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.


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.


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?


Don’t Be So Bossy!


The Boss

“First of all, I will say I hate the word “boss”.  At least when it is applied to me.  I don’t want to be a boss, I try very hard not to be a boss, look like a boss or sound like a boss.  I have had bosses before and it was not very fun.  They were very bossy.

Back in the day the workplace looked a little different than it does now.  The Boss model was everywhere.  The chain of command was very important. Having control, and being “in charge” of your people was the primary responsibility of a person in management.  Make the boss happy and you are “doing your job”.  This is the boss model.

So what is a Boss?

  • A boss is someone who believes their responsibility is to “get” people to behave or work in a way that makes the boss or company successful.
  • A Boss believes they are on a higher plain than the people they work for. They are more important and have a sense of entitlement that others are not subject to.
  • A Boss relies on their title to give them credibility.  They need to remind people who is “in charge”.  Titles are like a badge of honor.
  • A Boss is much more likely to use anger, intimidation and manipulation to get the results that they are looking for.
  • A Boss is more interested in looking good to their boss than to their subordinates. They are quick to point out how much they have accomplished or how valuable they are to the company.
  • A Boss uses their power and authority to be served. They often arrange their job priorities and task to work around their own personal life. That is the whole benefit to being the boss.
  • A Boss takes credit for success, and casts blame for failures.
  • A Boss has a history (or will have) of broken employee relationships in their wake, These are relationships that didn’t need to end the way they did if they would have had better relational skills.
  • A Boss is in search of more power and authority and will step on others if necessary to get it.
  • A Boss manages according to what feels “natural”.  They do what their parents did.  They do what their previous Bosses did.
  • Some Bosses don’t mean any intentional harm, they just don’t know any other way.

How do Bosses maintain control?

  • Carrots – Bosses rely on bribing, using flattery or talking people into things in order to get them to do something for them.  When a boss chases their employees away they have to resort to this to get their remaining employees to pitch in and take on extra work. Incentives are good, but not when they replace true appreciation.
  • Sticks – Bosses need a club.  This would be a way to implement discomfort in order to redirect behavior. Sometimes this is yelling, anger, passive aggression, write ups, guilt, self-pity, anything that will make someone behave in a manor you want.
  • Social bonding – Some managers with boss-like tendencies (BLT’s) will use words strategically to win over their subordinates.  They give an impression of connecting with people, when really they are just using social bonding to gain a false sense of favor.  Some managers with BLT’s try to become besties with people right off the bat.
  • Dog-house management – This is when, at first,  you are on the right side of the manager, they seem to really like you, all seems well, until you let your guard down and cross them somehow. A manipulative boss can change their tune in a split second and toss your butt in the dog-house quickly.
  • Controlling with Extremes – Bouncing back and forth between extremes is a form of dog-house management.  Some Dog-house managers may allow you to make it up to them and get out of the dog-house by proving yourself to them by kissing up, or extra effort.  Sometimes a sincere apology is enough.  When they really need something they may let you out, and pretend nothing was wrong.  You may come and go in and out of the dog-house over time. This is their way at keeping control of you. The message they make is very clear, “I am the boss, and if you don’t want to be in the dog-house, don’t cross me!”
  • Expendable People – Some dog-house managers have a perspective that people become corrupt or lose their mojo and are not recoverable.  When an employee crosses them, they can no longer trust them and have no use for them.  They are very quick to fire and toss on the scrap heap. This type of dog-house management leaves no room for second chances or working out problems constructively.
  • They take things personally – Bosses can be quick to be hurt or offended.  They can take an under achieving employees actions personally.  They have the perspective of “If you aren’t going to do anything for me, I am not doing anything for you”.  If you watch Shark Tank, you may have heard Mr. Wonderful say “Your dead to me!”  when he gets his feelings hurt. I love that show!
  • My way or the highway! – Bosses have to put up a big front so everyone knows who is in charge. Everything is on their terms. They also need to know that there is little margin for error.  Donald Trump – “Your Fired!”.
    They have to overcompensate for poor relational skills.
  • It’s your job! – Bosses are not quick to hand out compliments for people just doing their job.  I have heard managers say things to me similar to “I’m not going to hold their hand and clap for them for simply doing what is expected of them”.  There is some truth to this but people who focus on this tend to have trouble connecting with their people.
  • I am not here to be your friend! – Bosses use this excuse for not wanting or needing to connect with people.  In their eyes trust comes from outward behavior and not inward connection.

To be sure, people who have multiple BLT’s have an uphill battle ahead of them.  Some of these tactics can have an appearance of success in the short term, but lack the interpersonal value to build the kind of relational resume needed for long term and large scale success.

The Servant Leader

So what is a Servant Leader?

