Uncommon Leadership

I like to study organizations and the people that makeup them up. I enjoy studying how people can have the same title and yet perform completely different. We love an underdog story. We love watching organizations with less resources out perform larger well funded organizations. Organizations with enthusiastic leaders and people will outperform mediocre ones.


What makes these realities possible?

How can people hold the same title, but be an uncommon leader?
First of all, it doesn’t take a title or position to lead. Leading is an influence. Organizations that recognize this have a shortcut to being uncommon leaders.


1. Uncommon leaders are readers.
On average, authors put about 2 years of life experience into the content of a book. 2015 I started mapping out my reading plan for my year. No matter what title I hold, I wanted to be like leaders who never stopped learning, and we’re always maturing.


Author and Pastor, Mark Batterson, read 3,000 books before he ever authored his first book. He wanted as much life experience as possible before he penned his first book.


My personal maturity map looks like reading 30 books a year, listening to 104 podcasts a year.


2. Uncommon leaders are completers.
This may sound simple, but there is something that stands out in our culture for keeping your word. If you say you’re going to do something and actually doing it, you’ll stand out in the right way in our society.
As we raise our sons, we are emphasizing this more and more. I want our sons to have a reputation for completing jobs and responsibilities. No matter their titles.


3. Uncommon Leaders Feed others.
In a world of negativity, anxiety, and depression, a person who encourages others is so crucial. Merrillville Intermediate School has a banner posted that says, Throw Kindness like Confetti. It’s a great reminder of how vital our kindness and encouragement are. Lead by encouraging.


4. Uncommon Leaders garden.
A gardener understands that gardening is a system. There is a time of preparing the soil, planting seeds, pulling weeds, watering etc. This is a system.


The harsh reality of all workplaces is that there is waste, imbalanced, & overwhelmed. Uncommon Leaders know this. They also don’t attempt to solve these issues on their own. Toyota factories have boards posted. These boards are for any associate to suggest improvements.


These suggestions used to reduce Muda (waste), mura (imbalanced), and muri (overwhelmed). Engineers and production team leaders set up a process knowing that it should change and improve. No production process stays the same. The constant process of kaizen allows for change to happen by the people who are doing the work. Uncommon leaders create a system to allow that to happen that goes beyond the suggestion box.


5. Uncommon Leaders heed.
We’ve all seen past successful businesses avoid and resist change. Companies like Sears, Blockbuster, and Kodak resisted the changing climate of business. They are now scrambling to stay relevant.


Uncommon Leaders heed the changing times and adjust. Will Netflix change with all the recent additions to the streaming market? Will we look back in 10 years and wonder how Netflix went out of business? Will they change?


No matter what capacity of leadership we are in, things change.


6. Uncommon Leaders plead.
Every leader has to hold people accountable. People will always fail at something. Uncommon Leaders know this. What makes uncommon leaders uncommon is how they address the failure.


Uncommon Leaders keep humanity while they address failures.
Uncommon Leaders plead for others to rise up to their standards.
Plead for humans to be more humane start by leading by example.
Application Step:


Which of these traits do you already show?


Which 1 of these traits will you begin to practice?

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Obscurity

We’ve all been there. We’ve all shown up to a new place where no one knows us. They don’t even care to get to know you or what you have to offer.


Now the question is “what do you do?” Should you stay in obscurity? Do you create a platform for yourself?


Living in obscurity is rough. It’s a tricky part of life. No one wants to live in obscurity. I don’t know a single adult who would wish to relive their middle school years. However, some of us find ourselves living in obscurity anyway.


While it’s difficult, there can be beauty in obscurity. (Enter the motivational posters of “The journey is the reward”). Journeying through obscurity is not for the faint at heart though.


Over my 38 years, I can reflect and see seasons of nothing but obscurity. So the question is, is obscurity something everyone HAS to go through and endure? If so, what are the best practices to journey through the darkness well?


In 2007, I started a new job in a new state. When I arrived at my new job, I was ushered into a training lab. I went through my orientation. During my week of orientation, I wasn’t even allowed to see the area of the production plant where I’d be working. It was strange, for sure. When I arrived, the people I would be working with didn’t care that I was there. Several of them reminded me many times that ‘they had been doing the job longer than I’d been alive.’


I had positional leadership. My job was a leadership role for the team. Most of my team didn’t care about my title. I foolishly believed that my title would open the gates of influence and leadership. I thought that I would give instructions and these instructions would magically be followed.


That did not happen.


I had to make a decision early on in this job. I could put my hours in and appear to be a leader and collect my paycheck and never gain leadership influence or, I could go through the long awkward path of obscurity to gain influence.


It’s possible to create a platform of influence without selling out.


Following are the lessons I had to learn and relearn in seasons of obscurity. This journey is more like a dance than it is a hike.

3 Things to work on in seasons of obscurity:


1. Focus more on becoming than doing.
A person of character is a rare thing these days. Take responsibility for your actions, words and results. When you screw up, admit it.


If you say you can submit a report by the end of the day, do it.


