Working Side by Side Working Virtually
Jeff Jernigan, PhD has been appointed a Fellow with The American Institute of Stress for his influence and accomplishments in behavior health, research,
and practical application in the field.
COACHING LEADERS BLOG
May 27, 2020 - Mental Health Comes Out of the Shadows - Jeff Jernigan, PhD
COVID-19 is transforming behavioral healthcare. More and more employers are openly championing mental health resources in the workplace. Increasing interest in behavioral care is tied to growing trends. Suicide rates have increased 33%. Depression continues to contribute greatly to the overall global burden of disease. Life expectancy in this country has decreased in relationship to suicide and the opioid epidemic. A growing focus on treating all needs, coordinating treatment, and providing innovative treatment is an emerging response.
Examples of this intentional focus on mental health include the Hoag Hospital network in southern California which has gone after this with state-of-the-art emergency services and a holistic array of mental heath services in their expanded Hoag Mental Health Center. Broader efforts are illustrated by the work the OC Be Well Coalition is doing in Orange County, California. The Coalition has brought a large number of public and private mental health stakeholders together to build three first-of-a-kind mental health facilities in the county. This collaboration is unprecedented, bringing together state, county, and municipal governance, area hospitals, public insurance programs, CalOptima, and the faith-based community.
Mental healthcare and addiction treatment is envisioned as holistically integrated into all aspects of care. More pediatric resources will be provided to address the under-met needs of children as well as the increasing rate of suicide in ages 15-24, the second leading cause of death among Americans. The difficulty of access to mental health resources due to stigma experienced by children, adults, and senior citizens is being addressed. Studies are underway to improve use of medications through evidence-based medicine. Patient trials are underway to discover through analysis of brain activity how to better match patients to the medication they need.
The goal of these efforts is to improve access, integrate resources for more and better care, eliminate guesswork, and increase cost-effectiveness of care when it comes to treating mental illness. Eliminating stigma is necessary for success in each of these domains. I have worked in this arena in this country and on three continents and can say with surety: stigma is a universal impediment to gaining access to and benefiting from good mental healthcare.
Not so long ago we used to speak about medical illness publicly only in whispers. Advances in medicine have taken us a long way since then to where there is not only a private dialogue about illness, but a very public one as well. But mental health is still something very much “in the closet” that needs to find fresh air. With mental health now a workplace concern, we can hopefully expect more open conversation and less stigma will follow. We have made progress, yet there is still much to do.
May 19, 2020 - Why Taking Care of Your Employees is Essential to Company Success
By: John Boyens & Nancy Jernigan, PhD
The pressure of leading a team in the workplace may seem challenging. Yet a critical part of leadership is caring for people as well as accomplishing the needed business goals. In fact, the best leaders are those who put the needs of their people as a priority. You may feel the most pressure to meet your goals at work, but in order to promote a healthy work environment and accomplish the needed goals, it is imperative to be aware of the physical and emotional needs of your employees.
Research shows employees will balance three organizational themes — the three “Rs” — in their decision to remain with a particular company:
Rewards: Salary, commission, benefits, incentives, continuing education, vacation time, retirement plans, etc.
Respect: How they’re treated, work environment, personal and professional growth opportunities, recognition, etc.
Requirements: Clearly defined job duties, realistic goals and expectations, dress code, etc.
Regularly addressing the three “Rs” create a healthy culture where employees can thrive. Studies on workplace effectiveness show that the healthier each individual is on the team, the more productive they will be in accomplishing their work. A healthy, productive team will actually accomplish more.
If you are looking for ways to improve the culture of your business, follow these guidelines:
Get to know your employees as people before getting to know them as employees. That knowledge will help you know how to get the absolute best out of each of them while at the same time recognizing and rewarding their individuality.
Inspire a positive and upbeat culture at work. Be aware of well-being resources and make it a priority to communicate effectively about the services that will enhance the resilience of your team. Train employees to notice their own levels of stress and how to take note of stress in others.
Provide a safe environment to maximize communication and collaboration among the workplace relationships. A psychologically safe environment is a shared belief that a team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as "being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career."2
Create a positive workspace. Clean facilities, comfortable furniture, ample workspace, proper equipment, collaborative break rooms/kitchens, and ample parking.
Ensure a high level of employee involvement. Give employees responsibility for helping to direct a change in culture.
Identify possible resistance in advance and develop strategies to overcome it. People react to change in different ways. Some embrace it while others need to be brought along kicking and screaming.
Celebrate success. Make sure that you recognize and celebrate successes (no matter how small) along the way.
April 7, 2020 - Leadership Alignment
Having worked in the medical device industry and later as a clinical professional and hospital administrator for many years, the term “Sentinel Event” sent chills down my spine whenever and wherever it was announced. A sentinel event is a patient safety event that results in severe or permanent harm to a patient up to and including death. These events are debilitating to patients, their families, the care providers and the institution where the event occurred. Though this has led to decline in medical error rates, sometimes this is not enough. The underlying cause is too often the non-alignment of leadership.
Non-alignment of leadership can be costly in any industry, not just healthcare. Alignment of leadership, especially between middle management, executive leadership, and the C-Suite is needs to be pretty tight in well-run organizations. This require a just culture to be effective.
A just culture holds people accountable while uniting teams in working for the common good. This includes an environment of psychological safety where non-punitive errors are authentically addressed. Improving the system is the goal, not placing blame. This is a most challenging area to improve when most believe negative reports are held against them. Learning from mistakes requires a culture where speaking up about problems is normal and expected.
Change starts at the top, with senior leadership, from orientation of new employees right on through continuous learning for seasoned leaders. This is what creates leadership alignment and saves time and money, perhaps even lives.
March 16, 2020 - Getting Things Done
Leaders in today’s workplace find themselves collaborating with peers to get things done more than relying on a formal hierarchy. The people we work with daily are not made up primarily of those who have a reporting relationship to us. More likely, our work is accomplished by a team of individuals across the organization whose functions we need each day to accomplish our tasks. While positional leadership still is important for administration of an organization, our daily leadership activities are characterized less by position than by relationship.
This puts a premium on exercising influence: actively listening, exercising empathy in communicating we understand another’s priorities and needs, as well as negotiating solutions that work best for everyone involved. And, it is a two-way street. Someone may come to us looking for help with something they need to accomplish which involves resources they don’t control, but we do.
This is where grace, kindness, and mercy become leadership skills: When people fail, we offer them grace: instead of fixing blame, we offer them favor and goodwill, and look for solutions. When people struggle, we offer them kindness: instead of answers, we offer forbearance and assistance helping them discover the answer. When people don’t measure up, we offer them mercy: instead of a critical spirit, we offer them encouragement and a new pathway to improved performance.
When we lead from relationship, offering the dignity of grace, kindness, and mercy in our response to others, trust and respect for our position seems to grow. Funny thing about that! People want to work with us and enjoy having us around. They seek out our counsel and give a heads-up when something happens in their sphere of influence which may impact ours. We act as true partners without organizational boundaries.
January 24, 2020 - Leading Your Team in Executive Resilience - Part 2
The pressure of leading a team and paying attention to your teams’ mental health in the workplace may seem challenging. Yet a critical part of leadership is caring for people as well as accomplishing the needed business goals. In fact, the best leaders are those who put the needs of people as a priority. You may feel the most pressure to meet your goals at work, yet in order to lead a healthy work environment and in order to accomplish the needed goals, it is imperative to be aware of the emotional needs of the people on your team. This includes mental health issues that could lead to burnout. So, to have an effective, resilient team, leaders will find it productive to pay attention to the resilience of each team member.
Studies on workplace effectiveness show the healthier each individual is on the team the more productive they will be in accomplishing their work. A healthy, productive team will actually accomplish more.
When you notice someone disengaging or unnaturally withdrawing come alongside them with an encouraging attitude and help them re-engage. Train employees to notice their own levels of stress and how to take note of stress in others. Acknowledging you as a leader are concerned about the stress at work makes a huge difference in developing a positive work culture. In addition, inspiring a positive and upbeat culture at work has a constructive and productive effect on employees and the team as a whole. Be aware of well-being resources and make it a priority to communicate effectively about the well-being resources and services that will enhance the resilience of your team. It may even be helpful to hand out well-being resources to your team as you communicate the importance of these resources or even start a library of well-being resources.
Realize the importance of having a positive perspective on life and how this adds significant value to workplace effectiveness. Use assessments when needed and provide materials to inform your team on resilient attitudes and the role they play in the workplace. A positive mindset allows an individual to be more resilient and avoid low motivation and impulse control. You can see how this directly affects a persons’ daily work.
Providing a psychologically safe environment is critical to maximizing communication and collaboration among workplace relationships. This is no longer something that should be on your wish list but is necessary in fostering healthy interactions and a healthy work environment. A psychologically safe environment is a shared belief that a team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” Employees who collaborate effectively with one another are far more productive and efficient as a whole and are more likely to accomplish their team goals.
Cheering you on as the mental health advocate for your team, department and company.
Nancy Jernigan, PhD
January 7, 2020 - Legendary Leadership
Every organization would like to be known as GREAT in their market. So, what does it take to acquire leadership talent that can move a company from GREAT to LEGENDARY? Becoming legendary takes more than just good leadership at the top. It requires leadership that is passionately engaged in becoming not just a company others emulate, but one they tell stories about; not just performance focused, but superlatively customer focused; not just having a purpose, but living that purpose; not just satisfying their customers, but promoting stakeholders; not just using best practices, but transcending those who do. This will require using skills that may have never been taught, been forgotten or never learned.
Balancing strategic perspective with situational awareness is one of these skills. Without this balance you can lose sight of your purpose. Alignment is important, especially for leaders whose personal ambition needs to be aligned with the values of the organization. Without this alignment, we can easily lose sight of the mission. Legendary leaders know how to move beyond leading from authority and position to leading from relationship. There is an art to influencing others to action more than demanding they act. This requires relational leadership.
Relational leadership does not replace other styles, it augments other styles. It builds courage through enhancing the self-esteem of others. It builds mutual understanding through listening and responding with empathy. It builds trust by sharing thoughts, feelings, rationale and concerns regarding important issues. It builds ownership by providing others support without removing their responsibility for action. Often change in organizations only happens at the speed of relationships. In addition to strategic perspective, alignment of values, and relational leadership, there is an all-important personal skill of self-management.
Leaders who balance strategic perspective with situational awareness, align their personal values with those of the organization, and lead from a foundation of relationships will become legendary.
December 2, 2019 - Building Executive Resilience
In today’s culture it is essential for leaders to be trained, prepared and informed on how to lead a team or organization in the area of burnout and mental health. Healthy leadership includes influencing a work culture and environment that fosters healthy relationships as well as fostering an appropriate level of work stress. One very important aspect of fostering a healthy work culture is to be sensitive to your teams mental health in the workplace.
The goal, of course, is to create and sustain a stigma-free mental health culture. It important to be aware of how we contribute to a stigma-free mental health environment. It is critical to train leaders in the workplace how to notice and observe the visible mental health symptoms in those they lead and oversee. Leaders should take note of physical as well as personal characteristics developing or changing in the lives of their staff. Notice how stress is affecting your team, their interactions and each person’s ability to handle stress at work. Do you see changes taking place or underlining stress that has been there awhile yet you have not taken not of it in the past?
Mental health and burnout is a spectrum disorder and has a range associated with it. The concept of being a spectrum disorder means a person can change by increasing or decreasing the severity of their mental health including burnout over time. There are clear-cut signs you can learn to understand the health of your team. It is critical to be mindful of the every day work stress put on employees and to be aware that you can add or diminish the amount of stress pressuring your team. Team leaders can help contribute to developing a stigma-free mentality in the workplace. This is an empowering thought.
Resilience is one of the most important preventative measures a person can develop in avoiding burnout and excessive stress disorders. In addition, a positive self-identity along with a keen ability to be resilient will play a significant role in beating burnout.
Even if a portion of the work environment is not stigma-free, you as a leader can bring that culture to your department and team and provide strong, positive, quality leadership. Providing a stigma-free mental health environment will not only affect your team, but other teams will start to notice and your influence will affect other departments as well as the entire organization. This is often how change in an organization starts - one step at a time.
If you practice the things discussed in this article you are on your way to helping your entire organization beat burnout and set up a stigma-free mental health culture.
October 31, 2019 - Motivation
Exercise, sleep, and nutrition all play a part in our day-to-day ability to cope with stress. Stress also saps our motivation. Think of motivation as energy we direct toward what we perceive as a need. Because our bodies and minds are designed to work, the right amount of stress will actually keep us more motivated, more energetic than doing no work at all. Too much stress or the wrong kind of stress can burn us out.
We all experience stress as an element of life and work. The tough week at work as well as the refreshing experience over the weekend all involve stress. Too much life event stress without bouncing back strong usually results from being overwhelmed. Our resilience is low and it shows up in our changing perspective and loss of energy. Stress fatigue neurologically impacts our cognition and reasoning, breaks down our immune system, messes up our memory, and robs us of motivation. Lack of motivation is an early sign of burnout.
Here are three responses you can have: 1) Balance stretching experiences with nourishing ones. 2) Eliminate the slow burn by taking mini-breaks from constant stressors. 3) Get out from behind your rationalizations by sharing your challenges with a trusted friend. These steps are called life/work balance, stress management, and processing stress through relationships. Start biding these habits today and enjoy the energy and motivation they release in you!
September 23, 2019 - Young & Old Seek This Nugget of Wisdom
When I was in seminary I took some counseling classes and as part of the curriculum we studied and discussed the aging process from a spiritual perspective. We looked at the benefits of understanding we are temporal spiritual beings meant to have a vibrant relationship with God. We studied the benefits of spending time with God as we mature. We learned it would serve us well spiritually to spend more time with God and get to know him at a deeper level as the years progressed. This is an understandable concept and I would suspect most believers agree with this concept and desire to spend more time with God. Yet practically, we like to be busy doing, serving, spending time with people and having fun. So spending time with God is not easy and tends to be a challenge for most.
When I talk to young women and men in their 20’s and 30’s who start the habit of spending significant time with God at this age we see huge benefits in their spiritual life and how this affects their spiritual walk down the road in later years.
The more time we spend with God, the more we understand what he is doing in our life, deep in our soul. The more time we spend with God and release control of our life to him the more we find contentment in allowing God to have His way in our life. We gain wisdom and answers for life in a variety of situations guiding us to follow God’s best and not veer from God’s purpose for our life. Time with God often prompts us to replace striving to control things in our lives to trusting God with his timing and his plan. I find when things get tough it takes extra time listening to God in prayer, reading the scriptures and intentionally relinquishing my desires for his best in my life. In my notes from one of the counseling classes, I wrote…”You better get to know God”! I recall from that class it was not a demand but a helpful note to myself.
The natural aging process often allows for more time with God because the pace of life often slows down a little. Yet it will serve us all to start young. Don’t wait to develop the habit of spending time with God, reading His word, praying and spending quiet time listening to His voice. Yet no matter your age it is never too late to start getting to know God at a deeper level.
What does it look like in your life to “get to know God better?” How much time do you spend with God each day – throughout the day?
What has God taught you lately? Share these thoughts with a trusted friend.
September 4, 2019 ~ Resilience
In this series on burnout we have taken a brief look at the neurology of burnout and the impact regular exercise has on brain health as well as the connection between sleep and stress. Now, we are going to consider the role resilience has in beating burnout.
Resilience, the ability to bounce back from stretching experiences, has more to do with diet than most people imagine. What most of us need is a “resilience diet” to go along with regular exercise and undisturbed sleep. First, a word about junk food: cut it out! Too much processed or artificial sugars along with the wrong kind of carbohydrates will not only contribute to your weight, but will set you up for hypoglycemia, stress fatigue, depression, and other unpleasant health consequences. Consider swapping out processed foods (such as bagels, breads, sugary cereals) in exchange for fruit, whole grains and or veggies.
Our brain uses glucose as its main energy source. In fact, 28% of the energy our body needs each day is used by the brain. The brain needs protein to create amino acids used in creating neural pathways and to manufacture neurotransmitters that send messages down these pathways. Nine of the amino acids our brain needs are only found in our diet and not manufactured in our bodies. The point being: junk food is not brain food!
Myelin insulates our brain cells and is 70% fat, but not just any kind of fat. It is polyunsaturated fats like Omega-3’s found in fish oils, eggs, avocados, seeds, and nuts. If this insulation breaks down, our brain can short-circuit just like the electrical wiring in our homes. Vitamins and minerals as wells antioxidants found in fruits and green leafy vegetables are needed to keep our brain operating at peak efficiency. In fact, the brain needs 38 of the 45 nutrients needed by the body for health. Nutrition is crucial to brain health and brain health is key to resilience!
August 5, 2019 ~ Sleep Off Stress
In our last blog we talked about exercise and its neurological impact on beating burnout. Now we turn our attention to sleep. Yes, this does get people’s attention, but the point here is not more sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is more like the issue. Our body benefits from exercise in more obvious ways, but there are some not-so-obvious things to watch for as well. Did you know one of the first signs of deteriorating resilience is unexplained changes in sleeping patterns?
Interrupted sleep, or too little sleep erodes resilience. Adults on the average need eight hours of sleep for the body to repair itself for the next day. This week, if you awaken at night unexpectedly, don’t lay there and try to go back to sleep. It will be easier to fall back asleep if you get up and walk around a bit and then go back to bed.
Our sleep rhythms, also called our circadian rhythms, are triggered by the lack of daylight. When darkness falls our body produces a hormone that helps induce sleep. Unfortunately, the wavelength of light that triggers this is the same wavelength of light our smart phones, tablets, laptops, and most modern televisions produce as well. As long as the blue sky wavelength of daytime is not turned off, the longer we may stay awake. Decide not to use your devices or watch television an hour before you go to bed, and you will find your sleep will be much sounder and less interrupted.
P.S. This series is addressing issues we all need to "PAY ATTENTION" to in order to help Beat Burnout! Sleep - Exercise - look for the next 4 BLOGS.
July 21, 2019 - Move Your Mind
When the World Health Organization added burnout to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11) as an official occupational syndrome a lot of attention was drawn to workplace burnout. This is not the euphemistic idea of being worn out at the end of the day or feeling like you need a break at the end of several grueling weeks. Though the expression, “I’m burned out!” is often used to describe temporary fatigue, it isn’t the total physiological and psychological collapse burnout refers to when used as a medical term. So, over the next few blogs I am going to focus on various ways to beat burnout.
Take our minds, for instance. We know that our brain cells are constantly undergoing replacement, and that every new thing we learn triggers the development of new neural pathways. Think about our brain as hardware and our thinking as software. Our programming is constantly being updated and this growth needs fuel that only exercise can provide. In fact, maintaining resilience will require a minimum of 153 minutes of intense exercise over more than one session each week. This raises our metabolism and creates a unique protein that moves through the bloodstream to the brain where it sparks the production of a Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which is needed for the repair and replacement of brain cells and neural pathways while we sleep. All movement matters: if you are sitting, stand. If you are standing, walk. If you are walking, run. In other words, don’t stay still when there is an opportunity to be in motion. Exercise moves the mind to a better place of health.
July 9, 2019 - The Secret to Following Jesus Step by Step
Have you ever been through a difficult time when just progressing step by step mentally or emotionally took all of your concentration? When we are desperately depending on God and following him step by step this pleases God. God’s desire is for us to following him so closely that we are literally following his steps for our life.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:21: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."
Solomon in Proverbs 4:27 tells us: “Do not turn to the right or the left, keep your foot from evil.”
David writes in Psalm 119: 1 & 133 - “Blessed are those who way is blameless, who walk in the law (God’s Word) of the Lord," & “Direct my footsteps according to your word."
John writes in John 12:26 - “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be with me."
Following God throughout our life takes close communication with God in order to follow him – step by step. Reading God’s word, listening to worship songs, watching or listening to sermons or inspirational talks, praying and listening to God are all disciplines that assist us in following “His Ways” step by step.
In addition, when we are about to make a big life decision and we want to hear from God we are in essence saying that we want to follow him step by step. We don’t want to “get out of step” from His will. We seek God for his direction through practicing the disciplines listed above. He will make "His Will" clear in some way.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Phil 4:6-7
The "peace" Paul speaks of in Philippians is one very important way God makes His will known. We pray, seek him and then wait until we experience a peace regarding our answer - to stay or go, to say yes or no, to speak or stay quiet. God will answer our prayer as we seek to follow him step by step.
Following God step by step takes discipline, yet the reward is a peaceful answer knowing what pleases him. Seek him today regarding what is heavy on your heart!
June 3, 2019 - The True Narrative ~
“It is really difficult to get to the true narrative
of what’s really going on because of all the drama.”
Jeff Jernigan, PhD
Most people realize now that we have become a very polarized society. Individuals feel passionate about their opinion and many people do not hesitate to post on social media their disagreements, strong opinions, stance on religion, political views and beliefs on social issues. Social media has allowed for messaging to be louder, stronger and sometimes meaner.
