Friday, December 6, 2013

persistence pays off

Yesterday we celebrated 50 Speaker Series events - a milestone for me as I began the College of Business Speaker Series in October of 2006 with Michael Willard (then Executive Director of Austin Habitat for Humanity) as our speaker and about 30 people in the audience.  The series has come a long way to where we now average about 150 people each time (a mix of students, faculty, staff and community) with speakers such as Drayton McLane, Huston Street, and Sherron Watkins.  The mix of local (and sometimes national) people continues to amaze and humble me as I get the chance to interview some of the coolest people in the world.

One of the questions asked me yesterday (I was interviewed by Concordia alumnus Stephen Kreher) dealt with how the Speaker Series has grown, and the answer included the idea of PERSISTENCE.   For the first two years, we seldom had more than 30-35 people in the auditorium, and trying to get students and faculty to attend was one of the hardest parts of the job.  There were times I wondered if it was worth it, and whether or not I should keep trying to do this type of event. Along with encouragement from others (and the fact that my faculty started to require students to attend), we began to see growth in the attendance and an energy that kept it moving forward.  Jim Collins talks about the "flywheel" concept where it takes a long time to push the flywheel very slowly and with very little visible movement forward, and then - at just the right time - it starts moving on its own and all you need to do is give it a slight nudge now and then to keep it moving forward.  That's an apt description of our Speaker Series over the years.

Leaders need to keep this idea in mind as they introduce new ideas and work to change the culture of an organization.  It feels at the beginning like you are working so hard and seeing such few feels like you are the only one doing things that feels that it might be easier to stop making changes since noting seems to be feels as if no one else really cares...if feels as if you were to stop doing those type of things today, no one would notice. AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, you look around and behold that you are working not quite so hard and seeing more results...that more and more people are doing things that matter... that more things are happening and others are making changes...that people really do care...and that if you stopped doing these things, people would wonder what happened.  The flywheel is moving by itself!

I'm not sure how one learns persistence or if it comes naturally to some and not to others.  Great athletes know about know about it...writers know about it...and so many others who exhibit excellence in their fields know about it.  In leadership, persistence is probably most important when you are trying to change a culture.  Culture shift never happens overnight - it takes saying and doing the same things over and over until they become part of "how we do things around here."  My encouragement is to:

  • stay at it
  • never give up
  • keep going
  • never give up
  • don't lose zeal
  • never give up
  • keep hoping for the best
  • never give up
  • stay positive
  • never give up
  • do it one more time (and then do it again one more time)
  • never give up

Friday, November 22, 2013

teaching leadership

Last night I had the opportunity to work with one of The Concordia MBA cohorts in San Antonio guiding them in the process of learning about leadership.  This group is in the middle of  the Leadership:Self class and I was invited to come down from Austin to "guest lecture."  I put those words in italics because I did anything but lecture as they got to talk much more than I did - and I was  learning right along with them.  By the end of the evening (which was around 10:0 PM) we had become friends and colleagues on a journey of learning about leadership together.  Here's what happened:

  • they had read some great writings about leadership characteristics, failure in leadership, and using one's strengths in leadership - the readings gave us theory and context in which to talk about deep things
  • they were a small group that allowed everyone to talk in depth about the readings and their personal experiences
  • they had been together for awhile (The Concordia MBA uses a cohort style of learning) and had developed trust in which they could go deeper in their sharing and learning
  • they had done some reflective work ahead of time, both in the form of journaling as well as their Passionography assignment, giving them something on which to base their dialogue
  • they had read about and practiced the power of DIALOGUE and how that type of interaction is so much better than mere discussion
  • they had sought feedback on themselves from others through their Passionography assignment, allowing them to more fully reflect on their personal leadership
  • they had developed trust among them, knowing that when they shared personal "stuff" it would remain with the group and there would be no judging
  • they cam from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, all of which made for a very rich conversation among them
  • I asked a lot of questions, let them talk, then guided them in thinking deeper about what they had just said by asking more questions
  • I used my experience and knowledge to merely add to their experience and knowledge
  • I allowed them to teach me - my "aha's" during the evening only added to their "aha's"
  • they were humble in their learning process, knowing that they had a long way to go in this journey of learning about leadership
As you look at that list, consider how you might help others develop their leadership potential - what kind of environment can you create so others can grow? what kind of readings can you give to them? how do you pull together a group of willing learners? do you approach the group with a learning attitude of your own? how can you help people reflect deeply so they better understand themselves? what type of work assignments can you give that help develop leadership?  do you engage in dialogue or discussion with others?  finally, what have you done to grow in your personal leadership - how are you a different/better leader today than you were last year?

Kudos to Dr. Charita Ray-Blakely for her leadership of this class and of The Concordia MBA program in San Antonio...kudos to Dr. Linda Ford who helped shape and build The Concordia MBA to include this type of class...kudos to Roger Clark, admissions specialist at the Concordia San Antonio Center for recruiting this great group of students...and kudos to each of the students in this cohort who gave of themselves for two hours last night so that they - AND I - could learn more about leadership...and about ourselves.

Friday, November 8, 2013

what it takes to motivate others

I knew that title would grab you...everyone wants to know how to motivate other people.  Bosses want to motivate employees...teachers want to motivate students...parents want to motivate children...husbands want to motivate wives (and vice-versa).  So I am going to reveal in my blog to day the one thing you can do to motivate others toward top performance...and here it is:


That's right, you can do nothing to motivate anyone else.  You can only motivate yourself.  Everyone has the choice to do or not to do.  I consistently watch students choose to do their best work or not...choose to engage in class or not...choose to attend class or not.  It is their choice and there is nothing I can do to make that choice for them.

That being said, leaders have the opportunity everyday to create the environment and culture in which others will choose to do the right thing and motivate themselves into top performance.  The literature is full of what people need to be self-motivated (one of my favorite books on this subject is Daniel Pink's DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us).  If we as managers and leaders take this information to heart, it is not hard to create the right environment in which those we lead and manage can perform at their very best - and will choose to do so on a regular basis.

Yesterday I sat in on a class that is led by Dr. Shane Sokoll, one of our faculty here at Concordia University Texas.  Shane is one of those teachers who is always trying something new and working hard to engage students in the teaching and learning process.  For this class (Principles of Management) he walked in the first day, told the students what the learning objectives were for the course, then asked them to develop what they were going to do to best learn and master the concepts and ideas that led to those outcomes.  Mind you, he did this with fear and trepidation as he was giving up control over what would happen on a day-to-day basis in the course.  Without going into a lot of detail, the students choose to present to each other a series of manager development workshops which they would create and teach to each other.  I watched a presentation on employee motivation - and let me tell you, these students were motivated!  Dr. Sokoll sat back and did NOTHING for 45 minutes of the class other than take notes on what was happening so he could debrief with everyone afterwards.  The students were engaged, they were learning, they had fun - and they OWNED the teaching and learning experience.

