The Key to Creating Your Desired Future.

ImageWhy do some people achieve their goals and others don’t? I spend a lot of time talking with people about how to move from where they are in life to where they desire to be. I find that most people are reaching for something that will make an aspect of their lives better; a better marriage, better health, a better leader, a better student, a better blogger, and so on. However, I have also learned from my own life that although knowledge might be the starting point, it will never empower you to achieve a better life. Knowledge will provide you with information, but it will not create your desired future.

The key to creating your desired future is self-discipline. Before you click out of this blog, keep reading for 3 minutes. Many people shudder at the thought of self-discipline because of the various connotations that accompany the term. Many people believe that self-discipline is a by-product of personality thereby disqualifying themselves. This is a myth that only prevents people from creating the future they desire. I uncover this myth and explain how anyone can develop self-discipline here.

According to thefreedictionary.com, self-discipline is the training and control of oneself usually for improvement. It has also been said that self-discipline is being able to do what you should do and stop doing what you shouldn’t do. Another way to look at it is this:

Self-discipline is taking control of your life in order to achieve a desired future.

Many people see self-discipline as giving up their freedoms and submitting to inflexible structure. This statement is partially true because of our natural tendency to do what feels good to us rather than what is beneficial for us. However, the truth about self-discipline is that it creates a pathway toward our desired future. Here’s how.

Self-discipline establishes healthy boundaries.

As I stated above, our natural tendency is to do what feels good; sleep as long as we want, eat anything we want, engage in immorality all we want, spend money we don’t have, etc. Self-discipline establishes natural boundaries in our lives that protect us from that which harms, delays, or prevents progress.

Self-discipline creates opportunities.

Knowledge that is never implemented is no good to you. If your goal is weight loss, self-discipline will create opportunities for you to eat healthy and exercise. The ability of one to implement what he or she has learned is dependent upon the opportunities available. Self-discipline creates those opportunities by creating time for the opportunities to exist.

Self-discipline provides direction.

Many people don’t know where to start so they do nothing. Self-discipline helps you take one step at a time to get to where you’re going. It’s the little things in life that provide direction. Self-discipline provides a track to run on so that you can know you are headed in the right direction.

Self-discipline is nothing more than taking control of your own life and not allowing life to take control of you! When you take your life back, you will see boundaries, opportunities, and clear direction unfold before you that are the ingredients to achieving the life you so desire.

Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best! If he put the desire in you, he will give you the power and wisdom to get there. Your part is to make the choices that make it happen.

Comments welcome.

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The Power of Validation in Life and Leadership!

validateThere is one aspect of communication that is vitally important in all relationships; marriage, parenting, managing, leading, selling, customer service…you name it. I don’t claim to be a relationship expert, but experience has taught me (the hard way in many cases) that the quality of every relationship is contingent upon one aspect of communication; without which one will certainly move the relationship in a negative direction. Most of you are thinking about listening. Listening is absolutely important and obviously first in communication. However, listening is only the beginning and something much more effective is required in moving the relationship in a positive direction. The key component that moves a relationship forward is validation.

Validation Creates Safety in Relationships

Validation simply means to substantiate or make something valid. Validation does not mean agreement and is especially important where disagreement is present. Validation is nothing more than communicating to others that their feelings, point of view, or idea is valid. Most people simply want to know that they have been heard, and that what they had to say was not rejected or dismissed as unimportant or insignificant. Validation creates a sense of safety where people can share what’s on their minds and hearts without fear of how the other will react. Once safety is created by validation, certain qualities are instilled that ultimately lead to a healthy relationship regardless of the context. Here are a few big ones.

1. Validation instills respect

When people’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings are validated, they feel respected. Validation communicates to that staff member or spouse that you uphold his or her right to have an opinion. To dismiss or minimize how someone feels or thinks is communicating that they still need to earn your respect. If this goes unresolved long enough, the relationship will deteriorate to a superficial level where good communication never takes place. However, when someone feels respected by you, they will not only say what is on their hearts, but often times what you need to hear.

2. Validation instills value

In order for a relationship to have value, the members of the relationship must feel valued by the other. Validating someone by saying something like, “I can see that you are very concerned about this issue and I would like to hear your thoughts” communicates that you value the person and that you care. Dismissing ideas or feelings communicates that you do not place value on how that person thinks or feels. Eventually, he or she will protect themselves from rejection by becoming quite and withdrawn moving the relationship in a negative direction.

