Don’t Judge a Book By its Color

I just spent four wonderful days at the International Maxwell Certification Conference in Orlando Fla.  The leaders of the John Maxwell Team and Johns Leadership teaching are a magnet for quality individuals.  There were 2600 people from all over the world and I didn’t meet one I didn’t like (and I met lots).  Many dozens if not a hundreds countries were represented.  Every kind of clothing from 3 piece suits, cowboy boots, bright African colors and even high-top sneakers were on display, even a guy wearing a kilt. There was a mutual respect among everyone there.  I made a few friends from around the world that I really connected with. 

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After a few days connecting with dozens of people from every corner of the earth, I saw on a TV in the background some news commentators discussing the Charlottesville incident.   It hit me, I realized that not one person in any discussion I was part of all weekend had talked about racism .  That was so refreshing to me.  I get so tired of the media and Facebook crowd bringing so much bad attention to it (angry or bleeding heart).  I really like Morgan Freeman’s take on it.  He was asked in an interview what the answer to racism is, and he said “Stop talking about it”.  I am so glad that is exactly what happened at my conference.  Maybe everyone should try it.  Morgan would have fit in well.

I have done some thinking about that over the past few days and have come up with a few observations that I wanted to share.

Now I don’t deny that racism is real, active and a huge concern in our country, but I believe that so many people of all color are actively pointing their fingers, maybe in the wrong directions. I believe that a very small percentage of people are responsible for a very large percentage of the problem on both sides.  It seems to be causing unnecessary division among great people who do not deserve to be dragged into the fight.  These are people only in the fight in by association because others are pointing at their skin color, no other reason. When we generalize about like people, it covers everyone and it spills over onto innocent people who aren’t asking to be part of it.

The distinction we need to be making is not between color or ethnicity.  It’s a more of a matter of character beliefs based on ones worldview. We need to slice it horizontally and not vertically. It’s a degree of character, not a degree of color. Last weekend showed me that when you get large groups of people of high character together with a common value for human life, race doesn’t seem to matter much.  There is a freedom to enjoy company, share ideas and learn about other interesting culture. We don’t have to question motives because of an infectious idea. A common bond of unity can only come when we view the world through the eyes of a common Creator who created us in his image.  Ideas have consequences, so we need better ideas if we want better character development.

It also seems that when people with a common disregard for human dignity get together in opposition with people of other races with similar questionable values, the chances of tensions rising goes way up.   People of lower character beliefs come in every color, age, gender, religion, economic class and level of education.

Poor character beliefs is a HUMAN trait based on a bad worldview, not a racial, economic, social, political or national trait.  Poor character comes naturally, high character come from intentional growth.

People of poor character are drawing far too much attention and making the rest of their ethnic group (all colors) look bad by generalizing and assuming.  A thief believes that everyone steals.  A cheater believes that everyone cheats and a person who discriminates believes everyone discriminates. Good people see the good in people, bad people see the bad in people.  So, if you believe everyone discriminates, you may be one of them!  

A much smaller number of people are projecting the problem to be wider than it really is by limiting everyone else to their own inside the box, views, and assumptions.

The idea’s and beliefs that each of us hold about the world and what is true determines how we see people.  The choice to love others or hate others is your choice and yours alone.  No one can cause you to hate unless you choose to.  No, exceptions.  Character is shaped by what we choose to believe.  Poor character IS the problem, and DOES separate us. Color is NOT the problem and doesn’t have to separate us.  We need to know the difference and focus on fixing character rather than fixing other colors.

The next time someone discriminates against you for any reason, know that it is the ignorance in them that is causing it, and not the color of their skin.

Don’t judge a book by its color, get to know the author of all colors.
 

Are you Awareness driven, or Focus driven?

It’s important that we don’t get so caught up in where we are going that we forget where we are. It is equally important that we don’t get caught up in where we are that we forget about where we are going.

Are you Awareness driven, or Focus driven?

Sometimes we think of awareness and focus as being very similar.  In fact they are opposites, and both are necessary. One is centralized or concentrated, the other outwardly distributed.