The concept of a “true narrative” is far more complicated today than ever. Meaning “the truth” is mixed up with half-truths or even untruths. The “actual events” of a situation are buried with extemporaneous, unimportant and untrue specifics. How as leaders do we best navigate this landscape? With drama dancing all around the truth, it takes a significant amount of discernment, wisdom and understanding to unpack the truth.
Maybe the most important way to get to a true narrative is to....”Struggle Well”. In the middle of getting to the truth – Struggle Well!
What does Struggling Well look like?
Being kind to others
Respecting everyone – even if you disagree
Seeking to understand others
Remember CHANGE is a PROCESS – Most people change over time, so seek to influence over the long haul – don’t be in a hurry.
Be patient with everyone!
Choose wisely when and what to post or say?
Understand the implications of your messages.
Do your research – don’t respond immediately.
Pray – Ask God for wisdom.
Keep respecting others.
.....your life will be a lesson to others when people see you living this way!!
April 23, 2019 - The Secret of Gentle Heat
Nancy replaced the rug in the master bath last week. It evidently had been rolled up and stored for some time before we purchased it. When we spread it out on the tile floor it clearly had humps and bumps from being rolled up so tight for some time. For a week we put up with those apparent flaws and injuries to the material, but it didn’t get any better. Nancy was reluctant to take it back. It was beautiful, the right size, and tied many things together, creating an ambiance that encouraged you to linger at the mirrors a little longer.
Before we gave up, I took the rug outside and laid it in the sun, hoping the heat would relax the fibers and let the original beauty it was created with emerge again. Hours later, I rolled up the rug and brought it back inside, laying it down carefully. The humps, bumps, and flaws were gone. Almost as if someone had waved a healing wand over the damage.
His gifts to us are like that, as well. Sometimes it takes a little heat to bring out more of the beauty he has created in each of us. Though we don’t like the process, the results are incredible as we explore in awe the beauty we didn’t know we had, producing fruit we thought was not ours to bear.
Nancy didn’t return the rug.
April 12, 2019 - Calm Down
All of us struggle to make sense of things at times, and become increasingly frustrated when there doesn’t seem to be an answer or explanation for why things are the way they are. We have become comfortable with having all the answers, or at least having the ability to find the answers.
Believing that we can and should have an explanation for why things happen the way they do, or reasons why things didn’t happen the way we thought they should, sets us up for a maddening and even upsetting sense of bewilderment and disempowerment. Surely, there is an answer for everything.
Take a moment, calm down. We were never meant to have all the answers. To have all the answers would mean we have all understanding and all knowledge. Even if a very bright bunch of us got together, we would still never have all understanding and all knowledge. Some things just are unknowable in the moment and perhaps indefinitely.
Here is the rub: we all have an innate desire to understand life and at the same time an inability to do so completely. So, when it comes to work, and friends, and family when there are no answers or explanations for what is going on we simply need to take a big breath, calm down, and remind ourselves some things will defy explanation no matter how hard we try to figure things out.
In a recent conversation a friend of mine shared their frustration in looking for a new job. Skilled, gifted, and a successful engineer, they were well known and liked in their industry niche. A long period of time had passed without a single conversation with an employer. The silence was bewildering, and they had a lot of questions! And yes, they felt somewhat rejected and disempowered. Those feelings are natural. Eventually, they landed a great opportunity, and life went on in spite of never really getting these nagging questions answered. Sometimes, we just need to calm down and keep things in perspective.
March 26th, 2019 - When Standing Down is Standing Up!
There are times when we simply have to say something! Usually this happens to me when something is about to go wrong, or someone wants to do or say something that is just really unwise. This kind of impulsive behavior can get you in trouble. Especially if you sound off at work to your colleagues or to your boss, it can get you fired.
Take a lesson from Solomon, reputedly the wisest man ever. In his book Ecclesiastes, King Solomon gives leaders advice. Keep in mind that Solomon lived in a day when monarchs had absolute power and authority. The King was the boss of everyone, but didn’t know or understand everything. No one does. So, Kings appointed advisors to keep them from foolish edicts, bad treaties, and unwise proclamations. The better advisors knew not to confront the King as an adversary would when the King was in error. Going toe-to-toe with the boss in those days could cost you your head.
Instead, they learned the art of coming alongside with a different perspective, or alternative approach, or new strategy. The wise advisor laid out implications, encouraged contemplation, and suggested wise decisions at just the right time, giving the King time to think about their response. They chose to stand down and not confront the king with what may have been a stupid course of action to follow.
When you choose to stand down in this manner you are really standing up for something important. Even if things don’t go your way, it is unlikely you will lose your head…errr, I mean lose your job.
February 12, 2019 - The tensions we experience as we seek God's Plan
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As believers we are encouraged to seek God and His plans. Jeremiah 29:11 is my life verse. Jeremiah is encouraging believers to look, seek and rest in God’s plans for their life. This verse often encourages us when we are prone to worry or are unsure of our future.
Yet, there is a lot of tension between dreaming about the future, serving others and following God’s plans. Maturing in our faith is a complicated journey that includes understanding our gifts, serving others with a generous heart and surrendering to God’s ways. These life lessons intersect with one another and usually do not result in an easy and obvious next step. To understand our calling in life and God’s purposes for us throughout our life, takes discipline as we seek God, read his Word and share with others. We overlap all God is showing us with the understanding that our spiritual gifts are meant to help and serve others as outlined in 1 Peter 4:10.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace...” 1 Peter 4:10
Jeff and I are certified Life Plan Facilitators, a 2-day intensive process that results in some very tangible, life altering, revelations that are important to serving God and growing in our walk. Yet, even with all the information that surfaces in a Life Plan, each individual will need to “struggle well” with how this will play out in their life. It is an adventure to say the least.
Are you in the middle of understanding what to do next? Remember that the process of moving forward is an intersection of your gifts, serving others all while surrendering to God’s plans.
This may be worth a heartfelt conversation with your best friend. Let me know what you discover!
January 17, 2019 ~ Leadership that Engages Others
Recently I was asked to provide a synopsis of the style that most engages others on a leadership team to collaborate effectively in reaching a goal. This is a really tough question! What kind of team are they talking about, and what is their understanding of collaboration? Even more difficult, I was asked to respond with just three guidelines in less than 150 words.
The only solution I came up with was to make the guidelines applicable to any kind of team that depends upon the collaboration of its members for success. Here is what I said because I believe it to be true and know from experience it works:
Great leadership requires a balance of strategic perspective and situational awareness. Without these it is easy to lose sight of your purpose.
Great leadership has self-awareness of personal ambitions and self-control to align those ambitions with the values of the organization. Otherwise, it is easy to lose sight of the mission.
Great leadership leads from relationships more than from position. Don’t lose sight of the need to influence others to act more than demand they act.
These lessons all came out of failure in my life resulting from a lost sense of purpose, misplaced ambition, or an unwarranted need to be in control. Purpose, ambition, and control are not bad things. In fact, they are characteristics of good leadership. However, out of focus and out of balance, they can unseat a leader and lead to personal as well as team failure.
Stay focused on healthy balance, right alignment, and appropriate influence in your leadership and you will be a winner with a winning team and successful organization.
January 8, 2019 - Emotional Integrity
When someone tears into me with something mean to say coming from a critical spirit, my thoughts run to a strong reaction that would have returned the insult. All of us have trouble with our thoughts and behaviors at times. Even though my reaction may have been influenced by past experience with this person, the real problem is rooted in the present. Which means it has to be addressed in the present.
Two common sense principles about relationships came to mind at the moment of decision about how to respond: always choose the relationship over being right. You may be right, but proving you are right to others at the expense of the relationship is wrong. This is called emotional integrity, being true to yourself by choosing to respond the way you should, not the way you want to respond. Secondly, in difficult times, I also have the opportunity to choose what is best for the relationship rather than choosing in favor of myself or even the other person. This is known as the “I Choose Us” principle and usually works when you are at an impasse with someone that is worth salvaging.
Yes, my friend and I are still friends, though we can disagree on many things. Our relationship is resilient. This is because over many years of trusting each other with our feelings with certainty that our relationship is far more important than who may be right. And when the stakes are high and being right takes on new importance, we can agree to disagree as an application of “I Choose Us.”
December 14, 2018 - Regulating Emotions
Recent research informs us that meaningful relationships shape the development of our brains in unique ways, and that interpersonal relationships directly shape mental processes. Through a process we call attachment, new neural connections are made as a result of our relational experience. This is how new thinking and feelings can emerge and, though strongest in the early years of life, continues throughout the lifespan. A great illustration is the connection made between an adopted child and their adoptive parents. Eventually, their brain biology has changed to a point where adoptive parents are in a very real way their biological parents as well.
One of the shared characteristics of meaningful relationships is the ability to regulate our emotions. When we get keyed up the amygdala, a small organ deep in our brain, senses the ramp-up and releases a chemical signal that gets our hippocampus and hypothalamus involved, which in turn trigger other cascading things which, among other things, releases epinephrin into our bloodstream. Our heart rate picks up along with our breathing. We become very alert, almost vigilant, and may be tempted to just back-off and quit the conversation or just the opposite…dive in with all guns blazing (flight or fight). Our palms may get a little damp and our stress hormones may give us tunnel vision and tunnel thinking.
This is the time for self-regulation. The kind of self-regulation that chooses the relationship over being right, and that allows the interests and concerns of others to have a chance to influence our own. This kind of self-self-regulation is also called humility and it results in treating people with dignity and respect. It takes humility on our part in order for others to experience this as sincere, keeping the meaning in “meaningful” when it comes to relationships. This was my best lesson this week when I was tempted to dump on a friend who had just dumped on me. Noticing I was getting ready to push back verbally, I chose instead to exercise a little humility and listen. We are still friends.
December 6, 2018 ~ Fit for Relationships
Friends for life usually have some things in common. You can trust them with yourself in a way that enables you to be transparent and vulnerable with them.
They are not judgmental or have a critical spirit that looks for mistakes or failure. You enjoy spending time with them. Easy enough to get along with, they are unselfish, humble in the sense everything is not about them (nor about you).
Trustworthy, non-judgmental, and humble: now that is a mature friend! When we live this way among friends there is a re-working of our neural pathways that takes place, creating a healthy attachment to others.
Research has shown that human relationships, especially in childhood, shape brain functions and mental processes. This occurs through a process called attachment where our relational experiences influence our emotional habits and how we connect with people.
Though our ability to connect with people is hard-wired, new neural connections are made through what is called experience-dependent development. Thus a meaningful relationship can become the bridge to a new way of thinking and feeling. Emotional communication is at the heart of attachment, enabling understanding, identification, empathy, and compassion.
The ability to create and sustain healthy relationships goes well beyond meaningful friends. It is a quintessential element of excellence in leadership. Leaders must be able to naturally connect with all sorts of people in a manner experienced as sincere and genuine. Trustworthy, non-judgmental, and humble: do these things characterize your leadership.
November 13, 2018 - Fit to Lead - The Neurology of Relationships series
There is a a dimension to leadership we seldom consider when asking are we fit to lead? This is a physiological question, not a philosophical one? Nutrition, exercise, and sleep all impact our ability to reason, problem solve, make decisions, recall memories, and regulate our emotions.
For example, thirty-eight of the forty-five nutrients needed by our body are consumed by the brain. Nine of the amino acids our brain needs are only found in our diet and not manufactured in our body. In fact, 28% of the energy our body needs each day is used by the brain.
The brain needs a Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) to sprout like a fertilized garden. A protein is produced in the muscles through exercise and travels to the brain through the bloodstream where it sparks the production of BDNF. This and other chemicals produced through exercise improve learning, improve cognition, improve memory, improve self-control, and improve mental flexibility.
Everyone knows we need sleep, usually at least eight hours a night. The nice thing about sleep is what you loose you can always catch up on. What most people do not know is that this neurotrophic factor is key to a process of replacing and repairing damaged and worn out brain cells...and it only happens while you sleep. If you consistently have sleep disturbance, this housekeeping isn’t going to happen.
When it comes to nutrition, exercise, and sleep: are you fit to lead?
November 10, 2018 - Faith like a grain of mustard seed is a leadership quality
“When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
"When the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them “Because of your little faith, for truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17: 14-16,19-21
What can faith like a grain of mustard seed do?
A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nest in its branches. This is a pic of a The Mustard Tree. They flourish in Israel.
So, if you as a leader have increasing, expanding, enlarging faith, growing and strengthening from small beginning, you can accomplish the most difficult undertaking. There is a principle of vitality in the grain of seed stretching forward to great results, which illustrates the nature of faith.
Your faith can be like just like the mustard tree.
October 26, 2018 - Wisdom in the Ordinary
Proverbs 8 - Read the whole proverb if you have time!!
Wisdom call out to us (Proverbs 8:1) It is a public invitation to obtain wisdom. This public invitation is to ALL. All of wisdom's words are "just" - full of justice! No words are crooked or perverse. Wisdom is Righteous!! (vs. 8)
Wisdom is Honest, bright, straight, correct and forthright!! (Proverbs 8:9,12)
Wisdom is not hidden - wisdom is clever and full of understanding!!
Wisdom gives (brings) order and stability - Wisdom is full of discretion!! Wisdom is better than jewels (vs. 11).
This wisdom allows us to serve God's purposes!!!
Jeff & I have been pondering these thoughts for the last month!! They challenge us and draw us to wisdom!
October 16, 2018 ~ Meaning in Numbers
We often support business conclusions with statistics as if the results, the numbers involved, prove our case. This can be a dangerous assumption.
Let’s say someone tells you they have a solution for controlling the office environment with a new air conditioning system that perfectly balances temperatures, and they have the statistics to prove it. Now, we know that if a person has one foot in boiling water and the other foot in freezing water they are actually statistically comfortable. Only, in this case they are actually terribly uncomfortable! We always have to ask what is behind the numbers in any situation where numbers are used as evidence substantiating an outcome or decision to be made.
Every statistical test, whether in business, finance, engineering, or other discipline using numbers has criteria that needs to be satisfied if the results are to be valid and reliable. Just because a formula may produce numbers doesn’t mean the numbers are valid. Always ask about the assumptions behind the numbers. Do they make sense? Were the appropriate assumptions behind the calculations satisfied? You don’t want to find yourself cooling your heels in hot water.
October 8, 2018 ~ The Cost of Love
We heard a fantastic sermon this weekend at Saddleback Church on Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.”
Do you think Christians do a good job of loving others? Lately I have heard believers say – no – I don’t think we are doing a great job of loving others.
How much do you love your neighbor? Courageous love inspired by the love of Jesus goes to great lengths to love others, be kind, offer a ton of grace and have enough mercy to go around for everyone. Although, the temptation is to be selfish, be self-protective and become frustrated because things don’t go our way. In fact, if I was honest, I have had a few of these feelings already this week, and it is only Monday. Yet, if we dig deep and allow the love of God through the Holy Spirit to override our selfish feelings, we can find we can offer love, grace, kindness and mercy no matter what is done to us.
My love for Jesus moves me to love others courageously! My love for God inspires me to give grace that I could not offer on my own.
My husband Jeff often says that God has only offered us grace, kindness and mercy so that is what we should offer others. Jesus models this concept of offering grace, kindness and mercy over and over!
What will be your courageous act of love this week? Share your act of love with others!!
September 9, 2018 - Join the Stigma Free Mental Health Movement
This is National Suicide Prevention Week. For many years, we have been involved in research, teaching, counseling, and policy advisement focused on the prevention and treatment of burnout and self-directed violence. Over 15 years our work has taken us to three continents. The greatest universal obstacle encountered has been stigma. Most people turn away from those struggling with mental health issues.
Consider this week how you can engage: a word of encouragement, an act of kindness, or volunteered help. When others see you living stigma free it can set them free to engage as well.
August 27, 2018 - Leadership Gone Blind
Virgin Pulse published a study regarding stress fatigue and burnout in the workplace. Here are some sobering statistics:
50.6% of workers report not having enough time to do their work.
43% of Americans don’t get enough sleep at night.
76% say they feel tired at work.
85% report moderate to severe stress.
86.7% report up to six barriers to well-being resources
55% report one or more incidents of burnout.
I was surprised to see that 86.7% of the 25,000+ men and women surveyed believe there are multiple barriers between them and resources their employer provides! The help is there, they just can’t get past the obstacles keeping them from accessing help. This is a leadership issue, as in a failure of leadership.
Often a good idea, like providing well-being resources in the workplace, wins approval and is assigned to someone to get it done. Kudos are handed out when the project is complete. But somehow issues of access are never identified and remedied. This happens when leadership does a dump-and-run. When leadership fails to circle back and ask questions about program participation and performance no one will notice that 86.7% of the people the program is supposed to help are not being served. Leadership has gone blind. If you task others with responsibility, follow-up and follow through. Don’t dump and run.
August 12, 2018 - Judging
Having good judgment and being judgmental are two very different things. A judge is someone who is able to be rational and dispassionate in providing wise appraisals, forming unbiased opinions, or making wise decisions. With tired, hurt, or angry people this often marks the dividing line between appropriate judgment and inappropriate judging.
This is judging: to form an opinion of someone or something accompanied by a desire to see or cause grief or harm come to pass. It comes from a critical spirit and a motivation that raises us over others in presumption and arrogance. Resentment, bitterness, and holding grudges are the results of judging others inappropriately.
As a leader we are called to have sound judgment untainted by a critical spirit that can only erode our leadership. Others see it in us long before we see it in ourselves, and when we finally do, we seek to justify ourselves. Grace, kindness, and mercy offered in sound judgment is the answer. Sound reasoning impassioned by these three characteristics filters out any negative emotions.
July 26, 2018 ~ The Lord Answers Jeremiah
Jeremiah has seen the wicked prosper, he has seen the "treacherous thrive". (Jeremiah 12:1) Jeremiah is grasping at understanding God's ways. He asks God what is going on here God? What are you doing?
Later on, God says leave the wicked up to me. I will deal with it. Yet, before we get to that concept, he says something very important in Jeremiah 12.
Jeremiah 12:5-6 - “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?"
God answers Jeremiah by basically saying if you don't run with the horses and you don't understand opposition, you don't know how to handle trials and you are not strengthened by pain, you will not be ready to serve me in many ways. If you want to be able to influence the kings and rulers of the day you must get ready for this "work". God is training Jeremiah to handle what is ahead in his life.
There is a lesson in all this for us. Opposition, trials, pain and calamity, all builds strength in us. We long for comfort, yet God longs to prepare us for more and build in us a strength that will endure. We often call this resilience. God loves to see his children strong and courageous. This only happens through tough stuff.
What is God building in you now? What is he getting you ready for? Are your spiritual muscles being strengthen for a greater good? Ask God...What are you doing in this situation? What are you building in me?
God wants you and me to "be able to handle the thicket of the Jordan." (vs 5)
Cheering you on as you build strength for the future!
July 10, 2018 ~ Processing: The Road to Health
The beneficial effects of good nutrition, exercise, and sleep are well known for their ability to process, bleed off, and lesson stress. But the benefit of meaningful relationships in naturally reducing stress are lesser known from a clinical perspective, and in many respects much more effective over the long term. The neurology of processing helps us understand why this is true. Processing, used in this context, refers to working through difficult thoughts and emotions in a manner that takes away their power to discourage and dismay while at the same time resetting the brain to a more normal state.
Conversations with meaningful friends are an excellent form of processing. You have a chance to talk things out and hear yourself speaking. Conversations are two-way, and your friends may be able to draw you out and help you explore important aspects of what you are experiencing. They may have encouragement and wise advice to offer that is helpful. They can provide helpful accountability for next steps and provide encouragement and understanding that have a healing effect. All of us know how good it feels when we can get things off our chest with the help of a few friends who know how to actively listen. The reality that we share common experiences in work and life with one another allows us to identify with them, and them with us.
This has the effect of releasing stress we would otherwise keep locked away inside. In fact, it counteracts the effects of stress and returns us to a more rational place of thought with a different mindset, giving us back ability to regulate our emotions, and pulling us out of a downward spiral into a darker place. Do you have friends that have this affect on you? Friends like this have these characteristics: They are active listeners and able to draw you out. They are non-judgmental and don’t criticize. Their interaction with you is always upbeat and constructive. If you have friend like this, they are part of your social safety net.
July 1, 2018 ~ Good Relationships Saves Lives
We have known for some time that good nutrition, sufficient exercise, and the right amount of sleep improve our resilience and help prevent burnout. We now have medical evidence that brain health is significantly affected by relationships as well, and healthy relationships are crucial to sustaining resilience and preventing burnout and suicide… but, not just any kind of relationships.
The American Association of Suicidology published a report in 2017 exploring the analysis of a longitudinal follow-up study of friendship, depression, and suicide attempts. Further related information coming out of the original study was made available in 2018. The implications for depression, burnout, and self-directed violence are clear: healthy relationships improve resilience and help prevent burnout and suicide.
