How Is Your Footing?

A friend of mine made the decision to leave the company she works for, but she was struggling with the timing of giving her notice because she still had a number of commitments that she had made to the organization and didn’t know if she needed to wait to give her notice until she had completed the work for those commitments. Though she was ready to move on, she felt in her heart that the testimony and witness she would leave without completing those commitments would be a bad one and that it would likely damage or un-do any seeds that had been successfully planted during her tenure with the company. She felt that completing the commitments would prove her integrity and credibility and thus strengthen her witness of the love of God and the faithfulness of God’s people. She was fearful about the potential effects of the decision; she didn’t want the delay in giving her notice to interfere with interviews and other opportunities that might present themselves in the coming days. She knew that her fears had some legitimacy but she also knew that since it was a God-led decision to leave her company that she could trust God to orchestrate the timing perfectly with what He had as the next step for her.

Psalm 37:23 tells us that God is not only walking with us in our decisions but that we can trust Him to order and establish our footholds, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him” (NIV).

The words from this scripture come from King David, who knew all too well a situation similar to my friend’s. When King David was just an adolescent, somewhere between 11-15 years old, he learned that he was to become king, but immediately after receiving that information he went back to being a shepherd for his father’s flock, and then he spent years in the king’s palace and was hunted by King Saul because Saul wanted to bring death upon the one who was to take over his throne. It was not until David was about 30 years old that he actually became king and fulfilled the anointing that was spoken of him at least 15 years prior.

A similar situation can be found in the life of Mary. Mary, a teenage young woman who had never known a man, accepted God’s call upon her life that she was to be the one woman chosen from all of womankind to give birth to, and raise, the Messiah. Certainly she accepted the charge as any of us hope that we would have, but think about all that she didn’t know at the time of her affirmative response. She didn’t know that her own family and community would not believe that Christ was who He claimed to be and would turn against Him. She didn’t know that He would be mocked and spat upon and that she would watch Him die a criminal’s death. Though scripture doesn’t say specifically, we can safely assume that during the 40 days that Jesus spent on earth between the resurrection and the ascension that Mary actually spent time with Jesus. When she told Gabriel, “May it be as you have said”, she probably never thought she would walk and talk with her son as the Risen and Living Son of God.

Just as Mary and David did, my friend chose to believe that God has a firm hold on her future, even if she can’t see the end result quite yet.

If you believed the words of Psalm 37:23 to be true for your own life, how might you live differently?

5 Reasons Why It Might Be Time To Resign

A friend of mine is struggling with deciding if it’s time for him to resign from his job or not. His situation made me think about the foundational things that everyone should think about if they’re not sure if they should stay with their employer. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should consider moving on; the first two are really non-negotiable items and the other three are more personal preference.

1. Ethical & Moral Violations – If there are practices consistently being done in the company you work for that are unethical or immoral, and you have either said or done something to try and change them and truly believe that they are not going to change, then you should definitely move on. Too many good employees have been taken down with bad companies out of fear of saying something or out of feeling too loyal to the company and its leaders. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “ Don’t let yourselves be poisoned…Bad company corrupts good character” (MSG and NIV). If your situation could bring you into a situation where you could be fooled, deceived, misled, or poisoned, then it’s time to move on.
2. Toxic Leadership – Several words come to mind when thinking of a leader who can be described as toxic: manipulative, undermining, misleading, belligerent, heartless, deceitful, self-centered, unreasonable, disenfranchising, corrupt, destructive, dysfunctional, harmful, intimidating, demeaning, and demoralizing. Professor, author, and expert in leadership and organizational behavior, Jean Lipman-Blumen says that toxic leaders play to “the basest fears and needs of the followers” and create environments that perpetuate competition and “insatiable ambition”, incompetence, backbiting, hubris, and recklessness. The principles of 1 Corinthians 15:33 hold true for an environment of toxic leadership and allow for an easy decision to be made to move on from the company who has such a person in a position of leadership.
3. Misalignment of Social Issues – Does the company value the same things that you value when it comes to social issues, things pertaining to peoples’ rights, privileges, and responsibilities, things pertaining to our care for the planet and stewardship of what we have been entrusted with, and things pertaining to our value and self-worth, and fulfilling our purposes in this life. If, for example, you are a firm believer that companies should match employee donations to social or religious causes and the company you work for just canceled that program, then you need to decide if that misalignment is enough for you to decide that it’s time to move on to another company that shares your values.
4. Lack Of Growth Opportunities – With it being more commonplace for us to change jobs every three years, it is a requirement that our skills and knowledge keep up with these changes. If you are someone who is looking for growth opportunities, whether it is through formal sponsorship or mentorship programs, or through internal promotions, or through formal education tuition payment programs, you need to be at a company that offers these opportunities. If your company does not offer something to assist in meeting this need, then it might be time to move on.
5. Risk Avoidant – You may be someone who values innovation quite greatly and you believe that the only way for your company to succeed is through being willing to risk failure. If you work for a company that sees change as being bad or likes maintaining the status quo, then you’re going to have to consider how important those are to you and if the degrees of separation are so much so that it is time for you to move on to somewhere that is more adventurous and open to change.