Your actions should match your words and your words should match your actions. No one admits to being a hypocrite, but we all are. We all struggle at keeping our word.


Excuses may help us feel better about ourselves, but they leave us lacking. It’s tempting to focus on tasks and getting things done. This temptation leads to our business. The business will lead to burn out and cynicism.


Being a person of integrity means to become a whole person. It’s tempting to compartmentalize our lives. We want to think we can become a person of integrity at work without it affecting our personal life.

Compartmentalizing our lives can lead to voids in our lives. We can have the appearance of substance, but in reality, be puffed up without content to support it.


Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer”. Legend has it that clay potters would put an “I” on pots after they went out of the kiln. This was done only if they were to be whole and complete without void.

Become a person without void.


If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you say you won’t do something, don’t.


If you want to take your wife on a date, do it. Plan ahead. Do it. Date your wife. If you don’t someone else will.


Be the person others at work can trust.


2. Clean your desk/workspace each day.
It’s tempting to allow the craziness of your life to keep you from organizing your work area. Don’t let it.


Take 5 minutes each day to clean your crap up. File paperwork. Throw trash away. Leave your area clean, especially if you share a work area.
Schedule time to file emails away as well. Don’t “check your email”.

Checking your email leads to so many other distractions. If possible set times in your daily schedule to ‘file emails’. Filing emails is a push to read, respond to the email and file it away.

How many times have you checked your email and read the email. Then never actually responded or carried out a task listed in an email? As a result, you show up to a meeting and realize you showed up unprepared. You neglected to prepare, which is what the previous email explained. You didn’t bring a report. Submit a requisition request prior to the meeting or inform someone else of the meeting etc.


Organizing your space not only clears your mind and helps reduce clutter. It communicates something about your work ethic and responsibility.
You can’t gain influence quickly. You gain influence and leadership through the long game. Winning the long game requires consistency and responsibility.


3. Turn your focus on getting results.
So, there’s this harsh reality in the workplace. There aren’t participation awards. Mean people called ‘bosses’ do this ridiculous thing like holding others accountable. ‘Bosses’ give paychecks out for an agreed-upon pay. They actually expect results from that so-called work.


In a previous job, I had to attend weekly meetings. In my weekly meetings, my boss would explain our goals as a department. He would also share his expectation in regards to— safety, quality and production ratios.


I would show up week after week reporting how I was trying to motivate my teams to meet these expectations. I would list out all the excuses I could come up with. We had no parts. We didn’t have packaging to put the assembled parts into. It was too hot. Etc.


After a few weeks, I realized this wasn’t gaining any results so I did something different. When we would run out of parts to assemble, I would communicate to the people in the previous process what I needed. I’d ask for an estimated update on when we could expect pieces. I kept a report in my notebook and reported my responses to the issues of why we couldn’t hit our production ratio.


It’s so easy to play the victim role in the workplace. My boss is so mean, clients are unrealistic or the economy is changing, etc.


You don’t control the majority of what happens to you. You do control 100% of how you respond to those events. Focus on how you respond. Your response should be focused on gaining results, not making excuses.

A guy named Todd stopped me after one of our weekly meetings. Todd said very little, but what he said was full of wisdom. He told me that no one cares about how much I try to get results. I won’t get a ribbon for trying. He told me that I should report on what I’m doing to get results.
My area sub-assembled components. Individual stations completed the sub-assembled products for the next process.


I communicated to my team that changes would take place.
I started tracking individual results.


We would hold each other accountable to the expectations. Every Monday, I posted the updated results from the previous week. Each person’s name was listed next to their production ratio. Anyone that didn’t achieve the expectation had to report to the team. They would say what kept them from attaining the expectation. They would also explain what they were going do to meet the expectation in the future.


Things were uncomfortable and awkward on Mondays. Something happened though, Mondays become my favorite day of the week. Our team held each other accountable and knew what results were needed to improve.

Best practices were shared.

We accomplished goals.


Obscurity is challenging for sure. It doesn’t have to be a place where we get lost and forgotten though. These actions have helped me and so many others. I recently asked this question on social media and the input from everyone was so helpful, I had to add a bonus.


Bonus:
Embrace the season and wait. The waiting isn’t passive waiting, it is waiting with anticipation.


Think of sailing a ship. If you’re out at sea and your sails are down and the wind does come, how will you move?


The list above isn’t exhaustive. I do believe it can help you start the process of raising your sails to journey well through obscurity.

Photo by Edgar Guerra on Unsplash

The Middle Phase

In 2015, Heather and I (Marc) were wrestling through what our next step as a family was.  We sensed God leading us away from a church and community that we were extremely comfortable in.  We had friends and support systems. We loved the city and we loved the people. We thought we’d retire there.  However, it became crystal clear that God was moving us away from the comfortable toward an unknown future.

The unknown isn’t bad.  The unknown is simply uncomfortable.  

In August of 2015, we found ourselves driving through Northwest Indiana with a couple of shady characters, Tom and Sarah Cochran.  We stopped at a Merrillville Elementary School, Salk Elementary School. While walking around, I was praying the whole time.