This would seem to be self-evident even without a study. It makes sense that good relationships in a healthy social setting that provides support are always a part of healthy living. What is important about these studies, however, is what else they found:
It is not the number of relationships someone has that makes a difference, but the quality of those relationships.
Meaningful relationships are different from casual friendships or acquaintances, and connect people in engaging ways around life events and experiences with an appropriate degree of transparency and vulnerability. In other words, they talk about stuff without necessarily getting too personal.
Meaningful work and shared interests provide a context that allows understanding, empathy, and compassion within an affinity group to have their best effect. In other words, there is a reasonable basis for mutual trust to develop which helps ensure the safety and confidentiality of the relationships formed. People get to discuss their difficulties in a safe environment.
Bottom line: meaningful relationships and meaningful work are crucial to sustaining resilience and preventing burnout and self-directed violence. Who are your close friends? Do you have a meaningful relationship with them? Is meaningful work a common experience in this affinity group? Mutual openness about life and work with this group can foolproof your resilience.
June 18, 2018 - When Time are Rough & Confusing!
How do you handle situations that are hard and confusing? What about when someone is literally out to harm you or hurt you?
Do you remember the story out of 1 Samuel where Saul is chasing down David and trying to kill him? David chooses to hide in some caves trying to get away from Saul. The heart of the situation was, Saul was jealous of David (1 Samuel 18:8) and in addition 1 Samuel 15:17 says that Saul was “little in [his] own eyes”. Saul had low self-esteem we learn from Biblical history. Even though Saul tries to make David the issue, the real issue was Saul and his lack of faith and confidence in God.
It is easy to feel sorry for David and not understand the tough things he had to endure. Yet history makes it clear that God used these situations to develop David as well. God allowed these situations between Saul and David to develop David into a stronger and more effective leader. David’s development was a part of God’s plan.
Can you relate to any of these thoughts? When tough things happen to you remember that God could be using them to develop you into a stronger person or leader.
God often moves in our lives step by step. Each step teaches us something new in our journey to becoming more like Jesus. Our faith walk is a journey and God is very intentional about what he is teaching and showing us. God will reveal each step in His time. Yes, we make mistakes and cause things to make life rougher than it needs to be, but even when we don’t and we find ourselves in a hard situation you may find it comforting to know God is using this for your development.
Isaiah 40:31 says “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
May 29th, 2018 - Common Bonds
In most highly successful organizations there is a sense of connectedness and interdependence between people. This sense of being part of something larger, something important beyond just what each one of us does, is sustained by mutual interest, collaboration, and enjoyment of what we do. We like the people we work with and the work we do together.
The glue that bonds these things together is communication: informal conversations, good information shared accurately and freely, participation in decisions that may affect our work, and a climate where we know our contribution is recognized out loud.
The kind of leadership that produces this kind of communication requires more than just words and a lot of modeling. This is leadership by influence. Leadership by influence assumes you have a connection to those you lead that enables them to understand your intent so thoroughly that your example is critical to the direction they need. Have you mastered the art of influence yet?
May 14, 2018 - Limits to Servant Leadership
All of us tend to be mindful of our exposure to mistakes, opportunities to fail, or even just leaving a bad impression with people. As leaders this is especially true. Part of leading is, after all, modeling effective leadership. We sense accurately that there is a liability built into leadership that we want to minimize for good reasons. Mistakes have consequences associated with them that can cost time and money which should be avoided if possible. Part of servant leadership is making sure we get ourselves out of the way of others so that they can do their job. Team work reduces errors, and we recognize the potential liability of serving others in ways that may actually be a hindrance to their work.
However, this can work to our disadvantage. Why, if instead, we think about “unlimited liability” in the exercise of our leadership? We do our best and then let the outcome be what it is going to be for all to see. It could lead to a culture of transparency and vulnerability about the reality of mistakes and failure, and lead to an opportunity to model how to constructively respond when those things happen. The benefits could include a climate where people have permission to fail, turning failure into a readiness learning moment. Do you allow yourself to have unlimited liability in your leadership?
May 7, 2018 ~ Loosen Your Grip
Isaiah 60:17 & 18 says “I will make peace your leader and righteousness your ruler...your salvation will surround you like city walls...the Lord will be your everlasting light.”
What a fascinating thought that the Lord is our protector like city walls. Our salvation gives us the protection of the savior. Salvation is our security, not our doors with their locks. This is how God intended it to be; He is our protector. We are safe in God’s ways, following His plans.
If we loosen our grip on the world and grip God’s ways, God’s direction, we then will see the fruit He intended. We see the spiritual protection provided by our savior and rest in His ways. He has extraordinary plans for us in His Kingdom, in His upside down Kingdom!!
If you are like me, you keep looking for the path, but God says, keep your eyes on me, follow me and I will forge a new path. It may not have been done before and thus God’s way may feel vulnerable, yet the rewards are huge!!! Be strong and courageous as you step into the Promised Land meaning God’s ways.
What new ways has God been asking you to forge? Is it time to take the next step!
April 21, 2018 - Understanding the Commander’s Intent
If you were a trained Marine such as my sweet husband and soul mate Jeff was, you would learn some fascinating leadership lessons. One of these lessons is the concept of “understanding the commander’s intent”. As a Marine, if you are isolated and cut off from your commander you have spent enough time with them, been trained by, and understand the nuances of the commander’s leadership style and their thinking. After spending much time learning about the ways of your commander, you can make some very solid assumptions about how they would handle a situation.
Our life as believers mirror this relationship with the King of Kings! The God we serve is the God of the Kingdom of heaven and our goal is to spend so much time with Him we know His ways. So when we are doing our best to follow God’s ways and we hit a problem where the situation is just not as clear as we would hope it to be, we have spent enough time with the King of Kings to be able to understand the commander’s intent.
I am not saying this is an easy discipline to implement. Yet, I have to say that it is a fascinating one and Jeff and I have often put our heads together to say, “what do we believe would please God in this situation?”
What decision do you need to make right now that you would love to know the Commander of this Kingdom’s intent?
April 14, 2018 - Resilience and Well-being
It is such an honor to be working with a team that has been recognized as international thought leaders regarding resilience and well-being. This work began with the Ministries of Health and Defense on several continents in the wake of natural disaster, war and violence, as well as famine and disease. Our work with first-responders soon spread to chaplains, pastors, psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, and counselors.
Here are some insights: you can benefit from immediately regarding maintaining resilience and well-being: If you exercise regularly and briefly with some degree of intensity, a chemical is produced in your muscles which travels to your brain
where it triggers the production of a neurotrophic factor. This brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates the repair and replacement of brain cells. This clean-up takes place at night while your sleep is undisturbed. Now, knowing exercise and sleep are good for one's health is not a new idea. But there is more. 28% of the energy your body needs every day is consumed by your brain. This is where nutrition kicks in because if you are eating a lot of fast food including junk food you are going to junk-up your brain, and not get the energy you need to think straight.
Evidence-based studies reveal one more thing is needed in addition to good nutrition, the right amount of exercise, and sufficient sleep: relationships. Not any kind of relationships, but meaningful relationships with others doing meaningful work together. It is the quality of this kind of relationship, not the quantity, that enable us to process stress constructively, shedding unhealthy stress in the context of healthy relationships. These are all things you can act on immediately and experience a nearly instant difference in your life. We know because we see the results in military organizations and communities all around the world.
March 26, 2018 - Brain Trivia
Ever notice how after you exercise you feel better, refreshed, and ready to get back to work? My problem is that work keeps my backside pinned to a seat in front of my computer. The thought I should get up and walk around a bit or do some discreet stretching zips out of my brain as invisibly as it slipped in. In other words, I pay no attention and keep on working.
I now understand I am slowly killing my brain. Here is a truth about the brain. If I exercise regularly and briefly with some degree of intensity, a chemical is produced in my muscles which travels to my brain where it triggers the production of a neurotrophic factor. This brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates the repair and replacement of brain cells. No kidding! Without this process my head just gets full of pieces and parts of broken down brain cells.
Here is the kicker! The clean-up takes place at night while my sleep is undisturbed. Now, knowing exercise and sleep are good for one’s health is not a new idea. But there is more. 28% of the energy my body needs every day is consumed by my brain. This is where nutrition kicks in because if I am eating junk food I am physiologically going to junk-up my brain, and not get the energy I need to think straight. The same is true for not eating healthy meals at regular intervals.
So, maybe I should pay attention more to nutrition, exercise, and sleep. After all, if I am your colleague, don’t you want me at my best? Or are you willing to let my performance reflect negatively on you, our team, and our organization?
March 21, 2018 ~ Checking In
We have a Yorkshire Terrier who checks-in every now and then. She can be asleep in her bed in the office, wake up and come over to politely tap a foot with her paw. Over the years we have learned that she just wants to connect, to be acknowledged. So, I get out of my seat and down on my hands and knees to scratch behind her ears, get my face licked thoroughly, and then we both return to our jobs. I work, she sleeps. It’s an agreement we have.
People need to connect. Often as leaders we become preoccupied with everything set before us to the exclusion of others. Too often for me this means my open door policy may actually be a closed door when I can’t afford to be interrupted. That’s too bad, since part of my job is to enable interruptions by others who may need a moment of my time that may not even involve work. They just need to be acknowledged, and I just need to be present.
A recent study (2017) identified meaningful relationships with others doing meaningful work together is a key antidote to stress fatigue, stress related disorders, and burnout. One of the key factors in processing stress relationally is checking-in. There may or may not be a business reason for the interruption. But if you make yourself available anyway to say hello, ask how it’s going, and be sufficiently present to offer a word of gratitude or encouragement, your day will brighten up considerably. Just consider yourself a purveyor of good mental health medicine.
March 2, 2018 ~ Influencing Others to Act
A colleague once asked me what I thought about their idea to found a Leadership Development Institute. The institute would offer courses for credit as part of an undergraduate curriculum. Upon asking for clarification, it became clear this wasn’t a curriculum for leaders to attend class in order to augment their leadership skills. Instead, it was designed to teach basic knowledge and skills a leader would need including things like accounting, business, strategy, and finance.
The disconnect for me was the presumption that taking a course would somehow produce a leader. Of course basic information and skills are needed to equip the leader for what they do, but it does not make them a leader. It simply makes them knowledgeable.
Leadership in its most fundamental expression is influencing other people to act. In the absence of incentive or penalty for not doing so, will people follow you? When you look over your shoulder, are people following in step with you? If so, it is likely because of trust in your character, your ability, and your wisdom that creates a willingness on their part, quite apart from assigned roles, to follow you. It takes time and relationship, not knowledge or information, to create the kind of leadership that inspires others to follow.
February 20, 2018 ~ 8 Leadership steps when Building Something New
When building or rebuilding a ministry, organization or group of people, remember these leadership concepts:
Start with prayer – don’t start without prayer – don’t start any other way.
Develop a close reliance on God. Be silent. Listen to God.
Before you move make sure you hear from God this is the proper path.
Now use all your gifts, knowledge, faith and strength to proceed.
Have an extraordinary amount of discernment.
Don’t be distracted – don’t waver and don’t stop unless God says it is time.
Be courageous – keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and what He wants you to accomplish. This does not mean there is an absence of fear; keep being courageous.
Be dedicated to the PEOPLE. Remember even a project is more about the people; even rebuilding a wall like Nehemiah was more about the people then just the wall. Building an organization is really about the people!!
February 13, 2018 ~ Finding Your Niche - Times of Refreshing - Part 2
How in the world do we flourish in our gifting yet remain humble? How do we find great joy in using our gifts yet keep an authentic and humble perspective of ourselves?
Jeff & I often refer to this as “Struggling Well”. When you have found your niche and understand your gifts, talents, experiences and now you are ready to soar, how do you know you are serving God with a humble heart?
Well, my answer may be a bit incomplete or even frustrating. Because I believe even after we have found our favorite job, or found a place that is a great fit for Kingdom purposes; serving God with a humble heart is not something we arrive at.
We are constantly growing in humility, developing a surrendered heart that is more fully surrendered to God. This is a journey.
If you do not know how to describe your skills, gifts, talents, experiences then I encourage you to seek out a coach or peer to talk this through. Consider taking an appropriate assessment like the Myers Briggs assessment.
Yet, most importantly, keep praying and asking God to mold your heart to be more like Him! Pray for God to reveal what he wants you to be aware of regarding a humble heart or perspective.
On this journey together with you,
February 5, 2018 - Finding Your Niche - Times of Refreshing - Part 1
When I was a vocational counselor a young man was referred to me for advice. A recent college graduate, George was frustrated and discouraged. It seems no one wanted to hire him to be an inventor.
George desperately wanted to be an inventor. Like Edison, he wanted to be prolific and known for contributing hundreds of successful products to the market. Only, he lacked any kind of education, training, or experience that would lend itself to being an inventor. What George did have was a romanticized idea of what an inventor is, and a naive understanding that you can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough.
Unfortunately, becoming what you want to be takes more than hard work. For most of us, we discover early in life that what we dream of becoming one day can change as time goes by. In High School I was convinced I would become a teacher. Looking back, I realize my good fortune in having been an engineer, a pilot, a business owner, a pastor, and a psychologist. Though teaching was a part of each role, I never was a career teacher. Teaching was an emergent gift in my life but not my vocation.
And there is the clue. What do your talents, skills, gifts, experience, schooling, and temperament suggest is a great fit for you? In other words, what are you best designed to do? Discovering that pathway will take you through different roles in life with one very important trait common to all. You will be refreshed by your work, though it may be difficult at times.
Are you refreshed by what you do? Or, does each day suck the compassion out of you, leave you stressed out and exhausted, and keep you tossing and turning at night with frustration and discouragement? Perhaps it is time to consider what kind of work is a natural fit with who you are and what vocation fits so well even the hard days are more often like a cool breeze on a hot afternoon.
January 25, 2018 - What Would Your Life Look Like with NO FEAR?
You inspire action – both in your own life and in the life of others. When you are spiritually courageous, fearless, strong, you not only inspire action you also awaken faith in others.
The definition of Awakening - is moving, growing, a revival of interest! A “rude” awakening. A spiritually courageous believer is awakened when they develop authentic relationships, serve their neighbor, help the marginalized and serve those in need. In other words, we are in step with what God is asking us to do.
Galatians 5:25 says; ”Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
When we are in step with God’s Spirit we are obediently following His purposes. This courageous faith may require us to set aside our fears to accomplish God’s purposes. This is actively living in freedom. When we are not stifled by fear we have the ability to live in the Freedom of Christ in order to serve others whether it is a mission trip to Africa or just stepping next door and offering love and care to our neighbor.
Imagine if we did not let FEAR hold us back from our dreams – God’s dreams – imagine if we did not fear but experienced God’s overwhelming power in miraculous ways. I had to put my fears and apprehensions aside when last year I traveled to the country of Moldova. That trip was a highlight in my life.
What would NO FEAR in action look like for you?
YOU ARE STRONG – YOU ARE BRAVE – YOU ARE A DIFFERENCE MAKER!!
January 14, 2018 ~ Learning from the Shadows
Every leader suffers from some degree of personal dysfunction from very mild to extremely acute. If it were not so, we would have myriad examples of perfect leaders and no revelations in the press regarding catastrophic failures and falls from leadership. When failure happens, it is often ambition which has been a subtle and dangerous combination of personal dysfunction and an unrealistic desire to do the right thing, make a difference, or create a legacy.
A problem arises, though, from the reality that success is a state of being and not a state of having. You don’t have success as if it were a possession. One experiences success in many ways throughout life, a state we all move in and out of depending on many factors. Healthy success does not assuage the need for personal validation and worth. For some this is maddening, prodding them to pursue at least the appearance of success at every opportunity.
Often, success comes after experiencing a loss, failure, or a recognition of our own practical limits. Persistence through what we may recognize as a weakness, a character flaw, or some other shadowy deficit in our lives can lead to astounding success. Having success often is a result of those very shadows in our life propelling us on to be something different, something better. Carl Jung is quoted as having said, “The brighter the person, the darker the shadow.” His reflection was a recognition that the factors that eventually undermine us are often shadows of the ones that contribute to our success.
Don’t be afraid of the shadows. Be committed to letting light shine where darkness lays so that you can live with authenticity regardless of success or failure.
January 5, 2018 ~ Teaching Leadership
Leadership training can be academic when it comes to teaching principles, concepts, or values. Sometimes it can be more relational and focused on behavioral scenarios and experience in a coaching environment. Both are key elements in developing emerging leaders. Yet, sometimes the best lessons come from exposure to Great Leaders. Things like courage, mutual understanding, team building, trust, and ownership are caught more than taught.
Knowing how to build courage takes knowing how to inspire self-esteem and confidence in others. Listening and responding with genuine empathy is the foundation for building mutual understanding. Asking other’s for help and encouraging their involvement with you leads to better team development. Openly sharing thoughts, feelings, the rational for and concerns about important issues undergirds trust. Providing others support without removing their responsibility for action creates ownership. These are the lessons Great Leaders pass on, sometimes unknowingly.
Most of these attributes come out of a leader’s character, not from what they know. My best leadership mentors are what I call unintentional mentors. That is, we had no formal relationship. In fact, they didn’t know I was watching. From them I learned courage, active listening, humility, transparency, and responsibility. Who are your unintentional mentors
December 28th, 2017 ~ The Eyewitnesses of the Life of Jesus
We sometimes forget we can name many of the eyewitnesses in the life of Jesus. In addition to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds witnessing the birth of Jesus. We have many accounts throughout the life of Jesus.
Many of the New Testament books are written based on eyewitness accounts. John, one of Jesus disciples, says in 1 John 1:1-3 that he is writing about Jesus’ life based on those who have seen and heard Jesus. Peter also says, “we were eyewitnesses” in 2 Peter 1:16. We know from the commentaries and historical records the gospel of Mark is most likely a record of Peter’s teachings’ related to what Peter saw and heard from Jesus.
Luke is not an eyewitness but says he is recording an orderly account of all who have been eyewitnesses of Jesus. Luke says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you...” Luke 1:1-4. A reading of the Book of Acts reveals the apostles saw themselves as eyewitnesses.
Even though believing in Jesus, the Son of God, requires faith, it is thrilling to know we have actual eyewitness accounts regarding the birth of Jesus, the miracles he performed and those who walked with him through life. Have faith, yet know there are a significant amount of orderly accounts known to be historically factual.
December 10, 2017 ~ Understand Your Audience
At the moment it happened we realized we were in a strange land far, far from home. We were teaching medical professionals how to treat suicidal ideation. These were all well-educated smart women and men who spoke English in addition to their own language. “It” happened when our translator suddenly stopped and asked us what this word “resilience” meant. It only took a few moments to understand their culture had no word for resilience. We probably sounded to them like we were from a different planet.
It took a few minutes to build a word picture around the idea of resilience that connected with them, and we moved on. But it did remind us of how important it is to know your audience and to orient your communication to them without assuming they came pre-programed to understand concepts you reference, relationships between things you describe, or the jargon or vocabulary you use. This is what it means to be receiver-oriented in your communication.
Though easy to spot in a cross-cultural situation, this goes on all the time in everyday common conversations right here at home. Someone may ask, “How light is it?” Are they asking about illumination or weight? Address can be a destination or a speech. Cast can be something you put on a broken arm or a throwing motion used in fishing, to a group of actors in a play. These homographs are easier to understand when you have a context for their use. If your audience doesn’t work out of the same context you do confusion will result for both of you. One key to keeping communication clear is making sure you understand the context of those you are speaking to.
November 25, 2017 ~ Tell the Truth
When Nancy and I were in Moldova on business recently we were tailed by people we call “minders”. We and they are not spies. They were just making sure we were doing our job and remaining safe. In other words, minding our own business.
Our work in the wake of national disaster or health crisis often involves government or military agencies in third world countries. Often they are the only agencies with operational communications and logistic support that can span huge distances in providing a response. Just as often, they want to keep an eye on us and sometimes even detain us for a conversation. We always stick to two basic principles when this happens.
Answer the questions you are asked without voluntarily adding superfluous information. Stick to the facts; don’t speculate, don’t assume, and don’t expand your response beyond the specific questions. Tell the truth without elaboration or exaggeration. These two principles, stick to the facts and tell the truth, makes communication clear, even across social or cultural boundaries. It works in leadership just as well.
When you have to deliver difficult news, explain a policy or practice, hold someone accountable, or introduce a change that will impact your team stick to the facts and tell the truth. This will help make expectations clear from the start, leave little to be misconstrued, and establish a point in the conversation you can take people back to when they attempt to imply something you didn’t say.
We all have unintentional minders working around us every day; watching our actions, listening to our words, and sometimes stoping us to ask a question. This circumstantial interruptions are your opportunity to model clarity. Clarity will enable people to see your intention and purpose and reproduce it in their own lives. Successful leadership development is built on clarity.
November 15, 2017 ~ Future Trip to Moldova
Let us add a few details to the last BLOG on "Lessons Learned Internationally." (Read below if you have not read it yet).
