Friday, November 30, 2012

Dealing with the Bottom 20%

This morning I met with a successful business woman in my town to explore some options for my future and careers goals.  It was an enjoyable meeting and she was generous to share many ideas and information with me.

One thing we discussed was the idea that as a manager you are only as successful as the weakest person on your team.  If you're in leadership of any kind then I'm sure you can relate with the amount of time and energy that gets spent on the bottom 20% of your team.  Either you are coaching and training and disciplining them, or you're business picking up all the slack left by their lackluster performance.

When dealing with the bottom 20% I've decided there are basically two options that are sustainable in the long term.  Either you commit to building into that person and helping them improve, or you have to make the hard decision to cut them loose to do something they are better suited for - somewhere else.  The one thing you cannot do is be OK with the status-quo and allow the bottom 20% of your team to drag down and exhaust everyone else.

Here's the truth, you probably spend 80% of your time dealing with things caused by your bottom 20%.  Just think how much more you could do if you were spending all that time with your top performers?  The reality is that not everyone is cut out for every job, and if you're afraid to deal with bottom performers because you think you're doing them a favor, step back from the situation and see how many top performers are getting short changed by your lack of leadership to them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Psalm of Life - Longfellow

My dad had minor surgery on Monday, and so when I saw the missed call and voicemail from him on my phone I thought he must have called to give me an update on how things went.  I was wrong. 

I've had my dad tell me to do a lot of things over the years, but one thing I have never had him to me to do, until today, was 'to google' something.  He told me to google a poem because he thought I'd enjoy it.  And he was right.  

Maybe you'll enjoy it too.
A Psalm of Life by, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing, 
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
Learn to labor and to wait. 
Thanks Dad!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Being a Great Finisher

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 
- St. Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7-8

One of the areas I'm working on improving in my personal life is being a better finisher. When I played hockey I was a gifted finisher. If I had the puck in an opportunity to score I could usually put it in the back of the net. At work, when I'm given a project I work until the task is complete and done well. If I have a deadline to speak somewhere I make sure that my talk has been written, edited and that everything is in place before I speak. However, in my 'down time' I don't finish as well as I want to.

The side mirror on my car has been broken and not replaced for over a year. I've been designing and painting bean bag boards for two years. There are a few projects in my yard that just keep getting put off for another day. I understand that life happens and I try to be available to whomever instead of always working on something, but I think I've fallen victim to the opposite extreme of busyness. Procrastination and idleness.

In the passage above the Apostle Paul wrote about finishing his life well. He had given all he had in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. He could say with confidence that he had fought the good fight. Like a great boxer Paul kept punching and punching and moving forward. He wasn't idle, he wasn't lazy; he was ready to move on to heaven with no regrets about his efforts on earth. He lived with passion, purpose and productivity. Paul was a great finisher.

There is another great finisher in the Bible. His name was Jesus. He came to earth and lived on a mission for 33 years. At the end of his life he gave everything he had to finishing well the purpose for which he was sent. Jesus went willingly to the cross to complete what his Father had sent him to do, namely to die as a substitute for the sins of humanity, and through that death and subsequent resurrection, to pave the way for broken men and women to be healed and to be reunited with God in Heaven, through Christ. Jesus was a great finisher.

I want to be more like Jesus and more like Paul in every area of my life. I want to be a great finisher. In all areas. Work and home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Passing the Baton of Faith

Loved the theme of the message yesterday at CANVAS Church by my pastor Jon Hohm.  He challenged the traditional thought that 'life is not a sprint, its a marathon' with the image of life being more like a relay race.  He had a baton on stage and referencing Hebrews 12, he explained that everyone has a lap to run in the race.  Your life is your lap.  Run it well.  Do your best.  But remember, its a lap, not the whole race.  Someone else ran a lap before you and they passed the baton of faith to you.  You then, when you complete your lap, need to pass the baton on to someone after you.

Jon said,
DISCIPLESHIP = Having someone who is passing the baton to you + You passing the baton to someone else
 Then he explained that to run your lap well you have to,

1.  Have a passion for God yourself
2.  Live out of that passion
3.  Intentionally invest in passing it on to those after you

The relay metaphor and the baton prop were an excellent way of communicating what I thought was a great idea about living out our faith, and having our faith out live us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lessons About Character from a Tree Felling

I believe the Lord gave me a thought today as I was clearing branches of the trees my dad cut down in my yard.

Here's the background story...

The trees we cut down were two large trees that have been growing in the yard since the house was built in 1997.  The trees were tall and the trunks were thick.  My dad brought his chain saw over and in less than 5 minutes he had sawed through the trunks of the trees and they had fallen to the ground.  After the trees fell we spent thirty minutes cleaning up all the debris from the yard.  We put all the branches in a huge pile in the back yard and now I'll have to pay someone to come haul them away.

So, in short - 15 years to grow, 5 minutes to cut down, 30 minutes to clean up, and a bunch of money to complete the job.