I don’t use this term flippantly.  I sensed God leading us to Northwest Indiana to start a church that unchurched (we define “unchurched” as people who have never gone to church, people who have stopped attending church, find church to be irrelevant or feel like the church has given up on them) people would want to attend.  Herein lies the problem and the challenge. The reality of any business is that any long term success comes when people who don’t currently use your product start using your product.

Business leaders, we must realize we aren’t selling products.  We are selling solutions to problems. You might be selling drill bits today, but once someone discovers a new more efficient way to make holes with accuracy, your drill bit business will be scrambling for business.  As a church leader, I face the same issues.

It’s so tempting to think that our organization is selling or offering a product.  I’d encourage you to think through what problem your organization solves and how you can leverage your organization to solve problems.    

As you start the adventure of exploring what problems your organization solves and offer solutions for them, you might start a new ad campaign or you might discover your products don’t actually offer solutions to any problems, so you revamp your product line.  You might realize that there is a completely different market in the process. You also might discover that your passion isn’t in this field and start a new adventure in a different field. No matter what, there is a rhythm that most likely will take place. There will be a launch phase, a middle phase and a peak phase.  The key to finding lasting success is repeating this process in the right time.

Plenty has been written about the launch and peak phases.  I’ve not come across a lot of material on the middle phase however.  I find myself leading an organization in the early stages of the middle phase.  

As we do this, there is a fun part of the process.  At the launch of any new business or church, there is a lot of energy…then the middle phase hits.  Expenses build up and you spend the same amount of energy and money attempting to generate the same amount of results you accomplished in the launching phase…and It just doesn’t happen.  

You must create more energy.  

Actually, what I have found is that we should create systems instead of products and campaigns.  Systems take a long time, a LONG time to get started. The beautiful thing about systems is that once they are up and running, they will accomplish more results than you ever expected.  

Rich Birch, a seasoned church leader who has served in three innovative culture-shaping churches, uses the example of a flywheel or a merry-go-round.  In the beginning, it seems that nothing is going to the thing moving, but when you stick with it, momentum starts to build up. After a while, momentum takes over and eventually keeping that momentum going isn’t difficult.  

A leader should be strategic and intentional about when to interject to keep the momentum going once the systems are in place and creating momentum.   

This is exactly what happens when the right systems are at work for any organization.  

In the middle phase of the process, the most important and yet most difficult questions to answer are “which systems do you put energy into?”  

I love watching productivity increase while mistakes and process defects decrease.”

You might just have a solution that would solve their problems, but they don’t know you offer it, because of how busy you might be at improving your system.  If you aren’t careful, that focus will be the end of your organization.

We might be working at improving our systems and miss a huge opportunity right in front of us.  In the 90’s, there wasn’t a weekend that I didn’t head to the local Blockbuster Store to rent a movie.  When I was in college in the early 2000’s, I spent most of my Saturdays doing the same thing. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie rented from Blockbuster.  Why is that?

There was a little start up in 2000 called Netflix.  Founder, Reed Hastings, approached Blockbuster’s CEO John Antioco about purchasing Netflix.  Blockbuster didn’t see the potential in Netflix. They couldn’t see that there would be a new way of watching movies in the near future.  They were focused on improving their systems within Blockbuster and they missed a chance of a lifetime.

Blockbuster filed bankruptcy in 2010 and now Netflix is no longer a fledgling startup.  They have moved well beyond that. They are assessed as a $28 billion company which just happens to be 10 times what Blockbuster was worth!  

The laws of thermodynamics remind us that any system left in isolation will always reduce to zero.  Entropy always increases in an isolated system. The beautiful thing about that law states that any system can come back to life by introducing a new life.  (And all the sales people rejoiced!)

I have a tendency toward creating systems.  I use my time and resources to ensure I have the right systems in place to reduce waste, increase productivity and become efficient.  This simply helps me manage assets we have as an organization. This is a worthy cause. It’s necessary.

I’ve learned, however, that if I am not intentional about ‘selling’ RE.THINK Church (sounds worse than it is), new life will not get introduced into our system.  So, I intentionally put myself in places and environments to tell others about RE.THINK Church.

I refer to these places as my “tribes”.  Author and marketing Jedi master, Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.  I am heavily involved in the chamber of commerce in our community. I spend a lot of time at luncheons and networking events. I am part of a community within the chamber called, EPIC (Engaging Professionals Inspiring Change).  I love telling the story of RE.THINK. I love connecting with these people.  

I also spend time at a local coffee shop.  Connecting with the baristas and the other regulars helps me tell the story of RE.THINK in our community as well.  I’m actually writing this blog in this coffee shop right now.

Each Wednesday, I have lunch with a group of fifth graders at Merrillville Intermediate School. Here’s a blog I wrote about that experience. As a church, we have adopted MIS to love on. We bring snacks to the teachers throughout the year.  The generosity of the people of RE.THINK is poured into our community in various ways like providing lunches for the teachers and staff of MIS.