So...what does this mean for us as leaders and managers in our own places?  Obviously, Dr. Sokoll did not do nothing - he worked hard to create the right environment and culture in which the students would motivate themselves to do a great job and to own their learning...he worked hard to wrap his head around the idea that he did not need to be in charge of the classroom all the time...he worked hard to listen and watch so that he could provide proper feedback which would motivate the students even more...he worked hard to not jump in and "fix" things when they did not go according to plan...and he continues to work hard in maintaining this culture and environment which is different for him and for his students.

So look around - ask yourself what type of environment and culture is needed for those who work with you to do their very best - talk with people to see what will matter - give them options as to how they will own their outcomes - and then let them go.  You will be surprised that in order to motivate others, you just have to sit back and do NOTHING.

Friday, November 1, 2013

the hiddenness of leadership

I am currently attending the Faith & Learning Symposium at Baylor University, an event I have been wanting to attend for the past several years.  Sponsored by their Institute for Faith & Learning, this year's Symposium is focusing on the work of Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Philosopher who is often referred to as the father of existentialism.  Kierkegaard grew up as a Lutheran and much of his thinking and writing reflects this worldview...I think that is probably why he resonates so much with me.

One of Kierkegaard's ideas revolves around the hiddenness of Christianity - that the Christian lives his or her life hiding their faith (so it, in and of itself, does not become the good work which creates pride) and lives out their faith in serving others because it is the right thing to do. ***quick caveat...I am by no means a Kierkegaard expert (not even a novice yet) so I might be wrong...please bear with me.

As I listened to the speakers talk about Kierkegaard and this concept of hiddenness, I began to reflect on a concept that dealt with the hiddenness of leadership.  The great paradox of leadership is that once you have to tell people you are a leader, you are no longer a leader.  I am not a leader because I say so...or because others put me into a leadership position...or because there is a nameplate on my door that says "leader."  I am a leader because what I do causes others to want to follow.  

Many of my colleagues will say to me, "I'm not a leader" when clearly they are...people listen to them, they respect them, they follow them - and that makes them a leader.  Others I know declare, "I'm a leader" and when I look around the room, no one is listening to them, respecting them, or following them.  While their words and actions are not hidden from others, they also are not leading.

So what does it mean (and what does it look like) when your leadership is hidden?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • I don't talk about titles, I talk about roles
  • I don't micro-manage, I set up a culture in which others can manage themselves
  • I don't refer to myself with a title, I use my given name
  • I don't sit at the head of the table, I sit in and among my colleagues
  • I am not the center of attention, I give others the opportunity to be the center of attention
  • I don't refer to myself as a leader, but I do see myself as a leader
  • I don't speak about achieving my personal goals, I help others achieve their goals
  • I don't tell others how to lead, I invite them into a dialogue about leadership
  • I don't try to make others lead like me, I encourage them to bring their whole selves into a leadership role
  • I don't talk about positions that are higher or lower, I speak to the way we work together to accomplish the goals and mission
  • I don't talk about what I have done, I talk about the accomplishment of the mission
I think you get the idea.  This is not as easy a task as it might seem, especially when you feel as if you are no longer being recognized for your work and leadership.  The temptation will be to stand up and say in a loud voice, "Hey, look at me - remember that I am the leader!"  I encourage you (and I remind myself) to keep leadership hidden, remembering that this is my calling...this is my vocation...and as a good friend of mine reminded me this week, my calling and vocation from God is irrevocable.  Therefore I must lead, and I must do so in a way that brings glory to God and serves the neighbor..and I must do so in a way that my leadership never gets in the way of leading.

Friday, October 18, 2013

be still...

Everyone loves a "man of action," one who is getting things accomplished, who is on the go, and is making things happen.  More appointments...more contacts...more visits...more deals...more???????  And yet, there is that quiet voice in our minds that says "be still."  In the Christian Bible, Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  The Tao Te Ching says in chapter 47 "The sage does not go, yet he knows; he does not look, yet he sees; he does not do, yet all is done."  What is it about this paradox that seems so compelling - and what has happened in our culture that celebrates the DOING and demeans the STILLNESS?
There are often times I am seen with my feet on my desk and staring into space.  A colleague might stop in and have a 30 minutes conversation with me about life.  I take the time to wander the halls and see who I run into.  I am probably at my best when I have a cup of coffee in my hand and a colleague is sitting across from me discussing the goings on around campus.  Am I working?  Am I learning?  Am I thinking? or am I just BEING STILL?
How many times do we find ourselves in these type of situations and when we are finished say to ourselves or to those around us, "Its time to get back to work."  There is a certain guilt many of us have when we do not have our nose to the grindstone and working feverishly at accomplishing a task.  And yet, especially for those who are in a leadership position, the times to be still are some of the best times we are given.  Here's why:
  • to be still is to to clear the mind and open it up for better thinking
  • to be still is to allow for creative ideas to emerge
  • to be still is to to acknowledge that God is God and we are not
  • to be still is to wait for the right answer to emerge
  • to be still is to allow for disparate pieces of the puzzle to come together
  • to be still is to wait for others to emerge and use their gifts
  • to be still is to acknowledge the presence of others
  • to be still is to refresh and re-create oneself for the next task at hand
  • to be still is to enjoy the gifts of God's creation that he has given us
  • to be still is to revel in joy and laughter with others
  • to be still is to rely on God and let Him act on your behalf
  • to be still is to remember that life actually goes on without us
So take the time today to be relax and laugh and to listen and create and allow others to be in charge...and to rely once again on that power which is greater than you.  Enjoy your time of working hard by being still!

Friday, September 27, 2013

the books you read

This past Tuesday, I had the honor to be invited to speak to a group of church planters at the 5:2 wikiconference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Katy, Texas.  My friend and colleague Mark Junkans, Executive Director of LINC-Houston, asked me to come and speak to a group of people on the topic of "Taking your leadership to the next level."  Rather than give the group "five ways to improve your leadership" I shared with them two concepts in which they could invest that could dramatically change their leadership - and their lives: 1) the books they read and 2) the people they talked with.  I promised them that I would list the 30 books I shared with them on this blog, so that is what this will be - thirty texts that could dramatically change the way one sees the world...the way one interacts with the world...the way one leads others...the way one sees themselves...and the way one sees God.  We ended the conversation with the idea that to really learn from these texts, readers needed to approach them with an attitude of learning, a willingness to embrace questions, the practice of patience, and with true humility.  Just as God calls each of us to vocations to serve the neighbor, so he gave each of these thinkers and writers the gifts in which they could share great ideas and thoughts with others through the written that we - hundreds or thousands of years later - might be better in our vocations.  I encourage you to consider these works of literature and philosophy...I encourage you to take them up and work through them...I encourage you to read them with your leadership lenses...I encourage you to let them speak into your lives...and I encourage you to allow them to shape and mold you to become the leader God has intended you to be.