3. Validation instills progression

One of the biggest benefits of validation is that it promotes a healthy progression in the relationship. When people feel safe, respected and valued by others, they are more open, honest and forthcoming with ideas and concerns. A sense of teamwork and connection takes place where synergy happens and the relationship moves forward in a positive direction.

There is great power in validating other people’s thoughts, feelings and ideas. You can REACH FORWARD to becoming better at life and leadership by learning to validate others in meaningful conversations. Your relationships will be healthier, happier, and more fulfilling.

Feel free to join the conversation by sharing your comments.

How leaders’ decisions impact the execution level.

bullwhipThe “higher up” the ladder a leader moves, the greater the effect of his or her decisions on the organization. In the military, we often made the statement among leadership circles; “never forget what it’s like to be a Private.” That simply meant that we as leaders needed to be keenly aware of the effect that a decision was going to have on the people at the execution level. I’ve failed many times to consider the impact of my decisions upon those who are charged with carrying them out. The result of this leadership failure can range from frustrated workers to all out mission failure. Factors that are negatively effected by the whip effect include morale, excellence, stewardship, teamwork, intended outcomes, and overall job satisfaction in staff. However, this situation can be avoided when leaders understand the whip effect.

The whip effect

The whip effect is the analogy that I use to describe the impact of a decision. The action of the bullwhip is initiated at the handle of the whip. The tip at the far end makes a loud cracking noise when it reaches its farthest point. The “cracking” sound that is heard is actually a sonic boom. The tip speed of the average bullwhip is measured at mach 1 (about 761 mph) and beyond. Imagine that the handle of the whip is the leadership team and the far tip represents the people at execution level. The effort to make a decision sometimes involves an arduous process, but at other times is quite simple. Nevertheless, the effect of the decision that is seen and felt at the execution level is always exponentially higher than that which is seen and felt in the board room. I will explain by giving a few pointers that will prevent the whip effect, which will in turn make clear the mistakes that occur and the inevitable result.

How to prevent the whip effect:

1. Consider time. Is there sufficient time for the team to plan, develop strategies, and execute? Leaders must remember that those executing your decision were likely not in the meeting when the decision was discussed. They will need time to process and understand the intent and purpose of the outcome. They will also need time to incorporate this plan into their current workload. Time is likely the most overlooked consideration. Leaders must remember that fresh ideas on our part doesn’t mean that the staff has fully worked out our old ideas!

2. Consider resources. Are the resources available to produce the outcome you desire? Resources can include funding, equipment, and staffing. Fortunately, in most cases, someone knows the answer to this question in the decision-making room. However, lack of proper resources puts people in the position of “making it happen” which will almost always lack excellence.

3. Consider competence. Do the people at the execution level have the knowledge and training to make it happen? Is there a learning curve that needs to be factored in to the time? Overlooking the competence required puts people in very frustrating situations that will inevitably stall progress and waste resources.

4. Consider current workload. Often times leaders are unaware of the current workload of subordinates. A wise leader always takes into account the ongoing projects and current workload of those tasked with execution. This aspect of leadership is about caring. Show your subordinates you care enough to get their input regarding what lies ahead.

These are just a few ideas to minimize the whip effect on staff. Of course, all factors cannot be foreseen nor should we expect them to be. We also do not want to attempt to do all the thinking or overlook empowering our teams. These actions will create their own set of negative effects at the execution level. However, as leaders, we can serve our staff best by taking the time to consider these factors and others so that we empower them to be successful.

Feel free to share other considerations before rolling out the big decision.

Why REST is more important than GOALS in 2013!

restThe title of this blog is a little misleading (on purpose to get your attention). This is the time of year that most leaders are talking about life reflection and goal-setting for 2013. I am no exception because I am a goal-oriented person that functions best when there is something in front of me that I need to accomplish. My goals range from daily, weekly, monthly, short-term (3 to 12 months) and long-term (3 to 5 years). I don’t waste my time thinking and planning beyond 5 years in terms of accomplishment because life is moving at too fast of a pace. I am also a strong believer in self-starters, self-discipline and self-motivation, which are all born out of self-respect (keep thinking…you’ll get it).

Why REST is more important than GOALS!

Having said that, I want to encourage fellow goal-setters and those who are high-achievers to find a higher purpose in 2013; a higher purpose that puts God at the center of everything in your life. Now most of you Christians are saying “yea, yea, God is always at the center of my life.” Please continue to read because I’m like you and I know how you are.

There is a higher calling from God that brings a peace to your soul that no goal can accomplish. That higher calling is a calling to REST.

  “… for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10 ESV)

Learning what to REST “IN”!