I’d encourage you to find opportunities within your community that you could simply tell the story of your organization.   

The best method of telling your story starts with identifying problems people face that your organization offers solutions for.  

As a church, we have identified that people are searching for solutions for such problems as hopelessness, isolation, judgmentalism and loneliness. Many people also feel that they are simply a cog in a machine, living for a paycheck.  The solution we offer people is to engage with RE.THINK Church where a person has the opportunity to find hope, community and purpose.

I do honestly believe that RE.THINK Church is the best church in our area for people who are looking for a safe place to explore their faith.  It is the best church for someone looking for community to connect with and to find purpose in their life beyond a paycheck. I remind myself that RE.THINK Church’s vision is from God.  That vision is to help unchurched people explore their faith and mature in a relationship with Jesus.

We’ve created systems within our church’s organization that offer solutions to these problems.

I bet you believe the same thing about the solutions your organization offers as well.  

Certain days it feels like I am running in circles.  I am continually putting my figurative “salesperson” hat on, taking it off 15 minutes later and putting on my figurative “systems” hat.  

This is the story of most entrepreneurial people.  If we spend all of our time catering to current customers without being aware of people who don’t currently use our services to solve their problems, we might have extremely efficient systems but no customers.  

If we ignore systems, we might have an amazing amount of customers, but it might cost us more money, energy and effort to keep them than it should.  Eventually, our inefficiency will cost us customers.

There is a double-edge sword here.  Seth Godin, reminds us that it costs us more to generate new customers than to get an already existing customer to reengage or buy again.  Remember, we shouldn’t be selling products, we should be offering solutions to people’s already existing problems.

The challenge for us entrepreneurial people is that we must wear both hats of the salesperson and systems person.  How long and often we wear each hat is determined by our current reality.

The middle phase of any venture, in my opinion, is the most difficult to push through.  I believe breakthroughs, innovations and advancements have been missed by millions of people because they gave up in the middle phase of a venture.  The middle phase is where thousands of great dreams, inventions, skill sets and innovations lay because people gave up in the middle of the process.

This is even true for people who aren’t necessarily looking to start a new organization but maybe a new habit or skill set.  There will still be a launch phase, middle phase and a peak. I believe that people might miss the opportunity to develop new skill sets because of the middle phase.  

Let’s use the idea of creating a system to help crush the middle phase.  

For example, a leader encourages an employee to give a presentation at the next staff meeting.  The employee is nervous but does it. Everyone comments on how great the presentation was. The employee believes for a minute that she could give more presentations in the future.  This would be a great skill to have as she was hoping to advance in the company. She gives the next presentation and people comment, but not as vocally about how great the first one was.  The employee finds herself a little discouraged. She’s asked to give a third presentation. As she considers it, she decides to do it but doesn’t get her hopes up. She believes it’s not going to be as great as the first one.  So, she goes through the motions of the presentation. No one comments good or bad. She decides that must mean she’s not good at giving presentations. So when she’s asked in the future to give presentations, she brushes the opportunity off because she doesn’t want to set herself up for failure or disappointment.  

So what is needed in this scenario?  The answer is simple. A system.

They need a system that will enable them to push through the middle phase.  Remember, it’s easier to stay in the comfort of the known. The unknown isn’t bad.  The unknown is simply uncomfortable.

The innovator or inventor who gives up in the middle phase of a process should set a system in place that rewards him for accomplishments.  They could be arbitrary rewards, but rewards are still rewards. Who doesn’t want a reward?

I remember a time when I was in the middle phase of revamping a production system.  This process was a long one, like 10 months of innovations, trials and testing processes etc. The company I worked for followed the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) system.

I decided to break down the end goal into attainable steps.  I also decided to mentally break the processes into steps that would allow me to test any and all options.  My reward system was not based on how many successes we discovered as a team, but on how many options we tried.  If we as a team tried at least five options per week, I bought everyone on my team orange Hostess cupcakes from the vending machine.  If we tried ten options, then I bought everyone pizza. When we found what worked along the way, everyone got a five minute longer lunch break.  Eventually we changed gears and our reward system was based on finding success.

Like so many leaders have pointed out, great is the enemy of good.  In the early phase, we needed to find good not great or perfect. In this scenario, we continually improved on our changes.  We realized that continually improving was the key, not perfection. This is also known as kaizen.  

The same system could be modified for the person who is stepping out to start a new venture or company.  Creating a reward system based on how many customers you call or how many flea markets you set up your booth at.  I have created a system throughout my week that once I meet with three leaders in my organization for the purpose of leadership development, I allow myself to watch youtube videos for 15 minutes throughout my workday.  

The Middle is brutal.  It’s relentless.

So, for the employee who is wanting to acquire a new skill set that would help her in her promotion path, she would need to create a system that allows her to develop her skills in a safe environment.  Employers who help create those safe environments will benefit tremendously as well. If she will find moments throughout her week to work on small aspects of a skill set, it will lend to massive development in a year.  