We will be recruiting teams to participate with us in this effort tentatively scheduled to launch in summer 2018. Please stay tuned or post on my (Nancy) Twitter page if you would like more information about joining our trip.
This request is in response to our last trip where we taught the treatment of burnout and suicidal ideation to military physicians and other personal at the Moldovan Ministry of Defense. Yet, if you would like to join us to help social workers and parents to fight "burn out" in their country let us know. You don't have to be an expert or teacher; we need those who have a heart to serve because the need is great.
This trip follows an earlier trip this year to Moldova, which was a response to an invitation to help address a public health crisis involving suicide. Moldovan officials originally invited the Jernigans after reviewing their work in Ukraine. The Deputy Minister of Defense described their work in Moldova as “already saving lives.” The next step with the social workers is to create step-by-step guidebooks and develop a two-week practicum to coach them in the field in order to develop experience using their new skills.
We will be recruiting teams to participate with them in this effort tentatively scheduled to launch in summer 2018.
November 2, 2017 ~ Lessons learned internationally
Jeff and I have always had a heart to serve internationally. We love traveling to various places around the world for ministry, work and fun. Getting to meet people from all different backgrounds is thrilling to both of us. We also understand there is great need all around the world.
Recently, I was at the 2017 IF:LEAD event in Dallas and Jennie Allen said something like “Do you leaders know one of the reasons why you are to serve internationally? Because there are so many places that need what you have to offer.” I believe she meant the need is great for resources, information, knowledge, encouragement and the list is extensive. This was not a new concept to us, yet it was like God shined a huge flashlight on this concept for me to be reminded of why he was sending Jeff & I to Moldova and Ukraine. My husband Jeff had just recently written a curriculum on suicide prevention, burnout and PTSD. So we packed our bags and at the request of the Ministry of Defense of Moldova and the government of Ukraine went on a new adventure. The people we met were life changers and difference makers in their home country. They love the people they serve and are in need of some new resources. Jeff & I had an adventure of a lifetime. God showed us some huge Kingdom minded lessons.
God is on the move. Where are YOU going next? It may be in your neighborhood or to places like Moldova or Ukraine.
Drs. Nancy & Jeff
October 13, 2017 - The Downside of a Single Point of View
The Polish government once announced they were going to initiate strict meat rationing in order to restore faith in socialism; unintentionally admitting by this contradiction the failure of socialism in their country. The Iraqi government once sent diplomats to twenty countries to explain their country’s peaceful attitude before and during the war. These contradictions come out of a leader’s single point of view, an unchecked opinion, which only takes into account what they want to happen, and takes no account of what actually needs to happen.
This kind of faux-pas occurs when well-run bureaucratic organizations implement change. If it is one thing hierarchy and structure have difficulty with, it is change. At a time when it is crucial to influence others through great communication and conversation, we tend to announce the change and then pronounce what that means without involving anyone outside of leadership.
When you have been instrumental in implementing change, did you run your thinking by a number of others to see if you failed to take something important into consideration? Did you involve others likely to be most affected by the change in conversation regarding their ideas? These two steps will enhance the change process and win support for supporting change rather than resisting change.
October 4, 2017 - Participative Leadership
Flying to San Francisco for business one morning this week, I sat next to a business man who struck up a conversation with me. Eventually, the conversation came around to leadership. What this older gentleman missed was the old days when leadership was largely expressed through power and control.
As he unpacked his reminiscence for me, I realized that over the decades society has changed, and so has the nature of leadership. We have moved from a largely agrarian age into an industrial age and from there into the information age. Though there are places and times authoritarian leadership is still called for, the increasing complexity and specialization driving our economy has moved us away from any one person knowing everything needed to get things done.
Leadership has shifted over these years as well. From less dependence on a commanding leader, we have moved through persuasive leadership styles to participative leadership styles to bring people, teams, and groups together around the work needed to get things done. Actually, all three styles have a place in our economy.
My friend doesn’t like the idea of participative leadership. He thinks it makes the workplace too democratic. Actually, that is a common misunderstanding. Having a say does not mean you have a vote. Participative leadership brings the gifts, talents, and potential of people together in an environment of permission to influence, contribute, and create outcomes together not otherwise achievable.
Participative leadership also guarantees to an extent most decisions will not be arbitrary, secret, or closed to questioning. Perhaps that is the implication that troubled my traveling companion the most. What kind of leadership style is most natural to you, and is it open for questioning?
September 16, 2017 ~ Remembering - National Suicide Prevention Week
On this last day of the 44th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week we remember our friends around the world selflessly working to prevent suicide. We are grateful as well for those who provide their research to the American Association of Suicidologists, helping them further our knowledge and understanding, equipping us for the work we do to provide education, healthcare, and leadership to organizations and institutions committed to bringing light into the darkness of suicide.
Our hearts go out to those who have experienced loss and pray comfort would be yours in full, a gift from our Heavenly Father. Every life is precious, and we will continue to celebrate life with you.
Dr. Nancy and Dr. Jeff
September 15, 2017 ~ Do you need a huge dose of HOPE.
Do you need a big, huge dose of HOPE right now? Well I do! I could just use a dose of God coming straight down from heaven and saying yes, all is good and the things you are hoping for will all come to fruition. Well – I envision them ALL coming to fruition. My dream may be bit too optimistic, but maybe not. Based on God’s Word and His word to you and me! We are to look for HOPE. Hope for a positive future, hope for the unseen, hope that God's promises will come to life.
The root of the word "wait" in Greek is defined as expectant and hopeful. We wait expecting good things will come, even confidently that good things will come. Will you join me in accepting the huge dose of hope that God has said he will provide?
"For I know the plans I have for you,
declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
Be expectant - HAVE HOPE!!
September 6, 2017 ~ The Paradox of Servant Leadership
Servant leaders don’t inflict pain, they bear pain. Servant leaders must become servants and debtors. Servant leaders never move away from providing and maintaining momentum to others. Servant leaders are effective in order to be efficient. Servant leaders are responsible to develop, express, and defend civility and values.
All of those characteristics seem to be at odds with one another until you understand the outcomes. For example, the signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among followers. This can’t happen if your leadership is burdensome to others, and requires you to do the hard work of using your authority to facilitate the success of others even at your own expense.
Instead of focusing on the next career step, great leaders become the servant to the success of those they lead, and instead of taking credit for what others accomplish, understands that they are in debt to them for their own success.
To keep the momentum going, servant leaders have to be steadfast, even unmovable, about institutional values, mission, vision, and aims. Standing still for something in a way that creates momentum for others requires a kind of selflessness only a servant leader possesses.
When efficiency is the measure of success, a servant leader knows that to do the right thing you must first do the thing right. In other words, being effective is the key to efficiency. This counter-intuitive perspective can be unpopular at times and requires courage to defend.
In a world where it is fashionable to be demanding, unmannerly, and disrespectful toward others the servant leader has the ability to distinguish between what is actually healthy in relationships and what is killing relationships. Everything moves forward on relationships. If these five aspects of servant leadership resonate with you, you are on the leading edge. If not, you may want to consider if you are on the trailing edge of leadership altogether. It is also called the dying edge.
August 29, 2017 ~ See Jeff's Blog on Burnout at Welcoa.com
Check out Dr. Jeff Jernigan's blog at Welcoa - Wellness Council of America
Click on the link below:
August 28, 2017 - Why is faith so hard
Why can we have all kinds of faith one moment and then the next moment we waver, doubt and are tremendously frustrated?
We crave comfort, control and knowledge. We desire knowledge that allows us to plan, understand, anticipate an outcome and grasp the details of our life. We truly do love everything all tied up in a nice pretty bow.
We see friends desperately seeking certainty things will turn out positively and we recommend they just be patient and have faith. Yet we have a hard time doing the same with our own situations. What are we to do?
The challenge with faith is it requires a significant amount of patience, waiting and hope. Faith takes strength, courage and an ability to see what is not there. We so desire authentic tangible signs and fight relying on faith. Trust is hard when we are asked to invest in an uncertain future when the states are high.
In times of hardship what do you do?
August 18th, 2017 - Forgotten Leadership Skills
Consider these leadership skills:
* If you want to build courage into others, learn how to maintain or enhance other’s self esteem.
* Building mutual understanding with others requires modeling listening and responding with empathy.
* Teams grow when you ask for others’ help and encourage their involvement.
* If you openly share thoughts, concerns, feelings, and rationale trust is fostered.
* Providing others support without releasing them from responsibility for action develops ownership.
Courage, understanding, team building, trust, and ownership are all aspects of leadership we are familiar with. But I cannot remember the last time I took a course, attended seminar, or participated in a workshop that taught me how you successfully build these skills into others. My own journey, I realized, was filled with people who modeled these things, held me accountable for these things, and came alongside of me when I needed these things with encouragement, not instruction.
Sometimes things rub off on us like painting a wooden fence moving the brush with the grain and not against the grain. Helping my father one day paint the fence around our house, I watched him move the brush back and forth with the grain of the wood. It turned out that was a lot easier than going against the grain like I was doing. He never said a word, just modeled a better way.
Caught, not taught, is the phrase used to describe this kind of learning. Though it may not consist of a structured learning environment, it is every bit as intentional. Look for natural opportunities in your relationships to be intentional about one of these attributes. Start with just one, the one you struggle with the most. It can be a learning experience for the teacher as well as the pupil.
August 8th, 2017 ~ FAITH in the Waiting
The problem or challenge with faith often times can be summarized by patience. To have patience in the waiting and patience in the hoping is not easy. Sometimes we are tempted to ask, did God really say what we thought we heard him say when there is no tangible sign. Adam and Eve did this in the Garden of Eden. Did God really say we should not eat the fruit? One challenge in having faith is to hear from God and then wait for him to unfold what you believe you heard. Faith takes strength and patience. Faith takes a supernatural amount of strength, courage and patience.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous, because it was going to be needed. When he was tired he needed to be strong. When “we” are tired we need to be strong. Often times returning to the scriptures to gain the needed strength is the wisest move. Do you truly believe God has your best in mind?
When you believe God has your best in mind your live differently. You hear from God and have the courage and strength to have faith in the waiting.
The outcome will be very powerful if we can just wait…and have FAITH!
July 24, 2017 - Meaningful Work
Meaningful work and meaningful relationships are a large part of what brings a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. It is easy to see how good colleagues, friends, and family contribute to our satisfaction and fulfillment, but less easy to see how meaningful work connects to satisfaction and fulfillment. Some people believe a job is just a job and not a place to find meaning.
We are designed to work, and designed to make a difference with the work we do. Whether it is work with our hands, our minds, or an artistic intuitive talent, producing something tangible from out labors is satisfying. All of us have had jobs that we didn’t enjoy as much as other jobs. We have all worked at jobs that didn’t fit us well for a period of time as a means of providing income while looking for that job that was a better fit.
Working at the wrong job for too long saps motivation, discourages the spirit, and kills ambition. Too long working at something you don’t experience as meaningful can produce a ruined employee. A ruined employee believes they are entitled when they are not, refuses to take responsibility for their mistakes and constantly shifts blame to others, and bitterly complain about just about everything.
The question in all of this isn’t if you are a ruined employee. As a leader, the question is have you ever treated someone in a manner that has contributed to them becoming a ruined employee? Model what you want to reproduce in others: serve without entitlement, accept responsibility and don’t shift blame to others or the company, and don’t complain. The chances are better when you model these things that you will create a work environment others experience as meaningful.
July 18, 2017 ~ Front Row Seat to the Miraculous
Recently we had a couple from New Zealand stay with us for a few days. They were attending the Purpose Driven Church conference in our area at Saddleback Church hosted by Pastor Rick Warren. It was a joy to have them with us. We learned a tremendous amount observing the movement and presence of God in their lives.
It was clear they were not just here in town for your average conference. In addition to learning a tremendous amount about church growth and igniting transformation in their church – God spoke to them personally in a powerful way! The conversations we had early in the morning and late into the night were invigorating.
We watched God speak into their lives and we saw evidence of God orchestrating meetings and appointments that were clearly ordained to take their church and ministry to the next level. God encouraged us as well through watching their spiritual fatigue melt away, breakthrough in conceptualizing rebirth of ministry emerge and the joy of a calling return.
If we had not hosted this courageous couple WE would have missed out on a front row seat to the miraculous!
What is your next front row seat to the miraculous?
July 10, 2017 ~ Leadership Burnout
Professional burnout isn’t just stress fatigue resulting in acting out in the workplace. It is a complete physical and emotional breakdown brought on by thousands of tiny betrayals of purpose, each one so minute we hardly notice.
Over time the stress of life events, good and bad, catch up to us, almost invisibly producing a consistently negative mindset that erodes motivation. We find ourselves with little energy to direct toward self-care. Soon, discouragement and depression set in, anxiety ramps up, and we are less and less able to reason well or control our emotions. When we crash, it sidelines us for quite awhile. A betrayal of purpose is another way of saying our deeply held values and beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in have been violated to the point we don’t know why we do anything anymore. We just give up.
The solutions are well known: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep. Don’t take responsibility for things you are not responsible for, hang out with positive people, and balance stretching experiences with nourishing ones. What you may not know is why these things are so important.
When we have been physically and emotionally over-stretched long enough, Trauma Type Two sets in. It’s not a traumatic event, just a slow and steady elevated stress you just can’t seem to back off from. The hormones produced in our bodies from that kind of stress changes our brain chemistry. Eventually, our prefrontal cortex and limbic system begin to shut down which impacts reasoning and emotions. Our immune system along with our endocrine system is affected, making us vulnerable to colds, rashes, stomach aches, head aches, and worse. Taking care of your body is a great way to take care of your brain so that your brain can take care of you. If needed, make sure you see your doctor!
July 1, 2017 - What to keep? What to give?
“Some will never give these up, others will always give them away – praise, prominence and power.” Jeff Jernigan
It is beautiful to see brave people give away praise, prominence & power. Yet bravery is something we need to own as well.
Be Brave – Show Bravery – Show Courage
When Jesus lives in you and we are inspired by the Holy Spirit we have the power to be brave. The key is to be brave for God’s purposes and be brave to help and care for others.
Do you care well for others? Do you give away praise, prominence and power? Zechariah 4:6 says; “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” It is the Lord’s power that allows us to be brave for the things of God – His Eternal Purposes.
Dr. Jeff & Dr. Nancy
June 20th 2017 ~ Assessments in the Workplace 4/4 Best Practices
We have covered a lot of information in the previous blogs on this subject. Much of it in a cautionary tone. So, let’s consider what assessments provide that is actually quite positive.
A good assessment instrument properly used in an employment process can help provide incredible insight to you and/or to your organization. They reveal things about people and groups perhaps otherwise not considered. When combined with individual and group interview results, fact checking the resume and background checks, personal and professional references, and a survey of the candidate’s presence on social media, assessments become an important element of an employment process.
Using assessments can also be a part of discovering new directions, positively motivating teams, removing obstacles to mission success, resolving conflicts, strengthening relationships, identifying constraints, or aligning values to organizational purpose and aim for individuals or groups. The list could go on and on. One reason why psychometrics assessments are a billion dollar industry is because good assessments used properly provide meaningful information around a common vocabulary enabling constructive discussion.
Here are some best practices for using workplace assessments.
Use assessments the way they were designed to be used, making sure they are heuristic in nature (reveal a pattern) and not simply a single point in time (a snapshot).
Make sure they comply with any applicable state and federal laws.
The assessment instrument should be provided to the participant in their native language and be statistically valid and reliable as well as socially and racially adjusted based on continuing research and adaptation.
Participants should be informed what information is required, how it will be used, and be given an explanation of the results.
Questions? Need support for your organization? Connect with Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 13, 2017 - The Many Faces of Anger
As I walked into the office an argument erupted across the cubicle-filled central area. Someone was shouting loudly, and then suddenly a sheaf of papers shot up and fanned out above the cubicle wall, falling to the floor out of sight. Red-faced, a very angry man stood up, made some ugly threats, and stormed out of the cubicle, across the room, and out another door which he slammed heavily behind him.
Most of us think about anger as a temper tantrum, or acting out of rage, or slamming doors, intimidating people, or yelling and shouting as this person just modeled. However, anger can also be modeled as frustration, irritability, annoyance, fretting, and passive-aggressive behavior which are just as destructive to relationships. What is at the root of all this anger put on display or stuffed internally is unmet needs. It doesn’t matter if the need is perceived or real, or if others observe your anger or not. You still experience the anger. When we have unmet desires, expectations, or goals anger often is our response.
When we rationalize our anger, making excuses to ourselves, we perpetuate it and make it harder to release. Rationalization makes our angry attitude something or someone else’s fault. When we accept personal responsibility for our situation, even if we did not cause it, we are assuming responsibility for who we are. This simple decision to take responsibility can empower us to restructure our thoughts and stop being a slave to our anger. No one can make us angry, it is a choice we make almost unconsciously in the blink of an eye.
So, when you sense your anger rising, take a deep breath, take responsibility for who you are, and choose to release your anger so that you can move forward with a constructive response that improves the situation.
The 3rd part in the Assessment series in a few days
Assessment Series - 4 part series
June 8th 2017 ~ Assessments in the Workplace (2/4): General Use
The most common reason for using assessments in the workplace include evaluating career potential, job fit, personality or temperament, values, perspectives, and sometimes mental health related requirements. Assessments are not surveys, and seek to measure or map particular attributes or characteristics of interest to the employer. Sometimes, jobs are profiled regarding what attributes and characteristics will be most desirable in someone filling this role. This profile is then compared to the individual results of candidates for the job. However, results of an assessment should never be the sole decision making criteria in any employment decision.
Last week I had a conversation with a client who really was high on a particular assessment that reveals strengths and ranks them from strongest to least strong. The client was now using this assessment to help determine who to hire for roles requiring certain strengths. Knowing the instrument was not designed for use in an employment process, I recommended they call the company producing the assessment and ask them if it was okay to use it that way. The company gave an emphatic “no” for an answer.
Not all assessments that brag about their usefulness in the workplace actually are all that useful. Some well-known assessments often used in the workplace shouldn’t be used at all, anywhere. Others that are very useful for some applications are mistakenly used in incorrectly. The problem is two-fold. First, they don’t actually measure what they advertise in a reliable or valid manner. Second, they are used for an application that is outside of the scope of the instrument’s design. This is the case with the client mentioned above.
Use assessments that are proven to be reliable and valid with the population they were designed for, in the manner they are intended to be used, and for the purpose for which they were designed.
Age, gender, language spoken, demographic factors, industry type, and nature of the work are all part of the design of effective assessment instruments. Violating any of these parameters makes the results invalid.
Questions? Need support for your organization? Connect with Jeff at email@example.com.
May 28, 2017 - Faith in the Waiting
The problem or challenge with faith often times can be summarized by patience. To have patience in the waiting and patience in the hoping is not easy. Sometimes we are tempted to ask, did God really say what we thought we heard him say when there is no tangible sign just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Did God really mean that we should not touch or eat the fruit? A challenge in having faith is to hear from God and then wait for him to unfold what you believe you heard. Faith takes strength. Faith takes a supernatural amount of strength, courage and patience.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous, because it was going to be needed. When he was tired he needed to be strong. When “we” are tired we need to be strong. Often times returning to the scriptures to gain the needed strength is the wisest move. Do you truly believe God has your best in mind?
The outcome will be very powerful if we can just wait…and have faith!
Assessment Series - A Four Part Series
May 18, 2017 ~ Assessments in the Workplace (1/4): Purpose
In my work with people and organizations, I often use (and get a lot of questions about) psychometric assessments. Typically, these instruments are known as “psychological tests” which is unfortunate, since they are seldom psychological and certainly not tests in the sense of pass/fail, right/wrong, win/lose, or good/bad. Since there is a lot of confusion about the use of assessments in the workplace I will try to provide some helpful clarity in four blogs addressing the purpose for assessments, their general use, their use in employment processes, and best practices for how they should be used.
There are as many assessments in the marketplace as there are reasons for using them. In other words, a lot! Some evaluate career potential, behavioral preferences, gifts and talents, cross-cultural adaptability, mental state, and more. Others are designed more for groups and address team building, interpersonal skill development, conflict resolution, situational awareness and strategic thinking. If you can think of a personal or group need, there probably is an assessment designed to explore that niche both personally and socially. For example you can assess one’s personality as well as the personality of a team made up of any number of individuals.
Bottom line, there is one fundamental purpose for all workplace assessments: to surface meaningful information around a common vocabulary enabling a constructive discussion.
Related to this purpose, each participant should know what information is required of them, how it will be used, and be given an opportunity to review and validate the results. In other words, they should have the purpose for the assessment explained to them. This is helpful in establishing the environment the participant should consider when completing the assessment in order to avoid unnecessary bias in their responses. There are other reasons as well that will be addressed in other blogs in this series.
