Category Archives: Leadership

Living on Purpose

“We shall not cease from exploration;
And the end of all our exploring;
Will be to arrive where we started;
And know the place for the first time.”
~ T.S. Eliot

Maybe it had something to do with being the eldest of four.

Maybe it had something to do with being in an organizational setting as a file clerk at 12 years of age.

Maybe it was because my parents trusted me, championed me, and nurtured me.

Maybe it had something to do with God creating me this way and placing certain desires and interests within me.

Definitely it is all of these, and more.

I’m talking about my interest in leadership, my ambition to be a leader, my belief that being a leader opens doors, and my awareness that leaders are the ones who really make a difference and an impact on our world.

I recently celebrated my 39th birthday, and as with most people I become more self-reflective around my birthday. As I reflect back, the journey hasn’t been exactly what this Type A girl had drawn out at 11 and 12 years of age, but nonetheless, 39 finds me having arrived at the intended destination: living life on purpose and helping others to do the same.

A conversation that began well over a year ago has brought me to this destination, which is actually just the beginning.

In April, I was invited to join the prestigious organization, Building Champions, as a business and leadership coach. Building Champions is one of the leading coaching organizations in the U.S., with clients such as Chick-fil-A, Prime Lending, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Northwestern Mutual, Pfizer, and State Farm. We are engaged every day to make a positive difference in the lives of those we touch with this motto: coaching business and life on purpose.

I am honored to be part of an organization that is truly making a difference in the way people live and lead. Being able to combine my loves of business strategy, organizational culture, people and leadership development, vision clarification, and priority management is a dream come true and my intended destination.

With this new beginning as a coach with Building Champions, I am looking for people who need someone to partner with them as they work to achieve their professional and personal goals. I help people and organizations get clear in who they are and where they want to go, define their current reality, and develop very specific actions, plans, and strategies to close the gap from their current reality to where they would love to be.

I am specifically looking for 10 additional new clients by the end of August. Who do you know who might benefit from business and leadership coaching?

Additionally, I am also specifically looking for speaking engagement and workshop facilitation opportunities over the next several months. Who do you know who might benefit from a workshop about time management, vision planning, team building, strategic planning, or culture creation?

One of things I realize as I write this is that you might be led to think that by having realized my dream, that my life might be perfect. One of the beautiful aspects of this new role is getting to share life with my clients and being in community with one another as we experience the triumphs and tragedies, and the valleys and peaks of life. For example, one of my current battles is losing the rest of the 30 pounds that I gained while working toward my Ph.D. My birthday present to myself was a Dr. McBabe’s Walking Desk for my treadmill; it’s such a fantastic invention. I’m also excited to use it to begin training for the 2015 Hood to Coast, which I will be running as part of the Building Champions’ team. Another example, as with anyone who has “Achiever” as one of their top five strengths, I’m working diligently to discipline myself to have one day every week where I completely disengage from anything work-related and spend the time in fellowship, community, worship, play, and rest. This is a very difficult thing for me, but is absolutely crucial if I am going to live a full and meaningful life.

Whether you’re 39 or 59 or 89 it’s never too late to live on purpose. I’m curious, what is keeping you from living on purpose?

Why I Am No Longer Desperate For A Mentor

Our society no longer actively uses apprenticeship as the main means of learning one’s trade or skill. It is not often that we have someone come directly alongside us and commit to teaching us everything they know about a specific area of expertise. For the longest time I had a deep discouragement about this. I desperately longed for a Christian businesswoman who would spend time pouring into me from the depths of her wisdom about what it means to be a Christian woman in the business world, and the ABCs of business.

My frustration at not being able to find a woman like this began to dampen when I started to discover the power of observation. About 15 years ago I started making mental notes of what I observed as examples of good leadership and of bad leadership. Then, while working on my MBA, I started recording specific decisions and actions that I witnessed, from various leaders and managers around me, specifically those I observed from women in leadership positions. My arsenal was being constructed of good tools and ineffective tools, of positive methods and negative methods.

While reading the book of Matthew, as part of the #LentChallenge, I was reminded that Jesus used modeling and demonstration as a means of teaching the disciples. He didn’t hold their hands and “apprentice” them, but He invited them to observe His actions and choose for themselves if they wanted to follow His way of doing things. He also invited the disciples to observe and witness the examples being shown by the Pharisees, and again evaluate for themselves what the better way was.

As I read through these scriptures it reminded me of how wonderful a gift observation is to us, and how much we can learn from it. It also reminded me of the constructs of self-directed learning and autonomous learning that I studied throughout my PhD program. Essentially, both constructs indicate that we are capable of learning more when we purposefully and intentionally show desire, initiative, resourcefulness, and persistence in engaging in a learning activity.

This led me to think about other learning activities that have helped me to be a better businesswoman, a better Christian businesswoman.

For me, the main method outside of observation that I have learned from is reading. I love to read, primarily articles, books, and blogs. I’ve discovered that there is great content out there, and some not so great content, but I can learn something from both kinds. I also learn a lot from podcasts and sermons, which I often consume while on the treadmill. Social media expert, Claire Diaz Ortiz, recently posted this article on ways that she learns. I love her plan for getting the most out of a conference. A couple of years ago, author and speaker, Michael Hyatt wrote this blog about how you can go further, faster. In it he said that the secret to doing so is to “Enlist the help of the best coaches and instructors you can afford.” He gives a really helpful list of the people he’s hired over the years to help him with everything from his golf game to his business and life planning.