Let’s take the skill of giving a presentation. There are so many skills that could be developed in weekly chunks.  For example, the art of breathing while giving a presentation, the pace of speech so that you’re engaging, but not speaking too fast that no one can keep up or the tension of looking at notes too much or not using notes at all.

I think the tension comes because people become disappointed that success doesn’t happen right away.   Why? The middle phase is brutal, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Taking the time to create a system helps us push through the middle phase.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Bears. Trains & You

Have you ever heard the story about two guys in the woods and a bear? The bear walks up to them and is clearly hungry.  The two guys look at each other and run. One of the guy’s motivation is to outrun the bear. The other guy’s motivation is to simply outrun the other guy.  Why? It’s pretty simple. Once the bear catches up with the other the guy trailing behind, he won’t pay attention to the other man who is still running because he’ll be eating. 🙂 

As I start this process of raising up leaders for our organization, I am sometimes tempted to lead out of the mindset of the man who just needed to outrun the other man in the woods.  Can you just outlast or outrun the others in your generation?

As younger generations start to emerge in more prominent positions of leadership, it’s easy to look down on them thinking there isn’t a lot of hope or that their generation is lost.  It’s an arrogance in our own thinking that young leaders can’t do things as well or better than we can simply because they accomplish things differently than we do.

I think it’s time to help train young leaders to outrun the “bears” around them, not just others in their generation.  

So how do we do that?  

I think young leaders could lead in amazing ways, probably even better than we can.  How do we set young leaders up for success?

I personally have 19 Habits that I bring any leader through.  This is something I started doing when I worked at a manufacturing plant assembling automotive parts.  I’ve used these 19 habits in both manufacturing and church settings.

When you envision a leader in your influence being successful, what helped that leader become successful?  What habits, attitude, or thought process helped them succeed?

If you lead others, I think it’s crucial that you plan ahead.  It’s so easy and tempting to simply live and work in the daily grind of life.  Things happen, but if we never take time to plan ahead, we’ll fail. Let’s look at the industrial revolution as an example.  Imagine if the inventors of the locomotive spend so much time, energy and resources into this invention that had the potential to change the world, and that’s it.  They never spend time thinking or planning for how the train would get from point A to point B. They had a well-oiled machine, but nowhere to go, because there wasn’t a method to transport the well-oiled machine.  

Take trains and railroads for example.  In the 1800’s, the railroad was the latest technology that changed the world, especially the United States.  

In the early stages, companies had to focus on the train itself.  Without a method to transport the train, it was pretty useless. So, the next thing they had to think about was the railroad.  This was the platform to transport the train from the east coast to the future destination. Once the train and railroad were developed, they needed a destination.  

Head West Young Man!  

That’s exactly what happened.  The railroads headed west. The way humanity moved at this point was on land by muscle, either human muscle or by a horse.  The invention of trains literally changed the world. Places like the Hamptons became destinations for the wealthy people to escape the city with more ease.  In 1869 on May 10th, our country was changed forever. The ability to head west from the east coast was made possible with ease upon the completion of the transcontinental railroad.  

Railroad companies spent time building trains, railroads and future destinations.  This process has transformed America in more ways I can explain in this blog. Suburbs became a reality due to the ease of commuting from work to home.  Vacation destinations, like the Hamptons, became a reality. Time zones were established based on the train schedules for arrivals and departures.

Leaders, as we develop other leaders and the processes we will use in our workplaces, schools and families, don’t expect instant results.  We might underestimate what the rewards of long-term faithful obedience in one direction could be. I’d encourage us to stay faithful in developing leaders and our processes. It’s so tempting to jump ship because we might not see the results we are hoping right away.  The reward for sticking to a plan is there. Don’t give up because you might not see the results right away.

Leaders, we need to spend time developing our product, our delivery systems, our future destinations and goals.  Helping develop young leaders is one great way to help that process take place. Empowering young leaders will carry our mission further and faster than we ever expected.  

As we develop young leaders and focus on the product, systems of development and future destination, we help our leaders outrun the “bears” they’ll face in the wild of the emerging economy and culture we live in today.  

Photo by Hans Veth on Unsplash


Past, Present and Future: It’s a Generational Perspective

I was recently asked a question in a somewhat formal interview.  “What do you do with the millennials in your organization that you lead?”  My response was pretty simple, “I lead them…”. I didn’t quite understand what the individual was asking me.  She was more pointed than I expected her to be. Her view of millennials in the workplace was an almost always negative one.   I realize that there might be reasons to be negative toward individuals within a generation, but to write off an entire generation because of a few interactions with those individuals, seems a bit extreme.

Her question, however, got me thinking.  Why do people who might be of the older generation have a negative mindset toward millennials and the other emerging generations?  (To clarify, the millennial generation isn’t emerging. Millennials have arrived. I know millennials who are CEO’s, have kids, own houses, lead organizations and lead them well).  The lady who asked me this particular question this day used an example she heard from a conference she attended. The statement went something like this. “Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s are used to, and are willing to, work 50 – 60 hours per week… companies are reluctant to let them retire because millennials simply aren’t willing to work that much.”

