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Thursday, March 31, 2011

How you word things can make all the difference...

It occurs to me that when times get lean and we are forced to make tough decisions, both personally and professionally, we revert to old cliches, such as "we simply have to do more with less." I have to tell you, that is not very encouraging for any of us. Most people would respond that we've been doing more with less! As a leader I don't believe using that phrase inspires those we lead to step up and do more. I know my initial response is to ask what others are doing?

As a leader we really need to be more cognizant of how we phrase things. I need to use language that relays to others that I am more interested in doing the right things with what we've got. Rather than tell your co-workers (or family for that matter in tough times) that we have to do more with less doesn't it make more sense to relay the message of doing the right things? If as a communicators it's all in the delivery, how about we rephrase this as "we need to start prioritizing what we're doing with the resources we have." You might say that I just said the same thing. Did I? Doing more with less conveys the message that we'll continue to do what we've been doing and add to that list without any additional support. Prioritizing what we're doing with reference to what we've got conveys that we may stop doing some things that are unproductive and focus on only doing those things that are producing the results we want and that are inline with our mission.

Communication is one of a leaders greatest assets or weakest links. Don't convey the message of business as usual, only more of it due to tightened budgets. Convey a proactive message of prioritizing what your doing, keeping your activities inline with your mission, so that you can accomplish great things even in times of reduced funding opportunities.

It really is all in the message! Just something to think about today. Next time you start to revert to an old cliche, stop and ask yourself how you can reword the message and inspires others.

Lead Strong...


Monday, March 21, 2011

Either move out of the way as a leader or surround yourself with those who can make things happen...

Some more thoughts from Marcus Aurelius...

"Is my understanding sufficient for this or not? If it is sufficient, I use it for the work as an instrument given by the universal nature. But if it is not sufficient, then either I retire from the work and give way to him who is able to do it better, unless there be some reason why I ought not to do so; or I do it as well as I can, taking to help me the man who with the aid of my ruling principle can do what is now fit and useful for the general good. For whatsoever either by myself or with another I can do, ought to be directed to this only, to that which is useful and well suited to society."

"Be not ashamed to be helped; for it is thy business to do thy duty like a soldier in the assault on a town. How then, if being lame thou canst not mount up on the battlements alone, but with the help of another it is possible?"

Don't get caught up in the translation, what Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of as leaders is to know when it is our time to move on or vacate our position of leadership, or ask for help. When it is still within our ability to accomplish the things asked of us by all means we should do so. However, when I am no longer able to fulfill my duties I need to be honest with myself and others and either move on from that place of leadership, or if this is not an option I need to be smart enough to surround myself with people who can help accomplish those duties.

Now, I tend to believe that the latter is the best route. Leadership experience is too valuable to lose, especially when strong leaders can admit their weaknesses and have the ability to surround themselves with quality, qualified people who can make up for the leaders shortcomings. As a leader you simply cannot know everything there is to know about everything.

Unfortunately too many leaders live on past successes for so long that they really create their own oblivion which they fade away into. Success is fleeting and is not meant to create mantles on which we stand for the length of our careers. Successes are meant to propel us on the the next success. Hopefully, taking on new challenges and opportunities which require us to honestly evaluate ourselves, recognize our weaknesses, and surround ourselves with those who compensate for those weaknesses. And in turn we compensate for theirs as well. Sounds like team building, doesn't it?

Remember, as a leader you should not expect yourself, or be expected of by others, to know everything. Leadership is not about being omniscient, it is about building strong teams that together can accomplish what might otherwise be impossible for you alone.

So, as Marcus Aurelius reminds us; be honest with yourself. Move out of the way if it is time, or be strong enough to surround yourself with those who can make you stronger yet and who you can build up as well.

This may be especially true for those of us who are responsible for hiring new people, or who are thinking of re-entering the job market. Am I asking too much of those I am interviewing? Forsaking their incredible talents for the minute gifts they don't possess? When being interviewed myself, am I finding myself hanging on to past success for fear of admitting my lack of knowledge in certain areas of the job description? Rather, maybe I should point out my ability to admit weakness and surround myself with strong people or to be one of those strong people another leader can feel comfortable surrounding themselves with.

