Posts Tagged ‘Action’

Responding To Good Leadership This Year

January 6, 2017

Responding has been the word of the week. It started with a talk I heard which ended with a conclusion about responding, and I thought, wow, if he’d have used responding as his theme, then the talk would not have wandered and it would have been powerful. So, I started thinking about various ways we respond starting with people from the Bible.

Friday is often leadership day at Faith Venture, so I wondered about how leaders set the tone of the organization to get a beneficial response. Here are a few thoughts you might be able to use this year in whatever you might be leading–committee, department, company, non-profit organization.

Vision – Effective leaders are responding to a cause, problem, need. They don’t just say to themselves, “I just want to be the boss.” People like that may be managers. Or they may be ineffective leaders that end up in some sort of mess. But the good ones know where they’re going. It’s a cause or fills a need. It’s big enough to get others involved.

Communicate – Effective leaders can articulate the vision in 40 words or less. Peter Drucker says it should fit on a T-shirt. I’m part of an organization that has two statements. They call them “mission” and “vision”, but in reality they are statements of vision. And each is too long. Last year they re-wrote them after 12-14 years and said the same thing using more words. I heard about the process and offered some suggestions. They dropped me from the mailing list immediately. <sigh> Beyond the written statement, effective leaders talk about the vision at every opportunity. If someone suggests a new initiative, they ask, “Does it fit the vision?” Everyone in the organization should be familiar with the vision.

Decisions – Effective leaders assure that decisions are made in a timely manner. They either make decisions promptly and clearly, or they give people closest to the action the power to make decisions with clear guidelines.

Process – Effective leaders pay close attention to system and process of how things get done. If things are not happening the way you like, look at the process before you try to fix the people. The process may be set up to assure failure.

Execution – Effective leaders know that vision is worthless unless you get something done. If it is a business, then you must satisfy customer needs and make a profit. If it is a non-profit, you must serve your clients well, and assure adequate funding for the work. They encourage, no insist upon, collaboration. I had a boss with a gift for words who would pull together an ad hoc team and say, “Why don’t you gather like the witches in Macbeth and solve this problem.” Fair is foul…oh, that’s another essay. 

Here’s to a more effective 2017.

I’ll Pray About That–Really?

October 27, 2016

“I’m so sorry about you losing your job and your car breaking down. I’ll be sure to pray about that.”

“I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles, Sarah. I’ll pray that someone helps you out.”

“I need repairs to my house. I’ll pray about that.”

Ever wonder about the person whose response to people is, “I’ll pray about that?” Or, in my long career I’ve come across several business leaders whose response to business problems was, “I’ll pray about that.”

Shane Claiborne, one of the authors of Red Letter Revolutions: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, wrote, “But sometimes when someone says, “I’ll pray about that,” it is code for “I’m not going to do anything else for you.”

Prayer is good. It is part of a spiritually disciplined life. Especially when it goes beyond the idea that God is the Great Vending Machine in the Sky dispensing good things to those who meet his criteria.

Claiborne continues, “If we hear someone asking for prayer over and over because they need work done on their leaky roof, we should keep praying, but we might also get off our butts and get some people together to fix the roof! When we ask God to move a mountain, God may give us a shovel.”

I have witnessed the power of prayer. I’ve seen healing when doctors thought it impossible. I’ve seen lives change.

But, I’ve never seen prayer “work” when it’s obvious that God wants us to work.

We can pray about the devastation in Haiti (remember that? how soon the news media moves on and we forget about things), or we can raise money for supplies. Or maybe we have a medical or other specialty where we can go and work. And pray for success at the same time.

Or, we can pray for someone and bring a meal. Or pay for a repair. Or take them to lunch.

Let us resolve not to use “I’ll pray for you” as code for “Let me out of here before I have to actually do something.”

You Have To Use It

August 17, 2015

“What good is it if he never used it?” Oxford student to his professor regarding Nietzsche on Inspector Lewis on PBS Masterpiece Mystery.

Nietzsche was most likely insane from syphillis during much of his life. Like some insane or “sub-threshhold” people, he could see into the human soul. He looked deeply into the 19th Century European soul and found darkness.

He also wrote about Das Übermensch, translated into English most literally as the Overman but popularly as Superman. He talked about the Will to Power. But he, himself, was not very powerful. He was sickly. 

Hence the comment by the student.

How many people do you know that know a lot but do little with it. I didn’t finish a formal engineering degree, but I used to work alongside many who did. Having enough knowledge to finish a degree did not make some of them an engineer. 

There are people with Masters degrees or Doctors degrees in various disciplines whose heads are filled with stuff. They go to leadership meetings and seminars. They can quote leadership stories. Tell leadership anecdotes. They couldn’t lead a group of children to a candy store.

There are people who can quote Scriptures for every circumstance. Do their lives reflect that they are disciples (by the way, my tradition and belief system is a follower of Jesus, but I observe the same problem with followers of Islam and Judaism)? It’s a human problem.

I am going through another cycle of studying the Proverbs. There are so many about accepting wise counsel. But also I read today that you can even tell a child’s character by what he does.

What good is it to say you’re a Christian and memorize reams of Scripture, and then your actions betray you as not a follower of Jesus?

To Go or To Be

February 24, 2015

“All I want out of church is to go every Sunday and hear a good sermon.”

The man approached me rather assertively. He wasn’t happy with the missions and service–the request for people to do ministry that I lead–since it was a burden for him.

There are two types of people in church, I guess. Those who want to “be fed.” And those who want to feed.

We know that Jesus had the custom of going to the synagogue. But I can’t find one instruction where Jesus told us that the purpose of spiritual life was going and sitting.

Rather his stories were about prayer, having a heart set on God, and relations with other people.

I guess it’s an old story, but it just came home to me again. 