I believe this with everything in me, yes there are lazy millennials, just like there are lazy Gen Xer’s and Baby Boomers.  Lazy individuals exist in every generation. The reality of our era is that millennials and the emerging generations are merely living up to the expectations their parents created for them.  Want to know why younger people expect participation awards for everything? Their parents, who led their little league and soccer leagues growing up, gave them to them, so no one had their feelings hurt. The purpose of this blog is to inspire a partnership among the represented generation and venture hopefully into the future.    I responded to her statement by saying “What if millennials could do the same amount of work without having to put in the same amount of hours each week?”

In the same meeting, another gal asked me a question that arrested my attention long after the meeting was over.  This gal asked me, “Why should we rethink church?” The organization I currently lead is a church. The name of the church is RE.THINK Church.  I gave her the elevator pitch that I have crafted since 2015. After the meeting was over, I couldn’t shake the thought though. Why should we rethink church?   I asked myself over and over again, “What if BlockBuster would have rethought how people should watch movies? What if ToysRUs thought differently about how people purchased toys for their kids?”   I don’t think the church is any different or any less vulnerable to the changing climate around us.

There’s a guy I listen to almost every week, Brady Shearer.  His company’s tagline goes something like this, “we’re living through the biggest communication shift in over 500 years…”  He’s right. In 2018, I don’t think we can appreciate how the printing press changed things for the communication game. I’m not sure we’ll understand what the internet’s potential is in our lifetime.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t or should think how we accomplish what we accomplish.   Think through what your organization does, not ask yourself how does your organization achieve that responsibility.

I’m not convinced it’s enough to move our platform to a digital platform.  I believe we need to rethink our how’s. I’m convinced that partnering with each generation represented is a crucial factor.

I’m a bit of an anomaly.  Technically speaking, I’m part of a microgeneration.  I was born in 1981. I remember rotary phones and dial-up.  I remember only being able to watch TV when the networks wanted me to, instead of when I wanted to.  I remember a day without cell phones or the internet. I remember not receiving a participation award and being ok without it.  I remember realizing trophies were for the champions because we didn’t celebrate mediocrity.

There is a tension in workplaces due to all the generations represented.  Companies need to brace themselves for a mass exodus of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.  That is inevitable. It’s happening no matter how we feel about it. Everyone in human history stops working at some point.  People will either retire or die. Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age. Most Baby Boomers aren’t retiring, however.

The generations behind the Baby Boomers are just playing the waiting game.  The positions that most Baby Boomers hold are the cherished positions.

Companies need to realize that the game is changing on us as we are playing it.  What got us here won’t get us to where we need to go.

This tension, however, isn’t going anywhere.  I don’t think this tension needs to be fixed, only managed.  Here’s the tension Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have put in the work to get us HERE.   We can’t ignore their efforts. We can’t merely think that what they have sacrificed and worked for over the years is pointless.  In my line of work as a pastor, we have a history of over 2,000+ years. To ignore the legacy of church leaders who have gone before I would ridiculous.

Like I mentioned before, what got us HERE won’t get us THERE.  If we only move our platforms to a digital platform, it won’t be enough.

Millennials can come across as almost aloof to the efforts of previous generations.  Leaders of communities, organizations and other companies seem to have a significant issue with working with or leading Millennials because of this trait.  I’ve seen this first hand. I’ve also experienced Millennials learning HOW to accomplish tasks in different ways to achieve more work in the same amount of hours or less than their older co-workers.

I worked at a company that is a first tier automotive supplier.  While working there, a customer changed their expectations from us.  As the supplier, we had to change with the game. Our team struggled to reach our production goals and satisfy the expectations of the customer.  After a few days of a new production system and purposes, we came to realize that one station in our assembly process was the bottleneck. No matter who we put there and no matter what we tried to do, the bottleneck never got better. As a result of this bottleneck and others, we missed shipments, missed production goals, long shifts, no weekends.

While trying to solve our problem, a 19-year-old showed up named Ray.  I was showing Ray around the assembly line and explaining what we were doing as a production team.  He observed the bottleneck and asked if he could try something. We had been doing anything and everything we possibly could at this station with very little success.

Ray stepped in was trained by the associate who had been working at this company longer than Ray had been alive.  The experienced associate watched and ensured what Ray was doing was what the operation manual said to do. She also ensured Ray was performing the task with safety and quality first.  Ray caught on quickly. Like really fast. Ray figured out a way to assemble the parts more swiftly than anyone else who had run that particular station. Ray eventually trained the rest of the team about his process.  It was evident that Ray could accomplish more work in the same amount of time, if not less time, than associates who had worked at the company for decades.

I wonder what would happen if companies would prepare for the inevitable departure that is going to occur of the older generations as they reach retirement age and leave the workforce.  What would happen we could partner the generations together and have millennials learn from older generations and vice-versa.

It’s arrogant for millennials to believe the older generations don’t matter.  It’s foolish for leaders who might be of the older generations to think they don’t have to change to accomplish their goals.