10 books that changed the world:

The Analects – Confucius
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
The Iliad and the Odyssey – Homer
Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
Confessions – Augustine
Lives - Plutarch
The Divine Comedy – Dante
The Prince – Machieveli
The Wealth of Nations – Smith
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Kuhn

10 works of philosophy every leader should read:

Meditations – Descartes
Critique of Pure Reason – Kant
Genealogy of Morals – Neitzsche
Fear and Trembling - Kierkegaard
Truth and Method – Gadamar
Varieties of Religious Experience – James
Sources of the Self – Taylor
Being and Nothingness – Sartre
After Virtue – Macintyre
Discipline and Punishment – Foucault

10 novels that are important to read:

Don Quixote – Cervantes
War and Peace – Tolstoy
Anna Karenina – Tolstoy
Moby Dick – Melville
The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
Jane Eyre – Bronte
Bleak House - Dickens
The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Marquez
Short Stories of Flannery O'Conner – O’Conner

Sunday, September 15, 2013

lessons from Scott

A little over a week ago, I attended the funeral of a friend – a recent friend – who suddenly died at the young age of 41.  I was introduced to Scott Robinson about 18 months ago, and had kept up a conversation with him over that time that enriched my life…and the lives of others.  Scott was a connector, and he inspired me to connect him with others in my circle of friends and acquaintances.  The week he died, I received several messages that said something to the effect of “I don’t know if you heard, but since Scott connected us, I wanted you to know…” or “I just heard about Scott – thanks for connecting us.”  Those who spoke at his funeral kept referring to his love for people, his love for ideas, and his love for coffee (I think all of his meetings were at Starbucks).  As I have reflected this past week on why Scott had such an impact on many of us, I realized that he taught me a lot during a very short time.  Here are the lessons I learned from Scott:
  • Be a connector – Scott’s mission was to connect someone to someone else EVERY day
  • Everyone is worth a cup of coffee – Scott would meet with anyone who came across his path; it did not matter their title or status in life
  •  Embrace new ideas – the last time I met with Scott he introduced me to the concept of gondolas as a way of public transportation in the Austin region…really!
  •  Love your kids – Scott ALWAYS told me about his now 8 year-old twins and the adventures they would have together
  •  Expect great things out of people – Scott’s ability to believe in individuals and their ideas inspired me to do great things
  • Believe in the next generation – Scott was heavily involved in TEDx Youth here in Austin, an event that I hope will continue into the future
  • Embrace family – while not learned directly from him, his sister spoke of this at the funeral and was a good reminder to mend fences while you can
  • Be a dreamer – Scott always believed things would get better and was always looking for people who would work with him on making the world a better place
  • Root for the underdog – Scott was a big fan of the Houston Astros, even if they were consistently bad year after year, reminding me that even losers deserve our attention.
And so it is…I already miss Scott, and his memory will love on with the multitudes of people who knew him and whom he connected with others.  Several times last week I sat in my favorite Starbucks and reminisced about our meetings there.  I am a better person today because of having known Scott Robinson.  So TODAY, determine who that special person is in your life, get together with them this week, and thank them for the influence they have had on you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

who's sitting at your table?

Last night I spent time visiting various classes in our Business School, and had the opportunity to sit in on a Business & Public Policy class, a Managerial Economics class, an Integrated Marketing Communications class, and a Strategic Decision Making class.  As I watched and listened, my mind kept going to how the different ideas being presented and talked about affected what I do on a daily basis as well as the strategic decisions being made by my organization.  For example:

  • what is the economic profit or loss for Concordia with each decision being made?
  • what could Concordia spend money to make money where others aren't?
  • when making marketing decisions, does Concordia focus on product - or placement - or position - or???
  • if Concordia had unlimited funds, where would it use them to ensure long term sustainability?
All important questions - and all questions which probably don't get asked unless you have an expert in certain areas sitting at the table when strategic decisions are being made.  Where is the economist?  Where is the professional marketer?  Where is the financial guru?  Where is the psychologist?  Where is the environmentalist?  Where is the academician?  Where is the historian?  Where is the theologian?  Where is the _______________? The truth is that no one of us is an expert in all of these fields...and yet, many of the choices being made on our campus need this type of thinking in the strategic decision making process.  How might that be accomplished?  Here are a few ideas:
  • Increase the size of your table - bring more people into the decision making process
  • Rotate the seats at the table - bring different people at different times for different decisions
  • Have multiple tables - create groups around the organization to speak toward the decisions being made
  • Invite strangers to the table - bring in outside experts who do not necessarily know the organization but are experts in their fields
  • Create conflict at the table - have people defend their ideas to one another, asking lots of hard questions
  • Change up the guests at the table - new faces bring new ideas
  • Rotate seats at the table - have people wear different hats and support different views
  • Learn together at the table - when was the last time you invited those at the table to read something outside of their field of expertise (for that matter, when was the last time you invited them to read anything at all?)
  • Laugh together at the table - if you're not having fun, the brain is not completely functioning
  • Pray together at the table - giving space and time for quietness, reflection, and dependence on someone other than yourselves helps to create a humble confidence in the group
So take a look at the people seated around your table - who are they? what disciplines do they represent? are they the right people? are they in the right seats? who else needs to be invited? what can you, as the host/leader do to ensure that the decision making process is fresh, complete, and provides strength and energy for your organization?  and are you enjoying the company of those who have joined you at the table?  All questions we as leaders need to keep asking...

Friday, August 30, 2013

allowing other to determine the questions

This past Wednesday was our first day of school, and as always I began my Introduction to Business class having students color.  As students walk into class, they have in front of them a coloring sheet (art masterpieces) and a box of crayons.  I enter the room a few minutes late, and there they sit, staring at the sheet of paper and the crayons.  I invite them to begin coloring, let them do so for about 10-12 minutes, then begin the discussion.

This year, when the coloring was finished, I simply put up one word on the screen - WHY?  The first class (7:30 AM...a hardy bunch of students) immediately asked "why what?"  I did not answer the question for them, but they decided that the question they were to answer (they had been directed to write down the answer on a piece of paper) was "why did Dean Christian have us color?"  They actually figured out the question that was in my mind, and after they wrote answers, shared answers in groups and we discussed the answers in class, there was a lot we learned about business - and life - from coloring in class (you can ask me about that later).

I went through the same procedure in the second class period (beginning promptly at 8:30 AM) and this time the class (40 students strong) did not ask "why what?" but immediately began writing down their answers on the piece of paper in front of them.  I smiled to myself, wondering what would become of this.  I asked them to get in groups of four, determine which was the question they were answering, and to determined their groups answer.  What a difference!  The questions ranged from "why color" to "why college" to "why business" to "why not."  The dialogue was phenomenal as the class explored the meta question of why each individual would approach the WHY question differently.