Entertaining the potential decision to leave a company is never an easy one, but these five areas to consider should help you to weigh the decision more thoughtfully and be more resolute about your decision. If you do decide to move on, Michael Hyatt has a great podcast: 7 Actions To Take Before You Quit Your Job.

Is there another foundational consideration that you would add when weighing the decision of whether or not to leave a company?

Reduce Your Guilt

It’s become something to brag about; the less you’ve gotten, the more cool and hip you are. It has the similar bragging quality as the number of emails you receive in a day; the more you get, the more important you are.

I’m talking about sleep.

It’s like it’s the new proving ground; if you are getting 4-5 hours a night then you are definitely doing things right and if you are getting 7-8 hours a night then you’re lazy and you are certainly not going to be successful.

Arianna Huffington says, “We’re told…that sleeping less…[is] an express elevator to the top.”

I don’t know about you but I’ve gotten caught up in this and it’s making me tired.

Through a significant change in my career and education situations over the last year I have been sleeping 7-8 ½ hours a night pretty consistently. But that comes after four years of averaging 5 hours a night (weekends included). Frankly, it feels awesome and I am so grateful but I also feel guilty and terrified of “being found out.”

I don’t want my reputation as an incredibly hard worker and ambitious woman to be tarnished, but I also don’t want to go back to being tired all the time.

In an effort to reduce my guilt and allow myself to embrace this new lifestyle of sleeping the recommended number of hours for most people, I spent some time reading up on the topic of sleep and found some great pieces of information from some respected authors like King David, Arianna Huffington, Michael Hyatt, and Angela Thomas.

Michael Hyatt says, “Exercise, diet, and mental focus are all important, but they can’t make up for a lack of rest.” We can will ourselves to do a lot of things and our bodies will cooperate when forced to wake up at an unreasonably early hour, but as Angela Thomas says, sooner or later our bodies “will require payback.” Whether that’s through getting sick, giving us no choice but to rest, or through our conscious decisions to sleep in on the weekends and take naps.

Michael Hyatt says that not getting enough sleep causes a decrease in focus, creativity, resilience, generosity, and productivity. Arianna Huffington adds to this list negative impacts to our confidence, mood, and decision-making. She points out that lack of sleep was noted as factors in the Exxon Valdez spill, the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, and the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents.

All of this truly gives me pause and makes me think quite seriously about the amount of sleep that I really need and should be getting no matter what my circumstances are, but King David’s words are what bring peace and eliminate the guilt:

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2, ESV).

I Have Something Even Better In Mind For You

2013 was a year of changes and transition for me. The owners of the healthcare company I worked for decided it was time to change out the executive leadership team and let go of the Chairman of the Board, the CEO, and the CFO. And, since I worked directly for the CEO as his Chief of Staff, I was given the option of taking another position in the company or leaving altogether.

It was a difficult decision to make. There were loyalties to consider. There were bills to be paid. There were friendships that I knew would end; people I would never see again. There were projects still to be finished and work still to be done. There was a doctoral dissertation waiting to be worked on.

It took about a week to muster up the courage to make the decision, to do what I knew in my heart God was calling me to do, to move on.

I thought I had it all planned out, as to what would happen next, the timeline of when I would get my dissertation proposal finished and start working on actively seeking a new job, and keep everything moving forward.

The time came and multiple fantastic opportunities came my way, but with each one there just was something about them that wasn’t quite right, that despite my eagerness and my desperation, didn’t settle right in my spirit. In some situations the decision ended up being made for me and in other situations I’m the one who drew things to a close.

There were moments of panic. In one such moment a dear pastor friend of mine sent me a note that said, “Remember, you are on the potter’s wheel, and as you are turned on the wheel, the Master Potter is molding and shaping you into the image that He created you to be before the foundation of the world. There are people that your life is destined to help. A purpose your life has yet to fulfill. Though the direction you are to go right now may not be clear, trust that as one door closes that another better and more useful door will open. It is when we are boxed into a corner that we operate at the height of our creativity.”