Obviously, God is not saying kick up your feet and do nothing or be lazy and slothful. The point of this verse is not as much about what’s going on in our lives as it is about what’s going on in our soul. A higher calling than our goals is to learn what to REST IN.

  • REST IN the truth that you are accepted by God.
  • REST IN knowing God has shed his love abroad in your heart.
  • REST IN experiencing the incredible grace that God has poured out on your life.
  • REST IN the security of knowing you are called to be a child of God in his presence for eternity.
  • REST IN the joy of living in Christ.
  • REST IN knowing you are God’s pleasure! No need to impress Him. 

Learning what to REST “FROM”!

There is certainly much work to do in making disciples for the kingdom as well as personal accomplishments. However, let’s remember in 2013 that our goals don’t make US – we make our goals! As we do, let’s REST “IN” the grace of God and REST “FROM” the following…

  • REST from striving for God’s acceptance or favor.
  • REST from laboring to please others.
  • REST from achieving in order to feel worthy.
  • REST from accomplishment in order to be liked.
  • REST from trying to be popular.
  • REST from the desire to impress others.
  • REST from worrying that your legacy will be lost! (Trust God – Your legacy was His idea in the first place!)
  • REST from ___________ you fill in the blank!

Knowing what to REST “IN” and knowing what to REST “FROM” is the key to great success! REACH FORWARD in 2013 for God’s best in your life! But remember that His best in your life is Christ in you, not your efforts in this world! Set goals for your life in 2013, but don’t let them rule you; only God should fill that role. May you find the inner peace and joy in 2013 that empowers you to live free and make a way for others.

Comments welcome!

Leading From the Middle – Part III

I recently had the opportunity to appear on The Pastor’s Life video blog to discuss the various nuances of leading from the second chair. I quickly realized that I had a lot to say about this subject based on my current position in a local church as well as 21 years in the military where everyone is second chair to someone.

There are many dynamics at work for a person leading from the middle. Direction, leadership style, desires, and personality come down from the top leader, while personnel issues, problems, tensions, questions, and various other factors float up toward the top leader. In the middle is a leader who is attempting to lead, manage, motivate, inspire, and stabilize from both directions. How does a leader in this position learn to lead with confidence and joy rather than hesitation and frustration? To answer that question, I have broken my comments into three parts relative to the relationship between the first and second leader. You can find Part I and II here. Today we look at Part III which discusses a couple of the major tensions that the leader in middle faces.

Think Synergy: two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.

Part III: Tensions to Manage

1. The tension of progression. Most ambitious leaders are always looking to their next level. I’m sure many church leaders in my position have asked the question that I have asked myself time and again: Should I move on to be a Lead Pastor? I have found that this question is better treated as a tension to manage rather than a problem to solve by forcing the decision. If a leader is constantly battling with this decision inside of himself, he will eventually become discontented and at the very least lose focus. Forcing this decision too early could be a detriment for both the organization and the leaders. I’ve found that the best way to look at this is not to ask “should I move on to be a lead pastor”, but rather, “what is God doing right now – in me as well as in the big picture of the organization.” We have to remember that we are only one part in the equation of what God is doing through us. Keeping the big picture in mind while remaining Kingdom focused is how I have learned to manage this tension best. When the time comes to move it will be clear to everyone involved.

2. Differences in leadership style. One of the tensions that leaders at all levels deal with is style of leadership. Some are more directive, some are more participative, some are very involved while others are mostly hands-off. I learned a long time ago that it’s best as a leader to focus on his or her own leadership style within his or her purview. The key for this tension is to be yourself and focus on your own strengths. I believe an organization can be much more effective when there is an environment where the leaders can lead from their own strengths and style. The most important factor that enables this type of environment is trust that is built on shared values and a common vision. We can embrace differences in leadership style when there is mutual trust that we are all moving in the right direction.

Leading from the second seat is not always easy, but it is rewarding given the right attitude and ability to manage the tensions that exist. Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life and leadership! Embrace the season that you’re in and enjoy the journey along the way!

Comments welcome.

Leading From the Middle Part II

I recently had the opportunity to appear on The Pastor’s Life video blog to discuss the various nuances of leading from the second chair. I quickly realized that I had a lot to say about this subject based on my current position in a local church as well as 21 years in the military where everyone is second chair to someone.