So here was my take many times do we as leaders (teachers, parents, bosses, etc) control the conversation just because we get to ask the question?  Do I ask a specific question because it is important to me?  Do I ask a specific question because I assume it is important to others?  Do I ask a specific question because I want a group to consider my agenda?  Do I ask a specific question because I haven't yet thought of another question to ask?  I teach my classes that the smartest person in the room is the one with the most questions...maybe I should teach that the most powerful person in the room is the one who gets to ask the questions.

Asking questions is important because it can move a group forward.  Sometimes the first question is merely a launching pad for what will follow.  People often ask questions because they genuinely do not know what to do next.  So imagine for a moment what it would be like, as a leader, to leave the questions up to the group, where they get to set the agenda for the meeting, the class, the day, or even the organization.  What I watched happen with the second group of students is that they began to own the discussion - and I think that happened because they owned the questions.

I believe that within any given situation there are a variety of questions to be asked, all of which are important to the dialogue that will follow (I almost typed the word "answer" rather than "dialogue" - that would have been a mistake since the dialogue is more important than the least in most situations).  Our role as leaders is to create the space that gives people the freedom to ask and explore different questions...meaningful questions...real questions...personal questions...deep questions.  And I believe that the more we do that, the better the questions will be as time goes on...and the better the dialogue will be that follows the questions...and that the answers arrived at will provide the organization a better platform with which to move ahead.

Friday, August 16, 2013

three little words

This past Monday evening in The Concordia MBA class I was teaching we talked about three little words:

I asked the students to think to themselves whether or not each of the words had a positive or negative connotation for them, and then had them move to one side of the room or another.  As you might be able to guess, the class was mostly split for each of the words, and it mostly had to do with the experiences they have had in their lives.  A negative concept of conflict can come from how one's family deals with it in their homes, or how one's supervisor at work handles it; a negative concept of politics emerges when one gets caught in a trap or feels manipulated by others who use political action for personal gain; and a negative concept of power comes about when one witnesses or is personally harmed by one who abuses power, whether that be someone at work, at church  or in the home.

I chose these three words to dialogue around as a result of having the class read both Ronald Heifitz's The Practice of Adaptive Leadership and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  Heifitz encourages his readers to act politically to get things accomplished and to actually orchestrate conflict so as to surface the important issues within a group setting.  MLK's letter (which several of them admitted to crying as they read it) brought to the surface how one can use these three ideas in a manner that can bring about positive change.  It was fun to watch the students wrestle with their own understanding of these words and help them remove value from them and see them as tools to use in their leadership.

So what do these three words have to do with one's own leadership?  Here is a quick run at my belief around these words (which will tell you as much about me as it does the words):
  • POWER - this can either be positional power (president, CEO, mother, pastor, etc) or referential power (you have it because others have given it to you)...if you have it, use it! careful not to abuse it...the more you give away, the more you get...use it sparingly...understand that it comes and goes quickly (even if you are in a position of power, you still may not have it)
  • POLITICS - this is more about "acting politically" which means creating friends, alliances, transactions, and relationships...there is a time for "you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back...use it for the greater in a mechanism for checks and balances...surround yourself with people who are smarter than you (and listen to them)...don't be afraid to ask people for help
  • CONFLICT - you may want to re-frame the word to make it easier to swallow(heated dialogue) can soften it by asking questions rather than making statements...bring it out in the open and be willing to listen to an opposing comfortable with the idea that not all conflict gets resolved...teach people in your organization how to engage in healthy conflict...always remember that you might be wrong...encourage everyone around the table to speak...get rid of Robert's Rules of Order...remember that conflict in the room is better than conflict in the parking lot
There you have it - three little words that can make or break one's leadership, depending on how they view the ideas and how they embrace them in their day to day living.  What are YOUR thoughts on these words?

Friday, August 9, 2013

caring enough to care

I had the privilege yesterday of visiting the Marbridge in Austin where adults who are developmentally challenged live and work.  This amazing place cares for people ages 18-90 who for whatever reason need assistance in their development toward independent living.  What I witnessed was a group of people who truly CARE for others and who give their all to make this pace a reality.  I was especially impressed with their President and CEO James Stacey who gave up a lucrative career in sales to run this place because he knew that this was his life's calling.  As I left Marbridge, I knew that I had witnessed a group of people who "cared enough to care."

So what does that have to do with leadership?  I would posit that it is the essence of leadership, and that when one "cares enough to care" they will do something spectacular and bring others along with them on the journey...and if they are serious about their leadership, they will then "care enough to care" about the people with whom they work.Each of us knows people like this - and each of us know what it looks like though we may be hard pressed to describe it.  So here goes my shot at trying to put into words what it means to "care enough to care" when you are in a leadership position:

  • Be on time...respect people enough to be early to meetings and have everything prepared
  • Be aware...look up and see if those around you are with you or not
  • Be inquisitive...ask others how they are feeling about certain subjects and then take the time to listen
  • Be sensitive...understand that not everyone feels or believes the same way you do
  • Be optimistic...even when you don't feel that way
  • Be encouraging...even if that person needs directions for the fourth or fifth time
  • Be demanding...don't settle for less than what is expected - from others AND from yourself
  • Be thoughtful...take the time to think deeply and engage in deep conversation with others
  • Be extravagant...instead of the regular $25 gift card from Starbucks, give them a $250 gift certificate to the local spa or resort
  • Be patient...not everyone gets it as quickly as you do
  • Be hopeful...people need to know that life will get better
  • Be strong,,,sometimes others need a champion to move their ideas forward
  • Believe...that those around you are as capable - or more capable - than you
What happens when you "care enough to care?"  I believe that the world changes for those around you...and for you personally.  Suddenly, not everything is so bad....suddenly, people seem to do their jobs better...suddenly, you are more productive...suddenly, you become the hero of the group...suddenly, the organization get better...suddenly, people care more about you.

It's really not that hard; AND it's very hard to make this a part of who you are.  The challenge for those in leadership roles is that the above actions are really and truly who you are, and not just a means toward an end.  When caring becomes manipulative, it ceases to be caring, and we are merely "caring enough to get the job done."  It's only when we "care enough to care" that lives - and organizations - are transformed to be all they can be and all that God intended them to be...and that can make all the difference in the world.

Friday, July 26, 2013

called to disrupt

Lately I have been considering the role of leaders in disrupting the status quo...when does one decide to do so? when is the right time to do so? and what is the end result that would make the disruption worth the cost?  Leaders are the ones who ask the hard questions...Leaders are the ones who always believe things can be better...Leaders believe they can make things happen (and often have the resources to do so)...Leaders are seldom satisfied with the status quo, especially when that status quo is harmful to others and the organization.  So when is the right time to stand up, speak out, and disrupt?

Being Lutheran my entire life, I grew up learning the story of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg because he believed it was time for a public debate on what the church believed.  He had done his homework...he had talked with others...he had contemplated the outcomes...and then began to disrupt the status quo.  Because of his actions, he was brought before the Council and asked to recant what he had said and written.  His famous line still resounds in my head: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.  God help me."  And with that, a reformation was birthed that changed the church...and the world.