His words really helped me to “turn a corner” in how I was viewing my situation. I was able to move into a place of greater peace, really believing that God could be trusted with my life, my whole life, every aspect of my life. I began to look at things through God’s eyes, with bigger vision and a deepened perspective.

Author Kristen Strong says that God looks at us in moments, like what I was going through last year and says, “You’re so important to me, I have something even better in mind for you.”

I am still on the potter’s wheel, but now I look upon that position through eyes of humble gratitude rather than eyes of fear.

I wonder…what has the potter’s wheel done to your heart?

Are You In Communion With Your Boss?

Author and business consultant, Patrick Lencioni named his consulting firm, The Table Group, because of his belief that “the single most important and effective tool in business” is the table. Sitting down and meeting with members of our organizations is critical. The health of an organization hinges on whether or not conversations are taking place on a consistent basis and in a manner that productively addresses important issues while keeping the focus on what is best for the organization as a whole.

We’ve all been there where we’ve dreaded a meeting because we knew that nothing important would be on the agenda, that no one would speak up about what was really going on in the organization and how to potentially start addressing the issues, and that no action items or next steps would be assigned, thus leaving us floundering until the next meeting.

But, maybe, hopefully, you’ve been in a meeting where important issues were brought to the table, and the participants of the meeting really wrestled with the topics and worked to find the answers that would best serve the organization as a whole, and that everyone left the meeting knowing what part they played and what was expected of them, and feeling empowered to contribute in a meaningful way.

As I’ve thought about this and how to create a culture that operates in this manner, I got to thinking about the importance of our relationships with our bosses and how that symbiosis, or lack thereof, contributes successfully or poorly to the overall health of our organizations. The bottom line is that sitting down and meeting regularly with our bosses is critical.

I am reminded of Jesus’ relationship with His “boss”, God the Father. We have numerous accounts, given to us in scripture, of Jesus, while He was on earth as a man, meeting regularly with the Father. Scripture tells us that he pleaded with the Father on our behalf, that he shared his frustrations and concerns with the Father, that He declared his plans and purposes to the Father, that He sought direction from the Father, that He asked the Father to reconsider a decision, and that he praised and thanked the Father.

While it goes without saying that we should also be in communion and regular conversation with the Father God in this manner, what about using Christ’s example in our relationships with our bosses?

Can you think of instances where you pleaded with your boss on someone else’s behalf, or you shared your concerns and frustrations with your boss, or you made your goals and aspirations known to your boss, or you asked your boss for guidance on a particular issue, or you asked your boss to reconsider a decision he/she had made, or you thanked your boss?

What would others say about your relationship with your boss? What examples are you providing about the importance of meeting together regularly and working together for the good of the organization, and having shared vision even though your approaches and methodologies may be different?

You Don’t Have To Be Beautiful To Be A Leader

Since the debate about if leaders are both or made is still alive and active in academic circles and practitioner circles, trait theories were a frequent topic of conversation while I was obtaining my Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership.

Trait theories predominantly focus on the leader’s specific qualities, who they were, and how their traits differentiated them from other people. Trait theories were the focal point of leadership theory up through the 1940s.

One of the two main categories of trait theories is the Biological-Genetic theory, which centers on attributes of a leader being certain characteristics that are innate to their genetic make-up. This means that a leader could be recognized by physical traits, things like their height or other prominent physical features, or their personality traits, like being an extrovert or having self-confidence, or their mental abilities, such as intelligence. As author and professor, Peter Northouse states, this also means that people believed that leadership was an “elitist enterprise” and was reserved for those who had the specific biological make-up deemed as worthy of leadership, of being a leader.

While reading the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, I noticed something quite interesting concerning trait theory. Scripture tells us that Samuel was a prophet of the Lord. His successes were many and his influence was great. In 1 Samuel 15 we learn through a word that comes to Samuel from the Lord, that Saul, the reigning king over Israel, has been rejected by the Lord from being king. Samuel receives instruction from the Lord that he is to go to a man in Bethlehem named Jesse and that one of Jesse’s sons has been chosen by the Lord to replace Saul as king over Israel. So, Samuel goes to Jesse’s home to anoint the son who is to be king. 1 Samuel 16:6 (MSG) says, “When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s Anointed!”” But, as we learn in the next verse, Samuel is wrong and God tells Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature…God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks at the heart.” As we move on in the story, we learn that none of Jesse’s seven oldest sons are whom God has anointed to replace Saul as king over Israel, but it is in fact David, Jesse’s youngest son who is still a pre-teen and tending to his father’s sheep.