There are many dynamics at work for a person leading from the middle. Direction, leadership style, desires, and personality come down from the top leader, while personnel issues, problems, tensions, questions, and various other factors float up toward the top leader. In the middle is a leader who is attempting to lead, manage, motivate, inspire, and stabilize from both directions. How does a leader in this position learn to lead with confidence and joy rather than hesitation and frustration? To answer that question, I have broken my comments into three parts relative to the relationship between the first and second leader. You can find Part I here. Today we look at Part II which discusses some differences that should exist between the first and second leaders.

Think Synergy: two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.

Part II: Differences that are necessary

1. Personality – It’s easy to try and emulate someone that you respect and look up to. If you are a leader in the second chair, you need to understand that differences in personality compliment, strengthen and broaden the effect of your ministry. If you are the senior leader, you too should understand that having people around you that are not like you in personality will bring about a result that would otherwise not exist. People in your church or organization will be drawn to and relate to different personalities based on the fact that we are all different people. Don’t try to be like one another. Be yourselves.

2. Gift Set – Many leaders have similar gifts such as teaching, administration, and exhortation. However, the top two leaders in the church or organization need to have different gifts as well. There’s an old saying that says “if two of us are just alike one of us is unnecessary.” Having different gifts provides the ability to share responsibility and be more effective.

3. Strengths and Weaknesses – Like differences in gift mix, it is also necessary that our strengths and weaknesses vary. If we have the same strengths and weaknesses we will be lopsided. When we have strengths and weaknesses that are different, then we compliment one another. We are also able to maintain a healthy balance throughout the organization so that we’re not one-sided. This helps us to deal with blind spots that each of us has.

These are only three differences that are necessary to exist between the top two leaders. The bottom line here is that we do not want to duplicate ourselves. We want people around us that have differences that can be embraced and enhance our ministries to be more effective. Don’t see differences as struggles to overcome. Rather, see them as overall strengths that make us all better.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to God’s best in your ministry.

Feel free to share other differences that are necessary between leaders.

Leading From the Middle – Part I

I recently had the opportunity to appear on The Pastor’s Life video blog to discuss the various nuances of leading from the second chair. I quickly realized that I had a lot to say about this subject based on my current position in a local church as well as 21 years in the military where everyone is second chair to someone.

There are many dynamics at work for a person leading from the middle. Direction, leadership style, desires, and personality come down from the top leader, while personnel issues, problems, tensions, questions, and various other factors float up toward the top leader. In the middle is a leader who is attempting to lead, manage, motivate, inspire, and stabilize from both directions. How does a leader in this position learn to lead with confidence and joy rather than hesitation and frustration? To answer that question, I have broken my comments into three parts relative to the relationship between the first and second leader.

Think Synergy: two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.

Part I: Shared elements that are necessary

1. Shared Vision – It is vitally important that the first and second leaders share the vision for the church or organization. The leadership provided by these two individuals must point in the same direction. I joined with my Lead Pastor because his heart for ministry and overall vision resonated with me in a profound way. Over the years, we took what was at the core of our hearts and shaped the vision into what it is today. If the person leading from the middle does not own the vision from his or her heart, chances are that person is in the wrong position.

2. Shared Values – It is near impossible for two people to share the exact same values because we all come from different life experiences and backgrounds. However, it is possible and necessary to identify those values that are shared among you. The bottom line here is that values inform and shape a leader’s decision-making. Values steer the ship in the direction that it should go. If leaders are making decisions from different sets of values, then more than likely the ship is being steered in two different directions. We spent months hammering out our shared values and identifying those things that would genuinely guide us as we endeavor to accomplish the vision set before us.

3. Shared Strategy – Strategy is one of those things that is going to morph and evolve until you find what works. At times, different leaders are going to feel more strongly about a particular strategy than others. If there are fundamental differences in ministry philosophy and strategy then forward movement is going to be frustrated. In church world there are various models of discipleship from programs to Sunday school to small groups to a buffet model that includes all of the above. The key point for us in finding what works has been in sharing together in the development of our strategy along the way.

4. Mutual Trust – The most important element that can exist between the first and second leader is trust. Trust is developed over time. If the first and second leaders do not develop a mutual trust for one another, then neither of them will be able to lead effectively. Lack of trust among these two individuals will stall progress and adversely effect the morale of the organization. We have developed a mutual trust because we keep truth in the open. We have given each other permission to communicate openly and share our hearts with one another. The result has been a mutual respect and trust that empowers each of us to lead from our respective seats.

There are other aspects of leadership that must co-exist between the first and second leader; however, I’ve found that these four are essential to setting you on a path of leading with confidence and joy along your day-to-day journey.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to God’s best for  your church or organization. Together we can make a difference and impact our world in positive ways.

Comments welcome.