Awareness and focus are both important factors in our success.  It would be great if we all had a natural balance of the two, but we don’t. That puts us at odds with each other, or does it?

The Brain

The human brain is an incredible creation, but one thing it doesn’t do so well is see the big picture and see the details at the same time. We all have a tendency toward one, or the other, but not both. The eye can only focus on one thing at a time.  It can roam around taking smaller snapshots of information from all over, in a broad sense, or it can stay focused in the same area to get a deeper understanding of what it is looking at.

People tend to see that way too, but we also learn to grow, socialize and communicate similarly.  We are always seeking to expand our awareness of what is around us, or deepen our understanding of what is in front of us. Awareness driven people like to take complex ideas and simplify them to help ‘the many’ gain awareness and understanding.  Focused driven people like to add more details for a deeper level of understanding for ‘the few’ to gleem insight.

We all do both at times, but lean one way most of the time.  Some people become a jack of all trades and master of none, yet others may be able to play Mozart, but struggle to tie their shoes.

Puzzles

Imagine a scenario where two individuals were asked to put ten puzzles together, and they only have one hour to finish. These puzzles are not extremely difficult but not likely to be completed in a single hour by the average person.

An awareness driven person may approach this task in a much different manner than a focus driven person. He would look at the task; determine that finishing the project is the most important desired result.  After all they were given an hour TO FINISH!  He quickly figures out that there is 60 minutes to work with, ten puzzles so that gives him approximately six minutes for each puzzle.  After 60 minutes or so he has all ten mostly completed but none of them fully completed.  He walks away fairly satisfied knowing that all ten puzzles look pretty good.  He can still recognize the intended pictures from the boxes even though there are several gaps. “Git r done!”

The focus driven person takes a different approach.  She takes a good look at the picture on the box of the first puzzle to know what the outcome needs to look like.  She begins putting the puzzle together making sure she uses the pattern of corners first, edges second and then looks for identifiable patterns. She carefully searches for the right piece, finds it then puts it in its rightful place. With 20 minutes left, anxiety increases, she picks up her pace and pushes through completing 3 more puzzles before she runs out of time.  She looks at her six completed puzzles and is quite pleased.  She got six out of ten puzzles fully completed exactly as the boxes suggest.  “If you are not going to do it right, don’t do it at all”, she thinks.

Opposing Perspectives

What if each of their work is shown to the other to observe and comment on?  You can guess the criticism that may come from those evaluations as they view each other’s work from a different lens. “You didn’t even start four of them!”, “Well you didn’t finish any of them!”

In the leadership world we find these seemingly opposing perspectives play out all the time. Some people value efficiency; some are high on details and accuracy.  Some find satisfaction in covering more ground and others by covering better ground. Some put a high value on time or relationships. Others put a higher value on money or influence, while yet others seek excellence or strategy.

Humility

We can cause a disconnect when we fail to appreciate other people’s perspective, or if we believe that our way of thinking is more viable than others. By nature we all tend to think this way sometimes. It takes intentional effort, and humility to consider that others may have something specific to offer that we don’t (Cain and Abel). It also takes humility to accept that our perspective may be inferior compared to another.

“It takes intentional effort, and humility to consider that others may have something to offer that we don’t. It also takes humility to accept that our perspective may be inferior compared to another.”

One Body with Many Members

1Co 12:14-18 NIV Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

When we choose to see awareness and focus not just as opposing views, but also as complimentary views, we may learn that we actually CANNOT get along WITHOUT each other. We complete each other. Unless we come to this awareness we will never understand the importance of interdependence and the beauty of productive, relational and spiritual harmony, as God intended it to be.

How We Show Appreciation

The 5 Languages of Appreciation

A couple of weeks ago I was able to hear Dr. Paul White talk about his book that he co-authored with Gary Chapman called The 5 Languages of Appreciation. I had read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages many years ago, but I connected with this book in a way that made me take a long look at how I appreciate the people in my work.

It is easy to believe that we are doing better at showing appreciation toward others than we really are.  There aren’t very many people that are truly successful at showing it in the workplace, and we tend to grade ourselves on a curve.  We can tend to believe that being unappreciated is just part of the experience that makes “work” work.