The companies that survive and thrive in the next 10-15 years will be the companies that don’t confuse the WHAT  with the HOW. Blockbuster might still be around if they would have rethought how people watched movies. The reality is, they confused the HOW with the WHAT.  People are still watching movies. We just aren’t watching them by renting a movie on a disk from a storefront. We watch Netflix.

Leaders, don’t be the version of Blockbuster in your industry.  Think outside the box. Ask Millennials HOW. They’ll help you. Don’t be offended when a younger person changes HOW things get done.

Millennials, the reality of life is that you don’t know everything.  It’s ok to learn and mature as you live your life. Don’t ignore history.  Don’t be aloof to what others have sacrificed and worked so hard to create for you to take into the future.

Together I believe we can partner together and create an amazing future.

 

Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

 

Revealing

Several years ago we bought a house.   This was the first house we owned. It was a pretty big deal for us.  There were some changes we wanted to make to it. The beautiful thing about owning your own house is that you don’t really need to ask for permission, you can just do it.  When we purchased the house, there was carpet throughout the living room and hallway. We didn’t really love the carpet and wanted it removed. One day, one of our friends, Aimee, was over.  We were discussing the carpet and she reached over in the corner and pulled up part of the carpet. She was amazed at what was underneath. Beautiful hardwood floors were covered by this dull boring carpet.  

 

We immediately started doing research on how to remove the carpet and how to refinish the hardwood floors.  After doing the research, we decided to move forward with doing this project on our own. I rented the sander, sandpaper and all the other necessary items.  

 

Now both Heather and I knew what to do.  We had watched several youtube videos. The guy at the rental store even told us what to expect.  That makes us experts, right? Well, even if we both understood what should happen, it didn’t prepare us for what happened next.  We removed all the carpet, tarped all the hallways and doorways etc. The rooms were empty. The house was prepared and there we stood waiting for the next move.  We prepared the machines and I stood in the middle of the living room ready to begin. As I started the sander and began the process, I looked over in time to watch my wife walk out of the house.  Even though we both expected it to be loud and messy, she needed a few moments to brace herself.

 

As we started this process, sawdust flew everywhere.  The old layers of stain and polyurethane were removed, revealing the true beauty of the floors.  

 

Even though we knew it was going to be loud and messy, we had no idea to what expect.  It was shocking to both of us.

 

Sometimes as a follower of Jesus, I know what to expect as Jesus begins working in my life.  I know that parts of my life will need to be modified. I shouldn’t return to sinful ways of living.  I shouldn’t click on that website. I shouldn’t rely on substances to get me through the day. As Jesus begins the process of removing my old ways of living, it’s painful.  I don’t like it. I sometimes want to stop the process.

 

Some of us have done that in the past.  We’ve stopped the process of maturity and renewal that Jesus wants to do in us.  The process of removing the old is just the beginning. The process of revealing our potential and beauty isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun. It’s actually messy, but it’s so worth it.

 

Once the process of removing the old is complete, we can begin to put on the new.  There would be no point in putting on the new until the old is gone.

 

I am reminded of a time when I foolishly tried to cover up a huge mistake I made with a tractor while on the job.  I accidentally ran the tractor into a concrete structure that scratched the paint right off of a decent sized area.  In order to not get fired, I decided to find the same color of paint in the barn and repaint the damaged area. My boss, the farmer, came into the barn the next morning and didn’t say anything.  The paint job wasn’t perfect but it was good enough to fool him… that time. I took the tractor out again to get some work done. When I returned it; however, the new paint had worn off. It looked so bad.  It was obvious that something had happened. I returned the tractor to the barn hoping my boss wouldn’t notice. This time my boss asked me what happened. I was caught. He mentioned to me that he thought the tractor had looked a bit odd in the morning.

 

I really tried to think of some excuse that would cover my butt.  In my 14 year-old-life, I had never really had to deal with something like this before.  When I admitted what I had done, he laughed. He knew the whole time. He had watched me run into the concrete structure the other day.  

 

He taught me the proper way to fix a major screw up like that.  The area needed sanding and I had to remove all of the other dust and debris before repainting.

 

That day I learned a difficult lesson.  In order to truly repair the affected area, the old had to be removed.  

 

There are so many kinds of lessons like this, whether it’s painting a tractor or refinishing floors to reveal their true potential.  There are times when we need to realize this lesson in our own lives. This is called discipline. When we encounter discipline, we can either avoid it or embrace it.  I’d encourage each of us to embrace it. Learn from it and mature through it. Avoiding discipline may allow us to ‘feel’ good, but in the long run, we are only going to repeat our foolishness.  

 

What area of your life are you avoiding discipline?  What area of your life, if you practiced discipline, would improve by simply embracing discipline?  Don’t avoid it. Don’t cover it up. Embrace the whole process! Your true potential will be revealed as you do!  

 

That Person. Them. Those People.

Ever find yourself wishing that your life could be like his? Am I the only person who does this? Some days I hate going to the gym. Not because I don’t enjoy working out (I really enjoy working out. In fact, I love a challenging workout). The part I hate is looking around at the guys who seemingly do less work than I do, but still, have the results I wish I could have.

