almost ruining someone else’s career

Lauren - Blue sky over the REZRecently, a new acquaintance and I were discussing what we have learned in leading people over the years. During that discussion, an example came rushing back to my mind of how, in my arrogance and ignorance, I almost damaged a man’s career and from that experience came two valuable lessons.

Jim Collin’s famously talked about getting the right person on the bus AND getting them in the right seat on the bus. My experience boiled down to me almost removing someone who was the right person on the bus, I had just placed him in the wrong seat.

It began when this gentleman’s manager came to me complaining about this man’s performance as a supervisor of a large department. Time after time, the manager was coming into my office complaining about the supervisor to the point that some kind of action had to be taken and soon. With all the confidence of a leader in their late 20’s, I made the decision that the man had to be removed from our part of the organization – a move that would have seriously damaged the man’s career in our greater organization.

Fortunately, there was an older, more experienced, and wiser man on my staff that was a technical advisor to me. He came to me and gently suggested that I at least give this supervisor a chance at an open individual contributor’s position in another one of our departments. Fortunately, I listened, transferred the former supervisor, and he became a star in his new position greatly elevating the performance of the overall organization.

Just by simply changing the  man’s “seat”, he went from a problem to a star. How often does that happen?

The first lesson that I learned was the importance of knowing the people I lead well enough to place them into positions that best match how they are wired so that they thrive and succeed. No mater how good the person, if they are in the wrong position, it will eventually not work out well.

The second lesson I learned was to treasure and listen to those on my team that are smarter, more experienced, and wiser than me. Please don’t fear or be intimated by those people that  you lead that are smarter and wiser than yourself. Treasure them and take good care of them!

Learn your team – place them correctly – take care of them!


do what makes sense

railroad tracks - Keely 2013Good morning, we are finally thawing out a bit here in NE Indiana. Last week was a tad rough here as it was for most of the country.

For most of us our vocation is important to us. For those who lead, the mission is important – especially when the mission is serving a higher cause. So not only are we driven to “get our job done”, the importance of what we do drives us even more. For many serving in ministry and serving people in non-profits we have so much to do and so few resources, especially time. So we push and push, and as leaders we keep urging those who follow us to reach new heights. Because they are dedicated people they respond.

While they are responding, their families are seeing them less and less. They go home burnt out with no energy for their spouse, no energy to play with their children, no energy for spending time with their friends, no energy to attend to pressing financial needs, and no energy to attend to their own relationship with the Lord. They are spent, all for a good cause, but still spent. And amazingly, they often still feel guilty for not doing more.

As leaders, we then commend them for their dedication and hard work, thus signaling to others that the standard in our organization is to sacrifice family, important relationships, and emotional and physical health for “the cause” – whatever it may be. This is also true in most of our country no matter what the industry. Why do we do this to people? And why, most of all, do we do this to people in ministry?

There are ways we can better take care of those we lead, there are ways we can help them to be healthy and strong, there are ways we can protect families, and finally, there are ways we can make our organizations healthier as well as more effective.

This article, How to Be a Family-Friendly Boss, on the Harvard Business Review site, gives some tips for helping those you lead (and maybe you need to try these tips in your own life?).

Focus on What, Not How or When. With today’s information technology, more and more work can be done in places other than the office and at times outside of traditional business hours.

Get Better at Measuring Performance. For managers to become comfortable with employees working more flexibly, they need to get better at measuring performance.

Delegate, Coach, and Let Your People Earn Trust. Another great investment that pays off in the long-term is spending the time to develop employees to the point where they can work more autonomously in the medium- and long-term.

Serve as a Work-Family Balance Role Model. Finally, you can help employees struggling with work-family balance by showing them how it’s done. Make it a habit at work to mention your family activities and ask your employees about theirs.

And finally this key thought (applies to ministry / non-profits as well as to business):

Managing employees is not easy, and for the most part, human resource policies in large organizations are designed to simplify things. But sometimes, in their tendency to focus on risks and avoid worse-case abuses, these policies serve to discourage supervisors from doing what makes sense.

You are a leader – do what makes sense. Take care of your people – be a shepherd and not a “boss”.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Blessings on your week!


Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 223733-223740). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.


what is your style of leadership?

Fall 2013Good Monday morning to you! Beautiful fall weather here in northeast Indiana.

What is your leadership style?