Dr White shared information to help illustrate just how wide this misconception really is.

Why People Stay

  • In a survey of over 35,000 employees completed by the Chicago Tribune, the number one reason cited by the respondents of why they enjoyed their work was:  “I feel genuinely appreciated by this company” November 2013

The Big Picture

“More than 80% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, and more than half of those surveyed said they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation from their boss” (BusinessNewsDaily, 2013)

Why People Leave

  • 64% of Americans who leave their jobs say they do so because they don’t feel appreciated. (US Dept of Labor)
  • The number one factor in job satisfaction is not the amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do.

This survey focuses on how the employees feel they are valued in the workplace.  It does not discuss how they really are valued.  In some cases the problem may be more about the inability to communicate appreciation to valued employees rather than failing to truly appreciate them.  An employee appreciated that doesn’t know it, can’t feel it.  They can’t read minds.

The Gap

“While 51% of managers believe they do a good job of recognizing job well done by their staff, only 17% of the employees in the same groups believe their managers recognize them for doing a good job” (SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 2012)

According to this survey 34% managers are not aware of their failure to recognize when their team does a good job.  The question is, are you one of those 34%, or do you work with anyone that falls into this category?

Recognition vs. Appreciation

One of the contributing factors to why individuals don’t feel truly appreciated is that leaders don’t always understand the difference between recognition and appreciation.

  • Recognition is largely about results or behavior, Catch them doing something great, and recognize them for it.
  • Appreciation is more personal, it focuses on the employee’s value as a person and an employee as well as their performance.
  • The relational direction of recognition is top-down, coming from leadership.  Appreciation, on the other hand, can be communicated in any direction.

What Language are you speaking?

Dr. White and Dr. Chapman suggest that we may be “missing the mark” because we arent’ speaking the same language as our co-workers.

“Each person has a primary and secondary language of appreciation. Our primary language communicates more deeply to us than the others. Although we will accept appreciation in all five languages, we will not feel truly encouraged unless the message is communicated through our primary language.”

“When messages are sent repeatedly in ways outside of that language, the intent of the message “misses the mark” and loses the impact the sender had hoped for.”

If you are in a leadership position and feel you need help with understanding a better model of appreciation, I highly recommend that you read this book.  The book discusses the 5 most common languages or channels that people tend to give and receive appreciation. This book has changed the way I will go about learning ways to show appreciation to each individual in my workplace.

Understanding my own language and learning others language is a game changer for me and I believe it can be for you. Appreciation is the secret weapon to bringing people together for a single cause.  When we can appreciate our employees as if they were volunteers, we can change the entire culture of our workplace.

Please share your experience.

 

 

 

Influence from the Inside Out

You cannot change anyone. 

To grow, one must make an internal choice to become something you are not, or do something you have not done.  This requires letting go of what already is, in order to embrace something that could be.  It must be by choice and not by direction or force for real change to take place.

The Problem with Leadership Today

Most business managers, leaders and even parents tend to go about developing people all wrong.  Most people in positions of leadership struggle when it comes to reshaping how people do things to reach a desired outcome. It may be that we are looking through the wrong end of the leadership binoculars.

Reshaping Behavior

Our authoritative culture attempts to alter or reshape people’s behavior.  There are so many rules, and regulations that tell us what we are supposed to do, and what we are not supposed to do.  I think of the song from the 70’s by the Five Man Electrical Band that says,

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

More on this in another Blog.

Motivation in the Workplace

In the industrial age workplace, we essentially bribe people to do a specific task.  The motive for efforts is less often because of desire, or because they truly believe in the cause. It is because rent needs paid, and mouths need fed.  In most industries, we see this play out.  Upper management has one vision that motivates them to see the company succeed. Frontline workers are blind to Managments vision.  They put in their time with no purpose, other than to follow directions to make a buck.

