May 302016

humility and leadershipHumility Shmumility!

The last minute church elder’s meeting started a bit late. The pastor walked in to see several elders bickering over who should be in charge. Without saying a word, he motioned them all out of the room, down the hall, and with a finger to his lips, opened the door to the kindergarten room. A dozen kids sat in a circle singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of their lungs, big grins and wavy arms.

He quietly closed the door and said, “Unless you can love and worship simply like those kids, you have no place leading in this church. And, by the way, if you make one of them mess up, you might as well jump off the Noyo River bridge and drown. Oh, and don’t even begin to think you are better than they are. Their angels get special access to God the Father every day!

Read the real version in Matthew 18:1-6.

What’s this got to do with leadership and the workplace? Often, decisions and actions are based on the struggle for power and status over others. We feel our position must be maintained by pushing others down. Humility? That term gets restricted to religious discussions at church, if at all. This IS business, after all, LOL!

When Jesus teaches and models humility to His disciples, He is educating them about His kingdom and the fact that unlike most human organizations, His is based on loving and serving others. Those that are the most successful (the “greatest”) are those who serve and care for others the most.

Again, what’s this got to do with my workplace outside of the church? Maybe a lot. If one of my primary objectives is to serve, uplift, support those around me, regardless of the org chart- their success, their productivity, their job satisfaction, their employee engagement (Yes, Gallup users!) will make me effective and successful as a leader. Stepping on heads will only carry a person so far. Do leaders make it to the top by such stepping? Yes they do. But I would challenge their right to lead and whether their legacy will be a worthy one.

Think about your circles of influence. Is humility evident in your relationships at home? With friends? With coworkers?

Me? While I find new ways to fail every day, I want and pray for the ability to lead humbly, finding my greatest success and legacy through the success of those around me.

Jun 072015

302941__vintage-tea-party_pFaith was 6 years old. It was Sunday morning and she had a plan. She was going to have the tea party to end all tea parties in the back yard! She started gathering her play tea set together. Mom was folding clothes in the back bedroom. Dad walked through the kitchen as she was looking through drawers for something extra fancy. Excitedly, she started to pull a bright, white lace tablecloth from one drawer. That would be just the thing to make her tea party the fanciest ever! “I wouldn’t do that, Faith,” Dad said as he headed out to the garage, “That is Mom’s favorite. It is very special to her. She’ll be very upset when it gets dirty in the back yard.”

Faith heard the door shut. She paused a moment, then pulled the tablecloth out of the drawer and took it with her.

What fun she had! She served Koolaid tea to herself and her dolls. She made nice, round mud cookies, carefully letting them dry before putting two by each teacup. Hours later, she pulled the tablecloth from the table and took it  to the kitchen to put  it back in the drawer.

“Whaaaaa! What are those brown circles all over my favorite tablecloth!” Mom hollered,”and what about those pink drops all over it! Faith! AARGH!”

Dad heard the commotion over the sound of the saw in the garage. Shutting off the saw, he went out the side door and went to the back yard and sat down on the ground behind a very large oak tree. A minute later, he hear hiccuping sobs and running bare feet coming across the yard. Dad pulled her onto his lab and wrapped his arms around her.

“Mom… was crying,” she said between sobs,  “she was…so… sad! How… did you know … it would get…  dirty? Why were you… sitting… back here when I… came… out?

“I know things about little girls,” Dad said, as he pulled her closer. “I know things about Moms, too. Faith, I hoped that you would trust me to know what’s best for you, and what will keep you safe and happy. Can you trust me now?” he asked gently.

“I trust you, Dad,” Faith said as she buried her face in his shoulder. She listened and smiled as he whispered in her ear how much he loved her. She nodded her head as he told her what she needed to do to make things right with Mom.

That evening, Faith slouched in her chair during family worship. She rolled her eyes as Dad read something from the book of Daniel.

“Time of distress.. sleep in the dust…a time, times, and half a time….sacrifice, 1290 days…” Dad read. She rolled her eyes. Dad looked up from the Bible with a questioning look.

“Dad, that stuff is so weird. Can’t you just read a story? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” she complained.

