Friday, February 27, 2009

Leadership Tip - Just Say Thank You

I was listening to an interview on radio with the legendary but controversial coach, Bobby Knight.  During the interview, he made a very simple point on leadership - the importance of thanking people who help us along the way, every day.   I'm no fan of Bobby Knight but I do think he makes an excellent point.

In our hurried, "what have you done for me lately" lives, saying "thank you", just isn't common practice anymore.  Yet, it's absolutely foundational for leadership.   Obviously, it's not simply the words but the expression of gratitude that makes a difference.   To grasp this leadership tip, it's important to view this not simply as a technique for manipulating others but rather to consider how this is essentially biblical in spirit -

1. Saying "thank you" is a recognition that those who help us or work with us are "eikons" - bearers of the image of God, not simply "resources" to get the job done.   

2. Saying "thank you" is one way we show honor and express care to others.  "Outdo one another in showing honor" Romans 12: 10

3. Saying "thank you" to others just overflows from a grateful heart to God.   If you're grateful for God's help through the common means of your colleagues and co-workers,  saying "thank you" will come naturally

When I've done this consistently, I find some curious responses besides the typical "you're welcome".   Some will say "I was just doing my job".  Others go to great lengths to explain how what they did was "no big deal" .  Regardless of their response, most are just wonderfully encouraged and strengthened to take on their next challenge.   

What do you think?    How does it make you feel when someone appreciates what you do?  Why wouldn't we make it a regular practice in our lives?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quote of the Week

"For Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Working with Imago Dei

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....."
So God created man in his own image, 
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them

Genesis 1:26-27

Have you ever considered that we work with more than mere mortals?   CS Lewis put it this way:  "There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked with a mere mortal.... it is immortals whom we joke with, work with marry, snub, exploit..."    In fact, we work and interact daily with those who bear the image of God, even if they don't believe in Him.

How does this fact bear upon the way you conduct yourself with your friends, neighbors and co-workers?    You might want to think about it.    The quiet new employee who sits in the cubicle across from you is created in the image of God.   The unpopular project manager who has a reputation for being hard to work with,  is made in the image of God.   

This truth means that each persons life is sacred in some way.  The idea of "the sanctity of human life" isn't just a slogan for the cultural and political battle against abortion.   It's actually biblical truth that resonates in other areas of our lives, including our work life.   

More from CS Lewis on this - "Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses"

If you're a manager, does this fact make a difference in how you manage the employees under your charge?   Do you see them merely as "resources" or do you interact with them as "eikons", valuing not only their productivity but also their personhood?     

Do we interact with difficult co-workers aware of the fact that they bear the image of God and inherently worth of being treated with dignity?   Do we remember this truth when we may be in heated disagreement with them?
Do we recognize that those who are weaker in their performance at work are still deserving of our respect and forbearance because they are made in the image of God?  

What do you think?   More importantly, how do you work with Imago Dei?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quote of the Week

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die"

Friday, February 13, 2009

What Do You Do When You "Screw Up"?

What do you do when you make a mistake,  either in private or in full view of others?   Two weeks ago, President Obama offered a refreshing response to his rather public, humbling mistake - "I screwed up".   He nominated Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services,  only to discover that Daschle failed to pay all his taxes.   It's major oversight in the early days of his Presidency and certainly not the way he wanted to start off.   Yet, he chose to take responsibility for his mistake in a very public way.

Let's understand what happened here - this kind of owning up to a mistake - up front, no excuses or qualifications is unusual for most public figures.  It is exceptionally rare for the POTUS.   Regardless of what you think of Obama's politics, I think most non-partisan observers would regard his admission as a display of both principled honesty and bold humility.   

It takes a certain principled honesty to own up to a mistake especially if you're in a position of power.   It's often easier for those in power to blame someone else or perhaps sweep the mistake under the rug.   

This kind of public admission also takes bold humility.   It requires a kind of courageous humility to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.    Unless you have a measure of humility,  owning up and apologizing even if others might think less of you. isn't something you're inclined to do.

I don't know anything about Obama's faith but here's what struck me -  as Christians, we are uniquely equipped to display this kind of bold, yet humble confession when we make mistakes. The gospel of Jesus Christ equips us by allowing us to view our mistakes through a completely different perspective.  We can be brutally honest about our errors because despite our gravest mistakes, we have been mercifully forgiven and graciously accepted.   We can do this without overriding concern the opinions of men, because God has rendered His opinion of us and His is the only one that matters.  Yes, I know we don't always think this way but without the gospel perspective, I'd have no hope of owning up to my mistakes - I'm far too proud and insecure to do so.

How does the gospel help you when you make mistakes?   What if you make mistakes that have negative consequences but do it in private where no one is around to call you out?    What difference does the gospel make in that situation?   

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote of the Week

"God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it.   The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we only had leisure.  It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures."

Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What Would Make You Give Away Your Medal?

This an absolutely fascinating story - it was just confirmed that, at the Beijing Olympics, American sprinter, Shawn Crawford gave up his silver medal to Churandy Martina, a sprinter from Netherlands Antilles. Martina had initially finished second but was disqualified for a lane violation. Shawn Crawford received the silver medal but later gave the medal away to Martina. Get this - he didn't have to do it, no one coerced him, no one would think less of him if he kept the medal. After all, "rules are rules", right?

Let's map this to what it might look like in your life, or mine. Would you give up the lavish year end bonus to a co-worker because you truly thought he deserved it more? How about highlighting the contributions of one of your office "rivals", knowing that it means that he'll get most of the credit for the project? That's crazy talk, for most of us.

What would make us forsake personal gain, to bless someone else? Perhaps just the sense of "doing the right thing" would be enough, for some. But frankly, giving up an Olympic medal isn't something I would do unless I could gain a greater reward. What reward would be greater than getting that coveted promotion or your personal "olympic medal"?

David offers an answer in Psalm 16:5 - "the LORD is my chosen portion and my cup" and he follows it up with this statement - "the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places". David is boldly declaring that God is the treasure of his heart. And, by the way, in case you were wondering, he considers himself fortunate that it worked out that way.

I don't know what truly motivated Shawn Crawford but I know this - when we have Christ, we have the best that this world has ever seen. We have a relationship with the Eternal God, sins forgiven, peace in the deep recesses of our hearts. Giving up our personal medals become a lot easier when we have something much better. It'll also make the world stop and ask us why.