Here's the thought I believe God gave me to share...

Think about your character.  Character isn't built over night; it takes a long time to develop good character.  It takes many years, many choices, many challenges, and much faithfulness.  Like those trees growing tall and the trunks growing wide, character is built over time.

However, just like the trees, character can come crashing down quick.  One wrong choice, one wrong web click, one dip of the toe in the sin pool.  Of course there is grace and forgiveness, but if a person is not careful, all the time they spent building their character can be wiped away fast.

When someone's character comes crashing down, there is usually all kinds of debris left to be cleaned up.  After we cut the trees down there were branches and pine needles and stumps left in the yard that needed to be picked up.  Having your character come crashing down is exactly like that.  There is a mess all over the place that needs to be cleaned up. is the hope.

When Jesus comes into your life he can begin to rebuild your character.  Like a seed being planted in the ground where the old trees where, Jesus comes into your life and begins to rebuild your character.  It will take time, water and effort, but a new tree will begin to grow.  So, if you have had your character come down, don't be dismayed or discouraged, because with Christ you can begin to rebuild your character into something that is bigger and stronger than what was there before.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Comparison Trap

It can be a real battle not to compare yourself to other people.  Comparing can happens in all sorts of ways:

- Comparing career achievements.  
- Comparing bodies.  
- Comparing social status.  
- Comparing number of Twitter followers. 
- Comparing cars.  
- Comparing children behavior.  
- Comparing consumer goods.  
- Comparing intellect.  

The list goes on and on.  And on.

At Thanksgiving I was struggling with comparing.  My brother in law is an awesome guy.  He's blessed with a job that he's been working for his whole life.  He'll own the company some day.  He's got a sweet Suburban, all kinds of nice things for his wife and kids, and the opportunity to travel and vacation and golf all over the US.  He can rewire your whole house or hang a picture frame level with his eyes closed.  He'e debating where to put the hot tub.

Then I look at myself.  My car is missing a back door handle and the passenger side mirror is broken off.  My dryer is unplugged and sitting in my kitchen because it makes a horrible noise.  The garage door doesn't work so my wife has to get out of the van to open the door by hand whenever she comes home.  I work 60 hours a week and get nothing out of it but a "thanks for the hard work."  All this to say, it can be a bit of a downer sometimes when I look around at the people around me.

Let me be clear, I'm in no way blaming my brother in law.  He's loving, generous, and willing to do anything to help anyone.  The problem is with me.  The problem is with my eyes.  I get so busy looking around that I stop looking above, or rather, inside, into the eyes of Jesus.  Looking around at the lives of others distracts me from looking at Christ and being grateful for the things that he has given me.  Looking at the things others have done, or own, takes my attention away from the things Jesus has done for and given to me.

I don't really have an income problem.  I have an interest problem.  And that problem is that I am interested in the wrong things.

I am most happy when I am interested in the things that matter most.

- Loving God.
- Loving my family.
- Serving others.
- Worshipping with my church.

These are the things that I want to be interested in.  And if I want to compare I should compare my love of Jesus today with my love of him yesterday, and challenge myself to grow more deeply in love with Him each day.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 Things I'm Thankful for This November

1.  That Jesus saved me from my sins and gives me grace enough for each day
2.  For my wife Stephanie who encourages me, forgives me, inspires me, sharpens me, and is tons of fun to be with
3.  That my three children are healthy, intelligent, energetic, spontaneous, fun, and loving
4.  For my church family and all the wonderful people we're building relationships with there as we serve and connect and worship
5.  For a home that is bigger than we need and all the things inside it's walls that mark us as a blessed and provided for family
6.  That God gave me parents who love him, nourished my faith, and continue to love and support me always
7.  For siblings who I can count on for anything, and who pray for me and encourage me whenever I need it
8.  For neighbors who are fun, generous, helpful, and loving towards me and my family
9.  For a family through marriage that is loving, generous and always helpful
10.  That I have a job to pay my bills and buy a few extras
11.  That my kids can go to a private, Christian school to learn not only about math and science, but about Jesus too
12.  For the experiences in my past, good and bad, that have made me the person I am today
13.  For God's new mercy and grace everyday
14.  For a mind that learns quickly, makes connections easily, and understands most things without too much effort
15.  To live in a city with all kinds of opportunities for our family to engage and have fun with others and with one another
16.  That I was able to attend seminary and receive a Master's of Divinity degree on scholarship
17.  For friends new and old that have invested in my family and I in countless ways
18.  That I was able to play college hockey and for the friendships I gained while doing so
19.  Opportunities to travel and share messages about Jesus in different churches
20.  For the healing that comes from Jesus and the way He can rebuild relationships and souls
21.  For the memories we made as a family this year including water park hotels, sports, travel to the cabin, and countless movie nights with popcorn
22.  That my parents are still alive and doing well after moving to a new home up north
23.  That my sister is married and expecting her very first child next year
24.  That I have a hope in the great work God is doing in my life and the excitement that come when trying to follow His lead
25.  For all the new people I have met at work and for the chance I have to show Jesus to them in the way I lead
26.  For the chance to learn new things and develop new skills after being selected to open a new Walmart store in Lakeville
27.  That my body is healthy and functioning well
28.  For all the new friendships, opportunities, and experiences that came along this year
29.  That I was able to coach Andrew's tee ball team this summer and that we were the Boston Red Sox
30.  And for all the countless blessings Jesus has chosen to bestow upon my family and I that we are undoubtedly unaware of