“Faith, come sit in my lap for a minute.” As she settled in, Dad continued,”Do you remember what I said to you this afternoon about trusting me?” Faith nodded. “God knows things about little girls, and about Moms and Dads, too. He knows what will happen in the future, much more that your Dad does. Even if you don’t understand yet what all those confusing words mean, what you need to know is….God is saying that He loves you, He knows what will happen next, and we can trust Him.”

“Let’s trust Him, Dad,” Faith said as she settled in for a long hug.

-shared as a children’s story in Ukiah yesterday.

Feb 142015

mission-critical-chain Do you use this as a criterion for deciding whether to speak out or to act? “Is it Mission Critical?” I woke up early this morning to talk to one of my young lab professionals. Emotions were high as we discussed a disagreement about how to properly perform a challenging laboratory procedure. Were we making good choices that balanced quality and value to the physician? Were the results we produced able to give the physician useful diagnostic support?

Yes, it was a mission critical issue. How we chose to proceed would indeed affect how we provided care to the patient. It was worth a little disagreement and discussion to ensure that we all worked together to do our best for each patient we serve. I expressed my thanks to her for pushing for excellence.

“Aargh! I hate how he leaves his dirty coffee cup by the sink until the end of the shift!” Is that mission critical? No. Probably not. Is it a housekeeping item that has to do with how we exist in the same work space with kindness? Sure. But mission critical? No.

Maybe we need to apply this to all parts of our lives. My beautiful and everloving wife inserts an “R” into the laundry process. She does not wash the clothes, but she does “warsh” them! That is not my favorite word! She’s been saying that for all of our awesome 30+ years of married life and then some. Is it mission critical? Heck no!

The young teen just down the pew from grandma Thelma is wearing a skirt that is showing a lot more above the knee than grandma expected. Is it mission critical? Not if the mission is to model acceptance and love.

No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! 1 John 4:12 The Message

A woman sees a friend, another young mother sitting in her car after church. Struggling as a new single parent, she is showing new signs if drug use. Is this mission critical? YES! She wraps her arms around her and wipes her tears, willing to risk a little pushback, not letting go without finding a way to help.

The young man playing a guitar  and vocal solo for church- the music genre is not my favorite. He is pouring his talent into the song. The words are pointed Godward. Is my music taste issue mission critical? NO!! After church, I thank him for gifting his talent to God and allowing us to listen in.

May I apply a Mission Critical filter to my words and actions today. May I let go the things that are not, and hold tightly to the things that are.

Jan 232015

I need to rant about God for a few moments. I see popular blogs bashing churches. I see blogs bashing the bashers. Why people are walking out of churches. Why churches think some people should leave….  Why churches think their God only lives within their walls of stained glass and soaring ceilings. Everyone has their opinion of what is real and true.

What is real to me? Is God real to me? Do I even know what that means? What do I really know? Here it is….

Deep in the woods, standing before a roaring waterfall, I grew hoarse raging at God for what was happening in my life. And what do I hear? Him telling me to let it all out. Him trading my anger for peace. That was real.

I struggle through my work week, fighting resentment, defensiveness, selfishness, and impatience. I ignore Him in my actions and words. I fail to reflect Him to my coworkers. And yet, when I come crawling back, exhausted and disillusioned, I feel Him clearly whispering to start again and refreshing forgiveness washes over me. Real.

I walk alone through my beloved redwoods at dawn. Shocked into silence as I crane my neck to see the tops of the trees crowding around me. I can’t seem to choke out a word as I am humbled by the evidence of my Creator God everywhere I turn. That… is so real.

I slide into the pew at church. I feel a strong hand grip my shoulder. Turning, I see white hair and a big smile. My good friend looks me straight in the eye and asks me how I am.  He listens to my doubt and discouragement without wavering or letting go. That…. is God real.

I see a nurse who never, whether in the back of a kindergarten class at church, or zipping down the hall in the hospital, never…ever passes me without a hug. God…in that hug… is real.

I wrestle with indecision, pushing God for answers, the problem too confusing for me to unravel. I finally drop off to sleep. I come sharply awake at 2am and cannot go back to sleep. Rising, I prowl the house, scavenge coffee, end up in my office, writing as my listening turns into thoughts and words and clarity. Wisdom beyond me. An answer full of balance, strength and grace. That is real.