The point is, I’ve learned that there are so many more wonderful ways to learn than through direct instruction from someone. I no longer feel the need to have one woman teach me everything she knows because I know I can learn more through these many other sources and methods.

In what areas of your life do you want to learn and grow? What method might best help you?

Finally…Good Reasons For Valuing Accountability

Earlier this week I joined the monthly Champion’s Edge webinar by Building Champions. One of their executive coaches, Dan Foster, led us through six steps of accountability with the ultimate goal of learning how to harness the power of accountability.

I have to admit, I joined the webinar wondering if I was going to come to the end of the 30 minutes and feel like I had wasted my time. Not because of Dan, he is an exceptionally experienced coach and a pretty smart guy, and I knew he’d share some practical and meaningful thoughts. But, because of the topic.

I mean seriously, when have you ever gotten excited about being told that you need to be more accountable or have more accountability in your life? Accountability has become something of a four-letter word. Take a look at the definition of accountable, “required to explain actions or decisions.” Wow! Isn’t that frightening? Sounds like something you’re super excited to sign-up for, right?!

Well, I spent the 30 minutes listening to what Dan had to say and as I’d hoped, he did not disappoint, and my time was anything but wasted.

He did a great job of articulating the steps of accountability, as taught through the Building Champions methodology, and how it all starts with being accountable to yourself. But, what I love about what he shared, even though he didn’t specifically itemize them or draw special attention to them, was that he gave a really solid argument for why be accountable; why is accountability valuable; what do we stand to gain by being accountable. And, hallelujah, his reasons weren’t the typical cliché ones that I’ve heard my whole life about keeping you honest, or making you trustworthy, or teaching you responsibility. Not that those aren’t important, they are very important; they’re table stakes. But, for once I heard arguments for the value of accountability that actually got me excited to be accountable. Finally, I was given reason to be motivated beyond duty and obligation. Here is what Dan shared, in his words, more or less:
1) Being accountable to yourself and others enables you to be more purposeful.
2) Being accountable to yourself and others enables you to be more intentional.
3) Being accountable to yourself and others provides added motivation.
4) Being accountable to yourself and others provides an opportunity for you to be challenged and stretched.
5) Being accountable to yourself and others provides an opportunity for you to be encouraged.
6) Being accountable to yourself and others allows you to learn more about yourself and discover your unique purpose and contribution.
7) Being accountable to yourself and others equips you to build your vision for who you want to be and where you want to go.
8) Being accountable to yourself and others allows you to live within your sweet spot, thus enabling you to do what Daniel Harkavy says, “Say no to the good so you can say yes to the great.”
9) Being accountable to yourself and others causes you to respect yourself more, believe in yourself more, and be more self-confident.
10)Being accountable to yourself and others shows others that you can be counted on, which increases their respect for you, which increases the likelihood that they’ll catch your vision and follow your lead.

What I love about this is that it becomes the flywheel that Jim Collins describes in Good to Great. You work through the steps of accountability, which you can go and listen to at, and as you work through them the momentum starts increasing, your actions are made on purpose, you say no in a way that shows respect for your plan and your intentions, you see others take note, you notice the difference being made, and as Collins says, “The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn…whoosh!…Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort.” It’s not just doing one of the steps that causes all of this value to be created, it is all of the steps. As Collins says, “It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction.”

So, accountability that produces purpose, intention, motivation, challenge, discovery, vision, focus, self-respect, self-confidence, influence, action, respect, and accolades?? Sign me up! I’m in!

How about you, what would cause you to value accountability?

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?

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?

Be Nimble

Your life is not your own. You have been called to surrender your life, your desires, your agenda, your hopes, and ask God to implant in you the desires, agendas, and hopes that He has for your life. Not at all an easy thing. In fact, it’s actually quite mysterious. There is no road map, no GPS. It means setting out every day with no preconceived expectation of what the day will bring. This is hard to understand, especially for our Type A, ambitious, driven culture. We are planners. We see life as a chess game, knowing our strategy three or four moves ahead. Yet, God calls us to surrender in a way that allows us to be nimble, to be able to respond to an opportunity that we could not have seen coming.

Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch, the largest church in the U.S., talks about how he no longer does strategic planning for the church because he doesn’t want to be boxed in and miss an opportunity by limiting themselves to what is outlined in a planning document. The faith that is required in this approach is one that is not for the lazy. It is not a sit back and wait to see what happens type of posture. It is a faith that goes to God before anything else that morning and asks for God’s explicit guidance and God’s hand to be on that day and all that it entails. It is a faith that doesn’t ask God how something is to take place, but simply asks what one step you should take this morning to move toward what the Lord has for you today. Scary? Yes. Especially for people who want to have that 10-year plan. But, if you’re honest with yourself, doesn’t trying to create that 10-year plan actually bring more stress into your life than if you simply choose to live in the present, one day at a time. When you think about a 10-year plan you start to think about all of the “what-ifs”. What if you make the wrong decision about something? What if you pass up an opportunity? What if you don’t give 110% in that particular thing? You start to freak out that if you don’t do this and if you don’t do that, then you won’t attain the goals outlined in your 10-year plan and all will be lost. In reality, you are called to something much more simple. You are called to give up your agenda and ask God for His agenda for you. Craig Groeschel says, “When we show God our faith, he shows us His Faithfulness.”