God provides Samuel and us with the greatest lesson about trait theory: It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, how tall you are, how old you are, how experienced you are, how outgoing you are, or how smart you are; if God is calling you to something and has anointed you for it, all that matters is your character, your heart.

Patient Endurance

We’ve all been there. That place of having a vision, having something that we feel compelled to do, called to do, and feeling like it all needs to come to fruition now, that there shouldn’t be any delay. There are certain things that we know have a timeline attached to them that we can’t really speed up no matter how hard we try, like getting a degree or having a baby. But then there are other things that we feel like we can make happen in our own prescribed and desired time, like finding our dream job or getting a promotion or starting our own company or building our clientele.

Sarah Young reminds us that sometimes we create more work and more stress for ourselves when we try to “make things happen before their times have come.” She says that one way we learn of God’s sovereignty is through the timing of events in our lives and that we are better off if we ask for God’s guidance in our lives on a moment-by-moment basis. There is a surrender involved in this that can be described as anything but easy.

Let’s think about the life of Joseph, from the Old Testament.

John Maxwell indicates that Joseph’s life is an illustration of the Law of Process, where time and experience were necessary, but ultimately led to the place where Joseph grew into “the leader God desired him to be.” But that process involved Joseph being put into a pit by his brothers, then being sold to traders, who then sold him to Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. We learn that Joseph found favor with Potiphar and was put as overseer of Potiphar’s house and belongings. But while in this role, Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances toward Joseph and when he refused her she publicly accused him of trying to sleep with her. Potiphar believed his wife’s lie and had Joseph put in prison. While in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two other prisoners, the Pharaoh’s Chief Butler and Chief Baker. As Joseph said would come to pass, the Chief Butler was let out of prison but the Chief Baker was executed. The Chief Butler forgot all about Joseph until the Pharaoh had a dream and needed an interpreter; the Chief Butler then remembered Joseph and his ability to accurately interpret dreams. The Pharaoh called for Joseph and Joseph told him the meaning of his dream and advised the Pharaoh concerning his dream. The Pharaoh saw Joseph’s advice as being good and brought Joseph in to be governor of the land of Egypt, to bring his kingdom through the seven years of famine that Joseph saw from the Pharaoh’s dream. During the famine, Egypt was the only area to have bread and it just so happened that Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt seeking bread. They came before Joseph, not knowing it was their brother, and Joseph tested them until he saw humility in them. He then revealed himself to them and vowed to care for them through the remainder of the famine and thereafter, because God had brought him to the place in the process where he was the leader that God desired for him to become.

If we think back to when Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, he was surely thinking it was the worst thing that could have ever happened to him and that he would have given anything for the circumstances to be different.

Just as with Joseph, we usually don’t know where God is sending us or what the timing is for certain things in our lives, but as Hebrews 10:36 states, we are called to have patient endurance.

Where might God be calling you to have patient endurance?

Trust – The Competitive Advantage of 2014 ??

While working on my Ph.D., one of the research studies I did was about organizational trust and the impact of trust on an employee’s commitment to their organization and their desire to remain with the organization. Ninety-six people from one nationwide healthcare provider participated in my study with the results confirming what seems to be common sense: trust between an employee and their leader/manager does have a positive impact on the employee’s commitment to the organization and their desire to remain with the organization.

I haven’t done any other studies pertaining to trust, but I am always curious to hear peoples’ thoughts on organizational trust and it’s actually come up in conversation a couple of times in the last few weeks.

In one conversation I had with a friend in software development, he shared with me about how he loves his job, and the organization that he works for, but that one colleague of his, with whom he has to work very closely, is someone he simply cannot trust. He said that what started as the other person not following through on his word in one instance has now become a repeated pattern, so much so that my friend now documents conversations so that he has a paper trail to fall back on, if necessary. Though my friend is still committed to the organization and to his job, his inability to trust his co-worker has definitely soured his overall perspective about the organization.