A Disconnect of Values

People feel they have little to gain for their effort when they don’t value the task at hand.   People will not give their best effort unless they have a good reason to.  The old school reasoning of “..because it’s your job!” just doesn’t seem to fly anymore.  The sense of personal responsibility of our past generations has been replaced. People need to be personally vested in something before they give their best effort.  The old way of managing people with the expectations of responsibility is fading away.  A more personal, and missional approach is easing it’s way in on our job markets.

The Millennial Generation

Our younger generation  doesn’t have the same sense of corporate duty and responsibility as in the past.  They look at life as an individual journey. They have a more creative and personal approach toward impacting the world.  They need to be inspired to pour their efforts into something.  Technology has created a whole new way in which we communicate and interact with each other. It sparked a sense of creativity in young people that we have never seen before. Unfortunatly, however, creativity isn’t always what is needed in our workforce.

If the world around us is changing, we need to change with it.  We don’t need to compromise our principles and convictions. We need to learn better ways to connect with people if we intend to influence future generation.  

Inspiration

We need to embrace a better way of leading and inspiring people to do something great!  People need to be inspired to believe they can become something they have not yet considered.  I have never met a person that has found their way to success without someone investing in their growth.  Our younger generation needs us to step up and help them, even if it seems like they not interested.

Connecting from the Inside Out

We need to connect with people from the inside out. Focusing on unfavorable behavior is an attempt to change people from the outside in.  If we learn to understand them and value them we can begin to inspire them toward being the best they can be.  When people grab a hold of a vision with purpose something in them gets stirred and a sense of mission takes over.  People are not that hard to keep interested and focused if we approach them with their best interest in mind.  When we try to change their external behaviors to meet our needs, words begin to fall on deaf ears.

Control Without Connection

No one likes to be pushed by someone that has not gained our trust or does not have our best interest in mind. No one likes to be ‘controlled’, no one likes for others to determine their steps for them.  We want to oversee our own life, make our own choices.  We are usually willing to follow someone who has a better vision than we do, providing it’s our own choice.

The Needs of the Millennial Generation

Young people need to be heard.  They need to know that their ideas and opinions matter and that someone is listening.  They want to be included in the plan, invited to the big kids table.  They want to use their creativity to help.  They want someone to get excited when they are excited and listen when they need to vent.  They don’t desire a list of do’s and don’t s, but they are willing to follow that list if they feel appreciated.

Millennials need challenged.  They need pushed to see just how far they can take their knowledge, skills and abilities.  When we are pushed we somehow get up the nerve to get past our fears. It ignites an excitement in our hearts that spur us on to something better.  We will never grow unless we are pushed by someone who we trust.  We need to be challenged by someone who we know has our best interest in mind, someone who isn’t going to leave us.

What kind of leader/parent are you going to be?

Are You Connected?

Need for connection

In the book How People Grow, Dr. Henry Cloud writes “People’s most basic need in life is relationship. People connected to other people thrive and grow, and those not connected wither and die. It’s a medical fact, for example, that from infancy to old age, health depends on the amount of social connection we have.”  He goes on to say “Virtually every emotional and psychological problem, from addictions to depression, has alienation or emotional isolation at its core or close to it. Recovery from these problems always involves helping people to get more connected with each other at deeper and healthier levels than they are.”

I believe that true happiness absolutely requires and depends on honest trustworthy personal relationships. In the work place this plays out in the need for trustworthy professional connections. The flip side of this would be that without deep relationships happiness or success cannot exist.  I think people resist getting close to others because they don’t think they need others as much as they really do.  At the center of this resistance is usually a lack of trust fed by fear.  As we grow up our ability to trust others usually is greatly affected by the environment we have spent the most time in.  If our experience is that people generally break their promises and let you down, we will be more cautious when considering letting someone into our personal circle.  We’ve been conditioned to disconnect.

Fear

Sometimes fear is a major cause for us to fail to connect with people.  We are afraid of what other people think of us and sometimes terrified of being rejected.  It’s much easier to be disconnected than to try to connect and face rejection. Like Tom Hanks character in Castaway and Matt Damon’s in The Martian, people who cannot trust and fear rejection or intimacy also have to figure out how to maintain their physical and mental health apart from others.