I know what I feel and hear from God in my life. That is real. I match that with what I read in the Bible and it fits.

I know that while I was yet a sinner, Jesus gave His life for mine. I know that He takes me each and every day where I am, and pulls me closer and closer to Him. When I speak harsh words at home, when I criticism creep into my voice with my girls, when my words to coworkers come out sharp and unkind, when I harbor dark thought about those who have wronged me, when I am disgusted with my procrastination and waste, when I ignore hurting people in my path, He takes my sinful, messed up self, just like that, with no qualifications or limits, no reservations or conditions,no prerequisites or boundaries, and sometimes whispers, sometimes pounds a message into my heart. I am loved. I am accepted. I am treasured. I am wanted.  That is real.

I celebrate by letting Him work on me, believing that His work will make me look more like Him. Real.

Is God real to me as I read through a dusty lesson at church, struggling over a teaching full of polysyllabic words and churchisms? Not so much. But His love is real through the touch and acceptance of those around me. Is God real to me as I see church members pulled apart by worship and music style arguments? No, but He is real to me as I lead children singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know…” Is God real to me as I see all the pride, vanity, deceit, selfishness, apathy, and blindness in church? Yes, since all those things find their way into my life and I know I have plenty of like company there. And I know that what’s real is a God who loves to have us bring to Him all our broken puzzle pieces so He can heal and complete and reset us.

Am I one of those walking out of church? Yes! Thank God, Yes! I walk out every week, still messed-up me, but reveling in His creation and hoping to serve. And I walk right back in the next week, to worship, sing, pray, and to touch other sinful, failing people just like me. Very real.

Sep 072014

Watch excerpts from one of my favorite movies, Facing the Giants, that help set the tone for a journey I’m on this week:

The real story is no less dramatic and profound.  The people of Israel were largely in captivity. Jerusalem, their capital, lay in ruins, the walls in shambles. Nehemiah had a vision of traveling back to his homeland and rebuilding the wall, making the city strong again. By night, he inspected the wall seeing the hopeless conditions, even the piles of rubble that blocked any future construction.

Starting the next day, he rallied the residents, inspiring them with his singleminded goal, rebuilding the wall. Priests and perfume makers, daughters and sons, goldsmiths and politians, everyone had a piece of the wall assigned to them. Check it out in Nehemiah 3.

They faced strong opposition from leaders and communities around them. So much so that they were in constant fear for the lives and livelihoods. Here’s some great quotes from Nehemiah in chapter 4, NIV:

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”

“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.”

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah  who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.”

I see three takeaways that can apply to us:

  1. It is necessary to band together for strength in the face of heavy competition and opposition.
  2. We are as strong as the lowest point on the wall.
  3. It took everyone, from every background and ability, to get the job done.

No single individual, family, or profession can complete the task alone. We are not all of the same size or ability. When one part of the wall is incomplete, the enemy can still enter, making the wall ineffective. Diversity, united in a common purpose, yields phenomenal results in the face of great adversity.

What wall do you need to build? Hospitals face challenges keeping their mission focus, serving their communities with quality and efficiency. Churches lose hurting members every day, parts of the wall that need shoring up. Families are weakened when a member is weighed down with discouragement, overwork, or depression. No matter what wall you need to build, success will be achieved only by applying the Nehemiah lessons. What section of the wall around you needs help today?

Dec 212013

Several months ago, I was having a really bad day.  I had received some challenging news that I was unprepared to face.  With feelings of depression, hopelessness, and no small amount of anger setting in, I was unable to face my staff who depend on me for leadership and support.

So what did I do? I went straight to my boss, burst into her office, pushing for some serious talk time. And she did exactly those things that cause me to count on her. She validated my feelings. She did a reality check on my facts. Immediately went to the source to correct the issue. Sent me on my way confident in the work we had already done together.

Jesus knew about this need. He was very clear about the source of His power.

“I have received authority from my Father”. Revelation 2:27 NIV.