Another conversation I had was with a woman who was with the juvenile justice system for over 30 years. She talked about how she and her two co-workers trusted and respected one another very much. She said that they were capable of having very heated discussions that could go on for hours but that they would always reach the resolution that was best for the organization. They each knew that the welfare of the organization, and its people, came before anything else and they trusted each other to get to that outcome, even if it meant that they had to really hash things out in order to get there.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, a friend of mine wrote that trust is the competitive advantage for 2014. He indicated that the equation for trust is: Credibility + Competence + Character = Trust. As I’ve thought about my friend’s assertion, I know in my heart of hearts that he is right. Trust, in our leaders and in our organization, is something that can truly propel an organization better, faster, and further than anything else can, but the pessimist in me, the one who worked for a company owned by the 2nd largest P.E. firm in the U.S. says, “but will it?” It seems to me that only the values-driven organizations will believe in my friend’s assertion enough to work to make it a reality, while everyone else leaves trust as that common sense thing that doesn’t actually get a seat at the table.

I wonder, what do you think?

Setting Goals For God

Haggai 2:19 says that we can count on a blessing from God even before a seed has been sown. This means the blessing is unconditional and not contingent upon any action or behavior from us. This means the blessing is not transactional. This means the blessing is free.

Doesn’t this just make you sigh with great relief and cause a feeling of lightness, like a great weight is being lifted from you?

Sadly, because many cultures, including our own business cultures, are centered on the “you must give in order to receive” mentality, we have automatically conditioned ourselves into believing that our relationships, including our relationship with God must also be one that is transaction based; that effort is required from us in order for a blessing from God to be given to us.

But again, let’s look at Haggai. He speaks to the Hebrews after they have returned to their homeland following the Babylonian exile and explicitly tells them, “Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yet yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.”

The Hebrews had grown weary, unfocused, tired, lacking in direction, and forgetful of the vision that God had given them before the exile. God wanted to reassure them, through Haggai, that despite these things they could still count on God to bless them, to be there for them, to provide for them with the resources they needed to be revived and restored.

The same is true for us today. In every aspect of our lives, whether it’s physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, relationally, or vocationally, we can count on God to bless us.

In his New Year’s Eve message, Steven Furtick, Lead Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, counted down to the New Year by declaring 52 things that he is counting on God to do in his life and in the lives of his church’s attendees in 2014. Some of the things that he listed were: to protect us, to direct us, to change us, to amaze us, to provide for us, to embolden us, to heal us, to pursue us, to forgive us, and to be with us.

Since I’m not one for resolutions, but I do set goals for myself, I started thinking about why not do something similar to what Pastor Steven is doing and set goals for God; things that I want to be able to count on God for this year.

So, I started a list of my goals for God. Some of them relate to my career aspirations, some of them to my husband and our marriage, some of them to my general well-being, and some of them to my calling in life.

So, how about you? If you believed what God told Haggai to tell the Hebrews, and you knew you could count on a blessing from God, what goal would you set for Him?

The Motivation That Endures

Despite having a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Human Resource Development, and spending time studying Maslow, Herzberg, Alderfer, and Machiavelli, I must admit that I am not an expert in the theories of motivation.

Yet, every day I am struck by the apparent motivations that I witness in those around me, and just how different they are from one another and how they create such differences in behavior from one person to another.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Recently an article was being passed around on Facebook about the differences between the habits of the poor and the rich. As I read through the list I couldn’t help but read between the lines to the motivations underlying the habits. One habit says, “6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.” As I read this I thought about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, his psychological theory concerning motivation. In the hierarchy there are five levels, with the top level being what he terms as Self-actualization, which refers to the full potential of a person and the actualization or realization of that potential. Though my mind pondered on the theory, my heart grew quiet, wondering if it meant that those 78% would never see beyond the meeting of their basic needs to a place of realizing their potential, of truly living life to the full. Would they never know being “fully alive” as Saint Irenaeus says is “the glory of God”?

Then, today while having coffee with a friend she remarked about how many people join the Department of Human Services, which she was a part of for 30 years, because they truly care about people and desire to make a difference in peoples’ lives and help to better the world as a whole. This led me to think about something I heard author and speaker, Stasi Eldredge, say a couple of months ago. She said, “Love is the only motivation that will endure.”

I’ve thought about that quote on a number of occasions because I want to believe she’s right and I want to be seen as someone who loves and not as a means to something else, but simply as the end. I Love. I Love because He first Loved me. I Love. I am motivated by Love, by His Love.

Yet, when I think about this, it makes me go back to Maslow and his theory. Because in his theory, love is the middle level, above our needs for air, water, food, safety, and security, but below our needs for respect (from others and from self) and self-actualization. And, of course, this makes me wonder if Maslow had it wrong or if I just don’t understand his theory.

But, when I think about what motivates me day-in and day-out, what causes me to get up in the morning; some days it’s because I like to eat, several days it’s because I like living in a warm house, many days it’s because I like feeling good about myself and achieving my potential, but every day it’s because I Love.