Really, I’m the only person who does this? Like you’ve never made a comment about what she did to get that promotion? Busted! I knew you’ve thought that before.

Maybe the day you dreaded is finally over. Or, THAT day happens every 365 days and it’s just another reminder. THAT day you deliver flowers to everyone else. THAT day you hate but wish you didn’t. You want to be celebrated on THAT day too. Why does February 14th happen every year?!

Granted you might put on a smile in an attempt to be happy for everyone else. When I go to the gym, I don’t walk up and spew my jealous thoughts to those guys. I do sometimes secretly wish they would get fat and struggle to lose those pounds. Don’t judge!

It’s not right, but it’s a struggle. How should we handle and deal with jealousy? Is this a battle we just have to keep fighting or is there hope?

Here are my top 3 tips when it comes to combating envy:

Number 1: Don’t label THEM or THAT KIND of people.

For some reason, it’s easier to label people with titles. The problem is that we don’t actually get to know them before we label them as “THOSE people”. I used to work for a company where this guy would go from department to department. Every two years when he reached a new promotion, he would switch to another area. I didn’t really know this guy, but everyone I worked with seemed to know him. They kept saying things about how this guy kissed butt and that’s why he was getting the promotion.

I ended up working with him on a project. I got to know him and found out a little more about him. A few months after that, I transferred from 2nd to 1st shift and ended up working with the same guy. I saw his work ethic, his personality, and his temperament. He was great to work with. His work was quality work. He didn’t make excuses. He simply did his job and did it well. After a few more months, I got to know more about him and his family. He had three girls and a boy. Growing up, his dad worked in the same industry we were in. His father worked 2nd shift on an assembly line. His father wasn’t there for most of his games because he had to work. His dad missed a lot of the extra parts of his life. He loves and respects his dad, but wanted his kids to have a different experience. So, he set out to go from the assembly line to a position that allowed him to work during the day with weekends off. Eventually, that’s exactly what he did.

It’s so easy to assign labels to people without knowing their story or their motivation.

Number 2: Don’t buy into the lie that it couldn’t be you.

I think one of the biggest reasons we become envious is because deep down we don’t believe that it could happen to us. Think about it. Would you turn down a promotion? Wouldn’t you want flowers delivered to you on THAT day? I certainly wouldn’t turn down the 6 pack abs! If you received the outcome you were hoping for, you’d accept it and celebrate it as well.

Growing up without a father figure in my life, I viewed Bill Cosby as my father figure. He was funny, successful, had an attractive wife, great family, a sweet house and was a great dad! I also remember myself as a kid being jealous of Theodore Huxtable. He had the dad I wish I had. Let’s ignore the fact that I was jealous of a fictional character! I was 8 years old at the time.

I recently read a book “To Own a Dragon” by Donald Miller. He explained similar experiences growing up. His insights helped me journey through the reality of growing up without a dad. One of the biggest insights I walked out with was to view God as my father. Once I started living like that, things in my life changed. It’s not like everything I did turn to gold but my mindset changed.

The Bible describes God as a loving father. Parts of the Bible display God lovingly taking care of His children. It also shows God blessing His kids. The Bible also says that Jesus came to give us the best life possible. Aside from blessing our spiritual life, I also believe blessings include money, success, relationship status, etc. God is FOR us, He loves us. He wants us to succeed. Maybe it’s time we start believing that too. God has more for me than I’ll ever understand. No matter how much I think I know how much God loves me, I’m wrong every time. He loves me more than I can imagine. Same is true for you. God has more for me to experience and mature into and is waiting for me to take that next right step.

Heather and I had been married for 2 and a half years when I discovered a check from our wedding. We never cashed it or deposited it. I debated if I should deposit it or not. Ultimately I didn’t. I wasted the potential of the check because I didn’t take my next right step in time. I delayed and in doing so wasted the potential that was given me.

If we spend time wallowing in our sorrows and wishing things would happen to us, we’ll waste the potential given to us.

Number 3. Fake it until you make it.

At the root of jealousy is the reality that you can’t or won’t celebrate the success of other people. You may not believe that God wants you to succeed, get the promotion, have the six-pack abs or have flowers delivered. If you need to, re-read Number 2 above.

In order to fight envy, however, I have found that celebrating other people is crucial in order to find the hope. You can overcome envy. You can experience the desired outcome you’re looking for. So, if you need to fake it, fake it. To genuinely fake it, start with a golf clap if you need to and work your way up to the full-on loud clap and cheer. I have found this has literally loosened the chains of envy that slipped around my heart. Believing that God will transform my heart for others and help me celebrate others is a great start to making it a reality.

Final thought on envy… Envy is something that we believe will help us feel better. In reality, it’s toxic to us. No one else knows that you’re envious. Being envious is kind of like drinking poison hoping that it hurts the other person. Put the poison down and experience freedom! God is for you and He wants you to succeed!

Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash