A Moment with the (younger) Man in the Mirror

Twenty years ago I was at Fort Polk (Louisiana), sick and cold in a hasty fighting position with my buddy Mark Trimmer. I would spend my eighteenth birthday evening with an M16A2 in my hands, gazing up at the half-moon and trying to stay dry on a drizzly night.

These days I often reflect on what I'd share with that 'younger me' if I were given about forty-five seconds, and I've spent a portion of my 38th birthday planning that speech.

Here's my imaginary exchange from somewhere around 10pm, November 1st, 1995:
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*Poof*

"Shhhh. First of all I need you to be quiet because I only have forty-five seconds and five of them are gone.

What I'm about to say may not make a whole lot of sense to you right now - but trust me - you'll discover the truth behind these words in time. 
[12 seconds]

Listen, you've been on a search for God; He's closer than you think and He loves you a lot more than you could ever know. You'll see, I promise.

Make sure you take the time to tell people how much they mean to you, even this guy (I'd point at Trimmer). You're gonna lose some of your closest friends a lot earlier than you should, and your heart's gonna break into a million pieces. 
Life's short, Platt. Don't take people for granted.

And don't hold grudges. Forgive quickly. 
Trust me, in the next few years you're gonna need a lot of forgiveness - and if you won't grant it, then you'll have no place asking for it. 
[32 seconds]

• Don't take yourself too seriously.
• Don't be consumed with other people's expectations of you.
• Radiate gratitude.
• Think deeply. 
• Stay sober.
• Laugh much.

(I'd deliver my final thought with a firm punch to his left shoulder, just to show him his '38 year old self' could take him down. Wiser beats stronger any day of the week.)

"I'll see you in twenty years. By then, the boundary lines will have fallen in some fairly pleasant places. Be easy, young man."
[45 seconds]

*Poof*

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As a sidenote, I sometimes imagine what a 20-years senior Marion would say to me today. Maybe I'll blog that out another day...  

Values-Based Parenting

Guilty as charged! As a father I shamelessly cultivate my home environment so that the principles I've chosen to promote in the home will set in my kids' hearts before they're exposed to other systems of belief and conduct.  Yet I also do my best to help them understand and even appreciate the values of others.
Believe it or not, I speak often with my kids about values and their importance.  “Some values”, I’ve said, “are

Common Values

high ideals that are generally accepted among people of the human race. Virtues like love, honesty, and gratitude are values that socio-emotionally stable humans consider welcome and important. Common values are “commonly valued” among people of any nation, tribe, people, or tongue.  Generally, common values are the backbone to our understanding of morals or ethics.

Cultural Values

beliefs held by groups of people similar in geography or generation.  For instance, to my wife’s chagrin, my late father-in-law would often greet women he hadn’t seen in a while by commenting on how much weight they had gained since last he saw them.

“Oooh gul! Look-atcha get-tin fatt!” - Dad

Hilarious as this was to me, and though my wife would beg him to stop doing that, in Mr. Springer's culture and generation (he grew up skinny and not too wealthy in the Virgin Islands) this was a compliment to a lady’s physical health; weight gain was a cultural value.  

Core Values

are the standards you personally embrace as guiding principles.  At best they guide your actions, reactions, and interactions.  They’ll influence everything from the friends you choose to the kind of work you enjoy. For more information on core values, see this post, and maybe this one, too."

As values-based parents, my wife and I have thoughtfully chosen the values we’ll celebrate in our home.  We reward our kids with words of affirmation and even gifts for

  • displaying respect (saying "please" and "thank you", or using “sir” and “ma’am” when speaking to adults – a Carolina cultural value),
  • practicing responsibility (handling their tasks without being reminded) or
  • behaving resourcefully (using their own experience to think critically and solve their own problems).

Until my kiddos determine and decide to live by their own core values, I understand it to be my responsibility to “Start them off in the way they should go…” (Proverbs 22:6)  

As Anne Frank once said, “Parents can only give good advice or put their children on the right path. The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

"I come from a large family, but I was not raised with a fortune. Something more was left me, and that was family values." (Dikembe Mutombo)


"I come from a large family, but I was not raised with a fortune. Something more was left me, and that was family values." (Dikembe Mutombo)

 

The Values-Centered Life

Not long ago I spent a few days touring Washington DC with my youngest son.  We had an agenda laid out for where we would go and when, that is, until he spotted the International Spy Museum on F Street.  A few hours and a well-spent $40 later, he and I were wandering the exhibits, learning about the role of espionage in the history of mankind and media.  He enjoyed the James Bond displays; I was fascinated by… well, the pigeons.  

Did you know that for nearly a thousand years, mankind has used pigeons for communication and surveillance?  In times of war, they delivered critical messages between units, and were even trained as aerial photographers during World War II.  Columba livia domestica navigate primarily by magnetoception, which means they have the ability to detect the Earth’s magnetic field and make it to their destination.  Essentially, they have an inner compass.  Core values function something like that. 

As a person determines their core values and develops the willingness and discipline to live by them, they cultivate the ability to traverse predicaments and providence.  For those who live by their values, no matter what changes occur in their external environment, their internal navigational system remains functional. 

As my own vocation generates constant shifts in people and places, a firm adherence to my core value system has been fundamental for my navigation of life.  Through discussions with mentors and personal reflection, I’ve identified the following to be my core values:

  • Faithfulness – As a follower of Jesus, I’ll endeavor to be more and more faithful to his teachings as I grow in my understanding of them.  Moreover my loyalty as a husband and father, and fidelity to my friends, family, and others should reflect the highest standards.
  • Radiance – As a leader, I’ll not be ashamed to display the joie de vivre in my soul.  No matter where I am, others should perceive my warmth and welcoming nature.
  • Encouragement – As a communicator, I’ll use my gift of written and spoken words to bring healing and wholeness to those who read and/or hear me.  I’ll not discourage others through gossip or with slander, nor will my correspondence or online character possess a gratuitous bitter edge.
  • Sobriety – As a broken person in recovery I’ve been restored to sanity.  For that cause, I refuse the further use of anything that may injure my body or my mind, including drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or pornography.  Moreover, others should notice sobriety in the form of patience and self-control, as fruits of the Spirit on display in my character.
  • Humor – As a lover of people, I’ll surrender my innate wit and love for comedy to the purpose of giving glad hearts to those around me.  However, consistent with my core values of encouragement and sobriety, I’ll be careful not to embarrass or shame others.

When I’m living consistent with those five “F.R.E.S.H” values, little affirmations come my way in the form of my children’s laughter (humor), a friend’s trust (faithfulness), a speaking engagement request (encouragement), opportunities to mentor, sponsor, or coach others (sobriety), or an expanding network of friends (radiance). 

I see life as a joyful journey, and each encounter and every interaction carries me closer to, or farther from, where God intends for me to be.  Living a values-centered life keeps me journeying in the right direction.

"The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect your life in every way." (Alice Waters)

"The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect your life in every way."
(Alice Waters)

Core Values & Dying a Good Death

A while back one of my friends was losing his father and, with tears in his eyes, asked me to pray that his aging and ailing father would "die a good death".  That phrase has stuck with me the nearly five years since.  What does it mean for someone to "die a good death"? What would it mean for me?

As I move from one leadership assignment to the other, I’ve given no small amount of reflection to the things in my life that shouldn’t change even when almost everything else does.  My attitude, my address, and my attentions might shift from time to time, but there are a few behaviors and beliefs I’ve chosen to embrace in my life.  Those guiding principles, my core values, are part and parcel to all that is me.

In my time as the shepherd of souls, I’ve had to eulogize my fair share of family, friends, and strangers.   It can be challenging to prepare the final public reflections about a person’s life even when they'd lived a good life, and awkward as it may be, standing over the flowery casket of another person forces me to contemplate my own mortality. 

It may seem like a morbid exercise, but through mentoring teens I have found that one of the best ways to identify what’s most important to you, is to begin with the end (of your life) in mind.  Picture me sitting in a cemetery with five teen boys, talking about "the dash" between the years on tombstones and challenging them to "Decide what truths you want friends and family to say about you – at your funeral".  Reader, I issue you the same challenge. What do you want them to say?

The identification of core values is not just a touchy-feely kind of activity, but crucial for personal and professional success.  These principles give structure to your actions, reactions, and interactions. Essentially, they’re self-imposed enhancements of character and limitations of behavior based on your personal beliefs.  If you haven’t given much thought to your core values, start by thinking about the following:

1.    What words do you want your colleagues, your coworkers, your neighbors, your friends, and your family to use when they speak about you (especially when you're not around)?

2.    What kind of choices can you make today, which will influence others to use those terms when speaking of you?

We’ll dig a little deeper on this topic tomorrow, but throughout this week I’ll share some more perspective and resources that may prove helpful in the process of identifying and living by, and dying by ...your core values.

“Success in life means living by your values.”  (Russ Harris)

Inspirational Leadership - Owning Failures

…Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26)

Failures and fiascos. 

Crashes and catastrophes. 

…Leaders face them all the time. 

Sometimes the failure is based on circumstances beyond the leader’s control; other times the onus is on the leader for his or her poor performance.  When it’s clear that leader is to blame, he has a choice to make: “Will I own up to it, or will I pass the blame?” To choose the latter is conduct becoming of a coward. 

For the problems in Jerusalem, King Hezekiah could have blamed the weather.  He could have accused the idol-worshippers secretly gathering on the hills as the bringers-on of God’s wrath.  He possibly considered charging the trouble to his predecessors.  But in the end, he chose to come clean and own the failure. 

There came a time in his administration when Hezekiah noticed how highly regarded he was by the nations, and perhaps the pride got to his head …errr his heart.  It was due to his own arrogance that his kingdom had fallen out of favor with God, and Hezekiah knew that as the leader – the responsibility was his alone.  To correct the situation, he would have to face the issue head on.

Sometimes we blow it.  No matter how much we hate to admit it, every leader has a flat side. We all have that area where we’re simply not, uh, awesome. 

  • If you’re a “people person”, your flat side might be property management.
  • If you’re a “paper person”, your flat side might be pennies oversight.
  • If you’re a “procedure person”, your flat side might be program planning.

...For all of Hezekiah’s strengths, his flat side was pride. Somehow he became aware of it (most likely through the prophet Isaiah) and took drastic measures to address his issue.  Ultimately, before the people and before his God - he would repent of his pride and humble himself, then the situation began to turn around.

The difference between a generic leader and an inspirational leader isn't whether they make mistakes (both do), but that inspirational leaders know how to own their failures and learn from them.  One of my mentors calls that process “rearview learning (as in 20/20 hindsight)”.  It involves reflecting on what could have been done better and strategically planning for next time.  No experience, even a severe setback, is wasted if life lessons are extracted and implemented.

Maybe you goofed up recently, and you’re tempted to blame your supervisor or even your subordinates.  Can I challenge you on that?  Accept the fact that the buck stops with you.  It happened on your watchYou own it; the best thing you can do is study the situation and learn from it.  A few pointers to help you along the way.

  1. Pray about it.  Yup; prayer again. No one understands the issue from every possible perspective like the Most High.  I don’t completely understand how verbalizing your burden to Him provides an inner relief, but it does.  A bonus to this step is the promise from the book of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
  2. "Confess" before your supervisors and your subordinates. With the confidence you gained from talking it over with God, find a way to communicate to your team that you take full responsibility for the failure – and that if given the chance you’ll do better next time.  Apologize if necessary.  Go on to share that while you’re saddened by the losses, your team is now wiser and better prepared for similar opportunities.
  3. Share your newly enhanced competence.  This would be a good time to lay out what you and your team learned in a clear and concise way, so that others see your way forward.  Powerfully communicate, and help them to sense your resolve to lead better through circumstances like the one in question.
  4. Be prepared for blowback.  Real talk: Not everyone’s so quick to forgive.  Prepare to be judged, criticized, and possibly even reprimanded up to and including reassignment/termination.  You could very well be in for one of the most difficult and frustrating valleys of your life, and one of the most formative educations you’ll ever have.  Don’t get bitter; get better.

Experience: that most brutal of teachers.  But you learn, my God do you learn.  

(C.S. Lewis)

Inspirational Leadership – Conflict Competence

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. (2 Chronicles 32:1)

I need to go back to yesterday’s post about “leadership composure” for just a moment, because there’s also an important message there about conflict management.  You may be facing some fairly serious conflict in your life (hopefully not as grave as Hezekiah’s), and I think there are a few points in this story that may give some perspective as you move forward.  Along with King Hezekiah’s composure under duress, somewhere along the line he'd developed a fair amount of conflict competence.