Questions? Need support for your organization? Connect with Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 11, 2017 - Powers of Observations
Consider this scenario: A tear rolls fat down his cheek as a shiver runs down his spine, his mind a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. “Help me please.” Trembling, this is what he said to me about his son.
What observations can you make from this short description? There are at least five things we know: tears are welling in his eyes; he is trembling, confused, seeking help because he is unable to help or does not know what to do. We don’t know if his son is present or not. We don’t know the reason for his apparent desperation, and we don’t know what kind of help is needed. There isn't enough information at this point to act upon.
Yet many of us would be ready to jump in and help simply based upon our observations without getting the rest of the story. The power in observation is not in drawing a conclusion based on the immediate details. It is in discerning the right questions to ask in order to understand the true situation and discern what action to take.
Now, apply this idea to reviewing a financial report. Sometimes the numbers can paint a bleak picture that would bring anyone to tears, or reveal a situation that leaves us trembling with frustration, wondering where to turn for help. Based on our observations, we may want to intervene from a business perspective, take over, and rescue the situation.
Reports can be like emails that have no emotional context. We can read into them lots of things that are not true or were not intended. Before making a decision regarding how to rescue the situation, you can ask a few questions about the report that will provide perspective. Find out if the situations is as dire as you think it may be by confirming those things you observed that were of real concern.
April 27, 2017 ~ God's Fingers
Do you always keep in mind God is your creator and maker? I know it is true and I see the results of His creation in me, my loved ones and His beautiful creation around me. I know that God created me for HIS purposes! Yet, I don't always realize the implications. To look to my maker for all things makes sense because God knows all things and their purposes.
Isaiah 17:7-8 - "...people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands...and they will not look on what his own fingers have made."
Isaiah reminds us that we need to look to what our Maker has created and not look at what we think we have created with our fingers. Anything we create with our fingers that is not ordained by God is futile - literally will not last and has no value. Yet, we are to ONLY look to God, our Maker, and keep our eyes on HIM.
The Old Testament refers to building altars. This is what people did; they created an altar and worshiped it, not the true God. They worshipped things they "made" and took credit for what belonged to God. We do this as well, yet in different ways. We put jobs, people and things above God. Today, notice what God has created and worship His works!
Do you see anything differently after considering the works of God's hands?
April 25, 2017 ~ Juggling Change
Sometimes change is thrust upon us all at once and changes everything. Other times we dig in and resist changing anything because we believe things should stay the same. This could as easily be a family dynamic as it could be our work environment. Either way, change can feel unnatural, and we all have a built in dislike for what doesn’t come naturally.
Managing change effectively on a personal as well as a professional level is going to require adaptation. Adaptation isn’t an event, it’s process that has a beginning and a conclusion. Adaptation is what enables change to happen and reach its natural conclusion over time. Time allows critical thought about how much change is appropriate.
Should everything change? Are there some things that should stay the same for the right reasons? What should be adapted? That is, what old things should be adapted for a new purpose rather than be left unchanged? The ability to adapt and guide others in the process of adaptation is what sets successful change agents apart from those who simply push change on others or push back when asked they are asked to change.
April 21, 2017 ~ When You Think You Know for Sure!
She came up to me with a smile in her eyes and waited until she caught mine. I was immediately attracted to her, and she knew it. I smiled, she stepped in closer, I didn’t back away. Looking around, I didn’t see Nancy anywhere.
As it turns out, her name is Zoe. Somehow, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. In fact, I was surprisingly at ease. Clearly, she wanted some sort of response from me. So, I bent over, picked her up and gave her a hug. Zoe is our diminutive Yorkshire Terrier, all smiles and ready to cuddle at a moment’s notice.
Now, if this story started with a context, like who Zoe really is to us, you would have an entirely different impression than the one you arrived at by the start of the second paragraph. Without a context, it is very easy to arrive at an incorrect conclusion. As leaders, we cannot afford to misinterpret an observation, second guess an email, or decide something in advance of having the rest of the story.
There is a context to everything. Make an effort to understand context. It may just be the rest of the picture you need to truly understand something or someone. Here’s what to do: 1) Remind yourself there is always more to the story than meets the eye. 2) Ask questions that help fill in the context to what happened or what was said. 3) Be open to challenging your first impression based on a fuller understanding.
April 10, 2017 ~ Intersections
What happens at an intersection? There is a decision to be made that normally includes a right decision or correct direction. Sometimes there is an option to make a U-turn, yet most often the decision made directs the next portion of our life.
A spiritual intersection signifies we are on a journey where God is taking us somewhere intentional. A journey implies there are many intersections taking us to an intended outcome. The goal at an intersection is to move forward in a positive way – the way God intended.
Watch out for fear, confusion, insecurities and impatience. Pray fervently and spend time in God’s Word!
God’s Word says, “With pleas of mercy, I will lead and will make them walk by streams of water, on a level path where they will not stumble.” Jeremiah 31:9. Walking by streams of water symbolizes being refreshed, allowing God to supply all we need and walking the path he ordained for us.
Are you at an intersection?
March 28, 2017 - Tranquility
Nancy is an amazing wife, mother, business owner, and executive leader. She gives our children and grandchildren quality time, which isn’t easy since they are located around the world. She keeps the household together and functioning, as well as our business and more importantly, me. She volunteers almost as many hours to coach other leaders, available to encourage and support someone at a moment’s notice. I am vicariously feeling the lifestyle stress as I write this!
Yet, Nancy is able to meet every situation with equanimity, her interest unflagging due to fatigue, and with a sincerity that brings hope into every encounter. How does she do it? Well, I stumbled upon an answer every leader should understand: tranquility.
Returning early one afternoon, I moved quietly through the house not wanting to alarm Nancy by suddenly appearing. Passing through the family room, I realized the house was empty. She must be on the back patio. And, so she was. Sitting with her feet pulled up under her on the love seat in the sun staring out over the valley below, sometimes shifting her head slightly to look up at the clouds punctuating a clear blue sky drifting along slowly because they had nothing to do.
Every now-and-then, a deep breath released slowly interrupted writing in her journal. Twenty or thirty minutes is all it takes to find reprieve in a moment of solitude, running busy thoughts out of your mind, through your fingertips, and onto the pages where you no longer have to worry about forgetting something. A peaceful place to remember to be thankful for what others have done for you and not what you have to do with the rest of your day; grateful for the small blessings of the day and not focusing on what is lacking. Truly, a moment in perspective and remedy for leadership fatigue.
Such tranquility in her countenance! I left without announcing myself. We all need a bit of tranquility here and there.
March 15, 2017 ~ Monkey Business
Sometimes people need a little help shouldering responsibility, and sometimes they would like to pass all responsibility on to you. If helping them will enable them to succeed and learn something in the process, it’s probably a good idea to come along side and lend a hand, so-to-speak. If they want to pass something over to you that is not your responsibility, it may be because it has become a burdensome monkey on their back they want to get rid of.
You probably should choose not to take that monkey. First, it robs them of a learning experience; second, it encourages shirking responsibility on their part and thirdly, you have enough to do without getting caught up in someone else’s monkey business.
March 9, 2017 – Caring for those we lead?
Peter is by far one of my favorite examples of a leader who inspires other leaders. Peter teaches eloquently about shepherding people in their spiritual growth and explains what it means to select appropriate leaders, know people, coach them, let them wrestle out lessons practically in order to grow in a healthy learning environment. Not lording over those entrusted to you is a very important and practical piece of advice for leaders of all ages. It is awkward to think we may have a tendency to "lord over people", yet it is a critical part of leadership to always stay in touch with.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3.
Peter teaches about servant leadership and inspiring new leaders so the gospel can be spread in greater numbers. Peter took seriously his God-given purpose to shepherd the flock by modeling and teaching others how to listen to the Holy Spirit and grow leaders in a healthy environment.
What can you learn from Peter today?
March 8, 2017 ~ International Women's Day
International Women’s Day is a great reminder that women of all ages from a variety of places spanning the globe have influenced us to do great things. From my beautiful granddaughter Kendall, a cheerleader who loves well, to special friends in Africa who are stomping out poverty to women in our own backyard hoping to share the light of the world they feel in their hearts. Thank you to all these women who inspire me daily!!!
A friend of mine and her husband are working hard at reducing the problem of poverty in Mozambique, Africa. She is an inspiration to me. In addition, she is a teacher to grade school children helping them reach for the stars.
I know of more than 60 women who are blessing children with a forever home in Rwanda, Africa. Wow, these women are truly changing the world.
These women and many more are difference makers and I am so proud to be living at this time.
February 20, 2017 ~ Having the Truth
What do motorcycles, a counseling class, and getting fired have in common? Here are the scenarios: Having never owned or ridden a motorcycle before, you read the owner’s manual and then take your new bike out for a spin only to crash in the driveway before reaching the street. Taking your first college course ever on counseling, you then sit down with a very depressed person who laughs in your face when you say, “I understand and I feel your pain” with great sympathy. Having never been fired yourself, you tell your friend who was just laid off to get over it, another job will come along.
Answer: having the truth is not the same as understanding the truth.
Some skills take a great deal of practice to master. True empathy and compassion are born out of experience sharing the burdens of others. The best practical advice we can give someone comes out of our own experience with the same situation. All of these are examples of knowledge and experience coupled with maturity. We call it wisdom. Wisdom begets understanding, and we all need friends who can understand.
So, when a friend comes to you needing to be listened to, taken seriously, and understood, share out of your wisdom. If you haven’t had the same experience simply say so and tell them you will try to understand. You will build the friendship even more.
February 9, 2017 ~ You Will Not Abandon Me in Confusing Times
Lately I have had numerous conversations with friends and co-workers about the state of our country and the confusing times we live in. There is so much confusion these days whether you live in California, New York or Chicago.
One very important topic that keeps arising is how can we best love one another even if we do not share the same views. Well, I think this is a valid challenge “for such a time as this”. We sit in meetings with men and women from different religions, viewpoints and cultures. We go to the grocery store and it looks like a United Nations conference. This is a good thing.
Many of our discussions have come to a place of agreement that when we put our hope in the Lord, not in our safety, we can have a sense of peace in our heart. This peace has many benefits.
In Acts 2:25 – 26, Luke the author of Acts, is quoting David when he says, ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me.”
When we trust in God with this level of FAITH, we truly have a better capacity to love others. When we put our life in the hands of God, we do not respond out of fear, but out of love, even an attitude of rejoicing.
So by loving God and trusting in his care for us – we can love others better. This includes women and men from various backgrounds and opinions. It includes others no matter the situation.
Ponder Acts 2:25-26 and see if you don’t find a new sense of peace too.
February 1, 2017 - Plug and Play
A pastor friend of mine got a job in a large church. It was a great fit and he loved his work! Then came a change in mission direction and some restructuring as a result. My friend was moved to a different job he didn’t like so much. It wasn’t a very good fit. Then his boss left for another church and his new boss tasked him with very different responsibilities which changed the job again and created an even worse fit. Now my friend wanted to leave as a result of these two leaders making expedient decisions, not smart decisions, about positions they needed filled.
I call this plug and play, or fill the role with the nearest warm body. I have done this as well in the corporate world . It didn’t take long for me to see that an increasingly poor job fit for someone created more problems in the long run than if I had spent some time evaluating the role in light of the person’s experience, gifts, and skills. Having great potential doesn’t mean the person you move will make a great fit.
It is often easier for a leader to put people where it is convenient than where they really can make the best contribution. A leader’s natural desire to take action can work against them in these situations. Better to stop and ask yourself, what is best for this organization and this person, not what is best for me. The right people in the right roles makes any business or ministry run with less friction, accomplishing goals with excellence.
January 25, 2017 - Niggles
Recently interviewing someone for a C-Suite role, I suddenly had a niggle. You know, that disquieting little question mark in the back of your mind suggesting there is something else going on that isn’t quite clear yet. Usually, this is our intuition kicking in and giving us a cue for something missing. Sometimes our discernment comes alongside our rational thinking with a suggestion there are missing pieces to search out. This produces the niggle.
In this case, the person being interviewed was already in a chief executive role, seemingly happy with their work, not expressing concern about the present working environment, and paid very well. Why would they be interested in what seemed from my perspective to be a lateral move? What was their motivation for looking for a new leadership role? In other words, what is the root cause?
Leaders seldom have a complete picture when it comes to decision making, whether it involves problem solving, strategic direction, or even hiring an executive. They have to rely on more than just their intellect and also rely on their experience and instincts. Those little niggles don’t arise from an intellectual process, they come out of the backdrop of our experience and core strengths. That is where true intuition is formed.
To hone your discernment skills as a leader, pay attention to your niggles. Do they reflect your skills and gifts, or do they seem to come out of nowhere? Do they address the heart of the matter, or are they an emotional reaction (I just don’t like the person/situation/idea)? Never ignore a gut feeling, but never assume it is the truth or even close to the truth. The most helpful niggles will have a reasonable context as well as rational application that together fill in the missing pieces.
Oh yes, almost forgot, the person being interviewed was aware their organization was being merged with another and it was likely they would be let go. Great candidate, though, and they did get the new job. The niggle made the difference between a good hire and a bad hire. This was a good hire.
January 14, 2017
God Always Sends Us Where He Needs Us - Interview with Nancy Jernigan -Guest Blog
Kaysie Larkin and Katie Nguyen . Saddleback Church Writers
Nancy was ready for a new adventure. With a willing heart and fervor to be used by God she prayed for him to send her. As she waited for His response, visions of foreign countries and helping those less fortunate swam through her head. She believed that God was about to do something substantial and she believed this meant that perhaps they were being called to the international mission field.
Having been a member of Saddleback since early 1999, Nancy and her husband Jeff were involved in multiple campus ministries. Serving at the church was their ministry, but not their vocation. It wasn’t until 2005 that this idea of ministry began to shift for them. Nancy and her husband Jeff were sitting in the Worship Center listening to Pastor Rick preach a message about being “sent out.” From the depths of her being, Nancy began to sense a stirring. She did not have to wait long for an answer to prayer.
God answered through a knock on the door, literally. Some couples from the local church came asking her and her husband Jeff to stay in Corona and Pastor a church in need of revival. Nancy did what any supportive wife and obedient woman of God would do. She said yes. And then she lamented her overseas mission dreams deferred. Sometimes God sends us next door, down the street and around the corner. For Nancy, her mission field was not the jungles of Africa or the barrios of Honduras. Jeff and Nancy were called to a church 26.5 miles away in the city of Corona, California.
She said yes. And then she lamented her overseas mission dreams deferred. Sometimes God sends us next door, down the street and around the corner.
Nancy had never been a Senior Pastor’s wife and Jeff had been a missionary and a pastor yet had never been a Senior Pastor, but they said yes. They said yes to pastoring a congregation that needed healing, health, hope. “I settled into my new calling. It didn’t look like I thought it would, but I decided to embrace it. I would tell myself ‘this is who I am and this is where God has called me to be.’ My prayer was that wherever we walked and whoever we met, people would feel God’s love.”
An interim position that was meant as a 2-3 year assignment became an almost seven year commitment. Nancy looks back on this time as a growth period. Corona gave her many opportunities to hold the hands of the broken and lift them up to God in prayer. It gave her the opportunity to reach out to those who were not accepted.
During this time the Lord taught her to trust. He taught her the necessity of prayer and the importance of returning to her daily quiet time to listen for His voice. He kept her in a vulnerable state so that she would have to seek only Him to fill her up to make it through each day. He strengthened her character as she served outside her comfort zone. He taught her that her local community was just as much of a mission field as foreign lands were. It was an opportunity for her to put her personal mission statement, to influence the influencers to live sold out lives for God, into action as she trained up leaders in the church before moving on.
He (God) strengthened her character as she served outside her comfort zone. He taught her that her local community was just as much of a mission field as foreign lands were.
Jeff and Nancy now find themselves living in southern California and back at Saddleback Lake Forest. Nancy serves with Saddleback Women as a leadership curriculum developer and teacher. She will be leading Thursday morning studies this Spring and her dream to serve internationally has come to fruition. Nancy just finished her first missions trip to Rwanda. Nancy & Jeff had been on many missions trips in the past yet Nancy had never been to Africa. On that trip, God gave Nancy an opportunity to put into practice what she learned in Corona. She went with a small group of Saddleback women to visit a Rwandan woman on her death bed due to contracting AIDS through being raped. Nancy noticed that while many villagers would visit the woman, no one would touch her. Nancy felt a nudge from God that he had called her for such a time as this. She moved across the room and took this woman’s hand into hers.
Nancy just finished her first missions trip to Rwanda. On that trip, God gave Nancy an opportunity to put into practice what she learned in Corona.
In one moment, she erased stigma. In one moment, she gave dignity. In one moment, she gave hope to a woman dying from AIDS as a result of rape. Nancy went back the next day with a few Saddleback women and they gave this woman a foot rub and arm rub and leg rub with their hotel lotion. They lovingly touched this woman on the outside until she felt the love on the inside. The next day the woman told a friend from the local church, “That medicine lotion worked. I feel so much better now.”
God is always faithful. It is easy to get frustrated for where He has you. It is easy to set our sights on the promised land ahead instead of focusing on the tasks he has set right before us. Nancy’s story is a beautiful example of how when we are obedient to God he will refine us to give us His heart and then He gives us the desires of our own heart. Patience in the process can be hard. But it’s worth it.
Nancy reflects, “You see, when you say yes to God, you may be scared but you go but God will be with you and give you everything you need. When I wrote my mission statement I had no idea where God would lead me, but I was ready and willing. Saying yes to the Lord is sometimes hard and challenging but it’s so worth it! I wouldn’t want anything different. Even when its challenging, saying yes is so much better than fighting it. We are called to offer grace, kindness, and mercy through the process of wherever God takes us, whether it be Corona or Rwanda. If I can live that out, then I am leading the way He has called me to lead. That is all He has ever done and I am called to do the same.”
Saying yes to the Lord is sometimes hard and challenging but it’s so worth it! I wouldn’t want anything different. Even when its challenging, saying yes is so much better than fighting it.
Nancy calls herself a lifetime learner, but never intended to further her education. Seeing the letters after her name was not on her bucket list, but she stepped out in obedience when God nudged her again and earned a master’s degree, completed seminary, and has finished her doctorate in Pastoral Ministry. Together, she and her husband Jeff serve churches and ministries internationally through their faith based organizational consulting firm.
NANCY WILL BE LEADING OUR THURSDAY MORNING BIBLE STUDY at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.
December 5, 2016 - Memory Fails Me
At a recent board meeting a number of us who had known each other for nearly two decades reminisced a bit about adventures we shared early in our careers. It quickly became apparent each of us had a different recollection of certain events. Key events were agreed upon, but who said what and how things happened, especially if there was a degree of embarrassment involved, were remembered very differently or not at all.
For a leader memory is an important factor in reconstructing events, understanding the history of a positive outcome, resolving conflict, and measuring performance. Too important to leave to recollection alone. So, boards have Minutes, meetings have Agendas, projects have Reports, and so on in order to memorialize what took place and why. It is also one of the reasons I keep a journal. Sometimes memory fails me.
Even when the details are clear and sharp in our recall, the interpretation of those details can vary widely. Our motives and desires act like a lens to our experiences and can produce a different view of the same facts someone else experienced with us. Sometimes I recognize that my strongly held expectations make it difficult to distinguish actual events from expected events. Also, our minds will assign meaning to ambiguous events in order to fill-in the blanks at times.
To the point, my recollection of an incident on a subway train in Russia was very different from those on the board that were with me at the time. Somehow, I had forgotten the embarrassing part involving me. Go figure!
Good leaders solve problems and make decisions every day. If you trust your memory as a primary source of information in making those decisions you will end up being embarrassed someday. Back up your experiences with notes, minutes, and other documentation, and consult with others with first-hand information often.
December 5, 2016 - Perfect Peace
Isaiah 26:3 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Do you have “peace” in your life? Isaiah 26:3, refers to a mind that is stayed on Jesus. The word “stayed” means to be emotionally stable, guided by Jesus, staying calm because of our trust in Jesus. A mind stayed on Jesus is at peace.
A mind at peace allows us to serve out of spiritual strength and allows us to “lead” out of our strength because our mind is fixed on Jesus and his will.
Spiritual Leadership is about serving God’s Kingdom purposes not our own. When we have peace in God’s direction we lead people in God’s ways without fear and with a confidence in the direction God has given us. This type of peace comes out of a trust in God – a strength in God. When we know God well we see how we can trust his ways. A high level of trust in God comes from understanding His Word and the way he works in our life.
It what situation do you need to find peace and more emotional stability?
November 23, 2016 ~ Don't Think with Your Ego
When I was in High School I met a girl from another school who was interested in coming to an after-game dance at my school. I arranged to meet my friend outside the gym where the dance was to be held and get her in as my guest. We both looked forward to the date.
When the day arrived I was excited and confirmed she would show up. Only, after the game, another friend introduced me to a girl who swept me off my feet. Or, rather, played to my ego in a way that tempted me to get big-headed. This was my problem, not hers, as any insecure teenage boy can tell you. Anyway, I forgot about my friend waiting outside. She eventually found someone else to sponsor her as a guest, arrived to find me preoccupied with someone else, and left.
I didn’t even think about it until Monday when a bunch of us walked into the coffee shop after school. Seeing her spot me from the booth opposite the entrance, I began to apologize even as she approached. After that, I don’t remember much. Evidently, when she was close enough, I got a right uppercut that turned the lights out. All I saw was a sweet smile on her face in the moment before contact. We remained friends after that incident until life took us in different directions. This turned out to be a great life lesson for me t the price of only a little embarrassment.
Leaders can get caught up in their own success and the praise that goes with success. Sometimes to the point that they never see something important coming. What is that old axiom? Pride cometh before an uppercut, or rather a fall? Effective leaders know how to manage their egos and approach success with their eyes wide open. Effective leaders maintain a realistic self-appraisal that keeps their ego in check.
November 13, 2016 ~ Don't Count on Luck
The airplane seemed to be suspended in a dark gray bubble with no indication of up or down. The storm had come on suddenly, fuel was dangerously low, and a lightening strike had just taken out the navigation instruments. The single engine Cherokee was as powerful as they come, but no match for the turbulence. An emergency was declared and approach control was guiding the pilot to what everyone hoped would be a safe landing.
Blind until almost the last minute, the pilot popped out of the clouds directly over the numbers on the end of the runway: runway 13, lucky 13 some thought. But luck had nothing to do with it.
Inside that bubble, the pilot could have given up, released the controls, leaned back and radioed they were done. The tower would just have to make sure they got down safely. Or, they could have doggedly responded to the tower’s instructions as if it were advice, agreeing with some of it and refusing to follow the instructions they didn’t agree with. Either giving up or taking over, they would have been in even more serious trouble. Instead, everyone involved: the pilot, the air traffic controller, approach and ground control stayed in touch, intentional about the professional partnership holding them together.
Leadership in crisis is like that: keep your cool, maintain good communication, value expertise over position when your position doesn’t possess the expertise, and be intentional about everything you do. The alternative is to risk losing control, blame others, stop communicating, insist on doing it your way, and watch your airplane crash and burn. This was one of the best life lessons I ever learned.
October 30, 2016 ~ Audacious Love
au·da·cious - adjective - showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks
Bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, and heroic.
To know Rwanda is to know the people. The people of Rwanda have an unbelievable ability to love, forgive, share, endure and persevere.
Jet lag can be both difficult and a gift. Sometime the clarity that comes at 4:00am in the morning is needed. Previous overseas trips do not necessarily prepare you for the next. This was my first Saddleback Church trip to Africa. Jeff and I have taken numerous overseas trips together yet this was my first trip without him in over 25 years. God had much to accomplish and he used the people of Rwanda to communicate the most profound messages.
The Rwanda women and men showed us how to love family, community and the Church. The Church in Rwanda is strong, faithful and Kingdom minded. They serve out of very little and give generously even if they have little. They are a perfect example of the woman Jesus met who gave two small copper coins in Mark 12. They literally give all they have.
They give all the love they can, they share their home to everyone who can fit, and they adopt the orphan because of the need. They visit their sick neighbor as well as drive forever or walk a very long distance to deliver love, care, and comfort. They give so much more than I have ever given in my lifetime. They taught me to care more deeply than I have cared in a long time. The devastation they have experienced is unimaginable. They have experienced situations that should never have to be spoken out loud. The pain they know is nothing I can grasp. Yet, they still love, give, forgive and share and repeat it day after day.
We met with a group of about 60 parents who had adopted children in order to clear orphanages because they understand the desperate need to be in a forever family. The sacrifice of this type of adoption is Audacious – they are literally giving their last two coins to love another sweet child into their family. Their love is crazy and beautiful and a picture of heaven. It has changed me forever. You see them in the picture below.
Now… I pray, what is the audacious love I need to share? I will be forever changed because of the love of Jesus and the loving people of Rwanda.
October 28, 2016 ~ Your El Captitan
We topped out just before the sun went down and managed to get all the gear up before the stars came out. Climbing thirty-five hundred vertical feet of the largest granite monolith in the world was giving us a moment of incredulity as we sat and layed about looking at pinpoints of light like holes in the bottom of heaven shining down their congratulations. Our breath was a vapor puffing small clouds of steam like strange airborne bubbles in the stillness on top of the mountain at nearly eight thousand feet above sea level.
Sometimes leadership is confronted with an El Capitan challenge, something intimidating, overwhelming, and larger than life that appears to be insurmountable. Just like mountain climber: resilience, stamina, courage, confidence, and resolve come with preparation and practice. There is a pathway that empowers you for leadership in difficult circumstances. Some people call it paying your dues, others may call it earning your way or being a hardship apprentice. Common leadership wisdom says if you lead skillfully everything will work out. The tilt says that if you lead with character your followers will work everything out. (Source: Tilt: Small Shifts in Leadership that Make a Big Difference.)
October 11, 2016 ~ The Second Explanation
When we are confronted with failure the tendency is to grasp the first explanation that gives us a sense of control (Nietzsche). Whether it is a system, process, machine, or person, we want to find a reason for what that went wrong that makes sense. The reality that any kind of failure, especially in leadership, is usually not the result of a single cause but the end result of a complex set of circumstances coalescing in negative consequences gets lost in our rush to fix things.
The astute leader looks for confirmation of what went wrong by evaluating alternative explanations. This helps protect against jumping to conclusions and enables spending a little more time thinking things through, often resulting in a second explanation that is the real reason things happened the way they did. Now, a solution that has every chance of working can be created. Better still, you don't end up fixing something that is not broken by being distracted with the first explanation.
September 30th, 2016 - Motivation for Ministry
"Without faith it is impossible to please God." Hebrews 11:6
Our inclination as leaders is to challenge everyone else to live up to the high standards we set for ourselves, but Jesus said a leader has to be the servant of everyone else. (Mark 10:42-45) No one can every live up to all our expectations.
Common Leadership Wisdom says: God calls me to exercise leadership in the ministry he has placed me.
The TILT: God calls me to relinquish leadership to him in the ministry he has placed me in.
How does your need to control play into your motivation for ministry? How much does your sense of well being revolve around the feeling of being in control? Also, consider how much anxiety you experience when you are in NOT in control.
How are you doing in the area of trusting Jesus as your leader and allowing HIM to guide you in your leadership decisions?
Think about it!
Excerpt from TILT by Jeff Jernigan and Erik Rees
September 19, 2016 ~ Backwards May Be Forwards
Ever wonder about those old movies where the stage coach wheels seemed to be turning backwards until the horses slowed down enough they began turning forward again? It was a phenomenon of the speed at which those old cameras could snap a picture and advance to the next frame to take the next picture of something moving faster than the film ran past the shutter. Each picture lagged behind the actual motion a little bit, creating the illusion the coach wheels were turning backwards. When the wheels were turning at a slower speed the shutter speed could stay ahead of the motion and capture the wheels moving forward.
As a leader I often am involved in complex projects halfway around the world where I cannot be physically present most of the time. The reports I receive sometimes make me feel like things are bogged down, even going backwards. The information presents a picture of delays, hold-ups, and regression. But is that truly the picture?
If it is not a true picture, and I react too quickly to resolve what I think is a problem, I may just make things worse.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind that help prevent disaster in remote locations:
1) First: trust the leadership you put in place onsite.
2) Second: pick up the phone, video conference, email, text, do whatever is necessary to get up-to-date information. Ask catalytic questions.
3) Third: remember the illusion of going backwards may hide the reality that you are still moving forward.
September 15, 2016 - Oil on the Waters
What an interesting phrase! It comes from the idea of agitated waters calmed by oil poured on the surface. Oil is lighter than water and floats, spreading out over the surface like a blanket, absorbing the agitation and settling the commotion down.
Today I was on a flight to visit a client. Toward the end of the flight a passenger had an emergency, apparently in the process of a possible heart attack. Just two rows ahead of me, it was natural to get involved. No, I am not a physician, but I do have medical training. As it turns out, I stayed involved because there wasn't a higher level of care available.
The crew was agitated, and that transferred itself to the passengers nearby in the cabin, which then became a garbled message of confusion and alarm further back in the cabin. Once the situation was better understood and the passenger calmed down, I had nothing to do but stand there, available if help was needed. The crew had everything under control by then.
Heads were still leaning around seats with worried looks as far back in the aircraft as I could see. Many passengers around me were still agitated. So, maintaining composure, I communicated some non-confidential information about things being under control, the passenger's condition was improving, nothing to worry about, and stood by with a confident and calm demeanor. Everyone settled down.
In reality, everything was not okay. The passenger needed medical attention, and as soon as we landed the EMT's got them off the plane and whisked them away. However, undue fear and concern had been averted. There are times when you as a leader are going to be required to project a calm, serene confidence you may not feel and may not be justified by the circumstances.
When you do, it will be like pouring oil on the waters. It will be leadership.
August 22, 2016 ~ Leadership Thoughts for the Day
* Inspire new knowledge in others
* Magnify the people around them
* Give to others so they can be their best
* Help others get smarter
* Inspire clarity in a situation
* Create an environment conducive to self-discovery
* Encourage, inspire and bring insight when someone is at a crossroad
* Guide and direct as someone's advocate and cheerleader
Let's see if we can live out one of these today!!
August 19, 2016 ~ Emotions
I sat there with them for what seemed a long time. It was the end of a wonderful relationship and I didn’t want to let go. My heart was breaking. Finally, with a knowing glance, they reached out and licked my hand, a final goodbye, and then were gone. My favorite companion, the dog of my childhood, remained with me as long as they could, but not long enough to my way of thinking. I was twelve, and cried like a three year old.
Memories like that still touch me with sadness and longing, as well as gratitude and hopefulness. There are many people who shove this kind of thing way down and don’t want to engage emotionally with situations or people that make them feel uncomfortable, even if the pain is sweet. Our ability to engage people emotionally, even sometimes show emotions (though, I don’t recommend crying like a three year old) is a sign of emotional maturity and intelligence. It also allows people to connect with us in open and transparent ways that builds trust.
The key for a leader is to have clear in their mind the difference between emotional engagement and emotional entanglement. One always keeps propriety in mind, engaging in a manner appropriate for the relationship and the situation, while the other plows ahead without regard for either. We have been created with emotions. Emotions are a part of us and provide a greater understanding of who we are and how we relate to our world.
The best leaders separate what they feel from what they know, knowing feelings are like a barometer, or compass, or light on the dashboard pointing to something that may be noteworthy but not really a decision making criteria. I hope I never become divorced from my emotions and can still feel disappointment and loss as well as encouragement and joy in all of my relationships.
August 16, 2016 ~ A Multiplying Leader
There are many types of leaders. A multiplying leader is unique among all leaders. This leader does more than guide and direct. This type of leader multiplies other leaders. In essence, they inspire other leaders and are known for helping make other leaders be better leaders.
A multiplying leader inspired by the Holy Spirit, selects appropriate leaders for the role or job, develops them, casts a big vision, empowers them to accomplish great things, coaches them, offers opportunities to practice their specific leadership trait, inspires them to in character development.
A multiplying leader:
* Gives people an opportunity to grow
* Inspires risk taking
* Is available in hard times or painful times
* Opens doors expanding leadership reach
* Stimulates character growth
An authentic multiplying leader ignites change and growth! They coach and walk along side, not doing the work for the other leaders yet, stimulating movement. A multiplying leader can look behind them and see a number of leaders who may be even accomplishing more than they have accomplish!
Can you name leaders who are a part of your multiplying efforts?
August 8, 2016 ~ Two Kinds of Service
I arrived at the country club early for the funeral. Not your usual place for a memorial, but not beyond proper bounds either. A friend had asked me to step in as the pastor since they were out of town. There wasn’t much family involved, so I lent a hand where I could starting with checking coats and hats and directing people to the restrooms. Moving on from that, I served as the bartender for the non-alcoholic open bar since the other bar was overwhelmed. Later I served food, cleared dishes, and reset chairs.
When I was finally introduced as the pastor, you could have heard a pin drop. They all thought I was club staff and, from the looks on their faces, were all trying to remember if they were kind or rude to me, pleasant or demanding, entertaining or off-color with their humor. Afterwards, lots of people apologized to me for treating me like the hired help, a servant. I actually had a wonderful time, and rarely has a congregation been as attentive in church as these folks were at a funeral in a country club. There was no reason for pretense anymore, and it made communicating easy.
There are two kinds of service we can engage in. We can choose to serve or we can chose to be a servant. If we choose to serve we are still in charge. We set the boundaries, we define the nature of our service, and we choose whom to serve. If we choose to be a servant there are no such choices. A servant gives up the right to be in charge. There is true freedom in this since we cannot be manipulated, having voluntarily put ourselves in position to be taken advantage of. Instead, we become available. After the service I had some of the most meaningful and transformational conversations with those that stuck around. For some it was a fresh start into a new life. What will you chose today?
August 5, 2016 ~ WHY?
As a leader have you asked yourself WHY recently? Why you are holding an event? Why you are having that meeting? Why did you make a certain decision?
Most importantly, Great Leaders decide WHY their ministry or organization exists.... and then they communicate the WHY message effectively.
What Why message do you want to communicate today?
GREAT LEADERS ask WHY?
Why does your ministry or organization exist! Who are you telling?
August 3, 2016 ~ Presence
When she smiles it inspires a feeling of humility and awe in those favored with her glance. Her green eyes have a gentle touch that keeps your attention even when no one is speaking. Certainly not invasive, she will approach you with an energy and excitement that makes you feel as if you are the most important person in the room at the moment. You would never know how smart or accomplished she is, and certainly never guess her age. Being present with you is all that matters, and she gives you her undivided attention.
This is what is called having a presence. We all have a presence. It can be irritating and off-putting, or friendly and engaging, or lots of things in between. Nancy’s presence is constantly friendly and engaging. People like to be around her, she is a good listener. People find it easy to trust her, she is authentic. And, people are less concerned about perceptions around her…she doesn’t talk much about herself, where she has been, who she knows, or what she has done. These are the kinds of things that cause others to engage in comparisons that aren’t helpful.
Presence, at least this kind of presence, is what reassures people, gives them confidence to step out into new things, find it easy to learn from mistakes, and remain open to learning new things. It is the kind of presence a leader needs in order to better encourage, coach, guide, and support those they are leading. What kind of presence do you have?
July 28, 2016 ~ Is change a difficult word to swallow?
A leader who loves change is fairly easy to spot. They often are making other people feel a little bit uncomfortable. When we change for the better spiritually we often call that Spiritual Transformation. When God captures our heart and ignites our soul we join Him in living a surrendered life for His purposes. We learn that it is best to set aside our personal agendas and listen carefully for God's purposes. As leaders who understand change is necessary, the key is to change to be more like Jesus, not just change for the sake of not staying the same.
As professional coaches and coaches that thrive on training other coaches and leaders, we are energized by spiritual transformation; both in others and desire the same in ourselves. By definition, to experience spiritual transformation means that you are changing in your form, your appearance, your nature and especially your character so that it reflects Jesus Christ.
What needs changing today? Share this thought with a friend!
July 22, 2016 ~ Abolishing the Pecking Order
Each year I have to take a number of courses to maintain the required continuing education units as a board certified counselor. The subject matter can range widely over clinical matters, to healthcare administration, to leadership. This year’s leadership class was focused on the servant leader and leading from the bottom-up. Only, the instructor clearly was teaching material they were not familiar with at all.
They used an excellent illustration from the words of Christ where he encouraged his followers to exercise their leadership through serving others rather than autocratically dictating things from the top-down. In other words, leading from the bottom-up.
This is not a new thought, but it dawned on me the instructor’s approach to this concept was simply reversing the hierarchy. They were still advocating for positional leadership, just from a different perspective. This is where misunderstanding the biblical reference they used got them in trouble. Jesus didn’t reverse the pecking order with his advice; he totally abolished it.
Positional leadership emphasizes organization, structure, protocols, and procedures. Relational leadership emphasizes communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Both are needed in an organization, often in different proportion. Servant leadership, and its focus on the growth and well being of people, can be exercised in any environment. It is not about position or relationship; it is about enabling people to get the job done.
July 19, 2016 ~ What are you passionate about today? What is on your mind today?
Is there a subject on your mind right now? Do you feel like this is something God wants you to share with others? God often gives us a message not just for ourselves but to share with others. This may be in a word of encouragement, a scripture or an action.
Ezekiel was a great example of someone who heard from God and was called to share the message given to him with others. In Ezekiel chapter 2 God calls Ezekiel to deliver specific messages to the people of Israel based on the messages God gave Ezekiel.
God asks Ezekiel to not be afraid “though briers and thorns are all around you”. STILL deliver my message God says to Ezekiel. He says "deliver the message I give to you Ezekiel, whether they listen to you or fail to listen to you." It is God’s job to give us a message to deliver and God’s responsibility for the outcome.
It is our responsibility to be obedient and deliver the message God has given us to share.
Recently God gave me a message about a group of people who were discouraged and needed encouragement. He actually gave a number of people this message. Our role was to give encouragement to this group of people. We did this and continue to give encouragement to them.
What message has God called you to deliver lately?
July 13, 2016 ~ Cookie-Cutter Solutions
Just the other day a gentleman said to me at a business breakfast meeting, “If they would just get it together and do it my way we wouldn’t have this problem!” He was referring to a comment the speaker just made regarding a sensitive political issue of national importance.
After breakfast I asked him to explain “his way” to me. He clearly had thought through the matter theoretically and had a very strong opinion. However, from my perspective it sounded more like clever and somewhat unsound reasoning casuistically directed toward a solution that wouldn’t work. When I probed this a bit, my friend became defensive, “There is only way to solve these kinds of problems!”
Sooner or later we all run into people who have a sure-fired formula for solving every problem, overcoming every challenge, or resolving every disagreement. If only life were so predictable! Sometimes life is rather unpredictable and butterfly like. You know, life takes its own twists and turns like a butterfly passing by. You never know which way it will turn next.
There will always be tried-and-true ways of getting things done, and just as many opportunities to be creative in problem solving because a cookie-cutter solution isn’t going to work. A healthy skepticism of the “standard” approach to anything helps a leader remain open to new possibilities.
July 4th, 2016 ~ Led by the nose isn't learning
As a younger man I was afforded the privilege of being mentored by some pretty awesome leaders, well known in business and ministry. Some of them were better than others at coaching, though I learned much from all of them. Names aren’t important. Let’s just say some of them were leash leaders and some of them were catalytic leaders.
A leash leader is someone who asks questions and gives directions aimed at taking you down a specific path much like being led by the nose to a discovery you are supposed to make. It has the advantage of communicating process very well, but is limited by modeling only one way to think, one way to get things done, and creates a dependency on the part of the one being mentored.
A catalytic leader asks questions and gives directions designed to encourage you to think through things, ask questions, try different approaches until they arrive at a solution that works. The downside is the increased likelihood of mistakes and failures along the way. The advantage, though, is in the process the wisdom of the mentor gets translated into the personality and style of the student. And, they have learned to think for themselves. Like a true catalyst that is added to the mixture to create a reaction and then is entirely removed, what is left over is entirely transformed into something better.
Coaching tip for leaders: if you want to produce a radical transformation in your understudy, be catalytic in your style.
June 27, 2016 ~ The Stronger our Faith the Warmer our Love
Paul in Colossians chapter one talks about how he wants to encourage those at Laodicea. His goal is for them to be encouraged and united in love. So they may know the full riches of God. One aspect of the “riches of faith” is LOVE. A rich faith unites people in love.
The stronger our faith – the warmer our love.
We can love more deeply the more our faith in God grows. The stronger our faith, the stronger and warmer our love is. Our love can grow deeper, longer, wider, higher, meaning more fully. God’s love is deep, long, wide and high, His love is everywhere and is powerful. Because of Jesus, we too can have a love that is powerful and this love can spread wide and deep. God can do immeasurable more than all we can ask or image. This is his power at work.
The Holy Spirit living in us has the power to influence others to serve with more power, offer more forgiveness and share more love!
This is Faith In Action
June 22, 2016 ~ When the Issue Isn't the Issue
Today was a fascinating juxtaposition of very different things that at the same time were also very much the same. That happens often when the issue isn’t the real issue, if you know what I mean. Happiness seemed to be the perceived issue in this case.
Our granddaughter stated that she would be happy if she just had a Fit Bit to wear on her wrist. A neighbor was overheard saying he would be happier if another neighbor down the block would keep the noise down at night. A colleague bent my ear about how happy they would be if so-and-so just left the organization. Someone in church in front of us said they would be happy if the sermon were shorter. And, I am sure my wife would be happier if I took out the garbage more often.
The real issue isn’t happiness, it seems. It is getting our own way. The antidote to this kind of frustration is a small dose of self-denial. Self denial is a simple way of coming to an understanding that we really don’t have to get our way in order to be happy. In other words, our contentment or satisfaction with a situation doesn’t depend on having it our way.
All of us have experienced deferred gratification, a desire for peace and quiet, a need for relief from an annoyance, impatience with people and events, and the temptation to press others to complete what is lacking. If we had these things, would we be truly happy in a lasting manner? Holding the interests of others above our own gives us the freedom to give way to others. When we do, the satisfaction of serving others replaces the self-interest of being demanding.
We may or may not see the outcome we were hoping for in these situations. But, we did the right thing from a good heart with a clear conscience and can still walk away content, satisfied, happy.
June 13, 2016 ~ Do you feel PEACE today?
I was reading Philippians chapter one today, I noticed something I had not recalled before. Paul says to the reader “grace to you and… peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. He says grace to you first and then peace from the Father. For me, when I understand the fullness of the grace God has offered me, this produces a PEACE in my life.
If you are like me you crave PEACE in your life. It is such a sweet gift to experience a day full of peace and not stress. It truly is a gift. God the Father and Jesus offers’ me grace. He offers you grace every day. Does this lead to a peace God is in complete control? Even when evil surrounds us we can take comfort God is in control and allow ourselves to experience peace. This is a choice - to place all our trust in God so we experience rest. A feeling of peace and rest allows us to express love to others and accomplish Kingdom purposes. PEACE to You!
June 6, 2016 ~ What is your gift mix?
Have you ever put something out in front of your home and put a FREE sign on it? Well, we just did that with two lamps. It took 15 minutes for them to be taken to their new home. I hope and imagine they drove away saying “start the car”, so happy they got a great deal. This is such a good illustration about life, one person can’t use something but it is a gift to someone else.
Functioning in our gift mix can have a similar affect in our work and ministry roles. When our gift mix, skills and experience is a wonderful fit we feel energized and those who we work for feel energized as well. When our gift mix, skills and experiences are not a good fit for our work or ministry role it is obvious.
Jeff and I love helping match the right person with the right role. Seeing both the organization as well as the individual thrilled for the connection is one of the greatest joy in life for us. It is critical to understand our own mix of gifts, skills, talents and experiences. If you can not list your gifts, skills and talents, I encourage you to take a Myers Briggs Assessment or StrenthsFinders Assessment so you know this about yourself. It can make or break your next job fit.
June 2, 2016 ~ When Feedback Bristles
Feedback has been my friend for many years. Like friends, feedback sometimes makes me bristle. This is especially true when I think the feedback is unfair or untrue. How I feel about the person providing the feedback can trigger a negative response as well. It can be really upsetting if someone goes after me for some real or perceived fault. In other words, negatively pricks my self-image or sense of identity.
Over the years I have learned not to turn away from feedback that provokes these kinds of responses. All feedback is valuable, even when not well-intentioned. If the feedback given seems unfair or untrue, I ask for examples and look for some truth I can respond to affirmatively. How I feel about a person can affect how I receive their advice. Because of my rough edges, sometimes the best advice can come from people who really annoy me. Rather than take feedback personally, I want to reframe what someone said as an opportunity rather than criticism.
When I ask for feedback there is a question to avoid, “Do you have any feedback for me?” Too general, too easy to put people on the spot regarding how honest you actually want them to be. Better to ask, “What’s one thing you see me do that gets in my way?” That gives them a specific question to respond to and takes the focus off of them.
May 23rd, 2016 - Self Stigma
Some people seem to be unaware of how off-putting they can be to others, and wonder why it is so difficult sometimes to connect with people. Is it the occasion, the personalities involved, or the circumstance that causes this stigmatization? Or, is this perceived sense of disapproval something self-generated?
When we project to others that we don’t have problems, serious or otherwise, it is off-putting: something they cannot identify with or perhaps even recognize as fundamentally untrue. Repeated encounters like this with the same person develops and underlying misunderstanding and perhaps even distrust.
Perhaps we have made comments like, “I will give you a call,” or, “let's have coffee sometime,” and never followed-up with a call or an appointment. After a while this comes across as insincere or disingenuous. This is experienced as well when we over-spiritualize conversation leaving the impression we have an answer for everything, only they are impractical or unrealistic. People feel dismissed or devalued walking away from these kinds of conversations.
Better to be authentic, genuine, with a transparency and vulnerability appropriate for the person or group you are connecting with. Real people want relationships with real people.
May 17, 2016 ~ Solitude
Sometimes when I arrive home early in the evening and Nancy isn’t back yet I enjoy sitting quietly in the living room with the lights off and no television or music on. For me, it is a refreshing time of reflection. When I want to get away for a time of contemplation I like to go to a place of beauty; a park, the beach or a lake, a mountain meadow all by myself and just take it in as a backdrop for thoughtfulness.
Someone asked me the other day if that practice made me feel lonely? Honestly, it doesn’t. Loneliness is an inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.
We can find solitude almost anywhere, even though I prefer silence and beauty as the environment for these times, not everybody does. The experience of being sequestered from busyness and finding an inner peace can happen in a crowd just as easily. Drawing aside in this manner is a discipline that brings peace, like oil on water.
In the rush of this world we need to practice a bit of solitude now and then. Fortunately, solitude is not a place. It is a state of mind and heart.
May 2, 2016 ~ True Friendship
She was there for some time without knowing I was watching. Quietly reading, the sun over her shoulder to light the page, also cast a glow turning her hair golden. Little lines at the corners of her eyes spoke of the many years we had been together. Still, today, I am intrigued and curious about her, wanting to know more and finding no reason why my life should be so blessed with her companionship.
Pascal once said, “It is the heart, not reason,” commenting on the essence of a relationship characterized by true friendship. In this moment I knew that to be true and that this woman is the truest friend I have ever had. Good thing she is my wife. Forgetting what it was I was about to interrupt her for, I turned and left with my heart full.
Everyone should have a true friend that the heart confirms and a reason for the friendship is not necessary.
April 25, 2016 ~ The Role of Affliction
When Does Affliction Make Us Better?
I recently heard someone say affliction makes us a better person. I think this can be true yet I believe there is a caveat, we have to let it! We have to allow the situation and God to transform us, change us or make us a better person. If we fight the adversity, it may not change a bit. When situations prompt affliction or adversity, God uses this in our lives to take us higher place, a holier place. In essence, living out Romans 8:28. God wants to use us for His purposes. His love and ways can make us better when we pray, listen to him, wait for instructions and do what he asks us to do. It is quite simple yet not easy.
Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
We have to let it, or allow the situation to make us better - we have a role in each situation.
When you are doing work God approves - Life is an adventure.
April 11, 2016 ~ The Blessing of Mercy
There is a vacuum in our lives only mercy can fill, for out of mercy comes grace and kindness. As long as this vacuum remains unfilled we will always see other's mistakes as more grievous than our own, morality as something we have others lack, and consider our failures as someone else's fault and never our own. This is life without mercy, which is no life at all.
All humanity is wounded and broken while often we, the Church, stand by like saints in a museum when we should be physicians in a hospital for the wounded. We treat wounds by giving mercy, being merciful. The love of God exists for those who are not disposed to receive it. When we are this way toward everyone without exception we discover peace and strength are ours through mercy.
What we have received in Christ is forgiveness with a blessing absent of penalizing judgment. When Jesus has only and always treated us with grace, kindness and mercy, how can we qualify or minimize the grace, kindness and mercy we give to our neighbors?
April 6, 2016 ~ The Charisma of Mercy
Grace, kindness and mercy are not skills or concepts to use with others as if they can be dispensed. They are an emanation of our character experienced by all and withheld from no one.
Where does this autonomic expression of love come from? This kind of passion, we are told, comes from love motivated by a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Grace, kindness and mercy are an expression of love for others as Christ loves us. The expression of this charisma should not be a timid display of affection, but a wordlessly boisterous expression of power, love, and discipline.
Love from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith exercised in power, love, and self-control produces life-changing grace, kindness, and mercy for others.
March 21, 2016 - Relationship Triangulation
Jeff & I teach a marriage seminar we call “I Choose Us”. We believe we are better together in life, work and ministry. Yet sometimes we encounter a situation where we have different opinions, strongly held beliefs that leave us on opposite sides of the fence. You may have experienced this in your marriage or relationships. When this happens we try to apply the principle of “Triangulation”. This principle is best applied while keeping in mind Proverbs 15:1, “a soft answer turns away wrath”.
Triangulation helps us tackle situations relationships face together by putting the problem on the “other side of the fence” and figuratively stand side-by-side addressing the problem as a team instead of taking it personally. When we put the problem on the other side of the fence we look at the conflict or disagreements as something we can both work together to solve. It is best to not concentrate on whose right. Instead of putting the issue between two people, move the issue to the other side of the fence as “our” issue to resolve.
Some helpful wording to get used to saying are words like “Let’s figure this out together” or “So what are we trying to accomplish here?” Our words have the ability to tear down or build up and if we look at triangulation as building up, protecting our family and handling the world together we become a stronger united team.
March 4, 2016 ~ Loyalty
Zoe is her name. Petite, always in a lovely coat when our paths cross, with steady brown eyes you can easily become lost in. Always happy to see me, she actually prefers my company. Zoe is a Yorkshire Terrier and one of my most stalwart friends.
She personifies a lot of what we think about loyalty: allegiance, faithfulness, steadfastness, dependability, and reliability. These are all characteristics good leadership foster in others. A person on your team with these qualities would be said to have clear loyalty to you, the team, or the organization. Unfortunately, puppies and people are two different things.
Someone exemplifying the dedication and dutifulness described above can ultimately not turn out to be as loyal as you think. These qualities can simply be activities someone engages in because they are required. Puppies are also devoted, trustworthy, committed, and obedient out of pure motivation. These qualities are also part of loyalty, just check the dictionary.
When you lead more out of relationship than your position, loyalty and trust can be earned, not required or demanded. Being demanding just gets you acts of loyalty without the heart that draws people around you in times of pressure. People should be more like puppies.
March 1, 2016 - Five Sides to a Story
Turning the corner, I immediately recognized the source of all the shouting. Two of my electricians were in the center of the shop screaming at each other while the rest of the crew stood around and gaped. This had been brewing for a while, and now it was my job to make the problem go away. Just graduated from college, this was my first job as a young engineer, and one I was not well prepared for!
The plant manager was with me, fortunately, and gave me advice that has lasted a lifetime. “Before you make any decisions about how to handle this, make sure you get all five sides to the story.” Five sides? What do you mean by five sides?
He went on to explain. This is the gist of it: Everyone’s experience is their reality. Sometimes they think it is the total truth rather than just a slice of the whole truth. Each person in the shouting match had their own opinion about what was going on and how they got there. That’s two sides of the story. Then there are the bystanders, some already taking sides, some withholding their opinions. When a situation has a history behind it you can bet others know at least part of what is really going down. The fifth side of the story is what really happened.A leader cannot resolve a problem in the short or long term if they don’t understand what really happened and why. Getting to what is really behind the trouble takes putting the puzzle of everyone’s perceptions, experience, and understanding together to get as close as possible to
February 25, 2016 ~ The Small Print
The small print can trip us up sometimes. At the bottom of a contract it could hide unpopular penalties. It could be an important footnote at the bottom of a report that we gloss over, or a pop-up reminder on our smart phones we miss, or an ignored road closure symbol on our GPS map. In other words, small things we miss because they are, well, small. Missing the “small print” in this sense can sometimes mean missing something big.
Once upon a time, I was surprised when a key colleague walked into my office and dropped their resignation on my desk, sat down, and just stared at me rather fed up. They were burned out, done. As we talked, I realized I had not paid enough attention to the “small print” in our working relationship. Certainly, missing deadlines here and there, late to a meeting or two, and being down in the dumps mood-wise had been noticed. But none of it had been put together in my thinking in a way that added up to recognizing the need for a conversation about what may be going on with them.
Leaders can easily become distracted by the work deadlines and forget about the people who do the work. The first sign of distraction is missing the social cues people give indicating something is wrong. The second sign is failing to act when we do notice that something doesn’t add up. The third sign occurs when we finally connect the dots, understand what has happened, and it is too late to remedy the situation.
Effective leaders pay attention to the small print, the social cues, people unconsciously offer up in working relationships, and know when to inquire, encourage, or just listen.
February 16, 2016 ~ Emotional Maturity?
You may remember the out-of-control VP in a previous blog. They are very intelligent and very accomplished, and assume that intelligence and success equals maturity. Yet, their behavior under pressure suggests a great deal of emotional immaturity: yelling, cursing, flinging things off the desk, making threats, using intimidation and manipulation to get their way. At times this guy is totally unable to manage themselves. Emotional maturity marks our capacity to handle stress and is a measure of self-confidence and an ability to manage ourselves.
Right after that confrontation, a Charge Nurse stopped me in the hallway and went off on a tirade, not managing themselves well at all. After a few minutes I looked down and noticed her shoes. They were every nice, and I quietly said so! They stopped in the middle of a sentence, took a deep breath, and told me where they stumbled on to an extraordinary shoe sale and found this pair.
They knew what I was doing, creating a hiccup that would allow them a moment to regain control of themselves. Sometimes a soft answer turns away anger and allows people to manage themselves better. We finished the other conversation with grace and peace. No, I didn’t buy the shoes. They didn’t have my size in the men’s version. But it was a great sale!
February 9, 2016 ~ The Power of Change
Recently on a family boat trip my brother took a picture of a whale’s tail coming out of the water as we were looking back at the shoreline of Newport Beach. The wonder of this amazing sight inspired me to ponder the correlation between change, power and movement. Many times as we watched the whale move from place to place we could see the water churning and the evidence of waves on the surface. His movement created waves, stirred the ocean underneath him and created a great amount of pressure all around him. This is what happens in change and forward movement.
As leaders our job is to remain calm, stay focused, stay vigilant with our eyes focused on the outcome. We have a distinct role in keeping everyone focused and aware of our goal. Maybe it is the getting to shore, yet most often it is moving forward. Calm, resolute, strong, courageous, even if everything under us is stirring around like mad.
January 31, 2016 ~ Perspective
When humility is our lens, and not rose-colored glasses, we have a more rational perspective of ourselves. Our bodies are instruments for doing good, not ornaments for others to admire. Our money is a tool to share, not a possession to hoard. Our minds are focused on meaning, not the pursuit of pleasure. Our lives are lived with grace and purpose, not with selfish ambition.
Our appearance, our financial security, our lifestyle, and our success in life are important…just not the most important things. When we make them a priority life becomes all about us with little room for others. Want to turn things around? Instead of just getting through the day, use the day to make a difference in someone’s life. Lead with character.
January 25, 2016 ~ Passing The Baton
If I were to share one lesson summarizing my Dad’s life it would be; Read your Bible daily and let Jesus guide your life each day.
He understood the importance of seeking Jesus daily and reading God’s Word daily. He reminded us often of the need to focus on this target daily. Keeping our eyes “on the mark” – Jesus – is critical to our spiritual transformation. Dad knew our eyes are so easily distracted by work, the urgent and mundane demands that so easily distract us from Kingdom purposes.
I want to pick up the baton he handed me and remind those I love…to remind you…read your Bible daily and let Jesus guide your life each day.
January 19, 2016 - Our Insane Attachments
Ever had a strong desire to possess something? It doesn’t have to be something someone else has, it might just be something you saw in a catalog, storefront, or a friend mentioned.
I was on a flight to Tacoma last week when the person sitting next to me pulled a new tablet computer out of their briefcase. I asked if it was new, and he said yes and launched into a five-minute description of all its really cool features. My covetous gene just got stroked. New technology does that for me. I was ready to buy! Good thing there wasn’t one in the shopping catalog in the seat pocket in front of me!
Our insane attachment to things can sometimes get out of control. If you are like me, we can go through serious mental gymnastics rationalizing and justifying almost any purchase. We end up calling covetousness ambition, hoarding we call prudence, and greed we call industry.
As leaders we model these things to others. Consequently, when we think we are industriously and prudently managing our ambition those watching (and people do watch) see right through our denial. Leaders model true character and just don’t talk about it. And, it is the little things they notice most.
January 16, 2016 ~ Surprise
We were all gathered in the electric utility room trying to figure out what happened to the power. It was a big event and we needed the air-conditioning on in the building. Once upon a time in my life I had worked as an electrical engineer and, in the absence of someone who really knew what they were doing, was pressed into service. Everything had been reset and nothing had happened. We didn’t know a primary devise was timing out.
Ka-bang!!! The master breaker closed with a loud noise about eighteen inches from my ear. I shouted loudly, threw my hands in the air, and levitated an easy twelve inches off the ground: an exaggerated startle response left over from time spent in a combat zone. Everyone else immediately shouted and jumped in response, some cleared air beneath them with greater prowess than I did! We all looked at each other and began laughing hysterically.
Much of what you model as a leader is caught, not taught, in spite of what you may say or teach. What you model, others emulate automatically, without giving it a thought. Even your dysfunctional behavior will be reproduced in the attitudes and actions of others. This small embarrassment in my life doesn’t prove that point. But it does remind me that lots of things, good and not so good, get passed on in life. Let’s make sure as leaders it is mostly good. People are watching.
January 3, 2016 ~ Resolute
In the New Year I want to be resolute about some things. No, this does not translate into New Year’s resolutions. But, there are some things as a leader I want to be resolute about this year, and in every year.
I don’t want to think less of myself, but rather think of myself less. Rather than having to be forgiven more, I want to be more forgiving. And, I don’t want my focus to be on what is easy, but to focus on what is right.
Humility, forgiveness, and doing the right thing, not the easy thing: these are antidotes to selfishness, resentment, and self-righteousness; things every mature and gifted leader needs in their life if they are to make it through another year with their soul intact.
December 27, 2015 - Politics
One of the Vice Presidents blew into my office in a huff, angry about not being included in a decision made i their absence that affected their responsibilities. When informed, they agreed to the decision and then later refused to be a team player. Someone had challenged them about their lack of cooperation and they exploded, showering everyone with an emotionally laden string of expletives. The reason? They said they were trying to get their way, and when they were labeled as playing politics, blew up again!
Here is what I told them. Politics is generally defined as the practice of influencing other people on a global, civic, or individual level. The term was popularized by Aristotle and Plato as moral codes and social structure that could be pursued and enforced as an agenda. The problem with an agenda is that sometimes it can blind us to our real motivation. So, yes, when you are pushing an agenda the means you employ to do so can be called politics: office politics, neighborhood politics, relational politics, and even church politics. The fact that you are bullying someone with your angry outbursts, inappropriate language, and passive-aggressive attitude simply means you are using really lousy politics.
This person was giving politics a bad name. Good leaders influence others to act for the right reasons, at the right time, and in the right way. That’s good politics. Others manipulate, cajole, and berate to get their way, and deny being political. If you have an agenda, you are going to be political about carrying it out. Be the good leader.
December 23, 2015 - Christmas Week Attitude Challenge
* Encourage one another - even in a LONG shopping line
* Live in PEACE
* Work hard for God
* Warn those who are idle
* Encourage the disheartened
* Help the weak
* Be patient with everyone
* Strive to do what is good for all
* Rejoice Always
* Pray continually
* Give thanks in all situations
Jeff & I wish you a very Merry Christmas! May you find JOY in the small things. May you realize how truly rich you are - no matter your present situation. Notice God all around you and find what God has for you and pursue it with gusto! Many blessings to you!!
Dr. Jeff & Nancy
December 17, 2015 ~ Hidden lessons in life - they have an important role.
My dad is 95 years old. He has taught me many lessons throughout my life. Right now he cannot do very much or go very far yet many of the far reaching stories in his life are embedded in my memory. One of those stories started in our family room about 30 years ago. My dad ran a company that did business overseas including Europe. On one occasion when some of his international business friends were in town Dad had them over to the house for dinner and they handled some of their business in the family room. I was invited to join them if I wanted to listen in, and this became a pattern when we had international visitors.
Sometimes our friends could barely speak English, other times the discussions were lively and very understandable. I did not always catch the slang and I am sure a good deal of the conversation went over my head. Yet, many years later I began to grasp the lessons I had learned as a young girl. This part of my history was more profound than I could explain for a long time. These meetings expanded my thinking, broadened my comfort level with people who were much different than me, ignited a love for all kinds of people, prompted a hunger to understand others and figure out what makes them tick. These were colorful, pivotal lessons in my leadership development.
Think back on your life. Are there times in your life that were critical to the development of your thinking? What did you learn? It is healthy to reflect and understand how God has intentionally given you experiences that make you unique. Profound. Necessary.
December 11, 2015 ~ Chaos has a way of creating and revealing leadership.
I am reading Jenni Catron’s new book “The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership”. The theme of the four dimensions stems from Mark 12: 28-31 where Jesus is asked, “What is the most important commandment?” His answer is “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Jenni unpacks what this means for a leader. Readers complete an assessment on their level of heart, soul, mind and strength. I scored the highest in strength and soul.