  • A Servant Leader believes they are on the same plain as everyone else.  They believe they have a responsibility to serve the people that work under their care.
  • A Servant Leader doesn’t need authority or a tile to gain influence.  Their influence comes from their character and credibility.  Consider Andy Taylor vs. Barney Fife (the Andy Griffith show). Barney points to his badge and gun to gain respect from others.  Andy doesn’t even wear a gun. People listen to him.  A Servant Leader has all the authority they need, but seldom needs to use it.
  • A Servant Leader doesn’t try to change people from the outside in (behavior).  They do not try to “get” people to do something. They get people to “want” to do something.  They work from the inside out by connecting.
  • A Servant Leader takes responsibility for their blunders and the teams blunders.  They resists the urge to blame others.
  • A Servant Leader is more interested in upholding a reputation of good character and integrity than looking impressive or pointing to their success to determine their value. They are transparent and approachable.
  • A Servant Leader doesn’t use flattery or false humility to put on a mask.  They are less interested in telling people what they want to hear and more interested in telling people what they need to hear in order to grow.
  • A Servant Leader understands that you have to earn the right to be heard.  “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I know this is very over-used, but it is so true.
  • When a Servant Leader see’s abberant or irresponsible behavior they don’t automatically jump to discipline, criticism or removal.  They seek out the reason for the behavior.  They try to connect with the person to discover the cause rather than just addressing the symtom or behavior. They save many relationships and divert costly bad turnover in doing so.
  • A Servant Leader resists the urge to manage according to what feels natural and seeks out proven methods.  They look outside the box to learn what the great leaders have done. Then they do that.

So how does a Servant Leader maintain control?

  • They don’t.  Servant Leaders are not in control.  Each person is fully in control of their own choices and actions.  Unless you live in a communist country, you have the right to work for who you want to work for.  We need to remember that our employees choose to work with us, and have needs to be met in order for them to want to continue to work with us.  They can leave any time.
  • Outcomes – Servant Leaders have a much greater effect on outcomes than bosses because they influence the people around them to own their actions. Influence always trumps control.
  • Influence – Servant Leaders understand a few basic principles about the nature of all people.

1. People need to know that they are appreciated. They need to know that their ideas and opinions matter.

2. They need to know exactly what is expected of them.  They need someone to take the time and help prepare them for what they need in order to be successful.

3. They need to feel needed, and that their hard work matters and makes a difference.  People will run through walls for you if they know it counts for something bigger than the task.

Trust – Servant Leaders understand that their first responsibility is to show people that they can be trusted.  Until you gain the trust of your crew you will have very little influence on their lives.

  • Trust means not making promises they don’t intend to keep
  • Trust comes when your co-workers know that you have their best interest in mind, and you are not going to toss them onto the trash heap.
  • Trust comes from doing the right thing, in the right manor, for the right reasons.
  • Trust comes from giving someone opportunity to show their trustworthiness.
  • Servant Leaders expect the best out of people.  Many Bosses expect their employees to fall to the ground like a turkey, Leaders expect them to fly like an eagle.  They set the bar high and believe in them.
  • Servant Leaders treat people with respect, even when they disappoint. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, they keep the value of the sinner separate from the value of the sin. They toss out the bathwater without losing the baby.

Which path?

Success or failure is largely decided by the type of leader you are.  These principles are real and true and are absolute.  The path has already been written for both types.  It’s up to us to determine if we are going to take the path of least immediate resistance that requires less change with less results, or the path that requires personal growth and leads to deeper connections and a network of trusted people in your corner which is needed for long term or large scale success.

I’ll bet you have some Boss-like qualities at times and some Servant Leadership qualities. I know I do. Chances are any success you’ve had comes from the areas you exemplify Servant Leader qualities.  Many of the failures you’ve had relationally, probably came from the Boss in you coming out.  Being a “Boss” comes more natural to most, but holds us back and keeps us from being all we can be as a leader.  It takes time, effort, and most of all self-sacrifice to get past being a Boss to become a true Servant Leader. Be prepared, there may be some self-discovery needed before you can begin to make the transition.

Something is wrong

If you are in a leadership role and you always seem to be spinning your tires, not getting anywhere, if people always end up letting you down, and you find yourself burning out, or starting over frequently, you need to know, that’s how it is suppose to be!  Ya, I said that. Just like when your knee bends in a way it was not intended to bend, it hurts!  It means you are doing something wrong, following the wrong recipe. Pain and stress are put in place to tell us when something is wrong to force us to put guardrails in place, change directions or get help. It means you have some obstacles that need to be removed, or wounds that need to be healed.  You may need someone skilled to operate on your heart and help you see what is most important and to help you find your purpose, and learn your giftedness.

I believe we all make life much more difficult than we need to sometimes.  We have Self Imposed Foolish Tendencies (SIFTs) that hold us back and keep us from progressing.  We need to put ourselves under a coach or mentor be “SIFTed” to remove these obstacles, then be open to change.

Hebrews 12:1 says ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

  1. People are watching and learning from you.
  2. You have SIFTs that you need to purge before you can finish the race.
  3. You need to persevere so that you can lead the way for your followers.
  4. There is a race marked out for you that you need to find, and finish.