Jesus knew that without regular time spent with His Father, to renew, to refocus, to remind, to repurpose, He would lose strength and lose sight of His mission. He was on a three year game-changing mission. He had an impossibly short time to do something so shocking, so unique, and finally, so violent, that it would change the thoughts of a universe for all time. 

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 NIV.

He knew where to go. He had no question to Whom He should turn.  Through His short life, he modeled this for us over and over. He proved it’s value finally through a victorious mission.

Someone told me something about leadership once, and I’ve found it to have lasting value.

When you’re down, go up!

When you’re up, go down!

What do these cryptic words mean? When you are emotionally down, when you’re mission focus is blurry, when you are confused and discouraged about your value or direction, go up! Up the food chain, up the org chart, up to your boss, up to your Heavenly Father, up to a caring parent. Someone who can handle all of your garbage, your discouragement, your confusion, and your anger. Someone who can remind you of who you are. Someone who can get you standing upright again.

When you’re up, when you are clear on the mission, when you have value to share with those around you, when you are strong enough to support and affirm,  go to those who count on you for leadership. They could be employees, children, fellow students. If you’re not ready to do that, go up! Rant in your boss’s office, take a prayer moment in the car before entering your home, go where you need to go to get your game face back on.

Jesus knew where to go for renewal, to get His game face back on. And so do you.

shared in the workplace 12.16.13 Thanks Heather!

Related posts: about the importance of my leadership vibe and leading with my values.

Dec 082013

I had an idea at work the other day. I know that’s shocking to some of you… but I did! I was kind of proud of it and was looking forward to having my name linked with it. And then, the most shocking thing ever! Someone else had come up with my bright idea! MY idea! My personal, brilliant, creative, innovative idea.

 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,  for whoever is not against us is for us. Mark 9:38-40

So…. apparently Jesus didn’t have that problem. He was trying to teach His disciples that the mission was more important than the man.  The message more than the messenger. Effect more than credit. That’s kindof tough on the old ego.  We naturally want to be recognized for our brilliance and creativity, don’t we?

Jesus kept His eye on the mission: to reflect His Father’s loving character and to heal and save idiotic humans who were trying to kill Him. No time or energy to waste on ego or fame. If something or someone furthered that mission, He was for it… and them!

So how can I copy this? When an employee comes up with a great idea that I have also generated, acknowledge them for it with affirmation both privately and publicly. When a colleague promotes a new concept or cause that you were planning to initiate, find a way to team up with them by your willingness to follow their leadership. Support them with creative effort and cheerfully compliment them to others.

As a church family, are we willing to support community efforts that don’t have our name on them or do we feel the need to duplicate every service to ensure that our denomination or congregation is recognized?

What about within the home? As a parent, do I really need to be the guy with all the bright ideas, or can I lift up my children by leading questions and conversation, ready to praise them when they have a lightbulb moment.? As a marriage partner, are you willing to take second chair, acknowledging your spouse and supporting them in an idea that could have been yours?

Father, let me copy your Son by letting others succeed rather than seeking recognition, by letting good be accomplished around me, no matter the source.

Nov 092013

Early this morning, the sun just starting to laser light beams across the mountains to the east. The house was quiet and I was listening to one of my new favorite songs. Again, clarity about your value, and mine, came to me.  Take a couple of minutes and listen…

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  -Isaiah 43:1. NIV.

If you are reading this right now, know one thing: your Heavenly Father owns you twice, once when he created you, again when he bought you back. Don’t ever tell yourself or listen to others tell you that you are not worthy, inferior, not good enough, that you have gone too far, done too much, that you have no value.

He chose you before you chose Him. Even if you never accept Him, He’s paid for you. You are so valuable, not because of what you’ve done, but because of the price He willingly paid for you. A price paid in blood. Lift up your head, throw your shoulders back, and embrace the freedom purchased by the one Who loves you most!

Nov 022013

We spend tremendous energy trying to determine fairness. Everything from ensuring that your siblings got exactly the same sized piece of cake to adults worrying about who got a longer lunch break. As leaders, we are admonished to treat all of our employees fairly. Often that means sinking our treatment down to the lowest level that could be considered exactly and mathematically equal… the same in every respect. In so doing, we treat our valuable colleagues to a cookie cutter type of leadership that may only fit one out of ten of them!