One of my favorite thoughts in the book so far is around chaos. She says, “leaders emerge most prominently when things are confusing and chaotic”. Maybe it is because of my scoring in strength and soul, but I love this concept. When chaos can seem threatening to some people leaders see chaos as an opportunity to meet the needs of people and the situation. When I am in a room and someone comes up to me with a problem that must be solved it excites me. I think let’s get to it, let’s figure out what God wants, what is best for all involved and how can we solve this. As Jenni says, navigating confusing circumstances and relieving relational tension brings hope to those involved. It is inspiring to see other people lead in chaos. I love watching leaders bring calm, order and hope to a chaotic situation. Truly it is thrilling to me. Have you seen this happen before? What do you see going on when you notice this in a leader you respect?
Bringing hope to people and into a situation is energizing and if you want to learn more about your extraordinary leadership assessment you will want to buy the book! Enjoy!
December 8, 2015 - Inferences
Years ago Nancy and I were in Trinidad at a time of constitutional crisis in the country. After we arrived, we witnessed how lawless and dangerous it could be in the city we were visiting. On one occasion a serious-looking assertive man approached us and asked aggressively if we were limen’ (lime-ing)? We had never heard the expression before and their demeanor suggested we were being challenged. We didn’t know this individual and this occurred during one of the few moments we were not with our group. We were immediately on the defensive, assuming we were in potential danger.
As it turns out, our inference was completely wrong. That we were being challenged was an assumption based on limited information. We presumed we did not know this man, but he did know us. He was part of the local church in the city we were helping. The expression he used was actually a colloquialism meaning: Are you “hanging-out” or “having fun”. Our supposition about his motive for addressing us was sheer speculation. He wanted to know if we would like to join him and his friends for some fellowship. Conjecture, speculation, guessing, presumption, and supposition are the workings of making an inference that can get in the way of understanding what is really going on. Sometimes inferences can be right on target and very helpful. In this case they were not helpful at all.
Leadership requires sensitivity to our own filters and culture in a way that enables us to avoid making inferences and be truly present with others.
November 30, 2015 ~ Distance
I came in through the front of the house and turned the corner in time to see Dad struggle to stand. At 94, Dad was still determined to be his own man. A member of the Greatest Generation, Dad flew bombers in World War II, was shot down, captured by the Russians who thought he was German and were determined to shoot him, and survived to jump right back into the cockpit. Finishing school after the war, he built a business, raised a family, and became a partner in an internationally recognized copper foundry. He didn’t see me standing there.
He was facing the back door, bent over from arthritis and osteoporosis, looking at the glass door. He loves sitting out back looking over the valley all the way to the ocean miles away on the horizon. The door is eight feet away. It might as well be a mile. He looks at his walker, shakes his head, and raises his arms stretching them out as far as they will go. I know what he is doing. Arms akimbo, he is using them as a tightrope walker uses a long pole to balance as they traverse the wire suspended over the heights. Dad sets off for the backdoor determined to enjoy his view in the light breeze of a beautiful southern California afternoon.
Looking like a grounded Pterodactyl, his arms not quite straight and his steps wobbly and unsure, he sets out on his journey. I quietly come up behind him. He pauses by his cane at the door and then stubbornly continues. At the door sill he has to make a slight step over and down. He staggers, catches his foot on the sill, I take his elbow in my hand firmly, gently, put my other hand on his shoulder and say, “You’re okay, Dad. I’ve got you.”
“I thought you were gone,” he replied continuing with, “thanks. Your voice is reassuring.” We went out together and sat for a while until he fell asleep in the shade. Watching him sleep, it occurred to me that, though I was very present the whole time, from his perspective I was out of reach, distant and unknowable. True leadership produces this same feeling of confidence in others when you show up in the midst of their struggles. You don’t take anything away from them, you just add reassurance and encouragement, and they realize you are not distant at all.
November 24, 2015 ~ The Message in the Mirror
She stares at the mirror as if the scrutiny will provide an answer. A beautiful woman, successful executive, business owner, and sought after speaker, teacher and coach; she is unsure, undefined in the moment. What is it that creeps in to dissuade us of the natural talent, the giftedness we have as leaders? This insecurity, this sense of insufficiency is what makes leaders great. She is wise enough to be humble, embarrassed by the attention, shrinking from the well-deserved accolades. This smallness before others is what makes her great and gives her stature. I would hire her in a heartbeat.
November 23, 2015 ~ Resistance and Denial
One of the things a leader needs, especially when it comes to decision making is good information. However, sometimes our tendency to see or hear only what we want kicks in and filters the information we need. We usually can tell when we may be indulging in this kind of selective attention. Unless, of course, it is entirely unconscious. This is what happens when resistance and denial set in.
Have you ever thought this way:
Let’s talk about anything but the real problem (avoidance).
I guess there is a problem, but it’s not that bad (minimization).
It’s not my fault; he, she, they are to blame (blame shifting).
I will say or do anything to get you off my back (compliance).
There is a problem but there is a good reason for it (rationalization).
We all have our favorite themes when it comes to avoiding unpleasant truth. As leaders, we cannot afford to let our own resistance or denial get in the way of clear thinking and good decision making that affect others and impact outcomes. Stay open to the truth.
November 16, 2015 - Live Oak Leaders
A recent business trip through the South reminded me of how much I like Life Oaks. Ubiquitous in its presence, this tree proliferates in warmer climates. Leaves stay green all year long even while other trees grow dormant and lifeless with the changing of seasons. There is no change of season for them. Their bows create a wonderful strong canopy sheltering and shading all who draw near, a lot like good leadership.
There is a natural quality or character to them, which can be found in good leaders as well: optimism, passion, energy, growth, health, authenticity, engagement, inspiration, strength (humility), and presence. These are all things a Live Oak emulates as metaphors for leadership that is never out of season, never dormant, and never without life.
Live Oaks take years to mature and are made stronger by what each season brings. They are always patient, always growing stronger and strengthening others, always green and fresh for those that pass through their life. I really like Live Oak leaders.
November 12, 2015 - Rock Climbing and Life
Have you ever been rock climbing? It is a passion in my life and one I share with my husband Jeff and son Dan. I believe being outside, under a deep blue sky with white puffy clouds above you, and one big challenge in front of you is exhilarating. Sometimes we stand at the bottom of a climb just staring at a huge rock looming high and have no idea how we are going to get to the top. Surprisingly, that is one of my favorite moments.
Yet, in life when I have no idea how I am going to move forward it is not as thrilling but feels very stressful. I wish I could take the thrill of rock climbing and apply it to stressful situations in life. One thing I have learned… is the more I lean on God and surrender control right in the middle of a stressful situation the more I can remain calm. It is clearly a choice and a discipline. It takes repetitive work and just like rock climbing the more I feel comfortable with being out of control the better I can handle each situation. What about you? How do you handle the stresses in life?
November 3, 2105 - Put Your Own Mask On First
If you fly a lot, you have heard this instruction so often it is easy not to listen anymore. The flight attendant tells everyone, for their own safety, to put their oxygen mask on first before helping others if they should drop from above due to a problem with cabin pressure.
On my way to DC I heard this instruction in a new way. It is a great life lesson for times of pressure:
* To check my attitude before chiding you about yours.
* To take a few deep breaths before responding in anger to someone.
* To remember kindness before ignoring someone else's need.
* To offer forgiveness before returning an insult.
* To serve others before leading them.
October 26, 2015 - When is it not leadership?
If no one follows, is leadership being demonstrated? If plans are formed and decisions made but there is no execution, is leadership missing? If people meet to create consensus or alignment and depart with no further conversation or accountability, was leadership exercised?
Because we call ourselves leaders, yet have no team, follow through with no measurable action, and are not accountable for results to anyone including ourselves, does it make us leaders?
It makes us a committee.
October 19, 2015 - The Magic of Friends
Her hand slipped into mine easily as I walked along. The gentle lapping of the ebb tide on the sand and the early morning fog must have soaked up the sound of her bare feet catching up from behind. I tried to hide my surprise, but glancing at her, the tiniest sparkle and the barely concealed smile tugging at the corners of her mouth told me she knew I knew I had been caught. She squeezed my hand slightly and we walked on in silence, together, as we always were in everything.
After so many years together, Nancy knows well when I need to be alone and when it is necessary, even therapeutic, to intervene gently and become part of a conversation that, until now, has only been going on in my head. This is what friends do for each other. They accept you as you are, add something significant to your life, are especially loyal, love you without condition, and show you things about yourself you otherwise would not accept. Only the closest friends can give you a wake-up call at times and help you see what is missing.
A leader needs best-safe-close friends in life to stay true to themselves and others. There are a number of people in my life like that, beginning with Nancy, my wife. How many can you name in your life?
October 16, 2015 ~ Consider Your Ways
Jeff and I were reminded today about an important scripture in the book of Haggai. Jeff preached a life changing series around this book many years ago. This is an obscure little book in the Old Testament. It is only two chapters long toward the end of the Old Testament, yet it is packed with a powerful message.
Haggai according to chapter one verse thirteen is "the Lord's messenger"! He was charged with giving a message to the people. "The is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways". In other words the Lord is saying "consider your ways". This is not a harsh message, but a kind, merciful and encouraging message to consider the choices you make, consider how you treat others, and give careful thought to how you act. Our actions should be pleasing the the Lord and follow the ways laid out in scripture. Be strong and follow God's ways. Do not be swayed by the world's temptations.
Can you think of how this applies to you today? Considering your ways may require some extra thought regarding how you and I act, our attitudes, or even our words.
Consider Your Ways!
October 13, 2015 ~ Leaders and Miracles
Miracles authenticate God’s work and align us with His will. But to some miracles are the result of chance or serendipity, to others a providential circumstance, and for many miracles don’t occur at all. I believe in miracles. Miracles are a wake-up call with very specific purpose.
Miracles that seem to defy natural order are easier to recognize than something miraculous occurring out of apparent circumstance. God can be in the circumstance, and this is where it takes leadership to provide discernment.
God shows up in life in many different ways, and it takes risk to open the eyes of the doubtful to this reality. Someone with discernment needs to see through the circumstantial things and put together the mosaic that others can recognize as miraculous. This recognition, or wake-up call, often results in making God’s authority and purpose actionable in a personal way.
Spiritual leaders separate the serendipitous from the truly spiritual, strengthening faith and empowering others.
October 8, 2015 ~ Leadership 10 Commandments
Henrietta Mears had a major influence in the life and ministry of Billy Graham as well as Bill Bright. She is known for her leadership development methods and most importantly modeling what she taught. She had a list of 10 Leadership Commandments she desired to follow. This inspired me to start a list.
Starting a list of my 10 Leadership Commandments that I desire to follow - Here are a few so far...
I will pray like Nehemiah did before acting
I will bring unity to the body of believers
I will love with abandonment as described in Deuteronomy 10:12.
Do you have a top 10 list that you follow?
October 6, 2015 - Perspective
When I look out my bedroom window I have the option of two perspectives.
One is to focus on our roof that has some clumps of concrete in a few areas. I have no explanation of why the builder sealed off two sections of the roof this way. It is not lovely; in fact it irritates me if I focus on it.
Yet, my other option is to take in the amazing view outside our window. It almost makes my heart jump with joy as I see the amazing view of hills, mountains, birds, various trees, beach towns in the distance, blue sky full of cloud pictures and magnificent sunsets. We can see approximately eight miles out our window. God has placed such beauty right outside my window. This view is inspiring. This is the view I choose to focus on today. Breathtaking, it inspires me to take my mind off the mundane and allows my heart to praise God for his beauty.
Do you need to refocus your perspective today?
September 28, 2015 - Imposters
Leaders will at some point have to deal with people who do wrong and call it right and those who teach untruth and call it truth. This is the definition of an imposter, someone who is a hypocrite and manipulates others out of selfishness. When their behavior is challenged they go after the messenger to discredit or otherwise shut them up or drive them away. The very good ones are extraordinarily subtle, almost invisible at what they do.
You don’t have to be a super-sleuth to uncover their machinations. Just use the truth to bring light to what they are doing in darkness, behind the scenes. Don’t engage them in argument that goes nowhere, don’t defend yourself. Stay on point, be respectful, and don’t respond if attacked. Let them fight the truth, not you.
September 21, 2015 - Transformational Journey
Someone told me that once you get to where you are going that is where you are. In the context of the conversation it didn’t sound as vapid as it does now. We were talking about life and how some people act as if they have “arrived” and really have little interest in further learning, accomplishments, or anything resembling stretching. They are either focused on surviving or coasting.
Life is a transformational journey that, for the leader, requires constant adaptation to a changing world they must translate into practical thought and action for those they lead. Where you find yourself today, as a leader isn’t going to remain the same for long unless you intentionally choose mediocrity.
September 15, 2015 - Is God Calling You to a Place You Want to Flee?
Is God calling you to a place you want to flee? A place so hard you want to cry out – GET ME OUT OF HERE!
This place we want to flee has great kingdom purposes for our future. It is critical in our walk with the Lord. In fact, this season may be one of the most important times in our life!! I would like to encourage you to stay put.
Most often waiting is a key spiritual discipline. Let God work in the waiting. Let God work when you want to flee - He is very purposeful in this season. He is working on our character, faith, trust, beliefs, in other words out relationship with Him.
Ask yourself, what is God doing in this season of life? What is God accomplishing in the waiting? Am I fighting it or moving forward with God. I am not referring to an unsafe situation, but a place in life we believe in our soul God wants us there and he is doing something... we just do not fully understand the why's.
How do we find Hope in the waiting? The best way I have found hope is to surrender my desires, pray often and look for what God is saying and doing? How do you find hope?
It takes faith - most often a Strong Faith - to stay in a place we want to flee!!
September 8, 2015 - Can You Hear Me Now?
Most people don’t like feedback, personally or professionally, because it carries with it the risk of negative criticism. As CEO I have the freedom to not solicit or respond to feedback, but that practice cuts off one of the best sources of accountability for me as a leader.
Whether it takes the form of a performance review, 360-degree feedback, an evaluation form from an event, or access you provide to colleagues and subordinates, feedback constitutes a voice you cannot afford to ignore. You may need to let the extreme opinions or suspiciously motivated content slip off your back like water on the proverbial duck. Even then, there may be a grain of useful truth to glean that can inform your leadership.
Feedback holds leaders accountable from the inside out, touching on our character if we will allow it, enabling us to see what we do from the perspective of those we serve.
August 31, 2015 - Recovering from Failures
It took me ten years once to recover from a significant failure, no kidding. Some failures take moments or hours to recover from while others can require days or weeks, or much longer. The key in recuperation isn’t the nature of the failure so much as it is the nature of the person.
If we are not willing to look at failure as an opportunity to grow and learn we may never recover and simply keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. If we are not willing to endure the consequences of failure we may never gain wisdom from the experience. If we are unwilling to allow others to fail, even when their failure impacts us, we will never grow into our full leadership potential.
Failure is life’s best university and should be welcomed into our lives as friends that can mature us, make us resilient, and build a capacity for grace, kindness, and mercy towards others into our lives.
~ Dr. Jeff
August 25, 2015 ~ Should leaders be happy?
The best leaders are happy leaders. This doesn’t mean they stroll around everyday grinning giddily at everyone. This kind of happy isn’t a feeling, it’s a mindset. If you typically have a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook, and a confident hopeful expectation for what the future holds, you have the right mindset.
Our brains have been hardwired to work best with this kind of mindset, as opposed to a negative mindset that focuses almost exclusively on obstacles, impossibilities, and criticism of everyone and everything. A negative mindset actually produces a different brain chemistry than a positive, upbeat, happy mindset. The happy mindset always produces more and better outcomes, fosters more enduring relationships, and creates greater trust and loyalty in others than one characterized by negative perspectives.
Mindsets can change. Like old habits that take some time to unravel and new habits that can take as much time to build, you can change your mindset. Part of the reason it takes time is because you are actually forging new neuronal pathways, new avenues and channels for thoughts. You can actually build a better brain.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a bad attitude refocus your thoughts on a better way, or an idealized outcome, or a positive result. Keep it up and you will discover your circumstances may not have changed very much, but your outlook certainly has along with the probability of your success.
August 17, 2015 ~ Have You Acted in Holy Fear lately?
By faith Noah when warned about things not yet seen and in Holy fear built an ark. These actions saved his family. I love Noah’s bold faith in action. In Holy Fear he built an Ark.
What have you done in Holy Fear lately? What is God asking you to do in Holy Fear? This is the best kind of fear we can have, a reverence for God motivated by our desire to not displease God. What is influencing your attitude so your decisions are guided by a trust in God through the Holy Spirit?
One of the commentaries I study explains holy fear as a mingled fear and love for God. I love this...a Holy fear for God full of reverence and love. This inspires my actions, in fact I have returned to school "again" out of obedience. What about you?
August 11, 2015 ~ The Happiness Factor
The best leaders are happy leaders. This doesn’t mean they stroll around everyday grinning giddily at everyone. This kind of happy isn’t a feeling, it’s a mindset. If you typically have a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook, and a confident hopeful expectation for what the future holds, you have the right mindset.
Our brains have been hardwired to work best with this kind of mindset, as opposed to a negative mindset that focuses almost exclusively on obstacles, impossibilities, and criticism of everyone and everything. A negative mindset actually produces a different brain chemistry than a positive, upbeat, happy mindset. The happy mindset always produces more and better outcomes, fosters more enduring relationships, and creates greater trust and loyalty in others than one characterized by negative perspectives.
Mindsets can change. Like old habits that take some time to unravel and new habits that can take as much time to build, you can change your mindset. Part of the reason it takes time is because you are actually forging new neuronal pathways, new avenues and channels for thoughts. You can actually build a better brain.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a bad attitude refocus your thoughts on a better way, or an idealized outcome, or a positive result. Keep it up and you will discover your circumstances may not have changed very much, but your outlook certainly has along with the probability of your success.
August 7, 2015 - What's With That Attitude?
When someone has an attitude we usually interpret that to be a feeling or conviction about something or someone. We have made up our mind and it is reflected in how we think and act. It starts with a decision, a position, or an evaluation that results in a positive or negative outlook. Attitudes can get in the way of the truth sometimes because, though perhaps accompanied by feelings, they fundamentally reflect a bias. Leaders cannot afford to be biased. So, drop the attitude.
~ Dr. Jeff
August 3, 2015 - What Should I Do With My faith?
Abraham by faith...was called, obeyed, went, waited, he lived in a tent, received his inheritance, with Sarah bore their son Isaac, had descendants as numerous as the starts and lived by faith when he died.
Sarah represented the power or strength of faith. She counted God faithful. Sarah believed God and His promises even though they were humanly impossible. God is the deliverer of promises and is not held to humanly possibilities. Our faith is what allows us to be strong when we can not see how God will deliver his promise.
Do not doubt when you can't "see" a solution. Be strong and have faith like Abraham and patience like Sarah.
Amen - may we live by faith as Abraham has done!!!
Do the thing God has for You - take hold of it and GRAB it with Faith!!
July 31, 2015 ~ Life Lessons
Encourage one another - Live in peace - help the disheartened - be patient with everyone - rejoice always - pray - be present with friends and strangers in need - work hard for God - warn those who are unproductive - help the weak - strive to do what is good for all - give thanks in all situations - do not quench the spirit - do difficult things.
July 27, 2015 - Waiting???
Are you waiting for something right now? Do you find you have hope? Hope is the anchor for the soul, firm & secure according to Hebrews 6:19. Hope begs for us to be patient. We wait patiently to receive what was promised as Abraham patiently waited for the life promised.
Have you been promised something from the Lord? While we wait we hold firm to hope.
While we wait we pray and hope. I find great comfort in praying Psalm 23. I find great peace in praying Lord restore my soul. This comes after “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want”. I shall not want means I lack nothing. So as we pray for what was promised, we hope and wait knowing we lack nothing. There is a sweet tension in not lacking anything yet desiring more to come. Forward movement is the way of God. He desires for us to move forward, yet be content with his plans, his timing, his blessings. So for now we hope, we wait and we live with the sweet tension between contentment and promises to come.
July 14, 2015 - What are you hearing?
At the Transfiguration God spoke and Peter, James and John understood what he said. Amazing! God said to them "listen" to Jesus. This pictures an anticipating in listening, a desire to hear, a hunger to understand a message that is more than just noise. Sometimes listening is used in scripture with more emphasis than "seeing". Though seeing is believing, as they say, the proof may be in the hearing. There are so many ways to hear from God. Are you listening?
July 6, 2015 ~ The Myth behind Servant Leadership.
The myth behind servant leadership (Matthew 20.25-26) is that our servanthood is defined by our actions rather than our motivations. Servant leadership is an imperative in the passage recounting Jesus’ words to his disciples to “must be” a servant to those they lead. The preceding prerequisite expressed as an imperative is to be motivated from a desire to release and guide, not control others or seek privilege for ourselves.
When you are doing work God approves,
life is an adventure.
Let the adventure begin!
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