Just some more to think about.

Lead Strong...


Monday, March 14, 2011

More from Marcus Aurelius

"A man must stand erect (on his own) and not be held erect by others." ~Marcus Aurelius

Isn't it curious how a person can rise to fame or power with no regard for those who helped get him/her there, but if they fall from that position it is someone else fault?

If you achieve some place of honor or status on your own and subsequently fall from that position take the responsibility on yourself for such a fall. If you rose to that position with the help of others and subsequently fall, still take the responsibility upon yourself for such a fall. Our culture is one of self promotion and blame, rising to this or that position on our own merits but always removed due to the fault of others.

Our own sense of integrity and moral value are the aids which help us stand erect, not those of others. My position cannot be built on the integrity of others for surely then I am doomed to fall. But it is still not the fault of others that I should fall, it is rather still my own for building on the lives of others and not mine own.

Stand erect on your own. If a Christian, then you truly do have someone else who holds you erect, that of the person of Jesus Christ. However, if you are to fall, it is not Jesus Christ's fault, but still your own for straying from His person-hood being lived out within you that surely caused you to fall. So, take the responsibility for the fall on your self, much the same as you would if you built your position without him. The responsibility is still your own. Return to Him to provide the grace to restore you from your fall. Notice how different this is from those who do not have a relationship with Christ.

Build your own sense of integrity and moral value. Stand erect on those principles. Do not allow yourself to be caught away with the allure of others integrity and moral values for these are not your own. If you profess faith in Jesus Christ, build your life on His integrity and moral values (saving grace and person-hood), make His your own and then stand erect.

Ask yourself if you are standing erect on your own integrity or on the lives of others? Ask yourself who you blamed for your last fall?

Lead Strong...


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A life without focus...

"The soul of man does violence to itself... when it allows any act of its own and any movement to be without an aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without considering what it is, it being right that even the smallest things be done with reference to an end..." ~Marcus Aurelius

I am a lay student of philosophy and have recently started reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (mid to late 100's AD). Aurelius was a Roman soldier as well as philosopher and I am continually amazed at how closely philosophy of that time period reflects that of Christian thought. It is easy to see why Paul commented about people of his day being religious and debating his understanding of Christ with the worlds understanding of philosophical thought.

But Marcus Aurelius has a deep wisdom that we can learn from. Think about what he says as quoted above. A man does violence to his own soul when he lives without purpose and focus in life. To act thoughtlessly without considering our actions and how those actions affect the end is a travesty. A man does violence to his own soul. Wow, think about that for a moment. When we live and act without regard to purpose and relationships we are hurting ourselves, not to mention those we interact with.

Paul tells us to do everything, live and act, as if unto the Lord and to do so in a manner pleasing to the Lord. Paul really says to live lives of purpose and focus, thinking about how our lives affect others and to have an end in mind. Aurelius may have never been directly impacted by Paul's writings but he was clearly indirectly impacted by them.

What about you? Are you living a life of focus and purpose? Are you considering your life, your thoughts, your actions? Are you living with an end in mind? Are you living and acting in a way that is conscious of how your life affects the lives of others? To not do so is to bring violence on your own soul.

While Scripture is, and needs to be my foundation, I think it is beneficial to read the great works of other philosophers and see how their teachings so often align with our Biblical teachings. To read Marcus Aurelius is to read the thoughts of a man entrenched in society and desiring to make a difference. As Christians we find ourselves entrenched in society, but I often wonder if we have the same desire to make a difference?

Are you doing violence to your own soul by living a thoughtless life without purpose and focus. Have an aim (purpose, focus) in life and live and act toward that aim. For Christians, make Christ that aim.

Thinking philosophically,

Lead Strong,


Monday, March 7, 2011

You never know who you'll meet...