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”                -George Orwell, Animal Farm.

How does that quote resonate with you? Starts well, but turns a little cynical? Maybe it has nothing to do with what I’m trying to express. Maybe I’m sharing that we are more effective as leaders, and maybe as parents, if we don’t push for exacting equality in how we treat our staff members or our children. Does that make you nervous?


Did you know that some angels have more face time with God the Father than others? Try this text on for size:

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10, NIV.

Hmmm.  Always.  Maybe you think I’m reading too much into this text. Could be.  Before you jump to that conclusion, check the context of this verse. It reeks of, not uniform, but unique treatment of those who need things from us.

I have messages to two groups of you this morning:

If you are a leader [or a parent], those who depend on you deserve more than equal treatment. They need equal consideration of their needs. This frees us to spend twice as much time affirming a young and struggling colleague or investing extra energy to refocus an experienced but disillusioned one.

If you are a young person, whether you are eight, or eighteen, or maybe even 23, you are still forming your view of the world. Maybe God has a central place in your life already. Maybe you are still struggling to find that place. Either way, when your angel… or your prayer goes to the Father, they go to the head of the line! You, in particular, are oh, so precious in His eyes.

Even if you don’t have a place for Him in your life right now, know that you have a place in your heavenly Father’s heart, on His agenda, in His day. He wants to make the connection of a lifetime with you while your life is still beginning. If your relationship with Him is puzzling, unclear, or seemingly nonexistent, know that you totally have an inside track with Him.  You are on His mind and in His sight every day, not because He is watching to catch your every mistake, but because He is your biggest Fan!

Sep 212013

If Mama aint happyIf Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Have you ever heard that statement? I picture a frazzled and furious housewife, screaming and swinging, causing kids and Dad alike to run for cover! I brought this up last week while teasing one of my hardworking, spirited, but, uh, certainly even-tempered colleagues. During the conversation, I did have to admit that this was so not true in my house. My girls are blessed with a Mom who keeps evil feelings in check and while teaching, playing, working with them, models love in an untiring and self-sacrificing way.

Nevertheless, it is certainly true that Mom’s spirit and attitude set the tone for the day. When Mom is in good spirits, kids respond in kind and Dad, too. When Mom obviously missed her happy pill [NO! not suggesting a pharmaceutical solution, just an expression!], the kids wonder what’s wrong. This is especially true when Mom and Dad are at each other’s throats. Kids act out, feel insecure, get unexplained illnesses, and eventually kick the dog. Moms, and leaders, set the tone for those around them.

But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:24-29 NIV

This is a popular story used to teach various things. Let’s look for something completely different. The disciples are straining at the oars, fearing for their lives. When they finally recognize that Jesus is the One they see, they notice that He is calmly walking on the waves, seemingly oblivious to the danger.

Calm is catching. It’s contagious. It’s confidence-building. Peter, one of the more radical disciples, becomes so confident that he asks Jesus if he can join Him walking on the waves! Jesus agrees and Peter jumps out of the boat!

A few weeks back, one of my staff came to me and said, “Bob, are you mad at me?” I had said something very unintentional the day before, maybe with a tone she wasn’t used to. Several days ago, another said,”Is everything okay? You seem awfully quiet, more serious than usual.” I don’t know about you, but my staff pick up things from me. They are always watching, listening. Especially in challenging times, they watch to see how I react to stress, how I am affected by what’s happening around me.

Last week we talked about values and how leaders communicate them in everything they do and say. Today, this is something more intangible, less objective. My question for today- My tone, my body language, my vibe- do they communicate fear or confidence? Calm or unrest? Jesus exhibited such peace and confidence that it inspired Peter to leap from a perfectly good boat! Take special note that the storm was still raging when Peter jumped!

Will my staff be more likely to act with initiative, serve with caring, think outside of the boat, due to my influence, my leadership? What vibe do I export? What infection will they catch from me? Fear, uncertainty, distraction, unrest, negativity? Or calm confidence, sure focus, joyful affirmation?

shared in the workplace. 9/16/13.

Related post: Where to go when your attitude isn’t right for leadership.

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