Many, many, many years later, an aging woman was tired...tired of the long walk she had that day; tired of the way she had been treated for many years; and tired of a system that dehumanized black people.  So she sat down in the front of the bus.  Rosa Parks was so tired, she chose to disrupt the system.  Unlike Luther standing her ground, she sat down and refused to move, despite the pressure of those around her.And with that simple action, a movement was birthed that changed her life, changed the life of her fellow travelers, and changed the life of this nation.

Disruption is difficult, for the following reasons:
  • it puts one out of their comfort zone
  • the end result is unknown
  • it could lead to loss (income, friends, life)
  • it takes an extreme amount of courage
  • others may not follow
  • it is often not seen (at least in the present moment) as the right things to do
  • people will brand you as a trouble maker
  • it is sometimes difficult to put into words (even when you know it is the right thing to do)
So when is the right time for the leader to stand up (or sit down) and disrupt?  I do not know.  It might be when you have collected enough evidence to know that a continuance of the status quo can only lead to might be when enough people have had may be when danger lays ahead and someone has to may be when you are so angry that you have to do something...and it may be when you are so tired that you can do nothing else but disrupt.  My encouragement to you (and to myself) is to tread carefully, gather the facts, wrestle with the idea of whether you are disrupting for your own good or the common good, gather a group to join you if possible, and then act.  And when acting do not look back, because the disruption will have already begun and there will be little you can do to start again.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

my Maine reading maration

As many of you know, each summer I get to spend four weeks in Maine with my wife, and that the highlight for me is the time I get to read...and read...and read.  All year long I put aside books I want to read in Maine, then ship them up ahead of time.  One of our great joys is going to the post office, getting the box of books, opening it up, and then beginning the reading marathon.  When we return, everyone's first question is "so what did you read?"  Below is my list of books read during that stretch.  I will refrain from commenting on them at this point; while there was no theme going into the vacation, several did emerge throughout my time there.  Enjoy the list - and enjoy reading some of them.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
The Stranger by Albert Camus
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson
Baseball as a Road to God by John Sexton
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabell Wilkerson
Red, White, and Muslim by Asma Hasan
Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature by Joseph Badaracco
Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
The Path to Power by Robert Caro
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edward Coddington

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
The Book of Job
The Book of Lamentations
The Book of Amos
The Tao Te Ching

The view from my reading chair...

Friday, July 12, 2013


I am back from my yearly month-long sabbatical in Maine where the weather was cool, the books were plentiful, the time with my wife was incredible, and the food was delicious.  All of which is to say that we are already counting the days until next year's trip...


  • It changes one's mindset: I feel better about myself and what I do
  • You learn you are not dispensable and others learn they can make decisions
  • You  fall in love with your spouse all over again


  • Path to Power by Robert Caro - detailing the beginning of Lyndon Johnson's Life (through 1942) and explains how to use power and influence to make things happen
  • Question of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature by Joseph Badaracco - explores the deeper (REALLY DEEP) questions of how one can raise their level of leadership through inner exploration (by using great literature as a resource)
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - this newest novel by one of Japan's great writers explores relationships, vocation, religion, ethical decisions (and a host of other topics) through a story that will keep you engaged and wondering how it all ends...until the end (which is 1135 pages later - and worth every minute of it!)


  • GAME OF THRONES (HBO) - we got through season 1 and loved the intrigue, the familial relationships, and the play between the different characters.  A great way to spend summer evenings when only re-runs are on
  • HOUSE OF CARDS (NETFLIX) - not only is Kevin Spacey his regular slimy (and amazing) self, this show exposes how politics really works (for good and bad) and how to use influence to make things happen (see Lyndon Johnson above)
  • THE NEWSROOM (HBO) - fell in love with this show but am now unable to watch CNN, HLN, MSNBC, or FOX NEWS.  Will McAvoy (as played by Jeff Daniels) is my new hero - and the the relationships are wonderfully fun to watch and follow
NEXT WEEK...the complete list of books read (for those of you who might be curious)

Friday, May 24, 2013

finding voice

I was visiting the San Antonio cohort of The Concordia MBA this past Tuesday - a group that is getting ready to graduate in August - and began asking them questions about their experience in our program.  As we began to go deeper into the conversation, one young lady, upon being asked what the most significant things was was for her int he program, responded with, "I found my voice."  Now I don't know about you, but that reply got me all choked up.  In creating The Concordia MBA, we knew it was important to teach business skills...we knew it was important to for students to have the various tools called for in making decisions...AND we knew it was important to create leaders.  What greater gift to have as a leader than to FIND ONE'S VOICE?

The importance of finding one's voice lays in the fact that they can now have a seat at the table...they can now disagree without being disagreeable...they can now negotiate for a better outcome...they can now speak with passion and conviction...they now know they can make a difference.  You are probably aware of those around who have not yet found their voice...or are not even sure they have a voice.  They remain quiet...they speak random thoughts that do not seem to carry any weight...they are often at the sides of the conversations...and they are ever doubting themselves in their decision making.  These are not bad people - nor are they incompetent people...they have merely not yet found their voice.

As leaders and managers of others, I believe it is our responsibility to help those around us find their own voices.  This does not come naturally, but rather comes about as a series of ever expanding opportunities and encouragements.  Here is my list of how you (and I) can help others FIND THEIR VOICE:

  • during meetings, find a place and time for everyone to speak their thoughts out loud
  • when one makes a comment, ask them to elaborate more on what they have just said
  • if one talk too much and rambles, ask them to be more concise
  • put people into teams and let them work together
  • process, process, process with people - ask them WHY? over and over again
  • put people in front of other people
  • put people in uncomfortable (yet safe) situations and encourage them to try something new
  • ask people to put their ideas into words - writing memos and documents are a good thing
  • remind your team about the power of introverts - and give those people the space and time to speak
  • just because you can talk doesn't mean you should...let the team have the floor
  • encourage, encourage, encourage - when someone does something wonderful and exciting, go to them and tell them the difference they made
  • encourage, encourage, encourage - when someone says something out of the box or provocative, go to them and let them know you value their ideas
  • make meetings a safe place to share ideas, no matter how off the wall
  • give people new skills - the more they know the easier it becomes to have a voice
Roger Hemminghaus, the former CEO of Diamond Shamrock Oil and Gas, told me this week that the way he learned his voice was that his first company, Exxon, gave him multiple assignments that would STRETCH & EXPOSE him to new ideas and new projects.  He called it one of the greatest times of his life.  For him, that meant traveling the world and having ever increasing responsibilities.  For those around you, it may mean   taking someone on a call with you, giving someone a different assignment for a short time, letting someone come to a Board meeting to talk about their newest project, assigning a mentor to a person, or simply asking someone to read something outside of their field and then having a discussion about it with them.  

For me, hearing this young lady say, "I found my voice" was one of the great moments in my life.  I had a hand in creating a program that not only taught skills and ideas, but literally changed someone's life.  This young lady is a different person - no, a better person - because she has FOUND HER VOICE...and that makes all the difference in the world!