Do we just go to church? Or, are we the church?

Where Does Lying Get You

February 11, 2015

I am in Orlando at a conference. It all started with arriving over an hour late–so in my room at midnight Sunday. Meeting early Monday. Reception until after 10. Followed by another early morning and late night. Now 7 am breakfast meeting. That’s the glamorous life of a writer traveling to a resort area on business.

Speaking of the glamorous life, I have been reading a little (very little) about this Brian Williams performance art and drama. As I get the story, he reported that he was in a helicopter in Iraq that was shot down. Now they say he was in the helicopter trailing and never went down.

Confusion? Lying? We’ll never know.

But that incident started a train of thought. Supposing he did lie. Supposing you and I have ever lied about doing something. Embellished a resume. Tried to impress a prospective employer.

In the end, what do we gain.

We read in the Bible, let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Say what you need to say. Sgt. Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

If we let who we are speak through what we do, what does that say about our character?

As a writer and teacher, I’m always aware of the trap I can fall into. I can make my career sound like some exotic journey into great competence or I can make it sound like a series of steps where I learn a little at every stop along the way.

I try to be careful, and I hope I succeed. Maybe more of us should remember who we wish to be and act in accordance.

Or maybe we want to be a liar????

Mentoring and Training

February 3, 2015

The other day at the coffee shop I chanced into a conversation with a young woman. She is a local community college student who is heading toward a degree-granting (BA/BS) university. She was full of enthusiasm for a career. She knew what she wanted to do.

I started thinking (that’s my weakness, but fortunately not while she was talking) that what people want to do is a question of training them in a skill. They can do computer science, plumbing, tool making, selling, marketing, writing.

But, what if we who are older and have been down the road realize that what is even more crucial is to help people realize who they can be.

Sometimes these things can be accomplished at the same time. I help teach young people how to become a soccer referee. That’s a skill. But that’s only the first step. Of course, they must continue to develop their skills–foul recognition, mechanics, physical stamina.

We also teach them how to be. Through providing them games and mentoring, we show them how to develop strength of character, decision-making skills, people skills. These things help them grow as people no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

Then we can reflect  even on ourselves as we are mentoring young people–realizing that learning should never end; evaluating who we are vs who we want to be; growing in emotional intelligence.

As we get older, one thing we should become is a mentor. Pick someone, help lead them into becoming what they can be. Help them explore their spiritual gifts and talents.

Spiritual Discipline of Waiting

December 4, 2014

Do you remember being a child at Christmas?

The entire month of December? The night before Christmas?

My wife’s family (according to her) would open one present on Christmas Eve just to get a jump on Christmas. She couldn’t wait. Still can’t.

Luke, writing in his gospel, tells the story of two people who, upon seeing the baby Jesus, saying that they had lived their entire lives waiting to see the Lord’s Redeemer. Now they could die peacefully.

Advent. We’re waiting. Patiently.

We know the “rest of the story.” Yet, we wait in anticipation. Perhaps the deep realization of the Lord’s redemption in us will pop into our hearts.

Maybe we can start living as a true disciple of Jesus–instead of just saying we are.

Maybe we can stop waiting to act out our words–instead of playing one-up with words.

Maybe we can stop waiting to actually live–and go forth and make disciples, heal the sick, stop injustice.

Beckett wrote about Waiting for Godot–and he never appeared. We live in faith that God will appear. In us.

Waiting is required. Then when waiting is over, it is time to go. We wait at a red traffic light watching for green. When the light changes, we go.

When the wait at Advent is over, then it’s time to go forth and make disciples of the entire world.

Theoretical Christians Not Wanted

October 23, 2014

It was a wide-ranging conversation with a friend over a plain doughnut and tea at Tim Horton’s. We covered an upcoming men’s conference we’re working on, leadership in the church, Acts 2 churches.

We talked about Christ-followers actually doing something with their faith. “Jesus doesn’t want people for whom this is all theoretical,” he said.

Yes, it’s not theory. It’s doing. There’s a song I learned in the early 70s, “Love Is Something You Do.” Not always something that you feel, but it’s real.

Sitting around and arguing about whether you believe this idea or that idea and opining that anyone who “believes” the other thing is an idiot–those people are not found in the New Testament as people we should associate with.

Acts 2 churches were about teaching, worshiping–and living a life so attractive that others said (like in the movie), “I’ll have what she’s having.” It was how they lived more than what they said. I just had a great conversation with a woman who is 92. She asked how she could get involved in some of my ministries. Faith isn’t theory for her. It’s acting on her faith. Wow, if only others were like her!

As much as I love philosophy and theology, if it doesn’t help me grow and become a better teacher, then it is wasted. But if it provides that solid foundation for teaching and witnessing, then I’ll pursue it.

Anyone want to go on an international mission trip with me? 😉

Prayer as an Action Verb

June 18, 2014

Prayer rightly understood and practiced is the most potent instrument of action. Gandhi.

Did you ever think of prayer as an instrument of action? Prayer seems so passive. You sit or you kneel and talk to God.

Maybe you’ve heard of the early Chrisitan mystics who also prayed while walking or preparing dinner. But that still seems passive.

Think about Gandhi. He led a revolution that freed a huge nation from the imperialism of another country. He did it without forming a guerilla army in the mountains and fighting a prolonged and bloody war. Essentially he did it through prayer.

Jesus said that prayer could move mountains. Is your prayer so feeble that you ask for something and then say, “If it be your will”? Jesus taught us to pray boldly.

Jesus prayed for his followers. They started a revolution that captured an empire. Without starting a war. I would say without bloodshed, except the blood of the followers was often shed.

Prayer toppled a godless Roman nation converting it to an officially Christian one.

What are you praying for? Make it a bold one! Change the world.