With the Assyrian army bearing down on Judah, Hezekiah was facing serious circumstances.  The Assyrians were skilled in diplomacy and culture, but they were also the most deadly efficient and ruthless military force in the world at the time. How was Hezekiah prepared for the oncoming conflict?  Let’s explore...

First, he’d already developed a stellar reputation among his people and in the region.  A quick reading of scripture will illustrate that he was enormously popular with the people.  Moreover, he had the favor of God for doing what was right and faithful and because of that, he prospered.  You might wanna think about that for a moment, and recognize that in many ways your reputation proceeding from your character is your armor.  Go to any length to earn the trust of the people around you.  Cultivate impeccable character and unquestioned integrity in your life, foster faithfulness to God in your words and your ways - and conflict will rattle you less.

Also, before the attacks began, Hezekiah walked around his kingdom making sure that broken walls were repaired and the gates of Jerusalem would stand against an onslaught.  He gave attention to the broken places.

Please understand, more than any other human interaction, conflict will reveal the brokenness of every contender.  When I sense conflict headed my way, I've learned to take a moment to check my vitals: Have I taken good care of myself, lately? Have I rested enough? Are there any other issues that are weighing heavy on my heart right now? Am I clear, or am I confused, about the cause of this conflict?

It’s also good to note that Hezekiah carefully acknowledged the situation with his people.  After some reflection (and no doubt lots of prayer about it), he helped those around him understand the issue as he saw it, and “the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the King of Judah said” (32:8).  After some reflection, it would be wise to check in with a few trusted colleagues, seek counsel from your mentor, or query your board before engaging in conflict.  Share the situation as you see it, and ask these brave questions: Do you think I understand the source and cause of this conflict well enough? Do I owe this person (or people) an apology? Do you think this conflict is (a) resolvable, (b) manageable, or (c) unmanageable? How should I approach this? (By the way, this does not mean creating a social-media incident or a spectacle for others. Conflict competence requires a degree of discretion and emotional intelligence, and creating drama proves you possess neither.)

Now I’m no expert, but I have had my fair share of conflict.  I don’t seek it, I don't like it, but I certainly don’t shrink from it. Here are a few things I've learned to do when the chips are down:

  1. Pray about it. If you have a relationship with God, you'll benefit from the peace that He gives during conflict.  Find comfort in knowing that whether you're right or wrong, He will not leave you (and for that matter, He will not leave your opponent either.)
  2. Assume the situation is a misunderstanding. It's a good practice to make some room for the human element.  Chances are, the whole situation is based on some lapse in communication.  Give the other party the benefit of a doubt, and be prepared to listen to his or her perspective in order to identify your common ground.
  3. Go to their place of power. It takes some nerve to march to the "the enemy gates" in an attempt to make peace, but it's key.  A meeting in their office, their living room, their place of power is a grand gesture on your part and is a personal display of diplomacy and confidence (that being said, if they're a notably power hungry or shrewd person, For obvious reasons you may want to find a more neutral meeting space, i.e. a coffee shop or a breakfast joint). 
  4. Follow up. It was Abraham Lincoln who said "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends".  The near-final step for conflict competence, then, is an authentically friendly follow-up.  This could be a quick email or a post card that says something like

Sam:
Thanks for meeting me for breakfast earlier today.  I feel like we were able to get a better understanding of each other's positions, and I look forward to getting more clarity in the next few weeks.  By the way, that restaurant was pretty bad.  Next time, let's try Chico's Cafe; my treat. Sound good?
~Syd

...A quick follow up will show that the time was meaningful for you, and that you intend to keep working out the issue until the conflict is either resolved or co-manageable. 

Finally, friend, don't get bitter; get better. When my wife and were dating, I enjoyed watching her train in Karate.  At the time, she was a senpai (which basically is like a mentor instructor) in Wado Ryu style.  One night, while watching practitioners spar with one another, I noticed that each time a punch or kick connected, the person on the receiving end of the blow would yell "Osu!" (pronounced "Oh-sss!").  Later I asked Ev what the term meant.  She explained that "Osu!" is basically an acknowledgement; in their dojo it could mean many things, but most practically means "Thank you, I understand".  So essentially - the students acknowledged that each was making the other better

What if we learned to see conflict as less of a deeply emotional and relationally traumatic encounter - and more of a honorable contact sport?  One in which respect for the other competitor never wavers, for even they, and the situation, have something to teach us. ...Osu?