Friday, May 10, 2013

the big purpose

During my morning prayer time today, I came across a prayer by Walter Brueggmann in his book Prayers for a Privileged People which talked about our BIG PURPOSE.  The prayer, which is entitled "Swept to Big Purposes," reminds us that we care called to make a difference in the world, and that the difference is made when we are different.  Here is the prayer in its entirety:

You call and we have a vocation.
You send and we have an identity
You accompany us and we are swept to big purposes:
chosen race, royal priesthood, your own people, receiving mercy.

But we, in our restlessness,
do not want to be so peculiar.

We would rather be like the others,
eager for their wealth - their wisdom - their power.
Eager to be like them -
comfortable, beautiful, young, free.

We yearn to be like the others,
and you make us odd and peculiar and different.

Grant that we may find joy in our baptism,
freedom in our obedience,
delight in our vocation.

The same joy, freedom, and delight
that so marked our Lord
whom we follow into oddness.

As I finish typing out that prayer, I am again struck by the power in the words that call us to be different and to make a difference in the world...and it is within that difference that we find our calling and vocation...and it is within that calling and vocation that we find our delight and joy.  There are many days I wonder what "difference" I can make - will make - am making in the world.  I catch a glimpse of it at times as I watch people's lives change and as they head into their own callings and vocations, ready to make a difference.  There are many stories I can tell where this has become a reality for me...and yet I always seem to want more.  There is a part of me (and I am sure a part of each of us) that yearns to be like the others,wanting the wealth, wisdom and power that comes with title, position and prestige.  And yet, we are made to be odd, peculiar, and different.

So as you consider your vocation - your unique calling - your big purpose, think about how you are making a difference by being different...and bask in the joy, freedom, and delight that is yours to enjoy!


Friday, April 26, 2013

what to say when there is nothing to say

That's right...when there is nothing to say, say nothing.

The end.

Friday, April 19, 2013

the best question ever

Those of you who follow me on this blog - or know me personally - understand that I like to ask questions...and that I like to ask questions that are difficult and thoughtful.  I am not sure where that comes from, but I have come to understand that the better questions one asks, the better answers one receives.  As a teacher, this is an important technique to assess whether or not students have comprehended the ideas in class...and as an administrator, this is an important technique to help my faculty and others around me consider our mission and vision at an even deeper level.

I have spent much of this past week doing exit interviews with graduating seniors in the hope that they will provide me with information that leads to an improvement in our program.  The best results from this type of interview come from good questions.  While I have a standard set of questions I ask everyone, there is always a moment in each of the interviews in which I have to pause and consider what the next question should be, because I know I am on the verge of getting an answer that will give me even better information.  In fact, most of the best questions I ask often come as a result of me having to pause and think for a few moments about what the next question will be.  Using the right words, the right tone of voice, and the right intention are all a part of shaping "the best question ever."

In a recent book I have been reading entitled Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, the authors have a section entitled "Intent Trumps Form" in which the reader is reminded to consider the intent of the question...what is the context in which the question is being asked?  what is the purpose behind the question?  what is it that we really want the student to consider when answering the question?  and what will the answer lead to next?  In the interviews noted above, I have to be careful that the students never feel as if I am trying to trap them or that I am looking for a specific answer, otherwise the answer will provide little or no useful information and the student will stop trusting the process.

So what is "the best question ever?"  My initial thought when beginning to think about this blog was that "the best question ever" would be a simple WHY?  The depth of asking WHY? is critical to helping others understand themselves and for getting an answer with which you can learn something.  But I think I have changed my mind...perhaps "the best question ever" is the one asked where 1) the inquirer has only the best intentions; 2) the inquirer has no preconceived notion of what the answer will or should be; 3) the inquirer cares enough about the one being asked to create a safe and trusting environment; and 4) there is always an option for the one being asked to not answer the question.

So start practicing asking "the best question ever."  It will not be will not be comfortable...and it will not be welcomed all the time - but it WILL make a difference in the answer you receive and in the life of the one being asked.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

when great minds collide

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to invite Dr. AndyNellie to teach for me in The Concordia MBA Personal Leadership course.  Andy and I met briefly about 3-4 years ago through an introduction by my President Tom Cedel.  We reconnected this past January, met again in February, and  immediately become good friends and colleagues.  As I sat watching him teach Tuesday evening, it became even clearer that we thought alike and were passionate about the same things.  The thought occurred to me that we had a “mind-meld” and that perhaps “great minds had collided.”  He had a great time teaching, I had a great time participating, and the students had a great time learning.

So what can happen when “great minds collide?”  Here are a few ideas:
-        You become more inspired to pursue your ideas even deeper
-        You come up with new ideas that you had never imagined
-        You sharpen your own thinking around ideas and concepts
-        You begin to share your own thinking with more people
-        You develop more questions to ask and pursue
-        Your come up with new solutions to old problems
-        You discard your bad thinking and replace it with better thinking
-        You become even more passionate around your causes
-        You acquire a new and improved reading list
-        You spend more time watching TED videos
-        You write better blogs (at least I hope so)

I often tell people that I have the best job in the world because I get to meet and hang out with some of the coolest people in Austin.  You have already met Andy Nellie…here are a few more: 
-        Scott Robinson
-        Rob Hutton
-        Joel Trammell
-        Deborah Leverett
-        Patti DeNucci
-        Doug Bain
-        Zay Collier
-        Ken Gladish
-        and the list could go on and on…

I don’t believe it is just enough to meet people for coffee to make great things happen.  In order for “great minds to collide” you as an individual need to do your part.  How can you help to make that happen?
-        Pick up the phone and call someone today
-        When someone says, “you should meet so and so,” go ahead and meet them
-        Learn to ask good questions
-        Listen deeply and build on what others say
-        Be more interested than interesting
-        Be willing to share your own thoughts and ideas
-        Be vulnerable – let others know who you really are
-        Be willing to help – ask what you can do for them
-        When someone recommends a book to read or video to watch, DO IT (whether or not you think you are interested in it)
-        Set up a second time to meet…the first time rarely does the trick
-        Connect them to someone else you think might be a good fit

So those are my ideas for today.  Not sure who I will get to meet today who will  inspire me and make me better.  But I bet there is someone out there…

Friday, April 5, 2013

what are they thinking?

Forgive me if this blog tends to sound whiny and comes off as self-serving...I will try to turn my ideas back on myself before I finish, but if I don't...well, you get the point.