  • The Visionary? – communicating a compelling vision of the future?
  • The Inspirer? – helping people to see their potential?
  • The Team Leader? – pulling people together to work for a common goal?
  • The General? – leading from the front with great energy to accomplish a goal?
  • The Conductor? – orchestrating the movements of the organization through great planning?
  • The Servant Leader? – seeing yourself as serving your people and helping them to accomplish their work?

There are so many different leadership styles – as there should be as we are very different people. Additionally, different situations often require us to use different styles. Right now, it seems servant leadership is the cool way to lead. I actually like it when it is authentic and not just a leadership strategy.

Let me propose another style – that of a shepherd. A shepherd is at once gentle and strong, kind and stern, protects and disciplines, cares for his herd and yet quickly culls trouble makers, and finally – humble and yet leads with authority.

Ever since I first read The Way of the Shepherd, I became convinced that we needed a new (yet very, very old) way of leading. It seems to me, to be close to the way Jesus led. He truly loves those He leads. He is kind and loving, yet quick to rebuke and discipline. However, that rebuke and discipline is for our good, for our growth, for our protection and helps us to serve even more effectively.

As a shepherd leader, we begin by loving those that we lead – we must truly care, and care deeply, for them. They should be drawn to us by that love.  We should protect them and provide them a safe place to work. As a good shepherd, we should nurture them and help them to grow. As a good shepherd, we should also be ready to rebuke and discipline those we love and lead – for their own good, not because they irritated us.

Instead of following the latest “fad” of leadership – try a new, yet very, very old way of leading. Be a shepherd to your people.

 “. . . shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

1 Peter 5:2-4

Have a great week!

Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 311661-311672). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

why do we do this to our people?

black-eyed susansGood Monday morning to you! I hope you are looking forward to a week of making a difference in your community this week.

“Our people are our greatest resource!” “We believe in our team!” “Our people make the difference!” “Teamwork is the key!”

How many times have you heard these, and others of this sort, platitudes? And how often have you heard them from organizations that talk a good game, but that don’t really “walk the talk”?

I have had the privilege of serving in / working in various types of organizations: the military, the defense industry, manufacturing, state government, para-church ministry, on church staff, business investing, and in higher education as an adjunct professor of management. I have also served as a consultant to non-profits, Christian colleges, and ministries. So I have seen how people are treated in a wide variety of contexts.

Unfortunately, one of the most common threads, or themes, I have observed is that we really don’t know how to take care of our people well. One particularly galling thing to me is when “loyalty” is touted as a high value within an organization and the reality is that “loyalty” is only one way – to the organization. Organizations often “preach” loyalty to their employees or staff, but with the least little hiccup in the economy or other “speed bumps” the first remedy to be discussed is layoffs or some other way the people of the organization can absorb the cost and not the institution itself.

However, the biggest issue of mistreatment (yes, it is mistreatment!) of our people that I have observed over thirty-plus years is that of burning out people by our spoken and unspoken demands for more and more work. With the advent of the Internet, laptops, and smartphones, we expect our people to always be available for whatever thought or question we might have for them at anytime of the day or week.

In the business world, it is an unspoken standard of commitment to the company or the willingness to “pay the price” to advance. In the church, ministry, or non-profit world, it is the unspoken measure of your dedication to the mission, a measure of your spiritual dedication, or your willingness to “die to self”. It’s amazing how when those types of things are talked about, they always seem to be related to the needs of the organization. Of course, it is only for “a season” or this crisis, or this special deadline, but the problem is – there is always another “special season”, another crisis, or another important deadline. So, ‘redlining” our people becomes the norm instead of the exception (read an earlier post on this subject of redlining your organization).

The trend of overworking and burning out employees and staff has been exacerbated by the state of the economy. Business, churches, and non-profits alike are demanding more and more from their people in order to cut costs. What they are really doing is actually damaging their people. Let me say that again – you are actually, literally damaging people and their families by burning them out. For some, it can be a lifetime of damage. For those of us in the ministry or non-profit world, you are alienating people from your cause.

The irony is that this only harms your organization. Any benefit derived by the organization is short-lived at best and the long-term impacts are costly indeed.

In the Inc. blog post “Stop Burning Out Your Employees” they put it this way:

“To put in it simple terms, working your team flat-out until they fail is going to hit your bottom line. Hard.

It’s far preferable over long-haul to help your employees create balanced, sustainable lifestyles for themselves.” 

So my thought is this – quit talking about how your employees / staff / missionaries / volunteers are your most important resource. In fact, QUIT calling them a resource – people are NOT a resource. Money, buildings, equipment, and etc. are resources. People are unique creations of our Lord, made in His image, that are your organization. Organizations are groups of people working together for a common mission. The buildings, money, tools, equipment, and so on are just the tools for these groups of people to accomplish their missions.