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"Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress."
- Gandhi

 

Inspirational Leadership – Composure

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)

Have you ever had one of those colleagues or bosses who seem to overreact when things don’t go his or her way? They’re the type to scrap the strategy or abandon ship when challenges surface. Not so with you, friend. You’ve got composure.

…Kind of like Hezekiah. Let’s measure up his seemingly insurmountable circumstance, and his reaction to it:

Just when everything seems to be going great for the kingdom of Judah, an Assyrian king by the name of Sennacherib set his sights on Jerusalem.  A famously ruthless emperor, in command of a huge veteran army’s about to kick in Judah’s front door. Weaker men would melt, but Hezekiah kept it cool. Here’s what he did. Pay attention:

He consulted with his subject matter experts (2 Chronicles 32:1). Hezekiah was smart enough to gather people around him who were more skilled than he was at certain tasks.  If you want to fight a war, you don’t call your mama. You call the guy in the uniform, with ribbons on his chest, fire in his eyes, ice in his veins, and muscles in his neck. Even though Hezekiah was king, he was wise enough to know – the things he didn’t know.

He carried out the plan expeditiously (2 Chronicles 32:4-5). When the Assyrian army is on the way, man, you don’t dillydally. They had already beaten the tar out of dozens of other nations – and they wanted Jerusalem next. So Hezekiah left the meeting with his counsel and put people to work immediately, plugging wells, repairing walls, forging weapons, and training his army. No time for chitchat. No time to create a committee to discuss the agenda which will decide the colors of the coat of arms. …Execute!

He communicated with everyone, from commanders to the commoners (2 Chronicles 32:6-8). I kinda like this part. He knew that Sennacherib had a fairly effective PSYOPs (meaning, psychological warfare) Unit. These guys would ride up to the wall of Jerusalem and intimidate the people inside with smack talk (see 2 Chronicles 32:10-19). Savvy king that he was, Hezekiah used his time to get the first word in – He made a public service announcement to his whole kingdom (who, by the way, loved and trusted him) saying, “Be strong and courageous. There is a greater power with us, than with the Assyrians!”
…And you know what happened? The people nodded their heads in agreement.

So then, your people need to see you leading with composure. They need you to bend without breaking, no matter the circumstance. Here’s what it looks like:

· Leaders with composure are comfortable not having all the answers. Do you have a board of directors, advisory board, or highly qualified team of staff around you? Oh lucky you – now use them. Perhaps you’re the one with the vision or the charisma, but chances are – they have beau coups experience and rich relationships. If you don’t have a team of counselors around you, build one. Even if you recruit a mentor or two, you need to have people whom you can trust to speak into your debacle.

· Leaders with composure will execute quickly. Look. At some point you have to put your bottle of Maalox away and start counting the small victories. Plan the work …quickly. Then work the plan …ferociously. This trait in a leader is infectious. Once the leader is in motion, he or she shouldn’t be surprised when the followers are filled with energy and focus – sometimes more than the leader him or herself.

· Leaders with composure know that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”. I wish I had come up with that one, but I have to give credit to one of my heroes, General Colin Powell (R). The leader can never (say it with me: “never”) adopt a “woe is us” posture when talking to his people. He or she can give a realistic assessment, yes. But then – the leader points the way forward. Skilled leaders use every means to get the point across. They give stirring speeches, they print t-shirts, they film commercials, they write songs… They absolutely embody “the way forward” in thought, word, and deed.

There’s a chance you are in a seemingly hopeless leadership situation right now. Maybe there’s not an army attacking your gates, but you have budget issues, personnel challenges, or public opinion woes. Can I advise you? Inhale. Exhale. Get some rest. …And go back into the office tomorrow with renewed confidence, ready to assemble your team of experts, plan your response …and then execute.

“Nothing baffles the schemes of evil people so much as the calm composure of great souls.” -Comte de Mirabeau

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Inspirational Leadership - Savoir Faire

This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21)

…Man. Hezekiah was some kinda leader. I admire his ways. He had skills. He had discernment. He had poise. He knew his way around the human heart. …He had savoir faire. Never heard of it? Pronounce it like this: SAVVwar-FARE. Good. The dictionary defines savoir faire as “knowledge of just what to do in any situation; tact.”