I have been in numerous organizations...I have attended countless meetings...I have served under, with and for multiple bosses...I have had countless colleagues...and I am still amazed at the decisions people make, especially those who have been placed in leadership positions.  Why is it that people act in certain ways and make decisions that not only harm individuals and the organization, but are just wrong?  I have done my share of reading and studying about organizations, and I at least have a running idea on how decisions in organizations should be made.  And then I watch others make decisions and act on behalf of the organization, and I can only shake my head and wonder, "what are they thinking?"  My first inclination is to assume that if they knew better, they would act better.  My second inclination is to think that maybe there is an alternative motive (often not good) to their decision making.  And my third inclination is to wonder if they are just incompetent. The problem is that often times these are the smartest people in the room...they just have no clue how to manage and lead.  Here are a few thoughts as to why we wonder about others (and why others wonder about us), and ask the question "what are they thinking?"
  • They have risen to their level of incompetence (see The Peter Principle)
  • They have not made the transition from their former position to that of leader
  • They are unaware of their own shadow side
  • They are stressed and revert back to their instinctual behavior
  • They have never read deeply (or maybe at all) into the management and leadership literature
  • They are self-absorbed
  • They are more worried about their own position than that of others
  • They believe that because they have a title they have all the answers
  • They observed others making and being rewarded for similar types of decisions
  • They use the wrong set of measurements and metrics
  • They use the wrong lens through which to see and understand the organization they lead
  • They still believe that what got us here will get us there
  • They believe they are always right
Here's what I believe...if you are going to lead an organization, then the above items are non-negotiable to work on and get fixed.  We ALL suffer from the above...we ALL have several of the items that haunt and plague us...we ALL struggle to get the above items "right" on a consistent basis...AND we ALL have to get better at the above items if we are to lead and not have people consistently say to themselves "what are they thinking?"  I expect better from those who are called to lead...I expect leaders to be readers...I expect leaders to be learners...I expect leaders to find a good coach...I expect leaders to be listeners...I expect leaders to open themselves up to criticism...I expect leaders to be self-examiners...I expect leaders to leave their past jobs behind and embrace their new roles...I expect leaders to care more about the organization than they do themselves...I expect leaders to admit they are wrong...and I expect leaders to embrace the knowledge of the institution and its people when making decisions.  And if they do that, I no longer have to wonder, "what are they thinking?"  Instead I, and many others, will see them as geniuses and embrace their leadership, because they will be making much better decisions.

Friday, March 29, 2013

what's good about good friday?

There are few times I talk about my faith and spirituality in this blog, though I imagine it becomes evident in what and how I write on a weekly basis.  I am a BIG believer that people need to be able to bring their whole selves into the workplace...and what is more important to an individual than their spirituality, their world view, and their faith?  I think this happens best when 1) the organization creates the environment in which that can occur; and 2) the individual knows how to do that in a way that is right and proper.  All that being said, let me launch into this week's topic...

In the Christian tradition (and especially in the liturgical Christian tradition), this day is one of the highlights of the Christian walk.  We call is Good Friday, the day on which we remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  I have a friend who grew up in a non-liturgical tradition  and he would always wonder why the liturgical church puts so much energy and effort into this day when we really needed to only focus on Easter, that day in which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Well, the fact of the matter is you can't get to resurrection except through death.  And in the Christian tradition, it is only through that death that we receive life.  There is no resurrection without the death...therefore the death is incredibly important - and GOOD.  As a child growing up, this paradox was often explained to me through the example of the butterfly who would emerge from the cocoon as a result of the caterpillar dying.

Whether you believe this to be true or not, for me there is great power in understanding this concept and making it a part of my faith and spirituality.  My ability to believe this - completely and without doubt - also allows me to live with other paradoxes in my life...and in my organization.  There has been much written in the past decade about how leadership is enhanced through paradoxical thinking.  Truth is that I have never had a problem with this concept.  I can hold two seemingly illogical truths in my head at the same time and not go crazy...and it actually becomes a tool in which my creativity and problem solving is enhanced.  My spirituality and understanding of God takes my leadership to a higher level - not because God is blessing me (that concept is definitely NOT part of my theology) but because I can see the world through a set of lenses that is important to how I live out my work...and my life.

So I embrace GOOD FRIDAY - a day in which I and others throughout the world remember and celebrate death.  It is a quiet is a somber is a celebration that often occurs in a darkened room...but it is a celebration nonetheless.  When I celebrate death I also celebrate life - because death is a part of life.  And that is true in my faith...that is true in my own life...and that is true in my organization.

Friday, March 22, 2013

common language

This past Monday I had the opportunity to visit with people at a sister Concordia in Mequon, Wisconsin (just north of Milwaukee).  Similar to Concordia University Texas, this school reinvented itself about 30 years ago by moving and taking on a whole new identity. It has been tremendously successful and has provided a model for our school to look at and emulate in some ways.  My biggest lesson learned from my visit there was the importance of having a COMMON LANGUAGE.  While much of what is written on this subject deals with vision and culture, I learned about the importance of common language between departments and individuals so that work can be accomplished efficiently and effectively.

I visited with President Pat Ferry, COO Al Prochnow, VP of Academics Bill Cario, and Dean of Business David Borst - all great people who are doing cool things in Lutheran higher education.  But what struck me most was that they all talked the same language, especially when it came to decision making.  They had tools and processes by which they made decisions together.  I often see people making decisions based on the following:

  • the loudest voice getting what they
  • whether or not it will fit into the budget
  • what seems to be the most pressing need at the time
  • gut feelings
  • flowery language
  • bullying
I was impressed that they had a way of accounting for all programs so that they could make decisions on their viability to the institution, both in a financial sense and "must have" sense.  I was impressed that they had a system for hiring faculty that was based on a numerical number that made sense for both learning and financial reasons.  I was impressed that even though people looked at the world through different lenses, they were able to get along and make decisions quickly and in a manner that supported the mission of the institution.  And I was impressed that they all kept coming back to the mission of the institution as they talked about their decision making processes.

So what does this mean for us as leaders?  How can we begin to develop a common language so that our institutions and organizations can make better decisions that impact our missions?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • when people come to an impasse in decisions making, step back and examine the process.  Take out the "personality factor" and focus on a common set of tools and a common language to use in the process.
  • it's really not as hard as it seems - find out what works for your institution and use that tool on a regular basis.
  • seek expertise - if an issue keeps coming up over and over again, go and find someone to help you develop a "common language" in solving that issue in the future
  • respect people for what they know - the chief academician and the the chief financial officer look at the world through different lenses (thank goodness).  Each need to respect the other and find a way to have common language so that decisions can be made effectively and efficiently.
  • let people do their jobs - give decision making to the people who have to live with those decisions.  If there are only a handful of people making decisions for the organization, decision making will become inefficient and ineffective.
  • someone has to be in charge - when individuals are not able to work together to make decisions, for whatever reasons may exist, then someone needs to step in and play coach.  The coach doesn't make the plays (decisions) but puts in place a system and a process by which the plays (decisions) can be successfully executed over and over again.
So where do you find common language - or lack of common language - in your organization?  Perhaps you can step in and help people develop common language...perhaps you can step in and ask good questions that will lead to common language...perhaps you can develop a process by which others can engage with you in common language...or perhaps you can gently ask people to read this blog and consider what it means for your institution or organization.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

things learned at SXSW

Austin is the coolest place to be for two weeks in March - SXSWedu; SXSWinteractive; SXSWfilm; and of course the grand daddy of them all SXSWmusic.  I spent time this year at SXSWedu and SXSWinteractive where I was actually a panelist along with Richard Rhodes, the President of Austin Community College and Pauline Dow, teh Chief Academic Officer of Austin Independent School District.  The panel was moderated by Nathan green, CEO of Campus2Career. 