So, quit burning out your people and asking for loyalty that is one-sided and only for the benefit of the institution. Start looking at your “human resources” as people that need to be cared for and developed. Quit looking at yourself as an “organizational leader” and begin viewing yourself as a shepherd of precious people, created in God’s image, for whom Jesus came and suffered and died for so that they, we, would have eternal hope.

“He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

So, become a shepherd of those precious people created in God’s image that have been entrusted to your care (leadership). As a shepherd leader begin to live out the command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Instead of burning out and using up your people, nourish, protect, and grow them for a lifetime of impact and effectiveness.

Peace and grace to you this week,

a chat with my father

Good morning – we are back in the Midwest after almost a week in the much warmer South. Our primary reason for going was to Daddy and Mama - honeymoon in NOattend the wedding of my sister’s son, but it also gave us time to visit with my parents as well.

During these past days, I had the opportunity to visit with my 84 year old father whose health is not so good and he is beginning to have some challenges with his memory. He sleeps a lot of the time now, but we had some great conversations.

For some reason, much of our conversation centered around his time in the service. Too young to serve in the military in World War II (his two older brothers did – one a bomber pilot and the other an infantryman), he joined as soon as he could which was just shortly after the war ended. He joined the US Army’s Air Forces which later became the US Air Force. He was a radio technician responsible for repairing the radios on the B-29 Superfortress and even once worked on the Enola Gay.

He told me about the fights he got into, how he loved to dance the “two-step”, how beautiful my mother was when they married and about how they loved to dance. He talked about his work and he was proud of his craftsmanship. He was a Class A Repairman for some huge pumping engines at a natural gas pipeline pumping station in Mississippi. We talked some about the things he did, but mostly we talked about the people in his past. He talked about how bad bosses made his work miserable and how good bosses made his work enjoyable. He especially enjoyed his last years as he was treated with respect by his boss and allowed to do his job.

He talked about how different people impacted his life. He talked about relationships. And that’s my point – at 84 years old he most remembers the relationships. Not the tasks he accomplished or the things he had, but it was about the people – the relationships.

So some questions for you – are you working more on the relationships or more on the tasks with people being an annoyance? When people look back on their lives and share their stories, how will they remember you? Will you be that boss or co-worker that made their jobs miserable? Or will you be the one that made their work a joy?

How will people you touch remember you in 30 years?

If you are blessed to still have your parents alive, then go sit down with them and ask a lots of questions – you will be blessed.


Questions About Relationships

Good morning – it’s a crisp beautiful morning! The sunrise is beautiful. Spring is a wonderful time of the year.spring tree by Lauren

When it is all said and done, the thing that really matters the most to us, the thing that causes us the most hurt and joy in our lives, and the thing that most impacts our legacy is our relationships – especially those critical relationships. Our relationship with God, our spouse, our children, our extended family, and those close friends.

Relationships, for most of us, are actually the most important things in our lives. Yet for some reason for many of us, our relationships are what we are least intentional about in our lives. Somehow we just expect them to happen; we expect them to somehow stay strong and to grow with little or no intentional planning and action on our part. So often, the most important thing in our lives receives the least amount of our attention. Maybe that is something that needs to change?

Here are a few questions for you to ask about your key relationships:

– What is their love language and do I communicate with them in their love language or in mine?

– What is their personality type and how does that affect how I interact with them?

– What is their preferred method of communication? Do they like calls, texts, Facebook messages, letters?

– How often do I need to be connecting with them? Some relationships require frequent contact and some not so much.

– What are their hopes and fears? What are some of their favorite things?

– What is going on in their lives right now?

– How could I be a blessing to them right now?

– Am I intentionally scheduling time on my calendar to call them / visit them / write them / or ???

Our relationships are vital – so start being intentional about nurturing them.

Question for you – how do you ensure you are caring for those critical relationships in your life?

Have a great weekend!

Do Not Withhold Good

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Proverbs 3:27

Are you withholding good from someone you lead? Is there someone on your team that deserves a raise, recognition for a job well done, a new computer, a better desk chair, a pat on the back, a kind word, or some time off? What’s keeping you from doing it?

I have found that most of the times I withhold good that I have the power to do from someone, it usually is a result of my self-centeredness. I procrastinate because it will take too much time, their personality is “different’ and while they do a good job they irk me a bit, and so on.

So why are you withholding good from someone you lead? Take care of it today.