Hezekiah inherited a wrecked kingdom, true enough. But what we don’t see him doing is sitting around complaining about his predecessors and their ineptitude.
He counted the cost, created the course, & conducted the collaboration (did you “c” that?) step-by-step. Watch this:

· He reopened the temple (29:3)
· He identified his priority (29:10)
· He invited the people (30:1)
· He inspired the workers (30:22)
· He made sure everyone knew their roles (31:2)
· He personally invested in the vision (31:3)
· He prioritized stewardship (31:11)

But throughout his story what I notice most is how everyone, from commoners to employees to neighboring kings, responded to Hezekiah’s leadership. He didn’t have all the answers, but I assume because of his clarity and personal competence, he didn’t have any significant dissenters or substantial internal strife that made it into history books. It seems that people trusted his words and his ways, and his kingdom was better for it.

Friend, have ye any savvy? Consider this:

What have you personally invested in your vision?  In 2008, I remember reading of for-profit and nonprofit employees who took severe paycuts and lost jobs, even while their managers and executives received exorbitant bonuses and perks. Morale in those companies plummeted. You want your people to invest in the vision? Then you sacrifice some time, talents, and/or treasure – put some fat in the fire, as they say – and do it in a way that your team notices.

Are all of your personal and professional relationships intact?  You might think that your big fat title makes you the leader of your organization. Nope. You want to know who runs the show? It’s the person on your team with lasting, meaningful, and productive relationships. Cultivating and nurturing relationships with everyone you meet will serve you well. I never saw a leader people liked, who didn’t like people.

What do people hear more? Your game plan or your gripes?  Alright. Here’s the most important part: Stop moaning and muttering about what the previous guy or gal did or didn’t do, and start planning, implementing, and assessing – then repeat. The wheelhouse now belongs to you; your predecessors’ records will speak for themselves – and your record will do the same.  Some advice? Speak well of your predecessor’s performance, and speak even more of your plan.

Guess what. Whether you notice or not, your people are examining your ways. They consider the way you speak to them and to others. They contemplate the way you come plan or the way you complain.  A little tip?  Exercise a little savoir faire by doing the right things, in the right way, with the right people.

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

―Colin Powell

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Inspirational Leadership - Advocacy

But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)

By this time, Hezekiah has re-opened the temple, and re-invited all of Judah to come and worship during Passover.  Yet there was a problematic circumstance, God’s people were out of the habit of consecration.  They weren’t ceremonially clean; they hadn’t “purified themselves” in accordance with the law of Moses.

What would Hezekiah do?  Would he send them all home with a backpat and a “come back next year” speech? Nope.  Would he rebuke them for being toe-up? Nah.
…He advocated to the “Higher-up”.  I love it!

As a follower, I appreciate the leaders who have my back.  I most willingly follow the ones whom I know speak well of me when they’re in the executive suite.  I sense their advocacy in the support, encouragement, honest feedback, and personalized coaching they give.  Having received so much, I’m compelled to offer that kind of leadership to my team as well.

I see this characteristic in the leadership of Jesus, too.  For instance, He was once challenged with the notion that everyone else’s disciples were fasting, but His were not.  …You can read His reply in Mark Chapter 2, but to make a long story short – He advocated for them.

Do you advocate for your department, your organization, your congregation?  A few questions for your consideration might help you discover the answer.

Do your people trust you to “go to bat” for them?  
Nothing inspires followers more than knowing that their leader will place his or her credibility on the line in their favor.  It’s a risky move for you as a leader, but can yield results if they love you (they should).  Having watched leaders do this for me, it bumps my performance level up a notch.  I didn’t want to see my leader embarrassed because of me!

Do you construct obstacles, or do you destroy them?  
It’s easy to create barriers to progress.  Think about it: how many times has your employees’ work been stalled by the red tape upstairs? There’s only one person with the relationships, wisdom, and savoir faire to cut through the organizational bureaucracy.  That’s you – or should be.

Do you pray for your people, privately and publicly?  
Okay, not everyone is blessed enough to work in an environment where prayer is embraced and encouraged, but even if you work in a different environment, there are ways to assure your team that their being prayed for. If you’d like an idea or two, drop a note in the “comments section” below.

Your people need to know you’ll risk something for them, or they’ll rarely (if ever) risk anything for you.

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. 

-Sam Walton

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