 But this blog is not about what I's about what I learned. So here goes:
  • I'm smarter than I think I am and there are so many people so much smarter than me.
  • Most organizations are behind the curve and it wouldn't take much to move ahead of the pack quickly.
  • The government (and most organizations) have people making decision who have no business making decisions because they have never been in the business about which they are making decisions (this was learned after listening to Texas legislators talk about how they are reforming education).
  • Higher education is going to look a lot different in the next 5-10 years...not sure what it will look like, but I know the ride is going to be fun.
  • I'm pondering the question, "Is it the role of the University to prepare their students for today's jobs - or to prepare them to be leaders in society in the next 20-40 years? (this from President Bill Powers of University of Texas-Austin)
  • People today are more interested in experience than ownership, i.e. I will never own a Corvette, but I can have the experience through a weekend rental...and what does that say about what I do on a day-to-day basis?
  • Focus, Focus, Focus, Focus...oh, wait - I already knew that!
  • Networking is a lifestyle not a process (courtesy of Porter Gale who wrote Your Network is Your Net Worth)
  • The funniest man talking about business today is Scott Stratten -watch his videos here.
  • Three important assets to have are Programs, Partners, and People
  • one of my jobs is to help others (especially students) know that they are smart enough and strong enough to figure it out for themselves.
I could go on and on...much of what I learned I tweeted out through my Twitter account  (my Klout score went WAY up for a week).  But I think that my real learning will occur without me knowing it.  Hanging out and listening to really smart people who are on the cutting edge for 7 days has to have an effect on me...I may just be beginning to understand what I learned and how I changed during my "south by" experience.  It was great - it was fun - I learned a lot - and I'm a different/better person for it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

why we do what we do

I was sitting in one of The Concordia MBA classes last night and the guest speaker asked our students (who are getting ready to graduate in May from the program), "What is it that makes you fully alive?"  It was interesting watching the students ponder that thought as they were challenged to consider what they would do with themselves now that they were getting ready to graduate.  As I pondered the thought myself, I asked the flip side of the question, "What is it that keeps me from being fully alive?"  Following my journaling this morning, my mind wandered then to the title of this article, i.e. "Why do I do what I do?"  Pretty fundamental question, don't you think?  And then, as I combined the two ideas, it struck me that if what I do makes me fully alive, then that might just be the reason I do it.  Let me think out-loud about that a little bit...

  • some might say it is WHO I AM that makes me fully alive more than WHAT I DO...and yet what I do is/should be a reflection of who I am.
  • I was once asked the question, "What does it look like when you are at your best?"  It is a great coaching question, and something that has driven me to spend more time at what makes me feel alive and less time at what sucks my energy.
  • Being fully alive for me means that I more than likely feel at the top of my game, even when upset or exhausted.  I have energy..I have joy...things are getting done...and for the most part I have a smile on my face.  
  • Being fully alive means that others are noticing that I have energy...that I have joy...that I am getting things done...and that for the most part there is a smile on my face.
  • If someone today were to ask me why I do what I do, I would begin to talk about my calling and vocation, how what I do impacts people's lives, and that what I do feels right on a day-to-day basis.
  • If someone were to ask how do I KNOW that what I am doing is the right thing, I would begin to talk about how my energy stays high most of the day, how I get positive feedback for what I do, and that when considering alternatives, this continues to be my best option.
So as I put these thoughts together, I come back to the question asked last night, "What is it that makes me fully alive?"  I'm going to try to distill it down to three points:
  1. Being fully alive comes from the fact that I am in a place in my life that what I do on a daily basis makes sense for me - and others agree with that.
  2. Being fully alive begins with the fact that my sense of worth and value comes not from external sources, but from my knowledge and faith that I am loved by God and have been redeemed and called to bring about His Kingdom here on earth.
  3. Being fully alive means that I know who I am...I am comfortable with who I am...others in my life like who I am...and I have the resources to live a life reflective of who I am.
That's it...not sure all of this rambling today made sense, but it was a great exercise for me to consider the questions "what makes me fully alive?" and "why do I do what I do?"  I invite you to also consider these questions as you think about your life...and your leadership.

Friday, February 15, 2013

create a volunteer organization

I read somewhere the other day that all organizations are volunteer organizations.  Everyone who works at our University makes a daily decision to wake up, get dressed, get in their car, and head to work.  They could choose not get up, not get dressed, not get in their car, and not head to work (there are days I might have wanted to choose that in my life).  While they get a regular paycheck - and while many of them need that paycheck to pay the bills and live their lives - the truth is that they are still choosing to come in every day and do the job to which they have been called.  In some ways I feel very fortunate that they choose to do that on a regular basis - and in other ways it scares the heck out of me that they might choose to stay in bed, not get dressed, not get in their car, and not head to work.  So what can I do to help keep the latter behavior from happening?

I spent seven years working in a large downtown church where most of my responsibilities included overseeing programs that depended on volunteers.  Running Vacation Bible School or Sunday School...directing a choir...organizing worship services...directing a single parents ministry.  All of them included hundreds of volunteers throughout a year's time.  People's livelihood did not depend on whether or not they showed up or kept volunteering year after year.And yet, for the most part, these people decided to wake up, get dressed, get in their car, and head to their volunteer position at the church.  Why?  Here are a few thoughts as to how that may have happened:

  • they found meaning in what they did
  • they believed that what they were doing was important
  • they were involved in creating what they were doing
  • they were finding friends and a sense of community
  • they saw what they did as a calling
  • they saw the results of what they did
  • they were thanked profusely for their extra time and energy
  • they were kept away form the politics and bureaucracy as much as possible
  • they were using their specific gifts and talents in their roles
  • they - and what they did - were held up as an integral part of the church
  • they were celebrated throughout the year
  • they were given breaks when needed
As I look around my organization today, I have to ask whether or not those who work here would feel the same way about their jobs.  What am I doing people find meaning in their work...remind people that what they do is important...involve people in the creation of the work they do...create a place that is fun and builds relationships...hold up people's jobs as true callings...provide evidence of results...thank people over and over again for their interference for people so they can do their work without hassles...put people in roles that magnify their gifts...tell others how integral these people are to the organization...celebrate the work that is done...give people a time and place to breathe and relax?

I have always loved working with volunteers - whether they receive a paycheck or not.  It is my goal that those who work with me will actually CHOOSE every day to get up, get dressed, get in their cars, and head to this place we call Concordia University Texas - and that the choice will be made not because they have to, but because they want to.