While out on a cold and windy ride yesterday, Sunday March 6, 2011 with Clark, a friend from church, we met a couple on vacation from Italy. Italy! We had ridden from Amarillo to a favorite lookout point in the canyons near Claude and were stretching our legs when this couple pulled up and started snapping pictures, lots of pictures! Believing that leadership = relationships + influence we struck up a conversation with them. It really didn't take long to deduct that they were neither American nor from Mexico (even though their speech was a mix of English and what I originally thought was Spanish) so the conversation quickly turned to their home country and what brought them to Texas of all places? They were on an extended 18 day vacation, originating in DFW and traveling throughout Texas into New Mexico and Colorado and eventually ending up in Las Vegas, NV. They simply had a map and had highlighted some areas of interest.

It was a neat experience for Clark and I to learn a little about their country (by the way, if I ever make it to Italy I now know I need to rent a motorcycle and tour the region near Tuscany) and to share places they needed to take in while making their way through this part of Texas. They especially thought it was cool that they had met some real life American bikers on their trip. Ha, I didn't have the heart to tell them that Clark is a home health care business owner and I'm a college administrator. They were too enthralled with taking pictures of us and our bikes (glad mine was clean).

You just never know who you'll meet on any given day. And to think, I was reluctant to go for a ride because it was a little cooler than I normally prefer (I'm a fair weather biker, ha) but I am glad that I went. I hope this young couple has a great time in America and I'm glad that God allowed me the opportunity to be apart of their trip in some small way.

Don't overlook the value of chance encounters. Paul tells us in Colossians to live a life worthy of the Lord. I think that means in word and deed. And whether or not meeting us yesterday did anything for this young couple from Italy, it made my day a little brighter.

Be on the lookout for who you might meet this week, you never know who God will place in your path.

Lead Strong...


Thursday, March 3, 2011


Leadership can be a difficult practice because it revolves around relationships with people. Recently however I came across an interesting variable to this whole leadership equation that according to sociophysical theorists (yes, there really are sociophysical theorists out there, also in the study of sociopsychology) we tend to neglect, that of propinquity. Propinquity is the impact of space on relationships, as first theorized by psychologists Leon Festinger, Stanley Schachter, Kurt Lewin and Kurt Back.

As leaders facing human relationship dysfunction our first tendency is to attack the issue based on the personalities involved. Propinquity encourages us to consider the nearness, or proximity in space and its effect on relationships. I have to admit, I've read a lot of leadership and relationship material but have failed to come across this theory until now, and I am fascinated by it. It is more than just removing a person from an environment to solve a problem, it encourages leaders to look at how the actual environment may be affecting relationships.

While the original theorists really focused on the proximity of people, such as two people living on the same floor of a residence hall are in closer propinquity then two people living on different floors, modern theorists urge us to not only consider proximity but the environment itself. Such an example could be a relationship gone bad between co-workers A & B. The supervisor separates them, moving A to another office suite and putting someone else (C) in A's place with B. In time the relationship between B & C starts deteriorating. Natural deductive reasoning tells the supervisor that B must be the problem since A is now happy and productive and C has been negatively affected. So the supervisor naturally deals with B as the source of the dysfunction (which they could be). But propinquity would urge us as leaders to consider the less obvious. Is there something within the office suite itself that is causing the dysfunction between B & C and originally between A & B? Does the office suite have a window? Is there a ventilation problem? Is the office suite too small for multiple occupants? And on and on we could go, examining multiple unconsidered variables. Propinquity encourages the examination of the environment as a whole, not just the proximity of people in the environment, although that too must be examined.

All this to say that it is entirely too easy for leaders to take the most obvious, and usually the route of least resistance when fixing a problem. But how often does the problem re-emerge with a different set of players? Next time you find yourself in a situation where dysfunction is arising in a relationship, I encourage you to not only consider the people involved and their personalities, but also the propinquity. It could be the environment and not the people causing the dysfunction.

Just something to think about...

Lead Strong...