Things have changed over the years.  In this post-modern culture, people are much more experiencial minded.  The younger generations are more relational and respond to connectedness in deeper ways than the old days. They are looking for something to be a part of, something that they can feel good about. They don’t respond the same to authority as they did when I was a kid.  This means we need to change and adjust to meet the needs of our people if we want them to take part in our mission. When we keep trying to change them, or live according to past generations, we set ourselves and all our followers up to fail.

People need people

When we are in a position of leadership we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in peoples work experience and lives.  Every successful person can look back and see a person or two that came along side them and changed their entire perspective on what it mean to be successful.  We all need someone to show us the way, to help us get past our own Self Induced Foolish Tendencies.  We need someone who believes in us and is willing to have your back and push toward our personal best.

The Pareto Principle says that 20% of the leaders experience 80% of the success.  I promise they don’t do it by being “bossy”.

Your Many Blunders Can Raise Your Credibility

I know, it makes no sense, hang with me.  Think about a two or three people you know that have very low credibility in your eyes or in the eyes of others who know them. Let’s call this group A.  I am sure you can think of many blunders or at least one big blunder that led you to dislike them or at least question their credibility.  Chances are they have made some poor choices over time and done some things to damage people’s perception of them.  

Now think of a few people you do trust, who are generally held in high esteem by most, including yourself.  You trust these people and believe in their ability to do the right thing based on their reputation and your experience with them.  Let’s call this group B.  You may conclude that the difference between these groups would be the number and seriousness of blunders accumulated over time.  After all, we are probably tempted to point out fault with the people in group A more quickly, aren’t we? Let’s put that on hold for a minute.


In the financial world, the word “credit” is used to refer to how reliable someone is to be trusted to pay back a loan or debt. When a person makes purchases that they are not able to pay for or take responsibility for, their credit rating goes down based on a complicated formula that smart people came up with.  

In the legal world, a “credible” witness is someone who can be counted on to tell the truth under oath.  A credible witness has a history of telling the truth. The opposing attorney will often try to “discredit” the witness in order to show they cannot be trusted with responsible testimony.

We all fall short

One thing that both groups A and B have in common that I believe goes largely overlooked is that all of the people have unquestionably lived a life of many blunders and mistakes.  They all have made many foolish choices that have hurt others. We all have. No doubt some people are less responsible than others, but we have all fallen short no matter what group we fall into.  

Why is it that we tend to remember the blunders coming from the people in group A more easily than group B?


I am not a genius when it comes to banking and finances, but I know that advisors will tell you that it is good to use a credit card verses cash if you wish to build up credit (assuming you can pay if off as you go).  I think the idea is to build up a track record of being responsible with a debt you owe.  The more you borrow and pay back the more others will be willing to loan to you.  You are building trust and credibility.

Now let’s take a deeper look into group A.  If their credibility is low, chances are it has taken a hit because of their history of not being responsible for outstanding debts(wrong doing) they have acquired or because of their blunders that go unclaimed.  

Some people view mistakes or blunders as horrible acts or events that define them and make a statement about their personal worth or value.  When their mistake is pinned on them they take it very personally and their self-esteem takes a hit. They will do most anything to avoid it. 

Others, like those in group B, when they make a mistake, look at it as a learning experience and consider them necessary bumps along the road to success and growth.

We have a choice

When we make a mistake (selfish or unselfish), we have a choice of what we are going to do with that mistake.  A person in group A may tend to choose to deny responsibility, blame someone else, or run away because of their fear, or distorted perspective on what blame says about them.  

A person from group B may worry very little about what blame says about them and be quick to accept responsibility for their blunder. They realize that everyone makes mistakes and it is unrealistic to expect otherwise. When they make a mistake it puts an extra burden on someone else. They know they need to take full responsibility for their mistake because they owe it to others they have hurt.  They understand grace normally accompanies confessing fault and they understand that any relationship, if expected to be strong, will occasionally require reconciliation (a topic for another time).  

The person who runs from blame values their own “blamelessness” over relational honesty. They tend to have a wounded heart that needs to heal before they can accept responsibility for their mistakes.

The person who runs from blame values their own “blamelessness” over relational honesty.

Own it

Two of the most powerful statements any person can make are “It’s my fault” and “I am sorry”.  These are the responsible way of saying I owe it to you to make up for my mistake and I own it.  They are the words that lead to credibility.  They are music to people’s ears when they may otherwise hold a grudge if they don’t hear these words. It’s much more difficult to forgive a person who doesn’t fess up.

Much like a person who borrows and can be trusted to pay back their debt time after time is a person who can be trusted to take responsibility for their mistakes and blunders even when it happens time after time. The more blunders you take responsibility for, the more credibility you will gain. 

You will never know the depth of how much you can trust someone until you see how they handle it after they have hurt someone.

Some people are defined by their mistakes in their own eyes, but it is how they respond to their mistakes that will define them in everyone else’s eyes.