Finding great people

I was at a holiday gathering a while back and one of my relatives was asked where her boyfriend was.  She replied that they broke up, it was not working out.  She then asked if anyone had any suggestions to where she can go to find a “good man”.  She says that all the guys she has been involved with turn out to be duds.  This isn’t an uncommon thought.  I’ll bet there are several million people in our country that feel the same way about finding a soul mate.  There just don’t seem to be any decent ones out there.

Layers of separation

I was with my daughter the other day and a song came on the radio that she was singing to.  I asked her who was singing it.  She said, “are you kidding me?, you really don’t know who this is? Everyone knows this song.” It seems I live in a different world than she does.  What is so common in her world, is foreign to me. I was so close but so far away.

I think socially there are many different cultural layers all overlapping each other with each group being somewhat isolated from the other layers while sharing the same space.  It really is bizarre how these cultural layers can be literally standing in the same place, and like someone who doesn’t like their food to touch, seem to keep from mixing.  That explains why my relative feels so far away from finding a decent guy, and why I was clueless to apparently one of the most popular songs on earth. Sometimes the invisible walls are the thickest.

We are what we hang with

When I was in my early twenties, I was surrounded by many friends and like me, most of them didn’t have any kind of vision for their lives.  We were a crowd that put lots of focus on the here and now, living for the moment.  Most of us were running away from our past in some way. We spent quite a bit of time together and had many social interactions but these friendships were shallow at best.  Friendships (girls and guys) seemed to be temporary and centered around where the next party is.  I had many friends, but meaningful connection was a different story.

The truth is, that I was exactly like the people closest to me, the ones I spent the most time with.  Someone said we are the sum total of our five closest people.  This was certainly true for me. I had a many friends but didn’t really connect with any of them, at least not with any depth. I would go out on the town, have lots of fun, meet more interesting fun people, then go back to my apartment and bask in my loneliness and addictions. There were people all around, but I was all alone. My friends were not interested in connecting with me as a person or helping me grow nor was I with them. We didn’t know how, and were too immature to care or know what it was that we were needing.  We all had our own voids to figure out how to fill.

Where are you looking?

What I know now, that I did not know the first half of my life, is that there are many healthy, happy, connected people out there if you wish to seek them out and find out where they hang.  I am not suggesting that all healthy and happy people are separate from everyone else and part of an exclusive club.  They are all over.  They come in every color and every size.  They are in the stores you shop, walking down the street, eating in the same restaurants that you eat.  You may not recognize them if you don’t know what to look for. If you want to find a bunny, don’t look in a fox hole.

Something missing

Have you ever felt like there was something missing in your life, but you don’t know what it is?  I have asked many people this question in my life and apart from a couple of people I suspect were not honest, everyone has said yes.  Most of the time when I engage in conversation with people about this, it strikes a chord and often leads to a very constructive and insightful conversation.  It seems we all have a void that needs to be filled.

“As people are cut off from others and their souls are starved for connectedness, the need for love turns into an insatiable hunger for something. It can be a substance, sex, food, shopping, or gambling, but these never satisfy, because the real need is the connectedness to God and others, and to God through others.” Henry Cloud – How People Change.

Connectedness

We were created to experience connectedness vertically with our creator and horizontally with people.  It is not until we have connectedness with God that we can truly connect with others on the level we were created for. We also cannot stay connected with God without being connected to other people.  It is through other people who we are supported and upheld. It is other people who push us to grow and to push our limits to reach higher levels. It is through other people that God grows each person.  He sends people to teach you, encourage you, challenge you, discipline you, provide support, advice and direction. This doesn’t happen if you are not connected to people who share these values. We are what we hang with.

Grace is the glue

It is God that gives us the passion and the commitment to extend to others the kind of grace that God extended to us through Jesus Christ.  He forgave us our sins so that we could experience connectedness with him.  Connectedness cannot happen without grace to bridge the gap. Grace is the glue that holds ALL relationships together. You cannot give away what you do not have. Without grace, we all disconnect and go our separate ways. Are you connected?