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leaders with Lamb Hearts and Rhinoceros Hide

A mentor of mine tweeted this quote yesterday,
"Leadership requires the heart of a lamb and the hide of a rhinoceros - Dr. Greg Bourgond."  
Phenomenal.  Being a good leader is tough, and mastering having the heart of the lamb with the hide of a rhinoceros takes some practice.

I've been around leaders with the heart of the lamb.  They are great people to work for because they care about you, serve you and do everything they can to support and encourage you.  The downfall is that lamb heart leaders can be so loving and tender that they are afraid to make difficult decisions or share difficult feedback with others.  I used to be a lot like this.  I wanted everyone to view me as caring and considerate, so I tended to avoid or put off hard conversations with under-performing individuals.  That's not good leadership.

I've also been around leaders with the hide of a rhinoceros.  These leaders will run through any wall, take on any challenge and be intimidated by nothing.  They are inspiring and courageous and strong.  They are not deterred by criticism or doubt.  But they can also be thick-headed, harsh and brash.  Leaders with rhinoceros hide have to be careful they don't run everyone over, or go into situations without thinking about any of the consequences.

As a leader you probably lean more towards one aspect of the other.  The key is to identify where your strength is and then operate from that place, minimizing the weakness of that strength and learning to incorporate skills you don't have.  If you're a lamb heart leader than love, serve and care for people, but make sure you work on getting a tougher hide and taking on some risk.  If you're a rhinoceros hide leader then run wild and free and strong, but be careful not to ignore the truth in criticism or to run anyone over.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'm Not Always the Main Character

This morning, when I was picking up a prescription at the local pharmacy, I had a longer than expected wait because the pharmacist couldn't find my bag.  As I was standing there I was trying not to get frustrated and I started thinking that maybe God had some lesson to teach me.  So I waited.  Then a lady walked up behind me and the time it took her to get her prescription was delayed because all the employees were looking for my bag.  I thought at that point that maybe the delay wasn't about God teaching me a lesson, and instead maybe the lady behind me had something to learn in the situation.  Then I thought about how awkward it must be for the pharmacist to know he has people waiting and to feel like he's unable to serve them.  Maybe God's hand in the delay was for the pharmacist?  Or maybe it was for all of us?

The point is this.  God is sovereign.  He is in control of all things.  We humans don't usually have any clue about the role we're playing in God's design and in his plan for us, and others.  Our tendency is to try and apply every single thing that happens to us to our own lives, as if we're the only person in the world God is trying to work in.  The truth is likely that we're far from understanding the breadth and width of God's amazingly loving work in the world, and we'd be much better served to worship God through the sun and the rain of life instead of questioning every single detail.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

2012 Post Election Thoughts

Yesterday Barak Obama won a second term as the President of the United States of America.  He was not the person I voted for.  In fact, almost none of the people or issues I voting in favor of yesterday were successful.  I woke up somewhat disappointed about that.  But all day long I've been thinking about it.  My feelings now are different than earlier today.  Sure I would have liked my candidate to win.  I share an ideology with them.  Many, though not all, of the issues my candidates support are things that make sense to me and matter to me.  However, I'm resting tonight and finding peace in a couple things.

1.  No political party or candidate is my Savior, or the Savior of this country.  Simply put, all men are flawed, and all elected officials will do things that are flawed.  Jesus Christ will not.  As a Christian I am held by God's Word in Scripture to believe that there is a Kingdom not seen on this earth, but a Kingdom that surpasses and is superior to this world's kingdoms in every way.  My King Jesus will never be thwarted, defeated, or over-ruled.

2.  I believe that President Obama will put things in motion that will be bad for our country.  I believe that our society will continue to drift further and further from the God of the Bible, and that we will pay the price for this in many, many ways.  However I am not afraid or surprised by this.  The Bible is so clear about many of these things.  Nations will leave God.  People will follow their own desires.  Many churches will leave Scripture truth and authority for the way of nice feelings and the god of tolerance of all personal pleasure pursuits.  Christians shouldn't be shocked.  What we should be doing is praying, reading God's Word, helping our neighbor, and engaging our society in a positive way.

3.  In four years there will be another election and a new chance to evaluate our country and make decisions about changes that are necessary for the future.