manner of conversation when the moment appears. There are a few friends who believe every occasion should be filled with preaching at.

Sometimes listening and responding to the need is what is really crucial. I could have taught a class on nutrition before. Who’d have cared? But, when the need arises, then we have a teaching moment.

Same with all manner of spiritual and emotional teaching.

And, sometimes, it’s not the words, but just being there. In my weekend example, the group of referees were just happy that someone cared enough to come out and be there. How many times have you been with someone in trying times and being there is all that’s needed.